Admin 2010-01-23 16:11:21
Sounds like 3 very lucky people, all experienced skiers, survived a wild somersaulting 300 metre ride through a few stands of trees yesterday. The last gully before the cornice was the culprit. All were injured, but all are alive. Really glad you all made it out safe. I wanted to take this opportunity to remind people that there are some very dodgy conditions up high right now, exacerbated by tons of fresh pow on top of a layer of ice that formed a few days back due to some warm weather. Here's today's report from Mr Akio Shinya: [quote]Last night's moderate wind and snow developed some snowdrifts (soft-slabs). Cornices are soft, 50cm thick and easily collapsible. Extra-caution is required around the cornices of Higashi-One. The newly deposited snow (up to 80cm) on top of the Jan 21st layer is slowly stabilizing, however avalanche risk will remain high during the morning in leeward slopes around 1100m. Traversing under cornices of Osawa or skiing the sidewalls of the Backbowl remains dangerous all day. Possibilities of a 60cm surface slab avalanche, triggered by the pre-Low snowfall (jan 21st) layer, is also to be considered in SE facing steep slopes around 800m.[/quote] Bookmark [url=][/url] and check it each day before you head up the hill.
allriot (2010-01-25 16:22:21)
Is there anymore info out there on this?
Admin (2010-01-25 18:34:29)
Hello allriot,

Avalanches mentioned briefly in the [url=]24th Niseko Avalanche Information report[/url]:
[quote]The Jan 21st layer that triggered avalanches in Yu no sawa and Higashi-One is now stable and the new snow on top of this layer is rounding and stabilizing.[/quote]

Presumably the three did not get buried and sustained only minor injuries, I'm sure it would have made the news if a rescue effort had been required. Sure they have quite a story to tell.

Your question does raise a worrisome point in my mind though... is the resort doing enough to notify skiers and snowboarders of the avalanche danger when the risk is high? And are incidents going under-reported?
Kuri (2010-02-11 12:32:22)
The area they were in (From what the patrollers told me ) is specifically mentioned in that day's report. It slides more often than anywhere on the hill with frequent natural releases...

They went out through an open gate then hiked & high traversed over to country typically only accessed via a different gate that was purposely left closed on the day in question. The long and short of it is they should not have been there.

These are semi-locals who really should know better. Why this particularly irks me is that if they had died in that slide, the government may well have moved in and shut down all the back country access that so many work so hard to keep open and that really differentiates Niseko from just about everywhere else in Japan. Who knows how badly that would hurt local businesses but it sure as hell would drag us back to the pack.

The victims / perpetrators are good guys and I'm happy no-one was badly hurt, but I'm disappointed in the actions of the hill.

After all that, there were zero consequences - not even passes were pulled...
That Chick From Logistics (2010-02-11 21:05:39)
Glad someone is touching on this, I've been wanting to weigh for a wee bit now. Just didn't want to go first ;)

To be fair, for all we know, they didn't even know the gates to that area were closed. As they made their approach from elsewhere, resort signage, particularly in English, may have been lacking.

Anyways, nobody intentionally gets swallowed by an avvy, good people I'm sure who have already obviously learned a very scary lesson. So, for me it isn't about piling on. It is about using that lesson to teach others, and to warn others of the danger.

My primary issue is that this was really brushed under the carpet by the people in question, the resort, even the press. What if somebody else had gone up the next day not knowing that there was this slide potential and gotten killed in another one? Then the lack of publicity would have been negligent.

All blame and finger pointing aside we are all responsible for our own safety outside the ropes.

If Kuri is right and the Japanese bureaucracy would over-react big time to an incident like this then maybe the lack of publicity was just an attempt to avoid a bigger disaster, an avalanche of nanny state bureaucracy?
Kuri (2010-02-12 00:31:57)
All the locals know exactly who we're talking about, and I don't think it's appropriate here to mention names... but IMO:

- the people in question undoubtedly knew they shouldn't have been there.

- the signage & avvy reports are up in English and Japanese at all the gates.

So... if you know who was involved you can appreciate why they didn't pull passes. But that only opens another can of worms, namely favoritism.

That same week two Japanese locals ducked a rope into Yu no sawa and were seen. They lost passes - and jobs! Harsh, but I think they deserved that too, these guys were registered Niseko Winter Guides and should have to follow the rules - just as we all should. But for mine it really throws the lack of punishment over the Avvy incident into sharp relief.

Like oFace, for mine the key issue is user safety, but by letting (some) people flaunt rules it can encourage similar behaviour. And next time the poor buggers may not be so lucky.

I'm maybe a bit of an idealist, but I think the safety record of the gate system as it is has more to do with luck than it being a particularly safe system. Personally I think anyone stepping through the gates should have the gear (probe, shovel, beacon, buddy) and also have a minimum "awareness course" level certification.

