Sometimes it’s tough to write. You may have been asked to write a paper in school or university, but other times you’re tasked with writing about something that sparks the soul. This would be the likely transcript of a discussion with my therapist, asking me to describe “my happy place.” This discussion is about Annupuri Mountain in Niseko, Japan. I’ll focus on the mountain, from when you get there to where to shred.
Annupuri Mountain is part of Niseko United in Hokkaido, Japan. It is the farthest west of the mountains that make up Niseko United, but east of Moiwa. In contrast to the other parts of Niseko, Annupuri is known for its reclusive, quiet, and awesome riding on powder days. The Annupuri village is not where you go to party, but it is a short bus ride to Niseko village and Grand Hirafu, where you can “cut a rug.”
You have the option to buy either a Niseko United pass or an Annupuri-only lift ticket. If you’re staying in Annupuri and want to save a of couple bucks, you could decide to buy an Annupuri ticket based on the forecast. If there are lots of freshies, everyone is going to be coming to Annupuri anyway, so no need to leave. Also, if there is a lot of wind in the forecast, the lifts at the top (Jumbo Pair #4) may close and you will not have a way to get to the other mountains. Keep that in mind, if you are coming from another section of Niseko United, lifts that were running in the morning may be shut down in the afternoon.
Normal parking is below the main lodge or Nook Annupuri. The main gondola in Annupuri is down the road, east of the main lodge. If you get there early enough, you can park along the street and get a faster ride up. You can also pick up tickets by the gondola and bypass the lodge altogether.
The main lodge is an unassuming ski lodge where you can pick up lunch, rentals, and snacks. You must try the ramen outside the main dining area. Just like all places, it picks up around noon and seating is limited. But on a cold day, nothing warms you up quite like a nice bowl of spicy ramen.
Annupuri Mountain may not look like it has a lot of trails, per se, but the entire mountain is pretty much fair game. From the gondola, there are wide square runs suitable for beginners to experts. On big powder days, these runs are excellent to dip in and out of the trees between Panorama and the Paradise Hut. Make sure you keep your speed up between Family and Dynamic on powder days so you don’t get stuck in the middle. I highly recommend both sides of Fukayuki-rinkan, next to the gondola, as you make your way down. Some of the best inbound trees I found were next to Challenge. I thought the trees in Merchen were pretty tight and did not enjoy them as much. There is a nice little natural halfpipe where Merchen meets Junior on skier’s right.
What sets Annupuri apart are the gates. When people talk about St. Peter’s gates, I think this is what they are talking about. Gates are not patrolled, and only experienced skiers and snowboarders, that are comfortable in trees and ungroomed terrain should enter, preferably with someone who has been there before. G8 was the first gate I dropped in, which is accessible from the main Gondola. Once you’re in, explore to your heart’s content, through the trees and open fields. I enjoyed staying skier’s left, after you get through the gate, until you find a nice path to drop down into the backside of the main mountain. You should not be too worried about getting lost, as there is a catch-all trail at the bottom of the hill that will spit you out where Merchen meets Junior.
G7 is the other gate accessible from the gondola. G7 is awesome because it really has two runs built in, with many drop in points. You can go skier’s left as soon as you go through the gate and get to a pretty wide open field. Keep left to check out all the different lines you can ski or ride to drop back towards the main mountain. Conversely, you can head skier’s right after you enter the gate, and hit up a nice natural halfpipe, before going under the Gondola. Keep skier’s right again to access a drop in point off the backside of the main mountain. All G7 trails funnel back to the gondola.
Areas only accessible from Jumbo Lift #4 can open up vast areas of bowls and untouched powder. I took G1 and stayed up mountain as far as I possibly could traverse, and found some pretty incredible open fields. G2 is where you can hike up and find the back bowls of Annupuri. For G1 and G2, I recommend that you have a beacon, probe, shovel, and go with either a guide or someone who has been there before. Check out Backcountry.com or evo.com for all of your backcountry gear needs.
Niseko is known for its snowfall. Annupuri is the best place to go in Niseko when the mountain resets from an overnight accumulation. Enjoy the ramen, freshies, and glades, but don’t forget to leave a clean line for me.
Annupuri Niseko Official Page