Niseko Snowcat Ski Area Preperation

There’s riding the Niseko powder, then there’s getting out in a snowcat.

There is a lot more to back country riding with a snowcat than just jumping in and driving up the mountain to find the best untracked terrain in Niseko.

Before any guests get the chance to get their untracked powder fix a track has to be cut and then maintained throughout the season to ensure all the guests have a smooth and safe ride up the mountain.

I spent five hours with Nick from Niseko Snowcat Adventures who took me out in the groomer to cut the first track all the way to the top of the drop zone in preparation for this seasons steep deep fun.

The Groomer

The groomer for this season is a Ohara Ratrac SRH, it has a 6ltr diesel engine that puts out around 120bhp and has more torque than you can shake a snow covered tree at. This little beauty is agile enough to weave around switch back turns and trees plus enough grunt to move hundreds of tonnes of snow an hour.

The snowcat an Ohara Ratrac SRH, 28 December 2011

The snowcat an Ohara Ratrac SRH, 28 December 2011

Journey preparation on the snowcat, 28 December 2011

Journey preparation on the snowcat, 28 December 2011

The groomer controls and dashboard, 28 December 2011

The groomer controls and dashboard, 28 December 2011

The Journey Up

Nick is the most qualified back country guide and medic I know and heading out into the snow covered wilderness is not something to take lightly. Snow shoes, walking poles, food, drink, warm clothes, spare diesel, tools and a lot of knowledge are all essential.

Two-tone Niseko pine trees, 28 December 2011

Two-tone Niseko pine trees, 28 December 2011

The Ohara working hard in the deep Niseko powder, 28 December 2011

The Ohara working hard in the deep Niseko powder, 28 December 2011

Normally the journey to the drop zone takes around 30 minutes in the snowcat used to carry guests, but ours took a little longer as it was the first time the top of the ridge had been accessed this season. There was a lot of track building and a lot of snow to move and sculpt along the way and Nick’s cat driving skills were extraordinary!

This time lapse show the ride up to the drop zone from near the near the start of the trail and should give you a good idea of what driving on a three meter snow base is like.

The Ridge

We reached the ridge line that has over 40 named runs in a little over an hour and a half. If the snow had not been falling we would have had breath taking views of Mt. Yotei and the Niseko area, but having said that the silence, untouched snow and totally caked trees were spectacular in their own right.

Snow loaded trees on the ridge line, 28 December 2011

Snow loaded trees on the ridge line, 28 December 2011

A lone tree on the ridge line, 28 December 2011

A lone tree on the ridge line, 28 December 2011

The Ohara groomer clearing the drop zone, 28 December 2011

The Ohara groomer clearing the drop zone, 28 December 2011

After clearing the drop zone we went for to a short walk through waist deep powder to one of the many drop in points.

All I can say is it looked steep deep and a lot more fun than anything on the Niseko ski fields…

The start of an intermediate back country run, 28 December 2011

The start of an intermediate back country run, 28 December 2011

The Journey Down

Normally getting down from the ridge would involve strapping something to your feet and making lots of happy noises but today was all about work so others can play so we jumped back in the groomer.

Far from following the same path back down the mountain Nick cut new tracks, engineered ramps and bridges to allow the snowcats to get down into remote spots that riders finish their runs at.

As we descended the weather improved a bit and we even had a little blue sky and took a look at some of the big features the terrain has to offer.

Untracked Niseko back country, 28 December 2011

Untracked Niseko back country, 28 December 2011

A big back country drop, 28 December 2011

A big back country drop, 28 December 2011

A freshly cut Niseko back country cat track, 28 December 2011

A freshly cut Niseko back country cat track, 28 December 2011

Want to ride the snowcat then smash the deep Niseko POW?

If seeing all the untracked terrain has wet your appetite for possibly the best days riding ever, you can contact Glen Claydon Photography and mention this blog post to get a special price on a five person all day trip that includes:

  • Pick up and drop off from your accommodation
  • A qualified guide, driver and medic
  • Full days photo shoot with Glen Claydon
  • Lot great memories.

All for ¥160,000.

If you have any questions or want to get involved send an email to bookings@glenclaydon.com or call 090 3850 7286 to have all your questions answered and hopefully end up with you and your crew in a picture like the ones below.

Mt. Yotei on the left and Mt. Niseko Annupuri on the right, 28 December 2011

Mt. Yotei on the left and Mt. Niseko Annupuri on the right, 28 December 2011

The sun god touching a tree, 28 December 2011

The sun god touching a tree, 28 December 2011

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