Many will disagree, until there's a tragedy...
Pow!!! (2010-02-12 01:34:44)
could just be another case of gaijin playing stupid. the japanese locals kuri referred to that got sh*tcanned wouldn't have been able to play that card.

"what? what? shirimachine. shirimachine!" :whistle:
Go Native (2010-02-19 15:50:18)
Seriously why on earth should they have lost their passes? They did not duck any ropes and entered through an open gate. Why should that require passes to be taken?? They did [b]not[/b] break any rules.
When you pass out through a gate it is clearly spelt out in English and Japanese that you do so at your [b]own risk[/b]. And that's the beauty of it, when you head out through a gate it's then up to you where you go. Simple as that. Why should they not have been where they were? Sort of destroys the point of it being at your own risk if your pass gets taken from you just because there is a slide when you are out taking that risk doesn't it?
Honestly I really get sick and tired of all the people who harp on about avie danger in Niseko. Since the inception of the Niseko Rules there has not been one, yep not one death from an avalanche. And that's with literally thousands of people over the years heading out through the gates and off the peak and the vast bulk of them have no avie gear or knowledge at all. I mean come on, how much safer could you really make it or want it??
Are you really trying to make an argument that it will only take one death and the government would stop access through the gates? I don't buy it. We had what 10 hikers die on a hike in Daisetsuzan over summer. Did they close the park to all hikers? No they didn't.
The gate system obviously works incredibly well and yes this still means that there is some risk and from time to time (very rarely) an avalanche will happen and people may get hurt or die. So what? People die all the damned time of the most stupidest things you can imagine. Why not let people at least risk their lives a little doing something they really love? Remember when they go through the gate they do so at their own risk.
All you namby bloody pambys who think access through the gates should only be the domain for the experienced with full avie gear (and probably paying you to guide them!) all I can say is go back to the US or Canada or whatever other nanny state you come from. Let the rest of us head out and risk our lives in peace! :P

[quote]Many will disagree, until there's a tragedy...[/quote]

Sorry I'll never agree even if there is a tragedy. So someone dies in an avi? It happens all the time overseas and quite often in Japan. What's the big deal?
I'm tipping more people die in car accidents on the way to the resort each year than have died in avi accidents in the last 20 years on the mountain. What makes dying in an avi so damned special and such a tragedy?? I honestly just don't get it.
coach (2010-02-21 04:23:16)
what is a 'namby bloody pamby'? is it an austrian term like 'throw another shrimp on the barbie'?
Go Native (2010-02-21 23:21:25)
Dictionary entry overview: What does namby-pamby mean?

• NAMBY-PAMBY (adjective)
The adjective NAMBY-PAMBY has 1 sense:
1. weak in willpower, courage or vitality
smguides (2010-02-22 22:38:38)
Looks like another good topic turning into shit. stick to the subject and reality.
people do die out there and yes it could be a friend of yours.
That is what we have to think about who we leave behind not the thrill of a few turns.


Adam streete
Shinsetsu mountain guides
Not a guide that need to go home
taco con queso (2010-02-23 09:24:47)
sound familiar...?


staying on-topic, another gripe I have, and something I've never been able to forget for the past few years is the time I actually overheard a '[i]local guide[/i]' somewhat bragging about the time he and his buddies were caught in a slide elsewhere in the world. I'm not sure if it's just the australian nature to talk things up, but wow, that's a guiding service I have never, and will never support in this town, I can't believe they're actually still doing business here...
Go Native (2010-02-23 09:55:14)
taco that link is for skiing at Jackson Hole. Now as much as I love this area the mountains here are barely hills compared to JH. The lifted vertical at the ski area alone is higher than the height Annupuri is above sea level.
Is anyone here truly going to claim that Niseko has the same risk of avalanches that JH has??
If we were having an avie death once or twice a month or even once or twice a whole season then I could fully understand a push to make carrying avie gear compulsory out of the gates.
The fact remains though that we have not had one avie death since the inception of the Niseko Rules back in was it '02?
This is despite the fact that 1000's of people have gone out through the gates since then, most without gear or avie knowledge.
I doubt any other high snowfall ski area on the planet can boast such a good safety record. To claim that the risks of avalanche here are similar to any other ski area denies the truth that the snowpack here is on the whole incredibly stable.
Sure there is still some risk but hell there's a risk I'll slip in the shower and hit my head on something. There's a risk I'll crash my car on the icy roads in the morning. There's risk in just about anything we do. Do we stop doing things just because of a little risk? The risk of dying in an avalanche here is demonstrably very, very low since the gate system has been managed. Let's not restrict access to terrain just because a few people bring an overzealous ideaology about the risk that doesn't really apply to this mountain.
I do wonder sometimes if people overstate the risk in an effort to scare people into using their guiding service...
Kuri (2010-02-23 11:58:37)
Go Native, the "so what" attitude to easily avoidable death tells me either you're sixteen or a total asshole. I could be wrong, but you don't seem sixteen. I'm not meaning to start a war here but really, if your brother / friend / partner / child was to go down you'd just turn away with a "so what"? I truly doubt it.

