Peak Powder - A trip to the summit

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Peak Powder - A trip to the summit

The Niseko United Resort area is one of the most popular resorts in Japan and for good reason. The ski areas encircles Mount Annupuri from Annupuri Ski area to the south to Hanazono to the north with Niseko Village and Niseko Grand Hirafu in between. The summit of Mount Annupuri stands at 1308 meters, giving a vertical drop of over 1000m from the peak to the bottom of the lifts making for a very solid run from top to bottom. Of course if you want the pleasure of every available meter you will need to ascend the to 100m or so on foot. What most refer to as "hiking the peak".


A group of hikers ascending a snowy peak.
The view from the top is worth every step.

The easiest way to access the peak is from either the Hanazono or Hirafu resort areas making the last chair assisted ascent on the single chair which is part of the Grand Hirafu area. It' a bit rickety but delivers you to where you need to go but you'll probbly want to keep a firm frip on the pole or seat if you're at all adverse to heights!


The volcanic peak of Mount yotei on a sunny day with a chairlift in the foreground
The single chair at Hirafu known affectionately as the pizza box and less invitingly as the meat hook is an experience in itself.

The higher you climb the better the view gets and by the time you get to the top of the single you are looking down to Hirafu Village Kutchan and beyond. Of course the journey doesn't fininsh here, to get to the peak you'll need to take off your equipment and put one foot in front of the other. Access to the peak is governed by the the Niseko Local Rules gate system so it is out of bounds and if you plan to go there you should do so with a the right equipment, knowledge of the back country and best with a guide or someone who knows the area. As far as hikes to the summit of mountains go this one is a breeze and most people will get up in about 20 minutes. It is a fairly steep ascent to start with but the pitch mellows out as you near the top.


A snowboarder makes a turn amid a rolling mountain backdrop
Incredible views and turns like these are what hiking to the peak is all about.

From the top there are a number of options for the descent, the shot above shows a rider dropping down toward Annupuri with Goshiki Onsen in the back ground. Another option is to head straight down from the peak back toward Hirafu, here if you pull out early enough you can make it back to  the single chair or keep going down to the base area of Hanazono or Hirafu. The shot below shows a rider taking this route.


A snowboarder makes a turn with blue skies above
A rider reaps the rewards of the short hike to the peak.

Another popular route (and arguably the best vertical bang for buck powder run on the greater Niseko United are) is to head slightly skiers left from the peak toward  the Hanazono area. If you take this route remeber that you will need to hike out and once you hit the cat track this is the end of the line. The hike out is also an easy one as the resort grooms the cat track daily and it is a gentle pitch all the way up and out to Hanazono. The hike is scenic and there's nothing better than walking out with friends after some of the best powder turns of your life!


3 snowboarders walk up a snowy road surrounded by snow trees
Beautiful scenery and some of the best powder turns you can ever hope to have are the rewards for what is a surprisingly easy hike.

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