Ride Like A Powder Pro
Japow [noun] meaning Japanese Powder... the best in the world!
So you've made the pilgrimage to Niseko, one of the premier powder havens in the world, to ride some of the greatest snow on earth. But how do you get the most of your powder experience? Here are some tips to maximise your faceshots and minimise that sinking feeling!
Powder skis and powder boards
The key to having fun in the powder is being able to float up in it. Having powder-specific gear under foot will make that almost effortless. Fat skis and wide nosed boards with setback stances are key to tackling your new favourite pastime. Local shops like Rhythm Snowsports have an amazing array of powder-specific skis and boards, including avalanche safety gear, that you can hire. Do it, because it will change the way you look at riding powder. If you are really keen on hitting powder and are planning a longer stay there are a number of shops that sell specialty boards and skis in the area that are designed specifically for the Niseko conditions.
Know the conditions
Know how much snow fell overnight and how that effects where you plan to ride. Experience Niseko's Daily Snow Reports are a great place to start, especially if you are not looking to venture outside the resort boundaries. If you are feeling adventurous, the Niseko Avalanche Report is awesome, not only for predicting the prevailing avalanche conditions, but also letting you know how much snow fell and where. Take this into account as you plan when and where to ride.
Get up early
Unless you plan on riding through bumps of chewed up snow, you'll need to get your crew up to the lifts reasonably early. On an epic day it is not uncommon to be greeted by a line of powder hungry enthusiasts by 8:30 am. Grab a coffee on the way up and get their early. Guiding companies like GoSnow in Niseko-Hirafu and Hanazono Powder Guides in Hanazono also offer lift-line priority to take you to the front of the queue and avoid the hassle. If you are looking to get into the backcountry or out of the resorts, tour options like over at The House of Powder start early.
Pick your spot
Whether it's your first ever turn in pow or just the first one for the day, pick out a powder stash on the side of the run where the trees are spaced out and you can carry a comfortable amount of speed. Confidence is key so make sure you lock in a few turns on terrain where you feel in control and move up from there. Never follow someone else's tracks without knowing where you might end up.
Speed is your friend
So when you feel ready to open up the throttle, head to a nice open pow field and just let your board or skis run. The feeling is unbeatable! If you do fall, don't panic. Relax, get yourself in a position to get up, and most importantly save your energy for riding.
Ride with someone fun
...and, hopefully, better than you. It never hurts to push yourself and sometimes tearing up a few laps with someone fun and a little more experienced can show you a new way to tackle a line or turn in more challenging terrain. It also gives you someone to high-five at the bottom and to relive that unforgettable run with over a bowl of ramen.
Get the gear
If you are planning on going out the gates, get the gear and make sure you know how to use it (read our 7 musts for going out the gates). The gate access system in Niseko is amazing. One of the most rewarding experiences on a sunny day is to hike to the Peak. The views are incredible and the sense of achievement is high.The only catch is you are now in the backcountry. Always go with someone who knows their way around or, better still, book a guide who can tailor the experience to your ability.
Know when to stop
Riding powder can be one of the best things you ever do, but as a result it can be really tiring. Get up early, ride hard, get the best snow and then take it easy in the P.M. Maybe hit the onsen early before the crowds or get a late lunch down in town. Niseko constantly wakes up to a new powder day so save some energy for tomorrow.
The snow here is like nowhere else you will have ever ridden in the world and is so accessible, just off the main pistes. Get out there and give it a go. If you are having trouble or just need a little help, grab a guide from one of the Niseko United accredited schools. They will be more than happy to help you out. Good luck and go get yourself some of that japow!