I, like many, want to see the beauty of these hills opened up to more people - but in the best and safest way possible. You're right, many die in car accidents - that's why we have road rules. Seatbelts. Liquor laws. Speed limits. Licences. Roads. Without them the death toll would be far higher. A workable and relatively safe system has been created to make the most of the car for everyone's benefit. The current gate system is a good first step, but it's far from perfect.

I wonder where those of you who argue the "self-responsibility" case have been for the last thirty or so years... That simply doesn't work any more. Not even here. There is at least one incident every week where someone gets hurt or requires assistance / rescue from out of bounds. Though we have not had any fatalaties, I think that's more thru good luck than good design.

And I would be very sad if there were a fatality. And Go Native that extends to you and to the peanuts traversing under the Higashi-one cornice Sunday and to everyone else out there.

We are here as guests in this glorious place. We should do everything in our power to be the best possible guests. And if that means becoming informed and gearing up so everyone can be safer, then maybe that's not such a bad thing.

I'm also pretty confident every guiding company in the area puts safety first. To suggest that someone's views on this important very topic are self-serving and financially driven is poor form.
Go Native (2010-02-23 13:23:16)
Kuri you were the one calling for people who had not broken any rules to have their lift passes confiscated. That to me suggests you're either 16 or a total asshole yourself. And I doubt you're 16 either. If someone close to me died in an avalanche of course I'd be upset but I very much doubt even then I would be at the forefront of a knee jerk reaction to impose stricter rules on access at this resort. You see I accept the fact that there is a risk of dying going out through the gates but don't accept that I must do absolutely everything known to man to mitigate that risk. Taking risks makes life a whole lot more fun for me.

If it was only luck involved in there being no avie deaths here I really much doubt there would have been no avie deaths. I put it down to good management. Most of the deaths that occurred in Niseko prior to the Niseko Rules occurred in areas that are now completely off limits. Other areas rarely see dangerous amounts of loading purely because we allow open access to them.
8 or so years on and not one avalanche death off-piste at the resort. That kind of record speaks for itself and shows that avalanche risk here is relatively low and when it is high access is well managed. We do impose rules in society to manage risk but with such a great record of safety what possible grounds do you have to impose further rules on access through gates at this resort? Other than pushing an ideology you've brought here from somewhere else that doesn't apply to the conditions found here. Even if we had a death or two I'd say a couple of deaths every 8 years or so are still not grounds to impose more restrictive rules.

I have no problem with people taking whatever precautions they want to mitigate their own risk. You want take full avie gear with you then that's great. Just don't try and force the rest of us to be as responsible as you supposedly are. When I step out through a gate I take full responsibility for my actions and the risk I'm taking. All I ask is you let me have the right to do that.

And you may consider yourself a guest here but I don't. I unlike many foreigners living here aren't just around for a few years and then heading back to the home country. I've bought a house, had my first child here and consider this my home. My life is here forever. And I don't feel like a guest in my home. The whole guest mentality of some foreigners here really anooys the hell out of me. It's basically just an acceptance of the xenophobic attitude of the Japanese.

Also I have no confidence whatsover that the guiding companies here put safety first. There is hardly anyone who does guiding here who is a fully qualified Mountain Guide by international standards. The recent avalanche death at Shiribetsu Dake was a guided trip on a day where avalanche danger was extreme in the region (all gates closed in Niseko). The death of 10 people up on Daisetsuzan this last summer was also a guided trip. Was it last year where a guy had his leg broken in an avie on a guided trip on Nitoannupuri? Another day that had extreme avalanche conditions and all gates were closed at the resort. The guiding around here is demonstrably poor and lacking it seems in common sense and proper qualifications.
That Chick From Logistics (2010-02-23 14:45:50)
Maybe you gents are arguing two different but related things, regulation and enforcement? Japan has too much regulation, and too little enforcement. I don't like either. Balance is the key, and generally speaking, Japanese bureaucracies like the ones that certify our guides and run our resorts just don't have it.
Go Native (2010-02-23 15:16:26)
My main arguments are that in light of the excellent track record of safety at this resort we do not need to further restrict access to the off-piste and slackcountry. And let people make their own decisions on the level of risk they are prepared to take when they step out through a gate. We don't need a nanny state ideaology here.
Senator Samson Loveblast (2010-03-03 21:41:40)
Admin (2010-03-03 22:40:17)
Sorry I felt compelled to lock this one down guys, I think the content has strayed from the original purpose of the post. I've started a new post to [url=]continue discussing Niseko regulation and enforcement[/url], check it out. Thanks!