Our Review

Our Review

Niseko Powder Explorer Tour
World Nomads Travel Insurance
For general information on this Niseko cat skiing outfit, see the Rising Sun Cat Skiing page. Or click here to make an enquiry or to book your cat skiing trip.

Rising Sun Cat Skiing Review 2018

The Niseko region is the capital of the Land of the Rising Snow, so it’s no great surprise that Niseko cat skiing is gaining in popularity. We’ve worked with Andrew from Rising Sun Guides for many years, so we knew that it was going to be a pretty special experience to go out cat skiing with his crew! The day definitely didn’t disappoint! The sun was out (which is rare for Niseko) and there was an abundance of steep tracks on offer.

Despite us having a phenomenal time, no cat skiing company is absolutely ideal for everyone, and it’s our job to review any minor inadequacies. Our review covers different aspects of the cat skiing operation so you can determine if it is likely to align with your priorities. As a guide to the ratings below, a 5/5 equates to absolutely outstanding, 4/5 is excellent, whilst 3/5 is still a very good score. We’ve reviewed over 45 mechanized backcountry skiing operations around the world and you can check out our cat ski ratings to see how Rising Sun Cat Skiing (Big Wave) fares against other operations (including the highly renowned British Columbia cat ski companies).

We’ve compared Rising Sun Cat Skiing to other Niseko cat skiing and some Japanese cat ski operations. They all have some similarities such as small terrain size, and the Hokkaido operations have amazing snow, but Rising Sun has some stand out features.

Pros
  • Rising Sun Cat Skiing completely breaks any stereotypes that Japanese cat skiing (and skiing in Japan in general) can’t be steep and deep.
  • Rather than being an old ski resort that’s converted into cat skiing as is typically the case in Japan, the terrain here is proper backcountry.
  • The Niseko region is renowned for its amazing snowfalls that possess both quality and quantity.
  • The location in the Niseko region is also a huge pro because you can combine a day or more of cat skiing with everything else that Niseko has to offer: resort skiing; backcountry touring; nightlife; restaurants; activities etc.
  • The guiding is of high quality and the guide to guest ratio is high. You feel safe.
Cons
  • A day of cat skiing doesn’t involve a lot of vertical and each run is rather short. It’s all about the quality not the quantity.
  • The cat skiing terrain size isn’t large (as is common in Japan) but at least the resets come frequently.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • The retro snowcat was primitive yet very funky. The snowcat wasn’t as comfortable as a standard snowcat cabin, but it was a very cool cat!
Powder Snow
As with the Niseko Resort, the cat skiing terrain scores a lot of snow. It’s rather coastal snow but it’s Hokkaido cold powder, so the quality is often excellent. The top elevation isn’t particularly high at 710 metres, which is a little lower than the other Niseko cat ski outfits and about 500m lower than the top of Niseko Resort, but the upside is that the terrain is below the treeline where it’s nicely protected from the winds that can buffet nearby areas considering its proximity to the sea.

The quality of the snow is pretty typical for Niseko, which is world renowned! The sun doesn’t come out that often in the height of winter, but when it does, only approximately 25% of the slopes have shady aspects whilst the majority of the slopes have a more solar aspect.

If the Niseko powder machine has switched off for many simultaneous days (which doesn’t happen that often), Rising Sun Cat Skiing will cancel a day of cat skiing rather than take your money for a sub-standard experience.
Overall Terrain
The terrain is small to medium sized, which is typical of Japanese cat skiing, and it offers about 4 days of freshies before the guides have to work hard to find virgin lines. At least it’s bigger than the other Niseko cat ski operations of Chisenupuri cat skiing and Weiss cat skiing, and the powder resets are frequent (we don’t call Niseko the powder machine for nothing!).

The runs were all about quality not quantity, because the vertical per run was very short. On average the runs we did were 226 vertical metres and a couple as short as 150 metres. We only did 7 runs, totalling 1,580 metres for the day. Typically, 7-8 runs are included per day unless a group is particularly fast, whereas members of our group were having way too much fun hucking off pillows which took a bit of time for setting up and spotting (and photographing). We also stopped for lunch, which cut into skiing time a little. The typical vertical per day was consistent with some Japanese cat skiing outfits, but less than the other Niseko cat skiing operations.
Alpine Terrain
The terrain is below the treeline. There are some small patches with just smatterings of trees that could be considered sub-alpine, but at Rising Sun Cat Skiing, the huge strength is the tree skiing.
Tree Skiing
The tree skiing at Rising Sun Cat Skiing has plenty going for it with respect to variation in both pitch and tree spacing, and that some of the slopes have really interesting features with different sized pillows to leap off. The steep and challenging terrain is what sets it apart from most Japanese cat skiing. The tree skiing would score full points if there was just more of it and the runs longer.

