Niseko Annupuri Kita-shamen to Goshiki Onsen Loop

ニセコアンヌプリ | Nisey-ko-an-nupuri

Posted on Feb 9, 2022
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Posted on Feb 9, 2022
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7km

Distance

4 hours

Time

250m

Ascent

1308m

Highest point

5.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

Note that the Niseko Rules require anyone accessing the backcountry from anywhere within the Niseko United area or Moiwa Ski Area to do so via the backcountry gates – details on gate openings on the Niseko Avalanche Information website.

As far as solid lift-assisted day-tours go in Hokkaido, there are few that compare to the Niseko Annupuri Kita-shamen ニセコアンヌプリ北斜面 to Goshiki Onsen 五色温泉 loop. With a number of options available to extend the day's adventuring, this loop should appeal to backcountry skiers of all levels. The route starts with a mind-bending 550m vert in the deepest of deep Niseko powder. Next is a picturesque skin along a snowed-in road, surrounded by volcanoes. Then you'll have a natural hotspring soak before another hit of quality powder turns, leading you back to where you started at Annupuri ski area. Did we mention you'll climb no more than 250m on this loop?

We visited this route on Feb 05, 2022

The team: Simon, Alex, Ben, Matt, Rob.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Niseko Annupuri sits at the southeastern terminus of the Niseko Range, about 2.5 hours drive west of Sapporo City. Its southeastern slopes are home to the Niseko United ski resort, well known internationally for good powder snow. Given that this route finishes at Annupuri ski area, we recommend that skiers start there too – at the gondola. This does require a 30-minute bootpack and/or skin from the top of the Annupuri Jumbo Pair Lift #4 (Gate 2) across the ridge to the Niseko Annupuri summit, however. If you’d rather keep the bootpack as short as possible, you could ride the Niseko Grand Hirafu ski area gondola + King Hooded Quad Lift #3 + King Lift #4 to Gate 3, and head to the summit from there. Note however that Niseko Grand Hirafu lifts are orders of magnitude more busy than the Annupuri lifts, particularly on a weekend. If the weather is good, and getting there is not too much of a bother, we heartily recommend starting from Annupuri.

General notes

Kita-shamen means, literally, North Slope (kita 北 north, shamen 斜面 slope). On the initial bootpack up to the Niseko Annupuri summit, you may be forgiven for wondering if you’ll get any fresh tracks at all on this tour. Rest assured, however. The overwhelming majority of punters trudging up to the summit, dragging their resort skis behind them, are huffing and puffing and hoping in vain for their slice of untracked pow down the seething south and eastern aspects from the summit. The remote western and northern aspects of Niseko Annupuri are much more committing, only accessible to those with the means of hiking back out.

Hut
None
Route details

Via Niseko Annupuri or Niseko Grand Hirafu ski areas, take the lifts up to their respective upper reaches, and hike from there to the Niseko Annupuri summit. If accessing via Niseko Annupuri, you’ll exit the ski area via Gate 2. In this case, it’s worth either putting skins on or attaching your skis to your backpack – generally, the ridgeline bootpack trail is firm underfoot, but heavier hikers may fall through to the undergrowth below. If accessing from Niseko Grand Hirafu, you’ll exit via Gate 3 – this bootpack trail is partly groomed, and is sufficiently firm underfoot the entire way. You’ll be sharing this hike with a steady stream of resort-goers, many with questionable levels of backcountry preparedness.

There’s a small concrete shelter at the summit. The ambient temperature inside the shelter differs little from the outside. After the obligatory summit photos, head about 100m west along the summit ridge before dropping north into the Kita-shamen. We recommend just riding the fall line the entire way, in the centre of the vast, bowl-like terrain. The very top of the slope can get wind-scoured but quickly transforms into excellent surface conditions.

Once at the snowed-in Route 58 road, skin southwest for just under 2km along the road to Goshiki Onsen. There may or may not be an existing skin track. If on snowshoes, make sure to bring the high floatation type – surface conditions can be very, very, very deep. Goshiki Onsen is just beyond the public car park at the end of the snow-clearing; you’ll be walking on the cleared road for the final 200m or so to the onsen.

Have a long soak in the onsen. Then drag your body back out into the cold for the final 25-minute skin over the saddle between Annupuri and Mt. Moiwa. We recommend climbing up an extra 100m or so before dropping into Mikaeri Bowl – there are some nice powder turns to be had before hitting the race-track in the gully back to the base of Annupuri ski area. Keep left at any junctions in the gully and you’ll be sure to end up in Annupuri (there’s a junction part way that will take you to Moiwa Ski Area).

Route Timing
Up | 1hrs
Down | 3hrs

On its own, moderately fit skiers will complete this loop (including a 1hr soak in the onsen) in around 4 hours. For this reason, many fitter skiers will tack on an ascent of Iwaonupuri (either the popular south face or more committing northeastern face). Not including a soak in Goshiki Onsen, including Iwaonupuri will make the trip around 5 hours.

Transport

Public transport:

Niseko United runs a shuttle service between the major ski areas in the Niseko United group. Get off at the Annupuri Suki-jo アンヌプリスキー場 bus stop, and you’re more or less right at the Annupuri gondola. See the timetable and details here. There is a regular public bus service to and from the Niseko resort area from Sapporo City – details here. Note that there is no public transport to Goshiki Onsen in the winter. If you want to cut the trip short at Goshiki Onsen, a taxi fare from Goshiki Onsen to central Hirafu (23km) would cost around 7,500 to 8,000yen one way (there are no callout fees in Hokkaido).

