After a few days of pleasant powder the sun has come out, and given the warming we found yesterday and the inevitable crusts that would follow, we decided that a ski tour would be in order.
Given our unfamiliarity with the area we decided for a very safe and conservative option, and decided to climb the Weisshorn, where the majority of the ascent would be within the old disused Weiss ski area. Weiss is generally used by snowmobiles however we were fortunate not to have to share it with them today, in fact the only other sign of life was a single snowboarder, and also the infernal lift announcements from Niseko booming across the valley.
Apart from a small pitch near the summit the slope angles were too low for avalanches, though while we saw some tempting tracks heading down the main summit bowl there were enough signals that we shouldn’t be skiing down especially considering our conservative mindset.
Our friend Andy who is the Program Director of Japan Powder Tours based out of Moiwa joined us for the day, it was his first ever ski tour and we were glad to share it with him.
Given the tired legs from the skiing so far, the pace was moderate and we kept the skin track angles low, and didn’t torture Andy with any kick turns, but when we saw the sun lowering in the sky we skipped a couple of gears and forged our way up to the summit. I think it was about a 500m vert climb, so nothing record breaking but not insubstantial either.
We did feast on a sushi lunch during the climb which is something that is really quite unique.
We were rewarded with a stunning view on the summit seeing both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific, not to mention the striking Mt Yotei and also Annupuri (the main peak of Niseko) and also Iwanopuri.
Once we summited the light was getting low so we made our way back down. In the conservative vein of the day we skied some lovely powder down what I am guessing was the main intermediate run of the old Weiss resort – the pitch was mellow but apart from jumping the occasional snowmobile track the main obstacles were our own skin tracks.. As always with ski touring the descent was lovely with every single turn earned for the day.
The long climb also allowed time to reflect on the sad loss of Sarah Burke. The sport we all love is not without its risks and we should all remember that the professionals out there are tempting fate every day in order to provide us with entertainment.
We thoroughly enjoyed the day, and followed it up with a soak in a local Onsen and then dinner at one of the best restaurants in Hirafu.
It was a superb day and we are now eagerly awaiting the snowfall anticipated starting tomorrow afternoon.