Sidecountry Gates

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Sidecountry Gates

World Nomads Travel Insurance
The Niseko gates provide controlled access into the highly coveted Niseko sidecountry. The Niseko gates are opened and closed, depending on the weather conditions and avalanche risk, and the sidecountry should only be entered via these gates and not by ducking ropes. It can be handy to know the gate numbers and names so that you understand the daily report published as the Niseko Avalanche Information, and also so you know where to head as the gates progressively open after a big dump.

Niseko Sidecountry

As with other ski resorts around the world, the Niseko sidecountry is outside the resort boundaries and is therefore part of the backcountry, and should be respected as such.

Requirements of riding in the sidecountry:

  • Have an avalanche beacon and backpack with a shovel and probe. If you don’t have your own, these can be rented from some of the Niseko ski hire shops or purchase avalanche safety equipment before you travel. From the 20-21 season, an avalanche beacon and helmet will be compulsory to exit out the gates (lord only knows why a shovel and probe aren’t mandatory too!).
  • Have the know-how regarding use of the avalanche safety equipment as well the skills to safely read and navigate the terrain. If you don’t have the knowledge, do a guided Niseko sidecountry ski tour.
  • Have a buddy or two or more with you.
  • Have the skill level to ride the terrain and powder.
  • Be aware of the Niseko Rules.

Niseko Gate System

Niseko Gate 1 – L-Ji Gate

Gate 1 services the sidecountry to the skiers’ right of Annupuri Ski Resort, and can be accessed from the Annupuri Jumbo #4 pair lift. This used to be our favourite sidecountry area, but it now gets tracked out rather quickly.

You can head into the Osawa bowl for open turns, or stay in the well spaced trees which are ideal for those relatively new to tree skiing. Most lines converge into the O-sawa valley so route finding isn’t too difficult. Try to stay out of the terrain trap gully for as long as possible, even though the natural half pipe is very tempting, particularly when there is avalanche risk.

Gate 2 – Annupuri Peak Gate

The Annupuri peak gate is located above Gate 1, is also accessed off the Annupuri Jumbo #4 chair lift, and provides access to the “front bowl” as above. You can traverse across to the western ridge or further across to Naka-one (central ridge) which is adjacent to the back bowl. Many lines here meet at a creek that meanders back to Annupuri, and some terrain reading skills are key.

Gate 3 – Hirafu Peak Gate

Gate 3 seems to be a rite of passage for powder hounds at Niseko, but you may need to be patient and wait for the right weather window. It is accessed from the King Lift #4, aka the suicide chair or pizza box chair. This single chair can develop big queues on powder mornings, and the gate and 20 minute bootpack to the peak can also get very congested.

From the peak, there are lots of lines in all directions, but some of them require skins or snowshoes for egress, so don’t just blindly follow someone else’s lines. And some slopes require a significant traverse to get out, which may not be ideal for some snowboarders.

The East Ridge terrain heads towards Hanazono and can include tight tree skiing or open mellow pitches. For short effortless lines you can head back into the resort at the bottom of Gate 5 adjacent to Hanazono lift #3. Or head further left to Jackson’s where there are a couple of options for egress.

The Back Bowl is rather famed and offers some steeps, although it also has some avalanche hazards including cornices, convex rollers, and terrain-trap run-outs where the return comes in via Moiwa to Annupuri.

The North Face Bowl (Kita Shamen) offers some views of the Sea of Japan and epic powder, although the upper reaches are often wind scoured. Egress is tricky and having a Niseko guide would be incredibly beneficial.

The West Ridge (Nishi One) offers a lovely open face that looks down on Goshiki Onsen. Sometimes the snow is wind affected but it’s often untracked because it requires skins or snowshoes to get out (unless you can scam someone to do the big drive to Goshiki Onsen).

Gate 4 - Fujiwara No Sawa Gate

Located quite close to Gate 3, gate 4 is handy for days when gate 3 is closed or the conditions are not conducive for the higher altitude. Take care as the traverses required in this zone head directly across an avalanche path.

This gate offers ingress to the gullies of Fujiwara-no-sawa, Higashi-one and the lower zone of the East face.

These areas are generally highly trafficked because no hiking is involved, so don’t have high expectations for freshies lasting very long.

Gate 5 – Hanazono Gate

Further along from gate 4, the Hanazono gate is accessed from behind the top of the Hanazono #3 lift. This gate typically opens around 9am when conditions allow, and it provides no-effort access to the lower zone of Fujiwara No Sawa. Despite there being various avalanche hazards in here, it’s a very popular area due to its mellow pitch, well-spaced trees, and easy egress.

Gate 6 – Moiwa Peak Gate

Gate 6 is just to the right as you get off the main lift at the top of the Moiwa Ski Resort, and provides the upper connection between Niseko United and Moiwa. In addition to some easy sidecountry lines (to skiers’ left of Moiwa Ski Resort), there are many hazards in this zone including cliffs and high creek walls.

Gate 7 - E-sawa Gate

Gate 7 provides access to a small sidecountry area to skiers’ left of Annupuri Ski Resort, half way down the mountain and skiers’ left of the Jumbo #3 pair lift. The terrain is mostly easy and has some half-pipe type features, and there’s no hiking. Don’t head further left into Yu-no-sawa which is strictly out of bounds.

Gate 8 - Hachi-ban Gate

Gate 8 is lower down the mountain from gates 2 and 1, and provides access to the lower parts of the sidecountry to skiers’ right of Annupuri. This gate is good for low vis days and when Annupuri Jumbo #4 lift is closed. The intention is for you to ride the tight-ish trees near the resort boundary, and not traverse right.

Gate 9 - Waterfall Gate

Gate 9 is situated between Hanazono and Hirafu, between Hanazono lift #2 and the Holiday run. The zone seems to pull in lots of windblown snow in amongst the well spaced trees. You can do a short run and get back out to the Holiday run, or ski fall line for a longer run, but you need to tackle the creek crossings, snowboarders need good speed, and obviously you need to avoid the waterfall itself.

Gate 10 – Moiwa

Gate 10 offers access to the sidecountry to skiers’ right of the Moiwa slopes. There is plenty of fun terrain in there, but snowboarders need to be mindful that much of the terrain involves a very long traverse back to the Moiwa slopes.

Gate 11 - Mizuno No Sawa

Gate 11 is located part-way down the mountain in the sidecountry to skiers’ left of Niseko Village (Higishiyama). To access it, take the Niseko Gondola and ski down to the bottom of the Wonderland chair. A short walk uphill leads to gate 11. Once upon a time, the Mizuno No Sawa zone was only accessible as part of an avalanche program with the ski patrollers. It’s now open access and somewhat avalanche controlled, but take care of big cornices on skiers’ right and glide cracks. This zone offers steep open lines and shaded trees which are nice for storm skiing.

Further skier’s left past the gondola is Haru no taki, which is strictly a no-go zone.

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