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SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13

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#1
MikePow

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For 6 of the past 7 years I've been very fortunate to winter in the Shiribeshi subprefecture on the island of Hokkaido, northern Japan.

Shiribeshi has it all - a rugged coastline, mountains, volcanoes, geothermal onsens, rivers, lakes, and marshes, with four distinct seasons all at an agricultural pace of life.

A lift accessed winter season stretching from the end of November through to the first week in May, with an average annual snowfall of 12m. Far from average!

Spring skiing until the end of July most years, followed by cool, dry summers playing golf, walking in the mountains, and swimming in the sea.

And to cap off the year an Autumnal colour show to rival that of New England.

For ski afficiandos this is close to perfect.

Shiribeshi
http://www.shiribesh...rk/en/index.htm


My previous season reports can be found here:

SR : Snow to near Village (Niseko) 2008-09
http://www.snowjapan...village-niseko/

TR : Spring on Hokkaido 2011
http://www.snowjapan...html#Post405321

SR : Hokkaido 2011-12
http://www.snowjapan...kkaido-2011-12/


My home from home this winter is Eggshell cabin in Higashiyama, with views of the Niseko Village area of the Niseko United.

The four connected ski areas of the Niseko United - Niseko Annupuri Kokusai, Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama), Niseko Hirafu, and Niseko Hanazono - or Niseko as it's known to locals and visitors alike is the most popular area on Hokkaido.

NISEKO RESORT AREA

Niseko United
http://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/

Niseko Annupuri Kokusai
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=122

Niseko Village
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=121

Niseko Hirafu
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=120

Niseko Hanazono
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=691

In addition there are the two operating but unconnected ski areas of Niseko Moiwa and Niseko Chisenupuri, the cat skiing operation on the former Niseko Weiss Ski Ground, and ski touring opportunities on the closed Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Ground.

Niseko Moiwa
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=123

Niseko Chisenupuri
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=219


Niseko Iwanai Kokusai


But outside of the Niseko Resort Area there is a world of ski areas big and small to excite and beguile.

KUTCHAN

Asahigaoka
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=424


RUSUTSU VILLAGE

Rusutsu
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=124


KIMOBETSU

Nakayama Toge Ski Area
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=208


AKAIGAWA

Kiroro Snow world
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=126


OTARU

Asarigawa Onsen Ski Area
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=127

Otaru Tenguyama
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=125

Snow Cruise Onze
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=209


And just beyond Shiribeshi's border you find the Sapporo resorts of Sapporo Kokusai and Teine.

SAPPORO

Sapporo Kokusai
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=128

Teine
http://www.snowjapan...l.php?resid=132


I hope to get to most of these areas this winter, and travel further afield to Central and Northern Hokkaido.

#2
SJ-David

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Looking forward to your hearing about your adventures. :friend:

Folks - websites of the all the resorts Mike has mentioned can be found on the resort pages linked above.
It helps support us if you go there that way.

Thanks.
Currently working on updates for the 2018-2019 season

#3
griller

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I didn't know that piece of Hokkaido was known as Shiribeshi.

#4
@tokyo

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To be polite, you pronounce it おしりbeshi. ;)

Have fun and take care Mike, although I'm sure you don't need to be told that.
:friend:
@i like polls

#5
Go Native

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Shiribeshi is what I consider heaven on earth. Still haven't really come to terms with not living there anymore. Anyway can't wait for your reports this winter Mike. :thumbsup:

#6
MikePow

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Thanks guys.

Pics on the way.

#7
MikePow

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DAY 1 : THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2012

Back on Fantasy Island, and picked up at New Chitose Airport by long time skiing partner Ian MacKenzie.

Great to see him and great to be back.

Just over a week to opening day at Niseko Hirafu in the Niseko United and there's a distinct lack of snow.

Although when I turned in there were a few flurries in the air.



DAY 2 : FRIDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ (Mike's Quarters, in Higashiyama)

Nothing settled at my place but this was Hatsu Yuki (first snow) in Hirafu village for the 2012/13 season.

