OFF-PISTE ON YOUR GUARD

Action Asia - - JAPAN -

Niseko has led the way in open­ing up pos­si­bil­i­ties be­yond the ropes and many places in Hokkaido and else­where have fol­lowed to a greater or lesser ex­tent. You should al­ways lis­ten to lo­cal ad­vice on the con­di­tions though and carry suit­able gear to help your­self and oth­ers should any­thing go wrong. If gates are opened to al­low side-and back­coun­try, use them. If they are not open, it will be for good rea­son so heed the fact. If you are not ex­pe­ri­enced in the back­coun­try, hire a guide and learn what to look for in the snow and weather. A beau­ti­ful blue­bird day can be more deadly than a howl­ing blizzard as the sun warms the lay­ers of snow and the jeop­ardy can be com­pounded by com­pla­cency in the fine con­di­tions. Re­cent sea­sons have seen sev­eral deaths in Niseko, most of­ten when peo­ple dis­re­garded the ski pa­trol’s ad­vice about where and when it was safe to pro­ceed. They are pro­fes­sion­als and are there to help, not to spoil your fun: pay them the re­spect of lis­ten­ing and do­ing as they say.

BLUE SKI THINK­ING Even Hokkaido’s fam­ily-ori­ented re­sorts, such as Kiroro shown here, of­fer ac­cess to more chal­leng­ing back­coun­try ar­eas.

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