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Niseko United has adopted the Niseko Rules, which permit entry to areas that ski pistes in other regions of Japan would rope off and ban entry. These rules lay out the minimum requirements for skiing and snowboarding off-piste, and there are gates allowing entry to these areas. The rules came about because Niseko United thinks that, after many fatal accidents, no matter how much they try to enforce the ban on entry to off-piste areas they cannot save lives - even if they do prohibit entry. The freedom to ski or snowboard off-piste we now have is thanks to the efforts of many people, who spent nearly ten years devising the Niseko Rules that came into effect in 2001. It's only thanks to the Niseko Rules that everyone can enjoy the best powder snow on great slopes. No matter who you are, whether you're a local resident, seasonal staff or tourist, if you want to enjoy the Niseko mountains, you have to stick to the Niseko Rules without exception.

Rule 01. Don't enter forbidden areas for any reason.

Haru no Taki and Yunosawa, both completely forbidden areas, are places where people have lost their lives in the past. Do not ever enter these areas, as there is a high risk of avalanches and you could get killed. Even if you see traces someone has left, don't fall for the allure. There are loads of other places in Niseko that you can enjoy without taking such unnecessary risks.

Rules 02. Don't cross boundary ropes. Use gates to go off-piste.

Boundary ropes are there to tell you there are risks beyond. Even if you see great slopes beyond them, never ever cross the ropes. There are a total of 11 gates in Niseko, and you can go off-piste through them. So there's no need to cross the ropes, even if you're going to areas that are not professionally managed as pistes.

Rules 03. There is no safety management outside the piste.

No-ski areas are not an extension of pistes. Once you cross the gate it's backcountry, so you are fully responsible for your own actions and safety - and that applies to accidents. Even if you are accessing these areas from the gates, it's best to carry avalanche gear. Anything could happen - you could get lost - so make sure to check the correct route in advance. Don't forget to familiarize yourself with where the risky areas are too, including cornices, cracks and rivers.

Rule 04. Don't attempt to go off-piste when the gate is closed.

Avalanches are likely under certain conditions, including during and immediately after blizzards. The gates are opened or closed in Niseko after conditions are evaluated. If the gate is closed, the off-piste area is not safe for skiing and snowboarding, so never ignore the gate. If the gate is closed, enjoy the on-piste runs in safety.

Rule 05. Niseko avalanche information is the official Niseko Rules information.

During the ski season, Niseko Avalanche Information offers daily updates of avalanche risks, snow quantity and quality of each piste, and when the gates are scheduled to open or close. People who frequently ski in Niseko say they check this information every morning. You can find the information on websites and at lift stations and gates in each piste, so be sure to check it.

Rule 06. There will be a charge for search and rescue efforts outside the managed ski area.

You cross the gate at your own risk, and that applies to accidents, as there is no safety control for areas beyond the gate. While ski patrols will most likely come quickly to your rescue, unlike accidents within the managed area, you will be charged for all search and rescue efforts. Remember that this could happen to anyone, so it would be best to take at least some avalanche gear with you if you intend to cross the gate.

Rule 07. Follow the ski patrols' instructions.

Patrols understand the condition of the piste and areas beyond the gate much more than we do. Their instructions and warnings are always based on the safety of visitors, so always follow their instructions, whether you are on or off piste. Be sure to respect their authority on the mountain, even if you're penalized.

Rule 08. Primary school children must not go out of the ski area unaccompanied. They must always be accompanied by instructors or adult guardians for their scout group or other activities.

As mentioned, the area beyond the gate is backcountry, with possible risks of avalanches or someone getting lost. Primary school children have lower risk-management skills, so they are not allowed to ski in these areas on their own. Irrespective of whether they are primary school children or not, if you see a group of children trying to cross the gate, make sure you warn them.

09. The ski resorts and local communities respect the freedom of visitors, and place a strong emphasis on their safety.

Niseko Rules were devised over a long time through the combined efforts of ski resort associates, the Niseko Avalanche Institute, and local communities. The rules come from their accumulated learnings that simply forbidding people to go off-piste, or if they do so, asking them to take responsibility for their own safety, will never eliminate accidents. Niseko Rules allow us to enjoy these stunning slopes, so do respect them.
Appendix:
-If you violate Niseko Rules, resort management will confiscate your lift pass.
-The act of crossing boundary ropes will motivate other people to break the Niseko Rules.
-Most avalanche accidents happen in a blizzard, when snowdrifts and cornices develop.

photo & text: Natsuko Matsumura

Facility Information

Niseko Hanazono Resort

Address
328-1 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho,Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0082
URL
https://snow.gurunavi.com/guide/htm/r0945ens.htm

Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu

Address
204 Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081
URL
https://snow.gurunavi.com/guide/htm/r0148ens.htm

Niseko Village Ski Resort

Address
Higashiyama Onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 048-1592

Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area

Address
485 Niseko, Aza, Niseko-cho Abuta-gun Hokkaido 048-1511

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