Happy New Year

My first post of 2011. Took the day off on the 1st, chilled with the family, went sledding with my daughter etc., was in bed by 8pm for a good sleep! Nice chill way to start off the new year.

On a sad note though, I must pay my respects to long time friend Nishiyama who died in an avalanche yesterday in Niseko. He was hiking and skiing with a friend when apparently he got caught in an avalanche. His body was discovered this morning. This is a guy who absolutely loved skiing and being in the mountains. He had a ton of experience and was a high level skier. He will be sadly missed this season and all seasons to come.

I knew him from way back when I first came to Japan. As a staff member at Al’s bar and then as the manager at Sapporo’s 69 diner where I did my first DJ gigs. He was always so stoked to be skiing. A regular at Asahidake on opening day, he broke trail more than once for me and my crew.

Let this be a lesson to all of us. You can never be too careful when back country riding. Avalanche awareness the proper gear and please remember the buddy system. Don’t let your friends get out of sight in back country terrain.

Note the Niseko Avalanche info #17 on the day of the accident.
It mentions that the snow pack is stabilizing, but also goes on to talk about the danger of early season avalanches.

Happy New Year! Where is the snow gone?
Mountain base 6am: -3℃. 800m: -7.4℃. No overnight snowfall. NE to N wind has remained strong, 15 – 18m/s in high altitude, which made the surface snow above 800m to blow away and form wind-rippled in many slopes. The snow-pack is stabilizing; the particles are transforming from partly decomposed to rounded grains as you go deeper.
In Niseko, many avalanches triggered by facets or depth hoar layers happen quite often especially in early season, when the snow is still relatively shallow. These slides are usually triggered by deep weak layers and are especially difficult to predict. These phenomena is usually seen in December in average snowfall seasons, however looking at the snowfall transition this year, it seems like similar conditions will continue for a while, and actually could get even worse as the longer sun exposure would influence the transformation of the snow grains. Extra attention should be taken especially in highly sun-affected south facing slopes. Whether there is a lot of snow or not, avalanches happen when the conditions are right. Stay conscious and be aware of all possible consequences.

Niseko Avalanche report can be seen daily on this web site.

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