Nitonupuri SW Hot Laps

ニトヌプリ | Nidom-nupuri

Posted on Jan 30, 2022
0
SWWS
Posted on Jan 30, 2022
0 0
SWWS
4.7km

Distance

2 hours

Time

446m

Ascent

900m

Highest point

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

Best season

The south-west aspect of Nitonupuri is probably the busiest ski touring spot in the region, if not the whole of Japan. At the same time, if you're an early riser, it's easy enough to be the only one out there even in the peak of the season. It's busy for a reason; the terrain is well pitched and with good mature trees. It's a short skin from the 'car-park' and it's super easy to knock out a few laps before getting on with the rest of your day be that work or family skiing at the nearby resorts. If it's your first day out and about in the Niseko backcountry then you can't go wrong with this route.

We visited this route on Jan 09, 2022

Last updated Mar 21, 2022

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Nitonupuri sits in the heart of the Niseko range, between the obvious conical peak of Chisenupuri to the west, and Iwaonupuri to the east.  It is probably the busiest of the regions ski touring spots, and the trailhead will usually be obvious for the number of cars parked there on any given morning. The trailhead is at gate the which closes route 66 for winter; about 800m drive up the road from Chisenupuri village.  Nitonupuri can also be accessed as part of a longer tour from Chisenupuri village itself (see Chisenupuri South Face).

General notes

With the booming popularity of backcountry skiing, every region has a spot that’s an order of magnitude busier than everywhere else. Think Grizzly Gulch in the Wasatch or Loveland Pass in Colorado. Nitonupuri is the Niseko Region’s busiest ski touring spot, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible, has a very short skin-in before climbing, and provides quality skiing on steep pitch slopes.

 

Despite its popularity, Nitonupuri offers a large amount of skiable terrain primarily on W through S aspects. Even on a busy day it’s usually easy enough to find some un-skied snow to enjoy. It’s a place that works really well for a few hot laps in the morning with short pitches, nice steep downhill slopes and well spaced vegetation.

 

The quality of the skin tracks tends to be quite variable though. The most pleasant routes set a long traverse to the north, well away from the main downhill runs, before switching back and they will often make the transition spot with just a single kick-turn. The least pleasant skin tracks switchback-a-palooza their way straight up the SE aspect and involve much kicking and cussing. Don’t get suckered into following some other muggles poorly set skin-track.

Hut
None
Route details

The route starts from the winter road-closure gate on route 66. Please be considerate of others when it comes to parking. Stricly speaking it is illegal to park along the route 66 road. If you do decide to park on the road, park on the west side of route 66, leave plenty of room for the cars in front and behind to enter and exit, avoid blocking route 58 as it turns up the hill to Goshiki Onsen, put your skins on behind your car and not in the middle of the road, and just generally avoid being a selfish dick. You can see our backcountry etiquette tips here.

 

Skin up and along Route 66 for about 600m until the obvious bend in the road and then head north across a flat bench and begin traversing around the slopes of Nitonupuri. There will almost always be skin tracks in place already, maybe partially buried if you’re the early birds of the day. Don’t get suckered into skinning straight up the steep south facing slopes. Traverse around and up to the north before switching back; for hot laps of skiing you’re aiming for the obvious false summit above those steep slopes (~850msl).

 

Rip. Ski. Rinse. Repeat.

 

That’s really about all there is to it. There’s no need to climb much higher than the false summit; fast transitions, a good skin track and reasonable fitness should allow you to get 2 to 5 runs in within a morning. There are descent options on other aspects as well, though you maybe be doing a bit of bush bashing depending on the snow level. If you come here often, you’ll build a good mental map of where the best skiing can be found

 

You may wish to skin all the way to the summit. Be aware that the snow conditions tend to be more variable once up above the tree line. See our Nitonupuri Summit route description for more detail.

Route Timing
Up | 1hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

For a moderately fit group, you should be able to achieve something like the following for multiple laps.