I took a drive around the area to see where the snow had fallen and to catch the last of the Autumn colours

Haro-no-taki waterfall and permanent closure area between Niseko Village and Niseko Hirafu

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Mt Yotei

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Mt Iwaonupuri - going to take a lot more snow to cover up those rocks

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Mt Annupuri Back Bowls from near Goshiki Onsen

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A room with a view - the view to Niseko Village's slopes from MQ (Mike's Quarters in Higashiyama)

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#8
MikePow

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DAY 3 : SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Pulled an all nighter watching Wales lose to Samoa in rugby and then had a relaxing, indoor day avoiding the torrential rain and low lying clouds. Like being back in Wales.

Dinner with Ian M at Niseko Pizza. Great to catch up with Cezar.

T-7 days to Opening Day at Niseko Hirafu.

Not looking good at this stage.




DAY 4 : SUNDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Woken by the rain at 4am, and then when I roused at 10am the world was white.

A room with a view

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I drove to Kutchan to pick up provisions and had a look at Asahigaoka Ski Area

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And the nearby shrine and cemetery

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Not a bad place to end up. Under metres of snow each winter. A fitting end.

The residents of Kutchan had prepared for the change of seasons. Gardens all over the town are filled with blue teepees.

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Their function?

To protect the miniature trees from the heavy snowfalls of winter

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I shovelled before I went to Kutchan and I shovelled when I got back.

With no sign of the snow letting up and the mountain transforming every hour I arranged with Glen to make an early start the following morning up to the Ace Hill restaurant in Niseko Hirafu.

Alarm clock set to 5am.

#9
MikePow

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DAY 5 : MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2012

23 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


5am alarm and the snow was still coming down.

It took me longer than I'd anticipated to get my kit together which meant out the door at 5.45 sans breakfast.

A quick brush of the windscreen, windows, and lights and I was on my way to Niseko Hirafu Base area to meet Glen.

The roads were covered in snow but thanks to AWD and winter tyres it was a breeze.

Hirafu Main St




I waited until 6.45 for Glen to show and then set off up the mountain on my own in the blue before sunrise.

Skinned pretty much straight up the front face of Niseko Hirafu - Alpen to Green run to the top of the King Quad Lift #2 and then the Beginners Access run to the Ace Hill rest house.

Skin track on Green run

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The thermometer on Ace Hill

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With the anticpated Opening Day date for 2012, November 23rd

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I dropped the black run straight off Ace Hill into Furiko under clear skies. The snow was consistent, light, and surprisingly deep.

Looking back up at the first tracks made on Niseko Hirafu this winter

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Before dropping the next section of Furiko on a whim I shouted out for Glen and got an answer.

He'd set his alarm for 5 but had woken at 6.30am. He hadn't slept through, he'd set it for 5pm!

I skinned across to my first skin track and we made our way back to Ace Hill, Glen on the bootpack slog fest in up to 50cm of unconsolidated powder.

Yours truly skinning up Green run

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Unfortunately by the time Glen got to Ace Hill the sunshine had disappeared and it had started snowing again.

Glen getting ready to go

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Yours truly ready to go

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#10
MikePow

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We took the same route down as on my first lap, but ran the sasa (bamboo) line and got the goods

Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 1

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Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 2

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Glen letting it go on Furiko

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Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 3

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How does it make you feel?

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Then we put the cameras away and cruised Green run on to Alpen

Glen back at base after a great morning

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Best first turns of the season at Hirafu for both of us. Nothing like face shots first time out.

T-4 days to Opening Day and things are looking up.

#11
yamaski

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Sugoi!

I'm jealous.

#12
MikePow

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Thanks. Hopefully more to come before Opening Day.

#13
MikePow

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DAY 6 : TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2012

1 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ

A light dusting overnight that melted off quite quickly in the early morning sun.

My next door neighbour's son Kye built this impressive snowman the first hour or so we had snow on Sunday. Now that's dedication.

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Autumn is making it's last stand today, but every thirty minutes or so winter charges in.

The tap has been turned on





Opening day on Friday is looking better by the hour.

#14
muikabochi

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Nice Mike.
It's still just raining in these parts.
:(

#15
MikePow

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DAY 7 : WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2012

24 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Solo mission up Niseko Hirafu today.

Unfortunately I missed Glen and couldn't take the ION camera up with me.

