Sure, we’re all powder legends in our own minds – that’s why we go to japan – but reality can be a shock. even with fat skis or pow snowboards getting your rhythm and style happening is usually a struggle for most. Which is made harder when around the resorts it’s a frenzy of expert and not so expert charging at it, leaving little time for getting your act together. Enter the new Weiss Powder Cat Tours, owned by Niseko Hanazono, offering long runs and open spaces perfect for getting your pow act together on.
The Weisshorn, to give the mountain its full name, has probably been seen by most who have scored a clearish day at Niseko – it’s the former ski area a couple of kilometres north east of Hanazono, easily visible from the Peak and runs off skier’s left at Hanazono. The old Weiss resort covered 57ha of courses, with 5 lifts, and ran from 1973 to 2009, going through several ownership changes and never really making much progress, expecially with all the developments happening at Hirafu.
For the past few seasons it has been used sporadically as a snowmobile park and for some limited cat skiing with a local operator.
But in the biggest local news for a while, Niseko Hanazono Resort purchased the area recently, and for 2015-2016 are launching a new “Niseko Weiss Powder Cats Tour” as a full day cat ski experience that will be about the best powder intro option you can find, at Niseko or anywhere. The terrain is generally pretty mellow, a bit steeper above the treeline, with wide open runs and the space to get your act together. Skiing powder gets easier the faster and cleaner line you can take, which is usually pretty hard to put into practice around the resort these days; even if you do get to a run first and are any bit hesitant a horde of howling pow fiends will likely go charging past you.
Not at Weiss. It’s all your for the day with just the guides and fellow guests.
Throw in the added benefit of Niseko quality, quantity and consistency of snow, which can be easily managed to maintain fresh lines for the tiny numbers of daily guests who will be using it – the tour will run with a minimum of 4 to maximum of 12 – and it’s hard to think of an operation to rival it as a pow intro.
The pictures on the preceding spread and here were taken late season earlier this year, on spring corn snow, but they give you an idea of the scope (and nice view back up the Peak too).
Weiss Powder Cat Tours will offer an up to 8 run day, depending on the conditions and level of participants, split 3 – 5 in the morning session and 2 – 3 more in the afternoon.
Trips start with accommodation pick ups in the Hirafu area from 7 – 8am to Hanazono 308 for the safety briefing, beacon check and registration, then groups head to the cat base to start the first run around 9am.
Lunch is included, taken at the Weiss Hotel at the foot of the old resort. Following thee afternoon session guests are transferred back to Hanazono by 3.30, with transport back to accommodation if required.
With space limited and demand likely to be high getting in early and pre-booking is the smart play, time it for early in your stay.
At ¥38,000 per person it’s excellent value cat skiing for individuals, or you can get a group together and book it out for ¥380,000.