Provided by: Explore Niseko (050-5309-6905), THoP, HBC & Iwanai Resort
The House of Powder/Hokkaido Backcountry Club:
Cat tours are one of the best ways to access the backcountry pow! If you aren’t too keen on hiking the back bowls of Mt Annupuri-Niseko, Chisenupuri is just a 20min drive. With a pick up service from your Niseko accomodation from 08:00, you’ll be driven through the scenic mountain ranges and arrive at your destination, more commonly known by the locals as Chise.
Once we got to the location, we got to settle into there warm lodge and get kitted up with arm bands, our safety packs and beacons. THoP patroller, Lindsey, gave us a run through of what were in our packs – shovel and probe. In addition, she shows us how to assemble the equipment to use them in an efficient manner. Once we had out beacons and packs strapped on, we stepped out into the snow where other THoP patroller, Jase, had hidden some beacons. Jase provided a simplified demonstration of search and rescue in an avalanche crisis. This was such a great refresher for us who has done their Avalanche Skills Test, or, a good introduction on how to go about equipping yourself with the knowledge of mountain safety.
We did a search together as a team to test our beacons, our dummy was found and rescued! Once we were comfortable with our beacons, we loaded the cat for our first run! HBC guide, Shin, along with the THoP patrollers, takes us down the first few laps. The first lap will always follow the lift line, this basically allows us to always have a safe confirmed route to get back to the cat. The next couple of runs, we are shown some tracks through the back country! The Chise backcountry was full of deep fluffy powder and great pillows!
Getting back on the cat is quick and easy with 2 cats on a constant loop! I suppose one could think of it as your own private mountain with the cats as your lifts! For our next run, HBC and THoP guides split the group up by terrain interest – either back down the lift line, or, further out into the back country; making this tour fun for all ability levels. After 3-4 runs, we were free to explore the mountain ourselves, or follow one of the guides.
Around 12:00, we head back down to the lodge to have a simple packed lunch that is provided. After lunch we head back up again! With an an approximate vertical elevation of 270m, the runs may be considered short; however, our group managed to do about 6-7 runs* from 10:00-12:30! The tour runs until about 3-4pm, depending on when the sun goes down for our own safety. At the end of the tour, you also have the option to head to the all natural sulphuric onsen next door for just ¥500! After soaking in the outdoor pools and mud bath, the crew takes us back to Hirafu :)
Overall, with the quick looping of the 2 cats, this tour was perfect for us to do some slashes and jump pillows in the trees, as well as the warming up and cooling down the legs with some wide powder turns!
*number of runs depends on the overall ability level of the group.
Iwanai Resort is currently being re-vamped. It’s offering a 360 degree panorama glass cat! The views are phenomenal. Of all the nearby cat ski tours in Niseko, Iwanai offers the longest runs at 600m vertical and steep pitches. Overall super fun! The backcountry is currently not filled in, so take care out there and make sure you have your safety pack and beacon!
Contact us at Explore Niseko (050-5309-6905) to find out more and/or book your cat experience!