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Niseko Mountain Rules and safety

Many come to Niseko to experience it’s backcountry (off-piste) terrain. However not many know about the rules that has been set up to ensure our own safety. This article we’ll go through Niseko’s rules, the gate system, where the gates are at and touch a bit on information regarding avalanches.

Before heading out for any backcountry areas, it’s essential to have all the equipment prepared and to get any kind of information regarding the terrain you will be on. There are many safety signs and information signs that are placed at the gates regarding the run.

Some may not take the rules seriously as accidents hardly happen. They do happen, and when they do, they tend to be fatal. In 2013 two separate accidents occurred on the same day, with both of the victims ignoring the warnings from ski patrols (via signboard) about cracks in the snow that resulted in both of their deaths.

http://niseko.nadare.info/?month=201301 (If you want to read more).

There are 9 Niseko mountain rules

1. Haru no taki & Yu no sawa is strictly off limits (Your lift pass will be confiscated as punishment if caught within these areas)

Haru no taki used to be open in the past, but after an avalanche accident in 1998, in which 4 were involved and one person lost her life, the area was then deemed to be too dangerous as it’s very avalanche prone and was closed off permanently in 2000. Don’t be a daredevil and enter these out of bounds areas. You’re entering at your own risk as the area is not checked by ski patrols and if you get caught in an accident, you’re on your own. 

2. Ducking under ropes is prohibited. Those who violate this rule will have their lift pass confiscated and and will not be allowed to use all the resorts facilities.

3. There is no safety control or patrols beyond the resort boundaries.

4. When the gates are closed you are prohibited from going past that point.

5. Niseko Avalanche Information has the official daily updates and can be found online, on the gates and the lift stations.

6. You will be charged for any search and rescue.

Cost of search and rescue

Base Charges (Within 2 hours)

Location

Unit Price

Notes

Out of Bounds (Backcountry)

\ 50,000

Includes Vehicle, equipment & personnel cost

Strictly off limits area

(Yu no awa, Mizuno no sawa & Haru no taki)

\ 100,000

Includes vehicle, equipment & personnel costs

 

Additional charge #1 (over 2 hours)

Personnel cost

\ 2,000

Per person / Per Hour

Snow Cat / Groomer Charges

\ 10,000

Per vehicle / Per Hour

Skimobile

\ 3,000

Per vehicle / Per Hour

 

Additional #2 (After 4:30pm)

Personnel cost

\ 2,500

Per person / Per hour (extra 25%)

Note: Damages to equipment or property in the course of rescue operations may also be charged.

7. The rules set by the ski patrols must be obeyed.

8. Children below the age of 12 are not allowed to go out of bounds unless accompanied by a proficient adult leader.

9. Niseko’s ski resorts and the locals respect the freedom of the visitors, but are concerned about their safety, and expect the visitors to respect the Niseko Rules.


local-rules-1

The Gates

There are a total of 9 gates in Niseko! The gate system is very simple. Basically if the area is roped off, the gate is considered closed. If there is no rope blocking, it means that the gate is opened and you can proceed on.

Ski Patrols will go around checking out the areas in the morning and will deem whether it is safe to have the area open. However once you enter the area you will be responsible for your own well being so do make sure you are adequately prepared. Daily avalanche reports can be found online and on the gates every morning. If the gate is closed, there will be a rope tied across the entrance and the only way to enter would be to duck below the rope, which is against the rules. Trust the ski patrols! When its closed, its closed, don’t be a daredevil.

There will be an avalanche report, and several warning signs will be placed up at the entrance of each gate. The avalanche report is updated daily and can also be found online at http://niseko.nadare.info/.

The 9 off piste gates in Niseko are…

Gate 1 L-Ji gate                                 /Alt. 1050m

Gate 2 Annupuri peak gate           /Alt. 1170m

Gate 3 Hirafu peak gate                 /Alt. 1180m

Gate 4 Fujiwara gate                       /Alt. 1180m

Gate 5 HANAZONO gate               /Alt. 1050m

Gate 6 Moiwa Peak gate                /Alt. 800m

Gate 7 Ee-sawa gate                       /Alt. 790m

Gate 8 Hachi-ban gate                   /Alt. 950m

Gate 9 Waterfall gate                     /Alt. 730m

Gate 1

  Gate 1        gate 1 part 2

The Li-Ji gate can be reached from the Jumbo #4 lift at the Annupuri Resort. It’s difficult to get lost as most ways down will bring you to Oo-sawa valley, however be careful and try to be higher than the lower tree lines.

Gate 2

gate 2           gate 2 part 2

Annupuri Peak Gate allows you to get to the open bowl of Oo-sawa. It is also located at the top of Annupuri’s Jumbo #4 lift (Turn left after getting off and hike up). The run down itself is somewhat like a half pipe so do take care! There is a gully at the bottom that might have bumps to ride through.

Gate 3

gate 3                         gate 3 part 2

Hirafu peak gate is found above the top of the highest lift in Niseko, King Lift #4. It takes around 20 minutes to reach the peak. Going  down the north face may lead to a traverse out and going down the West Face and Back Bowl may have avalanches. Do take care

Gate 4

gate 4

You can reach Fujiwara gate via King lift #4. Going down from Fujiwara gate will lead you to Higashi-one, East face and Fujiwara-no-sawa.

Gate 5

gate 5

From Hanazono gate you can enter Fujiwara-no-sawa as well, but will be entering in at the lower section. This run will bring you to the base of HANAZONO #3.

Gate 6

Gate 6

The Moiwa gate allows you to get into the Goshiki onsen, Annupuri West Face and the Mikaeri-no-sawa. Gate 6 cannot be seen on the map as it’s in the Moiwa area, which is not part of Niseko United.

Gate 7

gate 7          gate 7 part 2

The Ee-sawa gate is found at the midpoint of the Annupuri resort. There are natural half pipes around the area and it has a very gentle slope.

Gate 8

gate 8                              gate 8 part 2

Entering from the Hachi-ban gate will bring you to the Oo-sawa area.

Gate 9

gate 9

The waterfall gate can be found in the middle of Hirafu and Hanazono resorts. It’s called the waterfall gate due to there being a waterfall at the bottom of the gulley, so be sure to cross the river and traverse back up to the holiday run before the waterfall.


Avalanche Information

Avalanches occur when the lower layers of the snow that are supporting the layers on top are too weak and become unable to support the top layers, in other words the gravitational force is stronger than the force of the snow (layers) holding itself together.. The top layer of snow will begin to slide off and an avalanche occurs. There are two types of avalanches, slab and loose snow. Loose snow avalanches start as a very small area and expand as it slides down. The most dangerous type of avalanche is called a slab avalanche. A slab avalanche is when a whole section (a slab) slides down, making it near impossible to avoid, especially since slab avalanches are caused by it’s victims. There are some avalanches where the top layer is actually a layer of ice, and in slab avalanches it can be ice the size of a car hurtling down at a speed of 100KM/H. Avalanches can happen from natural or human interference. Usually the victim will cause the avalanche by stepping on an area in which the lower layer is very weak and thus will cause the lower layers to slide, carrying everything on top with it. A degree of 30 is enough for an avalanche to occur, but it alone will not cause an avalanche.