Exploring Niseko's backcountry is the perfect way to add more adventure to your Hokkaido holiday itinerary. You can get access to some of the world's best untouched snow, and ride to your heart's content without needing to worry about lift lines or powder stashes getting tracked out.
Of course, getting access to the backcountry comes with the added effort of snowshoeing or skinning to your desired location, but it also comes with the risk of avalanches, which, while rare, are not to be taken lightly. Making sure you are up-to-date on your avalanche safety training and carrying the appropriate safety equipment like a shovel, probe and beacon can help protect against dangerous situations resulting from backcountry avalanches. Also assessing the snow and wind conditions before you head out is extremely important, as the risk of an avalanche can rise substantially after certain snow/temperature conditions.
Here are two resources that are available to those wishing to check the avalanche conditions before going out into the Niseko backcountry:
ニセコなだれ情報 (Niseko Avalanche Information)
This site posts daily bilingual avalanche reports each morning during the Winter season, with detailed information on wind speeds, snow depth, air pressure, temperature and visibility. It also includes a written analysis of the overall conditions and a judgement on whether it's worth exploring the backcountry that day. This is a simple yet reliable resource that's definitely worth checking if you're thinking of putting on the skins.
日本雪崩ネットワーク (Japan Avalanche Network)
The Niseko area has recently been added to the Japan Avalanche Network's reporting list, and is now listed in great detail. It provides regularly-updated risk assessments of the mountain at the alpine, treeline and below-tree-line levels, making it easy to read. It also includes more detailed breakdowns on the daily wind slab, wet loose snow and glide slab conditions, plus written recommendations based on overall avalanche, weather and snowpack conditions. This is a great bi-lingual resource that also offers social media updates, safety training articles and seminars - very helpful for backcountry lovers!
Just getting started with backcountry riding?
Here are some more resources to help you get started:
Riding in the backcountry should only be done if the group feels comfortable, informed and safe in doing so. NEVER ride in the backcountry alone, and always notify at least one person 'on the ground' if you are going riding in the backcountry. Vacation Niseko are not backcountry professionals, and do not take responsibility for any accidents, injury or deaths that result from backcountry riding.