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Backcountry Advice

Mountain sports are inherently risky. Adhering to the following freeriding guidelines will ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience when you go off-piste or in to the backcountry.

Enjoy your free-riding days and please stay safe

1. Never Go Alone

Whether you are with friends or with a guide, having at least 3 people in the group is essential.  Especially when someone becomes a victim, one can stay with the injured party, while the other person can get help

Before setting out freeriding it is crucial to know each others experiences and ability levels

2. Learn Basic First Aid and CPR

In case you or your friends are involved in an accident, immediate treatment can make the difference between life and death. There are great courses around, for example an outdoor setting medical course will help you to gain the basic knowledge necessary to save your and your friend’s life

Hypothermia is your worst enemy in the backcountry. Have enough clothing and protection against the cold, wet and wind

3. Have Basic Avalanche Knowledge

When in the backcountry, snow piles up in large volumes in powder capital Niseko (with an average of 15m per season).  Even a tiny action can trigger an avalanche.  Basic avalanche knowledge will allow you to be more aware of dangerous spots and will hopefully make you ride with caution

There are some great, professional courses in the Niseko area, if you require more training

4. Check the Weather & Avalanche Reports

Backcountry should be entered with caution; weather forecasts and avalanche reports allow you to avoid life-threatening situations – such as when a snowstorm is imminent or when the area is particularly avalanche prone on that day

Check the weather and avalanche reports every time before setting out

5. Don’t Duck Ropes, Don’t Enter Closed Gates or Permanently Closed Areas

Niseko has dedicated access to the backcountry through backcountry gates located around the resort.  Only use these gates, and only when they are open.  If they are closed, there is probably a good reason for it.  Hopping closed gates and ducking boundary ropes means risking your lift pass being provoked and paying a large fee.  Permanent areas are marked on maps and well sign-posted; always keep clear of those as they have high avalanche risks and many other dangers.
In order to increase avalanche awareness and safety, the “Mizuno no sawa” avalanche control area education program has been introduced.  Access to this area is limited and only authorized riders are permitted under ski patrol’s supervision.  To find out more about this program check out at Mizuno no Sawa avalanche control area education program

6. Obey Mountain Staff  and Other Mountain Guides

Mountain staff and other mountain guides have experience, they have the local knowledge and are trying to keep you safe. Use your common sense and follow their tips and instructions at any time

7. Hire a Guide

Having local knowledge is the best, even if you already have freeriding experience.  A local mountain guide will do his best to keep you safe, which allows you more time to enjoy the beauty of freeriding in Niseko

Check fastfun.jp snow sports powder tours and experience it right now

8. Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Nature

When in the backcountry, take some time to enjoy the beauty of the untouched white carpets. With the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park ニセコ積丹小樽海岸国定公園 close by, you might find some animal tracks, and even Hokkaido’s wildlife.  Listen to the wind in the trees, snow falling, birds singing, nothing else but you and the mountain.

9. Dress Smart

A traditional layering approach is recommended: base layer, mid-layer and outer layer. Several thin layers are a smarter option than just one thicker layer, to regulate the body temperature. It’s best to bring extra layers too as you’ll want to rearrange them over the course of the day

A. Base Layers
The base layer takes most of the moisture away from your skin when working out, so you should choose material that dries fast. Materials like merino wool or power stretch base layers are great, depending on how cold it is

Base layers consists of:
·T-shirts of light merino wool, long or short sleeved
·Long johns of Merino wool and/or thermals for very cold conditions
·Ski socks made from wool, synthetic fibre or even with Teflon.  Thin socks are a better solution as they stop your feet from sweating and not getting frozen toes.
·Glove liners

B. Mid Layers
This is the layer that keeps your warm, but it should also be breathable. To walk up it’s best to use only this layer together with the base layer and when it is warm enough this can be left in your backpack as a backup.

Mid layers consists of
·Sweater or jacket of lightly insulated fleece, down or soft shell (a hood might be useful).  Soft shell jacket may be the perfect choice, as it allows a good level of vapor release while being water resistant.
·Gloves should also have a mid layer in the outer layer, where goat hair or wool is the warmest option

C. Outer Layers
Need to be waterproof and windproof to protect you from direct weather influences

Outer layers consist of
·Jacket of hard shell that is water- and windproof (with snow skirt)
·Snow sport trousers with snow cuffs (use gaiters if no snow cuffs available)
·Gloves should be waterproof and consist of another mid layer inside.

10. Bring Essential Safety Equipment and Know How to Use It

Once you travel into the backcountry, risks are much higher depending on natural influences once you go out of bounds. On every backcountry tour, the items listed here are an absolute requirement to ensure maximum safety for you and your friends:

A. Essential Avalanche Safety Equipment:
·Snow sport gear
·Snowboarders might consider telescope poles that help with walking or traversing. Or check out the snow shift available at fastfun.jp snow sports
snowshift_carver
·Avalanche transceiver / beaconTransceiver / Beacon
·ProbeProbe
·Snow shovel in aluminiumSnow shovel
·First aid kit including a safety blanket First Aid kit
·Backpack ideally with attachments for your snow sports gear (to carry with ease while hiking)Backpack

·Skins for your skis or split board

skins
·Snowshoes when you don’t use skinsModern snowshoes
Avalanche set Avalanche kit

B. Good Optional Avalanche Safety Equipment:
·AvalungAvalung·ABS backpackABS backpack

C. Extras:
·Telephone
·Maps of the area
·Food, high calorie energy bars, drinks and at least 1L of water
·Torch
·Goggles
·Replacement for goggles: as for hiking, you will heat up and your goggles will fog
·Beanie
·Helmet
·Sun screen
·Balaclava
·Face mask
·Lip balm
·Sun glasses: with polarised lenses