Niseko avalanche

Sandy

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:(

It's very sad......... Japanese wife and child.

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/ex-dunedin-man-killed-japan-avalanche
"Sam Kerr (35) was reportedly snowboarding in an off-limits area at the Niseko ski resort in Kutchan, Hokkaido where he ran guided adventure tours."

But the question also needs to be asked: If he was a guide around Niseko, he could have taken 10 paying customers with him down that area. What are the requirements for guiding and avalanche safety for people who are guides (or people calling themselves guides) around Niseko?
 

*Xena*

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Very sad for his family and friends. Scary for people like me. I don't like hearing stories of expert skiers coming to grief.
 

essjaywhy

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:(

It's very sad......... Japanese wife and child.

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/ex-dunedin-man-killed-japan-avalanche
"Sam Kerr (35) was reportedly snowboarding in an off-limits area at the Niseko ski resort in Kutchan, Hokkaido where he ran guided adventure tours."

But the question also needs to be asked: If he was a guide around Niseko, he could have taken 10 paying customers with him down that area. What are the requirements for guiding and avalanche safety for people who are guides (or people calling themselves guides) around Niseko?

Best await all the facts;

the scenario you raise is of course totally unacceptable for a Guide.
but
it may be a scenario where he was too gung-ho in sorting out a rope dodger in danger, instead of getting ski patrol in .

I totally agree the lack of a Guiding cert is a typical japanese blind-spot problem in Nihon,


RIP
 
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bengarden

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It appears he was in the out of bounds area, Haru No Taki, which is notorious for a few big slides in the past with fatalities, according to todays Niseko Avalanche report. Just another reminder to sometimes not duck ropes indiscriminately when they are roped off for a reason. Will definitely make me a little more cautious in Niseko this week.....
 

pedub

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I recall an interview I watched where a Kiwi guy managed to save some people out of Haru No Taki. The place seems to have history of danger. I talked to some British guys last season who claimed they ski'd it at night (so they wouldn't be seen) :eek:
The fact its happened before several times is surely the best indicator over anything else that people should stay out
 

dawooduck

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Was fairly warm and a bit damp around the middle of the month. Those layers would still persist across much of the area, even if it did not actually rain right to the top. If it was Haru No Taki area the terrain adds to the slide hazard.
 
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Charles

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So many groups out there with guides that don't have the local knowledge or do but are willing to take the risk each day. Each company tries to outdo the other as they want their customers to return. To them, ducking ropes is necessary to keep clients happy.
 

pedub

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That's bullsh1t. I am very sad for this guy and his family, but this incident actually makes me quite angry. In Niseko of all places, there is no need to duck ropes.
 
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pedub

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Dunedin-raised snowboarding guide Sam Kerr, who died after being swept away by an avalanche in Japan, is being remembered as a caring man with infectious energy.

Mr Kerr (35) was snowboarding in an off-limits area at the Niseko ski resort in Kutchan, Hokkaido when a 200m-wide and 350m-long avalanche hit about 2.30pm on Saturday.

He leaves behind his wife Yuka and their 4-year-old son Rui.

The former Otago Boys' High School pupil first travelled to Japan with his friend Steve Verheul on a month-long snowboarding trip in 2005. Mr Verheul (36), of Dunedin, yesterday told the Otago Daily Times the friend he called Ren "fell in love" with Japan and returned in 2007 to immerse himself in the culture and establish his back-country snowboarding business Niseko Xtreme Tours.

Mr Kerr was safety-conscious and had completed a mountain safety course in Wanaka.

He carried emergency equipment, such as shovels and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon when snowboarding.

He often guided professional snowboarders.

"He was very good ... he was renowned for what he did."

His friend had "so much energy" and "always had a smile on his face".

A photo Mr Kerr posted to Facebook just hours before he died captured the passion he had for snowboarding and the energy he could "spark up" in other snowboarders in his group.

Mr Verheul said he remembered Mr Kerr's favourite catchphrase "embrace the awkwardness".

"If we were out somewhere, if he saw somebody who looked a bit awkward he would get in there and be nice to them and put them at ease - he was a really caring guy."

His mother Linda Armstrong lived in Australia and was travelling to Japan with other family members, he said.

On Facebook, Mrs Armstrong, acknowledged the outpouring of support for "my boy".

