Our Review

Our Review

Tenjindaira Backcountry Tours
For general information on this cat ski outfit, check out the Niseko Weiss Cat Skiing overview, or you can make a booking enquiry with Weiss Cat Skiing here.

Weiss Cat Skiing Review

A powder hound can’t help but be lured towards Niseko, the capital of powder, so it seemed only fitting that the Powderhounds went out to review Weiss Cat Skiing; an ideal way to enjoy the Niseko powder. We’ve skied at Weiss twice and both times it was absolutely puking with snow!! This was mostly awesome, except that some of the terrain was a little mellow for deep days and at times we were practising our powder 11s.

Cat skiing is an amazing powder skiing experience, but no cat ski operation is completely perfect for everyone. Our review covers different aspects of the cat skiing so you can decide if Weiss Cat Skiing is likely to suit your needs. As a guide to the ratings, a 5/5 equates to absolutely phenomenal, 4/5 is excellent, whilst 3/5 is still a very good score. We’ve reviewed an abundance of cat ski operations around the world and you can check out our cat ski ratings to see how the Weiss Hanazono cat skiing fares against other operations.

Weiss Niseko Cat Skiing (and most other Japan cat skiing) is very different to many of the cat skiing operations in Canada (and some in the USA) where the terrain is well geared up to experts and even extreme skiers. Don’t interpret that Hanazono Weiss is not a good operation based on some of the terrain ratings below. It’s just that the main target market of Weiss is not the expert rider who is looking to get max vert, loads of variety, and super steeps.

Pros
  • Niseko gets insane amounts of snow that’s of superb quality, and generally it’s not long between snowfalls.
  • The cat skiing is the perfect adjunct to a Niseko ski holiday and a chance to get fresh tracks away from the crowds at the resort. Hirafu in particular is a great town that has lots of buzz, great restaurants, an animated nightlife, good shopping, and plenty of activities on offer.
  • Weiss Cat Skiing is absolutely perfect for intermediate and low-end advanced riders or those fairly new to the joys of powder. The terrain has lots of wide open runs where you can let it rip!
  • There is a high staff to guest ratio, which along with improving safety considerations, could be handy if you think you’ll fall over in the powder.
  • If you’re worried that you’ll fall over and look like a goose, don’t worry. It’s a slow enough day that you won’t be holding anyone up.
  • It’s reasonably well priced relative to other Niseko cat skiing operations.
  • There’s a photographer on hand to capture lots of memories of your awesome day out!
Cons
  • As is common with Japan cat skiing, the terrain size is rather small relative to other cat skiing operations. That being said, it’s rarely a problem because snowfalls to reset the freshies are very frequent.
  • Also common to Japan, a day of cat skiing doesn’t involve a lot of vertical, especially when compared to BC cat skiing. Whilst experts might be left craving more powder fun, those still learning to ride powder will be more than satiated by the amount of vertical (or more likely exhausted, fatigued, shattered….!).
  • Experts will find the terrain rather tame, but they might have fun in the powder anyhow.
Powder Snow
Unlike some places in North America where they can go 2-3 weeks without new snow, Niseko is renowned for the regular big dumps of snow. Chances are very high that you’ll be revelling in knee deep powder or even waist deep pow!

And even though it’s close to the coast, the quality of the snow is generally excellent due to low temps. The top elevation of Weiss is not quite as high as the Niseko ski resort but it’s higher than Moiwa and Rusutsu, and it’s uncommon in winter that elevation becomes a major factor with regards to the snow quality.

Overall Terrain
The terrain loses points due to the small size, the reduced variety because most of it is low angle, and the amount of vertical on offer; all factors that are highly unlikely to bother first or second time cat skiers.

The terrain size is small relative to many outfits in North America. This would result in reduced run variety if you were to do multiple days of cat skiing, but the size is probably adequate with respect to finding fresh tracks. With frequent re-sets and only one snowcat with a maximum of 12 guests per day, they probably get away with the size of the terrain.

The vertical per run is not long, with a maximum of about 600 metres on a fine day, and only 350 metres if harsh weather necessitates skiing below the treeline.

The whole day only incorporated about 2,500 metres of vertical and we didn’t have a particularly slow group. There was a lot of standing around waiting for a guide to cut a traverse (because the snow was soooo deep) and to transition. The guides could have encouraged guests to get on and off the snowcat a little more efficiently. Lunch was also way too long. It was nice to go inside for lunch, but after we’d eaten we sat around for another 20 minutes. So 2,500m of vertical is rather small compared to the 4,500m average you’d get with BC cat skiing, but the only people the lack of vertical may bother are super fit experts.
Alpine Terrain
The alpine terrain consists of mellow bowls including “Brizzard Bowl” – I rove the way some Japanese change “Ls” to “Rs”! There’s no alpine terrain that will get advanced riders quivering in their boots or slopes that fit into the “experts onry” category.