Strong Intermediate Terrain


There is some terrain that’s reasonably appropriate for confident and strong intermediate skiers and snowboarders, with reasonably wide open slopes that aren’t too steep. The group size is rather small, which increases the likelihood of being grouped with others of similar ability, and there’s a good guide to guest ratio which is particularly beneficial for those getting acquainted with the backcountry. However, this Niseko cat skiing tends to attract more advanced and expert riders. Intermediates would be much better placed at Weiss Cat Skiing, and potentially also Iwanai Cat Skiing or Chisenupuri Cat Skiing.
Advanced Terrain
A good proportion of the terrain is ideal for advanced riders, with gorgeous tree skiing of varying pitch and spacing. Once again, the small group size enhances the likelihood of being grouped with others of the same ability level, which is a big pro.
Expert & Extreme Terrain
The steep terrain at Rising Sun Cat Skiing is what sets it apart from other Niseko cat ski terrain, as well as all Japan cat skiing. There are a few areas such as The Stacks where there are lovely steep trees of just over 40 degrees, and then if you like to launch, these areas are littered with pillows of varying sizes and cliff-ettes. And if you don’t want mandatory air lines, the guides do a good job at pointing out areas to avoid. The expert terrain would score more points if the terrain was larger and had alpine chutes and the like. And of course if you want to really make sure you’re not stuck in a group with riders that don’t want to tackle the steeps, pull together your own group.
Guiding
The calibre of the guiding was very high, and the excellent guide to guest ratio was a huge pro. We had two different tail guides during the day, and one of them doubled as a photographer. With both tail guides, the communication between the lead and tail was exceptional and they worked well together to convey where to find or avoid the pillows, and the locations of glide cracks. Our lead guide Willie demonstrated strong leadership and we felt very safe in his hands.
Cat
The retro snowcats were incredibly cool and it was nice to experience a part of history, whereby the old cats were once used by the local town to check on people after a snow storm, before the days of sophisticated road clearing systems. The snowcat was very different to typical snowcat cabins, and a little difficult to get in and out of (agile youthful folks shouldn’t have much of a problem though!) and not very spacious. The power of the snowcat was OK without being particularly fast.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
There was a very strong emphasis on skiing the slope one at a time. Otherwise the minimisation of avalanche risk was only partially evident to guests during the day, yet there was plenty of behind the scenes work going on.

It wasn’t a requirement to carry a shovel and probe but our group did, and surprisingly the tail guide commented that our packs were just taking up too much room in the snowcat (rather than potentially being useful).
Safety Briefing
The safety briefing was very brief and somewhat typical of the process for some other Japanese and US cat skiing operations, but not in the realm of what’s generally included in BC or even with New Zealand heli skiing. The guide checked that we knew how to turn our beacons on and off and that the beacons were working, but that was about it with respect to avalanche risk. The hazards associated with the snowcat were also covered.
Frills
Rising Sun Guides Cat Skiing more than covers the basics, yet the main emphasis of the experience is on chasing the steep and deep. Included frills: a transport service between your Niseko accommodation and the snowcat staging area; a photography service (and the option for a video service); and a nice but reasonably simple lunch. If you want drinks or snacks for the rest of the day, you’ll want to BYO.

The whole operation seemed pretty well organised and the day flowed nicely.
Value for Money
You don’t get a lot of vertical per day, but it’s all about the quality of the terrain and the snow. The rates are a little more compared to a few other Hokkaido cat ski companies, but it’s worth it for the backcountry type terrain, rather than skiing at an old ski resort where the terrain may be very mellow.

Notes Regarding Review The review is largely based on our experiences, but also on discussions with staff, other guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions. We acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only (from reviewing 45+ mechanized backcountry operations). The photos and video have not been filmed using professional riders; they aim to show an example of the sort of experience that average people like us would get.

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