Chisenupuri cat skiing is a great way to guarantee fresh tracks at Niseko. Chisenupuri used to be a little local’s favourite semi-secret one double chair ski area tucked away around the back side of Annupuri.
It was too small, too far away, and too undeveloped to get much attention. So little attention in fact that the lift shut and it was earn-your-turns or forget it the past few years.
Until the crew from Black Diamond / Hokkaido Backcountry Club stepped in with a new cat ski operation there last season. Checking it out was my plan for day 2, and it turned out to be another winner.
Sure, the vertical is pretty small, the gradient not the steepest, and this day the snow wasn’t the deepest by Niseko normal standards. But boot to knee deep is not bad, and there was plenty of that, no bottom to touch except on the run out to the base, and no competition for lines all day, except between the mixed group of American boarders and Aussie skiers filling the cat. The guides sorted it so everyone got plenty.
Lead Guide Chris Eckel, who hails from Juneau Alaska, gave the best short beacon demonstration I’ve ever seen in over 20 years of doing those on the job at heli and cat ski operations around the world. He didn’t cut corners, as many do, showing how beacon signals work and how to hone in on them concisely but very clearly.
Second guide Aussie Kyle Boys, in his first season training there, was great too. We got 9 laps in, and over lunch – a ¥1,000 voucher, which is enough for a bowl of ramen and a tall beer at the little restaurant in the onsen building at the base – it all filled again with 10cm plus new snow to freshen up our afternoon session.
Both Aussies and Americans had a ball, and voted it great value. Everyone looked even more tired than me, and we were all happy to haul in as the temperature dropped and grey skies turned quickly to night skies.
Chisenupuri cat skiing is great value too. New for 2017-18 it will operate with the cats as lifts.
“This year it’s going to be ¥35,000 per person and includes lunch, snacks and a beverage. Also, now that we feel comfortable about the safety aspect we are now offering it as a non-guided day. We will only have four ski patrol/instructors there to make sure everybody stays safe, finds the best snow for the day and gets some powder coaching when needed. It’s going to be great!” says Clayton Kernaghan, Hokkaido Backcountry Club Director.
A Chisenupuri cat skiing day itinerary runs like this:
8:15 – Pick up at your accommodations in Niskeo
9:00 – Arrive at The House of Powder, Chisenupuri
9:15 – Avalanche briefing
9:30 – Start shredding, the cats will run all day
Lunch when you want
4:00 – Shuttle returns to Niseko