As Weiss is an old ski resort, there are also various open courses (ie piste) that we’ve allocated to the alpine category. The pitch of these runs equates to easy to moderately difficult blue runs, and because there are no terrain features to manoeuvrer around, they’re ideal for intermediates to practise the art of powder snorting! For advanced riders they’re a fun opportunity to let those boards fly!
Tree Skiing
We rode in the trees a bit because the weather was inclement to say the least. The trees were tight sometimes for about 5 metres before opening up into widely spaced lines that were mostly mellow.

A larger tenure with more variety of tree skiing with respect to pitch and spacing would score more points here.

Strong Intermediate Terrain


This is the forte of the Weiss cat skiing outfit. The terrain is mostly low angle and at times you have to straight line it when the snow is deep, terrain features are few and far between, and the trees are nicely spaced. With all these wide open areas, the terrain is ideal to get more powder riding experience. Most intermediates are also probably very happy that it’s not a massive vert day and that the runs don’t go on for miles and miles. The high number of guides is also a pro for those who may need assistance when they fall over.
Advanced Terrain
The trees are a good place for advanced skiers and snowboarders to play. There are a handful of short yet steep-ish pitched lines in the trees and open piste that will challenge advanced riders. We did some outer runs that had some short steeps, but generally these required a long traverse in or out to get back to the snowcat road. Advanced riders may be better placed at Iwanai Cat Skiing.
Expert & Extreme Terrain
The Weiss Cat Skiing doesn’t have any gnarly steeps or chutes, and there are negligible cornices, rocks or cliffs to throw yourself off. This is a former Japanese ski resort after all! Experts would be better placed at Rising Sun Guides Cat Skiing.
Guiding
There was a very good guide to client ratio with a lead guide, middle guide, tail guide, and a photographer. The enthusiastic lead guide was a native English speaker who provided very strong leadership, and gave very clear instructions about re-grouping and directions. The other guides were Japanese and spoke English well and had some interesting tales of Hokkaido skiing in days gone by.
Cat
The snowcat cabin had pretty much the perfect set up: steps out the back, comfie coach seats that all faced forward; plenty of storage options; big windows including some that open (on the rare occasion that it is warm). I generally think that heaters in a snowcat cabin are a little OTT and only for wimps, a bit like heated chair lift seats, but it was absolutely friggin’ freezing at Weiss and because we weren’t pumping out the vertical, it was a little difficult to keep the feet warm.

The power of the snowcat was fine considering that it didn’t need to get up any particularly steep cat tracks.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
Safety as a priority was not conveyed to guests much, but this isn’t to say they don’t operate under safe conditions. It could be assumed that Weiss has various avalanche mitigation strategies and safety plans in place, but these were not evident to guests. There was no discussion with the group about avalanche forecasting, no slope stability testing was undertaken, and guest safety packs weren’t compulsory. The only strategies evident were that the guides ensured we rode the steep pitches one at a time, and there was one alpine run that the lead guide said we were avoiding.

It could be assumed that the indiscernible safety strategies were related to the mostly mellow terrain and the consistent snowpack.
Safety Briefing
Avalanche beacons were handed out to guests and assistance provided to turn them on and to switch between send and receive. No safety briefing was provided about what to do in the event of an avalanche, a practical demonstration of the beacon, or risks associated with moving around a snowcat. It can only be assumed that there was no safety briefing because the guides felt any risks were negligible. This is somewhat typical of many Japanese cat ski operations.
Frills
The Weiss cat skiing tour included some nice frills. Whilst some die-hard skiers and boarders would say that a long lunch cuts into skiing time, the amazing lunch at the Weiss hotel really added to the enjoyment of the day. It gave us a chance to go inside and warm up (it was brutal outside!), and feast on an upscale bento box with various lovely little treats, soup, and rice. After lunch we had plenty of time to enjoy a hot coffee. We were also provided with snacks and water in the snowcat.

The photography service was a great supplement. The transport between accommodation and staging area were another part of the service.
Value for Money
Weiss cat skiing is very well priced compared to other Niseko cat skiing and is well positioned relative to other Japan cat skiing operations. The photo service is included which is a privilege that you have to pay a small fortune for with some other cat and heli operators.

Notes Regarding Review

The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former 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. Every guide is not the same and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only, based on our experience of reviewing over 45 mechanized backcountry operations. The photos are videos were not taken using professional riders, but rather aim to show an example of a “standard” experience.

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