By car:

There is plenty of parking at Annupuri ski area. If starting from Hirafu, note that traffic can be mind-bogglingly congested through the central Hirafu village during the high season. We would recommend avoiding that area by car at all costs. There is also plenty of parking at Goshiki Onsen for those with two vehicles who would prefer to run a shuttle.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Nisekoannupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ) – map no. NK-54-20-7-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

Aspect
The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is North. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: West, South. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Shiribeshi area, consider looking at the Japan Avalanche Network avalanche bulletins (updated Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at 8am) or the daily Niseko Avalanche Information website. These may give extra insight into avalanche conditions in the greater area around the route.

Snow and
route safety

This route accesses the backcountry from the Niseko United ski area gates, but the entire route outside of the gates is very much uncontrolled backcountry. There are no patrols, no avalanche control, and hazards are not marked. Don’t be lulled into a sense of false security while hiking up to the peak with the hordes of woefully underprepared and underequipped resort skiers outside the ski area bounds.

  • This is one of the busiest backcountry zones in Hokkaido; be aware of backcountry users above and below you at all times.
  • Check the forecast and familiarize yourself with the snowpack conditions for the aspects you intend to ski.
  • This route is subject to gates opening – familiarize yourself with the Niseko Rules here.
  • See our tips for keeping safe while ski touring in Hokkaido here.
  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compassinstructions here.

Niseko Annupuri Kita-shamen to Goshiki Onsen Loop Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

53/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy).  More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Niseko Annupuri
Onsen nearby

Goshiki Onsen 五色温泉 (location, 800yen, 10am till 7pm) is a gorgeously rustic natural onsen half way through the route. It is a must visit onsen, with 100% pure hot spring water, flowing into outdoor baths surrounded by meters of snow. If you’d prefer a soak after the whole loop is completed at Annupuri Ski Area, walk 300m from the base of Annupuri ski area to Ikoi-no-yu Onsen hotsprings いこいの湯 (location, 800yen). It’s 100% natural too, with some great outdoor baths.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

The northern and western aspects of Niseko Annupuri are enigmas. They bear the full brunt of prevailing winter storms, and yet if one chooses their location right, the powder can be as deep and soft as anywhere on the mountain. One such spot is the Kita-shamen, so it had long been on our radar to check out. With a forecast of blue skies and scattered snow showers – the best forecast for Niseko I’d seen in a few weeks – it seemed like today was the day for it.

A merry group of six set off from the Annupuri gondola lower station. Still in the throes of a global pandemic, the line for the lift was civilized, unlike when Japan’s borders were open to the world.

If you’re lucky enough to be reading this whilst in Japan in the future when borders are open, I feel for the fact that you’ll also be waiting in line much longer than we did on this particular day.

We were headed for Gate 2, in order to exit the ski area and head for the summit of Niseko Annupuri. It was the first time any of us had hiked to the summit from Gate 2. There was some cursory discussion about whether to put skins on, strap skis to backpacks, or just sling skis over shoulders and boot it. We sort of decided to just boot it. At the last minute, I re-checked the map and decided it was far enough to warrant an extra few seconds strapping my skis to my pack. The others just slung skis over shoulders.

Not too far into the bootpack, we were starting to punch through to the vegetation below. This ridgeline clearly sees a lot of wind. While moderately wind-packed, the snow cover was miserly. I stopped to put my skins on, wondering if the time lost to doing so would indeed be made up for in the easier climbing.

Skins made the going much easier, however, and I even soon caught up to Matt, our man way out front. I gained the small false peak and got my first glimpse of the Hirafu hordes climbing up to the peak from Gate 3.

“That is nothing,” said Simon to me afterwards. “Before the pandemic it was pure bedlam!”

In contrast to the relative warm sunshine of the southeast side of the mountain, at the summit, it was blowing a gale. Visibility was less than ideal for our descent onto the north face. We all kitted up for the descent a little apprehensive of what we were getting ourselves into.

Just as we were getting ready to launch ourselves off the scoured summit edge next to the summit shelter, the clouds cleared. This allowed us to see the perfect launching pad on the short western summit ridge heading away from the shelter. It was clearly going to be powder turns the whole way. Suddenly things seemed much brighter.

A number of people had already skied the slope before us, but overall we all had untracked lines. Pure heaven.

We all regrouped near the wooded bottom of the slope, and carried on the remaining few hundred meters to Route 58. A solid skin track was already set along the road, making things almost too easy.

And now it was a bluebird day.

The temptation to ski Iwaonupuri was strong. There was, after all, a nicely set skin track most of the way to the summit. But, we had other plans. We were keen to lap the Goshiki Bowl above Goshiki Onsen.

Suffice it to say that plan worked out nicely, despite the weather that rapidly deteriorated after our Goshiki Bowl of powder (Goshiki Bowl route overview coming soon).

With the weather fast deteriorating, and certainly no time for a soak in the hot pools, we made our mad dash for the Mikaeri Bowl and final descent back to Annupuri ski area. The only redeeming factor of that return was that we had a tailwind.

I dearly wanted to take photos of that descent, but the conditions just weren’t having it. As we descended to the racetrack back to Annupuri, I saw shooting cracks extend beyond my ski tips. Wind slab was forming fast. We spent no time savouring the slope. We just went for it.

The gully and well-used racetrack spat us out as promised at the base of Annupuri ski area. We re-grouped and congratulated each other on an eventful, enjoyable adventure out back in Niseko.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Niseko Annupuri, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Niseko Annupuri Kita-shamen to Goshiki Onsen Loop Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

53/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.