"His joy of life was contagious, he loved adventure and he loved his family and friends unconditionally. I am so proud of you my son," she wrote.

Mr Verheul, and his wife Alex Verheul, started a Givealittle page on Saturday night to support their friend's wife and son.

"He connected with so many people across the world and it's a chance for people to donate to help his wife."

More than $15,000 had been raised in the first 24 hours. Mr Kerr was a "remarkable" man, who made friends easily and loved his work, Mr Verheul said.

"He was deeply passionate about people and adventure and that came across in everything he did."

Alex Verheul, also of Dunedin, said she was "devastated" when she heard the news of the death about 8pm on Saturday.

He had been snowboarding with friends, and not clients, when the avalanche hit.

He was an "extremely confident" snowboarder and was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Another person was reported to have sustained minor chest injuries in the avalanche.

- Otago Daily Times
 
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Red_switch

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This is sad, RIP dude.

But worth bearing in mind, that in the mountains, guides are not infallible. They are still human, and still make mistakes. Be cautious, always.
 
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nfip

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NOt saying this is the case but a thought that comes to mind , with a group of friends it's such an easy mistake to make to think / assume along the lines of " the others know what they are doing so it must be OK. "

My self I have done something with a couple of very competent mates then later thought wtf why didn't I stop and ...even a quick hand shear test.
http://www.avalanche.org/moonstone/TAR/avi review articles/Simple Snow Stability Tests.htm

Here's a really good read too , well worth the time IMO.
Explains pretty clearly my point.
http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek

I am no expert , far far from it.
Simply taking the opportunity sharing here a handy resource or two I have picked up along the way , hope it helps one of us.
 

Charles

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My comments were not relating to this incident but as a general observation from this year. So sorry for the family.
The one thing I didn't know from these incidents is that search funds need to come from the family.
 

dawooduck

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The reported area of the slide is a well documented closed area. No professional "guide" should be anywhere near it.
 
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blowfin

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Not saying this is the case but a thought that comes to mind , with a group of friends it's such an easy mistake to make to think / assume along the lines of " the others know what they are doing so it must be OK. "

It's worrying and sad. Not that I've been to Niseko, but after doing some research I'm really struggling to comprehend why anyone would have been in an area with that sort of risk. Even more so when you consider the recent conditions. Even more so when you consider people have died recently in Japan as a result of rain effected snowpacks. Maybe there's more to the story, but it seems we probably won't be finding out.
 
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nfip

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As dwd says ^ , it's well known no-go zone.
Tragic accident.

fwiw

Saturdays Avi Info quoted here :

Niseko base 6am: -8℃, 20cm snowfall. Moiwa800m: light breeze, -9℃, 20cm snowfall with large development of snowdrifts. Annupuri1150m: -13℃, W15m/s, blizzard and poor visibility, 30cm snowfall. Hirafu1250m: -13℃, W10m/s, good visibility. Kamui cape lighthouse: WW8m/s, 1010hPa, 1.4m waves.



Westerly wind is staying in higher altitude but is forecasted to calm down. 20cm of light crystal snow is blanketing the mountain. 800m elevation impact test showed that a weak layer (Feb 23rd ) is present at around 60cm depth, but the snowdrift are mostly stable. Stimulation to knolls and cornices, and/or traversing leeward slopes around 1000m are highly likely to trigger a slide. The general avalanche risk is lowering but is still considerable. Gates are scheduled to open. Listen to the ski patrol’s opinion before stepping out the gates.



Do not duck ropes and do not enter strictly off-limits areas. Some east-European group tried to go through closed Gate 6 and got scolded. They probably didn’t know about the Niseko Rules, but selfish interpretation or neglecting the Rules will be strictly prosecuted.

The snow is in really good shape.
 
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StuckinQld

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We have skied with this guy. Day of BC out of Niseko, good for BC newbies in a foreign land. Seemed a pretty good guy and we had a great day.

It's always worse when you think this could have been avoided. Simply put, he was in a place that he just shouldn't have been in. As to why he was there? Who knows at this point. Sadly the end result was still the same. RIP.
 