  • Car to first skin->ski transition ~60 minutes
  • Downhill ~10 minutes
  • Uphill ~40 minutes
  • Ski/skin out to car ~10 minutes

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route. A taxi from central Hirafu to the route 66 gate (24km) would cost around 7,500 to 8,000yen one way.

By car:

There is a small area at the end of the snow clearing around here at the Route 66 road closure gate, where four or five cars can fit without having to park on the side of the road along Route 66. If this small area is already full, you may see others parked on the side of the road, hard up against the snowbanks on the left (west) side of Route 66. Technically, this is illegal for a number of reasons – parking within the lane, parking too close to an intersection, etc. It can also effectively reduce Route 66 to one lane, causing traffic headaches. While we haven’t heard of vehicles being towed, please obey any signs posted, and always make as much effort as possible to not obstruct traffic. As backcountry user numbers continue to increase, we hope to see a feasible solution. In the meantime, however, it’s up to users to make good decisions and be careful not to cause inconvenience to others.

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 Southwest. 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

Nitonupuri is a heavily trafficked ski touring area. This may lead you to a false sense of safety/security. The area includes plenty of steep avalanche prone terrain and we’ve had days when we’ve turned around based on the snow stability.

  • The downhill ski terrain is steep; it is absolutely avalanche terrain. Check the forecast and familiarize yourself with the snowpack conditions for the aspect you intend to ski.
  • It is a busy area; be aware of backcountry users above and below you at all times. By following the recommended routes youll have good spatial separation between skiing and skinning.
  • See our tips for keeping safe while ski touring in Hokkaido here.
  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compassinstructions here.

Nitonupuri SW Hot Laps Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

D

0

Totals

39/100

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 Nitonupuri
Onsen nearby

There are two obvious Onsen options for this run. Goshiki Onsen 五色温泉 (location, 800yen, 10am till 7pm) is a gorgeously rustic natural onsen a few km drive up the road (route 58) from the trailhead. It is a must visit onsen for the region, 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 (800m down route 66) is also a good natural onsen option, with a larger outdoor bath area. Yukichichibu also has an attached restaurant (11am till 2pm). Yukichichibu is a very sulphureous onsen and so you do tend to stink for a bit afterwards.

Extra Resources

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

By Rob Thomson

It was our first backcountry ski trip for the season, so Haidee and I were keen to ski something accessible and straight forward to kick things off. Some hot laps of Nitonupuri’s southwestern face seemed just the ticket.

Like usual, the trailhead was fairly busy. We had arrived before 8am, but it was already busy with large groups and a number of cars parked along the roadside.

We followed along the snowed in Route 66 behind the enormous group of Japanese skiers for about the first 30 minutes, before overtaking them when they stopped for a break. 

The snow was in good condition as we took a long climbing traverse to the western side of the mountain. The sun came out every now and then too, allowing us some contrast on the wintry snowscape and views northwest over to Chisenupuri.

We got to the treeline, and decided that this would be far enough for us today. We were keen to get in a couple of laps on good snow. Soon the large group of Japanese skiers caught up on us, and overtook on what seemed to be their way to the summit proper.

We made a quick transition and skied the southwest slope, through Nitonupuri’s famous well-spaced old-growth forests.

Back at the skin track, we quickly slapped on the skins again to skin back up the established skin track. We arrived back at the treeline 30 minutes later and ripped skins. There were two other skiers doing the same, trying to make the most of the good snow on the lower forested slopes of Nitonupuri.

This time around, we decided to head a bit further south, to ski a broad gully just north of the prominent Nitonupuri Southwestern Nose. There was a bit of plateau traversing to be done, but it gave us a bit more variation for our second (and final) run of the day. Today was for taking it easy.

This south-southwestern slope spat us out onto our skin track, so we followed this back to the car. Predictably, the trailhead was now well and truly packed with cars along the side of the road.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Nitonupuri SW Hot Laps Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

D

0

Totals

39/100

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.