The grooming crew had groomed a single track from the new Alpen Base Area building right up to Ace Hill. Made skinning up the mountain so much easier.

And more importantly the track was all compacted snow with no grass, sasa, or rocks poking through.

Just before I got to the King Bell restaurant plateau six workers on the Hirafu lift crew went skiing and boarding by.

They'd run the lifts so they could get a couple of 'product testing' laps. There was snow flying everywhere.

Then I passed the grooming crew heading up to flatten lower Rinkan and Jumbo.

Niseko Hirafu Grooming Crew




24 at the door, and up on Ace Hill? A little bit more!

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84 cm base depth at Ace Hill. Not bad for 3 days.

I dropped in off Ace Hill and immediately sank to my waist without bottoming out to grass. And that's 104 cm for me.

Then it was turn after turn with the snow billowing all around me and cascading over my shoulders.

But as I hit the lower mountain the snow got too deep / the slope got too mellow (depends on your viewpoint) and it was straight running and poling to get to the groomed track.

The last pitch down to the Alpen base area was effortless and floaty, and I was up and down in 90 minutes.

With cold temps and a little more snow forecast, tomorrow will be great. And Opening Day on Frday even better.

But I'll be heading out of town tomorrow for Opening Day at Kiroro.

#16
muikabochi

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Cool! Hopefully it won't be too long before we get our snow starting.
Though perhaps another few weeks.

#17
MikePow

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Fingers crossed for us all.

#18
MikePow

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DAY 8 : THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2012

11 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Glorious drive over to Kiroro this morning.

Sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, but I pulled in to the car park to see no lifts turning.

I walked into the main area and it was a ghost town.

Opening Day is tomorrow. Doh!

Still better that than being 'a day late and a buck short' ;)

Snow coverage top to bottom with the groomers making the pistes perfect for tomorrow.

Rather than drive back home I went to the seaside instead.

Drove to Iwanai and then down the coast towards Suttsu before heading back inland on the Rankoshi road.

Snow has fallen at sea level this winter, but the warmer temperatures and sunshine of the past couple of days has melted it all away.

But there'll be plenty of opportunity to see snow on the beach in December and January.

On the way in to Iwanai town there's a beautiful temple set above the road with wonderful views of the ocean, the defunct Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Area and its peak Iwanai-dake.

Kikoin Temple, Iwanai

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Golden Statue at Kikoin Temple

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A decorated statue with Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Area in the background

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The guardians of the Temple

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#19
MikePow

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The ski area looked good in the sunshine but it's going to take a few more storms before the cut runs fill in.

Iwanai port with the snowcapped mountains of the Shakotan Peninsula

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Iwanai coastline with the snowcapped mountains of the Shakotan Peninsula

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The black sands of Cape Raiden

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Tomorrow is Opening Day at Niseko Hirafu.

Here's a little blast from the past, Opening Day for the 2008/09 winter. Groundhog Day?


Saturday 22 November 2008

Plans to get first chair went out of the window when I woke at 7:45 and I got to the bottom of the Ace Quad just as Glen was being whisked up the hill on first chair. Good effort son.

It was odd to ride the chair after hiking these past weeks and to see tracks plural as opposed to my solitary line on the mountain.

I honestly didn't think we'd have opening day earlier in the week, and I'm still amazed that 3 solid days of snowfall was all it took to get the lifts turning.

I picked up my season pass yesterday which was a big improvement on the debacle last season when the season pass office opened at 8:20 on opening day.

And when I got to the Ace Hill I was met with a very unexpected surprise. Patrol and the grooming crew had opened the hill back down to the base of the quad.

I've been very critical of the Grand Hirafu mountain ops but today they exceeded my expectations. Kudos.

And the conditions?

Best opening day I've had. The snow was deep, light, consistent and with very few people on the hill there was plenty of pow to go round.

Even the sun made an appearance for 15 mins or so.

Rode with Wild Bill's barman Ben Gillespie for the morning and had a blast. It was great to put the laps in.

Ben launching off the summer access road

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----------

Here's hoping that tomorrow brings the same. Or better :)

#20
Fonty

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I am looking forward to all the goss from Opening Day!! :)
It's all down hill from now..........







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