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Kelster

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It was a clear day today in Hirafu and you could see a clear crown and slide on the lookers right of Haru no Taki. This is right next to the inbounds run super ridge and some people often duck the rope running down the side of the ridge. If this was the slide and I couldn't see any others it is likely they ducked the ropes on the lookers left of super ridge. The slide ran down into the trees below which would have made it so much worse for those in the slide.

Also the Avi report for Saturday was for extremely high risk so they might have got away with this at other times but not with such an unstable snow pack.
 

pedub

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You are talking about here-ish?
hirafi-haru-no-taki-2012-11-15.jpg
 

Kelster

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There is a photo on the Niseko tourism fb page of the area. It's not a detailed enough photo for me to work out if there's a photo of the slide on it or not.
Japanese news just ran a story on the tragedy and it showed footage of this area and the rescued Japanese snowboarder being taken out of the rescue sled at the bottom of the family run.
 

steeveski

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Tragic for everyone this news.
Niseko is special because with the help of the ski patrol, avalanche guys and lift companies we can ski outside the resort. Most Japanese resorts you can,t. But we have to follow the Niseko rules and play the game.
These mountains are leased from the government and if its shown that people are endangered by skiing backcountry there the government will stop it. Believe me they can.
Thats why the patrol are so strict on ducking ropes and only skiing out of bounds when the gates are open.
It,s in everyones interest that we all play the game , especially professionals.
It saddens me when this happens to locals.
Thoughts go out to Sams family and friends.
 

LMB

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Link to Niseko Avalanche Info.
Hope it may help some-one here in the future.
http://niseko.nadare.info/?day=20170301
I highly recommend the brand new app - if you are going to Niseko and you plan on going out the gates then download it - you can have the Nadare report at your fingertips two clicks away from your home screen on your phone.
Why would you not?
 
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BDL

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Tragic for everyone this news.
Niseko is special because with the help of the ski patrol, avalanche guys and lift companies we can ski outside the resort. Most Japanese resorts you can,t. But we have to follow the Niseko rules and play the game.
These mountains are leased from the government and if its shown that people are endangered by skiing backcountry there the government will stop it. Believe me they can.
Thats why the patrol are so strict on ducking ropes and only skiing out of bounds when the gates are open.
It,s in everyones interest that we all play the game , especially professionals.
It saddens me when this happens to locals.
Thoughts go out to Sams family and friends.

Sorry Steve but I disagree. The government will never close down Japan's biggest international ski market. In fact, can you tell me one place in Japan where this has ever happened? In Hokkaido alone, Asahidake, Kurodake, Furano, Kiroro and Sapporo Kokusai have all had deaths occur in the lift accessed backcountry and yet the access remains open. Even in Tenjindaira you are able to enter the backcountry or hike it at leisure anytime of year yet (according to Wikipedia) it has had over 800 deaths, which is 600 more than Everest!

Mizunosawa in Niseko Village was permanently closed but is now a controlled gate. The real reason this is not permanently closed and now controlled (with dynamite) is because years ago, a (skier triggered) avalanche took out the lift and ski run (located directly in the natural slide path) and caused a fatality. It's easy for us to say the resort was to blame but in reality, they didn't know any better at that time.

Mizunosawa, Harunotaki and Yunosawa never used to be "closed", until a few accidents with fatalities (that could have been prevented with better education) caused the local community to "react" and put a band-aid on a much bigger and ever growing "problem"; more and more (Japanese) resort users seeking steep and deep, untracked powder. The local government and lift companies had no clue how to deal with this problem at the time and (in my opinion) found a scapegoat in Shinya-san, who would volunteer to bare the responsibility of keeping everyone safe. While I truly believe that experience and local knowledge reign supreme, it needs to be coupled with education. Shinya-san (who is nearly 70yrs of age) has no formal training that I know of to date.

Education is the answer
, not permanent closure. One needs to look no further than Hakuba's Happo-One. An avalanche report that is based on international standards gives people the proper information to make decisions and a gate that never closes allows time to think before rushing in somewhere and makes people take responsibility.

Sam was a great father, a former employee, a good friend and an inspiration to me in many ways. I am still very saddened and angered by his loss. However, there is nothing left to do but learn from this tragedy. 4 yrs ago we lost a good neighbor (and father of 3) when he skied into a glide crack in one of the the strictly off-limits areas. Where he was skiing should never have been permanently closed... I promised his wife then that I would do something and I didn't. This time I will.
 
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