Niseko Annupuri West Face Laps

ニセコアンヌプリ | Nisey-ko-an-nupuri

Posted on Feb 8, 2022
0
WNSW
Posted on Feb 8, 2022
0 0
WNSW
3km

Distance

3 hours

Time

345m

Ascent

1065m

Highest point

4/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

The west face of Niseko Annupuri ニセコアンヌプリ (1308m), away from the madding crowds of the resort on the eastern side, is a popular smorgasbord of backcountry skiing options. This lowlands hot-laps option is good for when the alpine is inaccessible due to high winds. While the western face of Niseko Annupuri tends to bear the brunt of strong NW winds, skiers can expect good stashes of powder in protected areas. All this is accessible with relatively little effort, and a hotspring soak at the tailhead. Views across to Iwaonupuri are also stellar on a good day.

We visited this route on Feb 02, 2022

Skier in photos: Greg Bruyere

Last updated Feb 9, 2022

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. The southeastern side of the peak is home to the bustling, international ski resort of Niseko United. The route here, however, starts at the Goshiki Onsen gate on Route 58 on the western side of the mountain, far from the madding resort crowds.

General notes

The lower reaches of the western face of Niseko Annupuri, just east-northeast of Goshiki Onsen, offer a couple of relatively sheltered, diminutive bowls that can make for a nice morning or day out. The western face of Niseko Annupuri is subject to the full brunt of the prevailing winter NW Siberian monsoon winds, but the wide gullies on this route here hold the snow well. Choose your day based on the day’s wind direction, and you’ll be in for a fun time lapping these easy-access slopes.

Hut
None
Route details

From the large cleared car park at the end of the snow-clearing on Route 58, head west across about 500m of low-angle approach before starting to climb in earnest towards the Niseko Annupuri southwest ridge. On the topomap, there’s a 1065m point marked – that’s the rough goal for this low-ish lapping route. From there, you’ll have the option of skiing the west-facing, skier’s left or right bowls. Both offer relatively good powder stashes. Ridgelines can be scoured and lee slopes can suffer from wind-loading, so take care when selecting descent aspects. Return to the car park is via your skintrack.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

Timing on this route is entirely dependent on how many times you lap the slopes. In general, if you’re breaking trail on the way up, expect about 1hr 20min to the 1065m point. After setting a good quality skin track, expect a 45-minute return climb for laps.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route in winter. A taxi from central Hirafu to Goshiki Onsen (23km) would cost around 7,500 to 8,000yen one way.

By car:

There is plenty of parking at the large carpark at the end of the snow clearing on Route 58. Note, however, that this parking can fill up quickly, especially on weekends. By 9am you may find the carpark full.

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 West. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: North, Southwest. 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

Despite being quite low altitude, the NW prevailing winds tend to wrap around Iwaonupuri and funnel strongly from the northeast along the Route 58 valley. This can result in some significant wind-loading in the lee of spurs on the western face.

Niseko Annupuri West Face Laps Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

D

0

Totals

42/100

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 a few meters down the road from the carpark. It is a must visit onsen, with 100% pure hot spring water, flowing into outdoor baths surrounded by meters of snow. Yukichichibu Onsen 雪秩父温泉 (location, 700yen, noon till 7pm, closed Tuesdays) on the way back to Hirafu is also a good natural onsen option, with a larger outdoor bath area. Yukichichibu also has an attached restaurant (11am till 2pm).

Extra Resources

See this post on Yamareco.com for more details (in Japanese).

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 forecast for the day called for blustery conditions towards midday from the northwest. Given that sort of forecast, it wasn’t likely we’d get far into the alpine today. The avalanche bulletin had us a little spooked too, calling for elevated risk of slab avalanches on southern aspects – the suncrust from a few weeks back was still causing issues in some places in the greater Niseko region.

Given all that, Greg and I opted for a bit of a stab at the lower western reaches of Niseko Annupuri. It was a zone we’d both not skied before, but it had long been on my radar. In my mind, it was often relegated to the To-Do pile, as the western face of Niseko Annuuri had always come across as a rather wind-swept face. Its reputation was for crusty scoured slopes.

In reality, though, such a reputation is misguided. While spurs and ridgelines are regularly pummelled by high winds, there are terrain features that hold the snow well. We put our sights on two such features and set off from the parking area.

It was a dull, flat sort of a day. At the carpark, however, there was hardly a breath of wind. Given the forecast for a stiff northwester, I wasn’t confident it would stay that way as we climbed higher, but it felt good nonetheless to stretch the legs.

We followed the well-trodden skin-track northeast along Route 58 for about 50m before veering off into deep snow to start the climb up the west face of Niseko Annupuri. And it was deep. Along the short flat section, we chatted, but as the gradient steepened, we saved our breath for the climb.

We pushed on without a break right to just below the lower southwestern ridge of Niseko Annupuri. It was windy up here. And we weren’t even on the ridge proper. It was clear we wouldn’t be climbing higher today. It was a laps day, so there was no need for any heroics. Visibility came and went.

At around 1050m, we arrived at a small thicket of shrubs near the ridge, and decided to call the climb good. We ripped skins and prepared for the descent. It was so cold and windy up there, that we both just skied to about half way down the slope. There, I carried on down to the flatlands and got the camera and long lens ready to capture some shots of Gregs descent. As always, the powder didn’t stand a chance with the man. A short but quality 100m vertical descent.

Better yet, for just a moment, mother nature turned on the lights, with the spotlight firmly on Greg.

We quickly donned the skins again for a climb back up the skintrack. On the way the first time, we’d noticed some surface windslab forming, so we opted to only go half as high on the return. By now the wind had picked up even more. Pea soup was incoming.

We ripped skins this time at around 1000m, and this time we just hoofed it all the to the carpark.

Somewhere along the way we lost our own skin track and ended up on someone else’s. This led us a bit further down Route 58 than we intended. We contemplated struggling along the flat above the road to get back to the end of the snow clearing. In the end, we just shimmied down the 2m high snow wall to the road below.

All in a day’s work in Niseko, the land of continuous, unabated, endless snow.

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 West Face Laps Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

D

0

Totals

42/100

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.