A blue bird day in Niseko. Begins with a gentle ride up the first slope. Pretty isn’t it?
Then we catch another two lifts. The Ace Quad Chair and the Hooded Triple to the top of the very picturesque Rinkan run. On a day like today standing high up on Mount Annupuri we can see across to the magnificent Mount Youtei. In its foothills are the villages of Kutchan, Niseko and Hirafu.
The adventurous amongst us turn around and eye Mount Annupuri Peak. The gate is open. The thing to do in Niseko on a clear day is to take a ride in a rickety single chair lift – The King Ace #4. The seat is the size of a dinner tray. There is no restraining bar to speak of. Just wrap your arm around the pole that connects the seat to the cable. I wish I had a photo. If I manage to get one I will post it. I promise. This chair lift of sorts only takes you halfway to the peak. Then it’s a 20 minute hike, carrying your skis, to the top of Mount Annupuri. Elevation 1,308 metres above sea level.
To put all this in perspective. Here’s a map that gives a fairly good representation of the four skiable faces of the mountain. Working from left to right there are four separate but linked resorts. Annupuri, Higishiyama (now referred to as Niseko Village), Grand Hirafu (the largest mountain village) and my favourite Hanazono. Our route? Starting point. At the very bottom at Grand Hirafu. Finishing point. For the adventurous. The Peak.
Here is what the climb to The Peak looks like. From my vantage point below. A pilgrimage of very determined ants.
The attraction? First tracks in fresh powder snow. Now that is one way to work off all that Christmas – New Year overindulgence!