Fresh Lines – Experience Cat Skiing
This was an article I wrote for Niseko.com Magazine Issue 25 | Dec/Jan 2014/15
On a typical morning in Niseko you’re greeted with the, the ‘pad-pad’ of snow falling off roofs, snow clearing trucks clunking past, and of course; the soft squeak of fresh snow underfoot. It was on one such morning last season that a bunch of friends and I got to go Cat Skiing with NAC Tours. I’ve been coming back to Niseko for 7 seasons now, and it was easily one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done here.
I got to the NAC Adventure Centre to see that most of my friends had already arrived and we greeted each other with fist bumps and smiles. We then met our super friendly guides who explained safety procedures, beacon operation, and then piled us into a bus to head to our destination; the now abandoned Niseko Weiss Horn ski resort.
We pile out of the bus and head over to the blue cube which was to be our snow cat. I’ve been in snow cats before, and this was by far one of the most comfortable. We checked our beacons, dumped our gear into the cages and got inside. The seats were cushioned and were actually very comfortable, even with 12 of us (maxing out the capacity).
The doors closed and we shuddered forward, beginning our ascent. Looking out the windows we can see some of the remains of the old chairlifts. When we got out of the cat I had to take a moment just to take it all in. Rolling snow covered hills as far as the eye can see, all completely untouched; not a single ski or board track to be seen. Snow covered forests fell away at the bottom of sheer cliffs that were topped with brilliant white peaks. It was at this point that everyone got out their cameras and started snapping away. It was a simply stunning view.
The cat eventually chugged off down the hill and our guides gave us the run-down of this particular area that we were to ski down. The NAC photographer and I were given the privilege of the first descent. He dropped in and started a real long carve. It looked sick. I dropped in and pushed in my own turns. I felt clouds beneath my feet and lost myself in the undeniable feeling of pow.
The terrain was great. For the expert riders in the group it was really playful, and for the more novice riders it was slightly challenging but not too difficult. With no other tracks around it was so easy to push yourself without worry.
We got to the bottom of our first run where the cat was waiting for us and we piled in. This time the cat took us to a different spot, a little higher and on the other side of the ridge that we had dropped in from. When we got to the bottom of the run, we stopped in a clearing next to a cat track and waited a few minutes for the cat to arrive. I was glad of the break to be honest. It was nice just being able to take in the surroundings.
We did another lap and headed back to the hotel at the base of the resort area for lunch. The hotel was quaint and very Japanese. We sat down together and our meals were promptly bought to us by the friendly hotel staff. The meal was a selection of 7 different delicious dishes. The whole dining experience felt so authentically Japanese. I would highly recommend checking out this place just for the food.
After our meal we headed back out for a few more laps in the cat, but unfortunately the weather was closing in and we had to call it a day after just one more run. We returned to the hotel and went to a large room with a TV. The camera guy plugged in his video camera while all of us gathered around and watched highlights from the day.
Heading back to town on the bus, watching the hotel disappear behind us I couldn’t help thinking “man, I can’t wait to do that again”. Skiing around with no one else but your 10 best friends is awesome anywhere, but with almost unlimited fresh lines? It’s just amazing. It’s the most fun I can think of. If there’s any advice I can give about riding stuff like this, it’s enjoy it! Really ride it. You might never see those line again.