have your say

An American world champion freestyle skier and an Austrian man died, while several other skiers were injured after being hit by an avalanche while backcountry skiing in Nagano Prefecture last weekend. What makes the backcountry so appealing to skiers and snowboarders despite the danger?


© Japan Today

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

To get away from the incessant blaring music on the main slopes.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

The wildness and purity of it. I mountain hiking and I love going off the trail and going on my own rather than dealing with a lot of people sharing the same path.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

My top three pleasures in life in order:

Riding deep powder snow at 30+ kph and forest riding on my snowboard


White chocolate macadamia cookies
2 ( +6 / -4 )

His wife spoke about his love of the sport.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Chasing death is attractive...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I have skied and the thrill of skiing is not comparable to anything.

I still have my skies etc. Difficult to let go.

Have come upon many dangers while skiing and yes, there could be death staring you at times.

If you have not done it, you will not know.

RIP to the skiers.

6 ( +7 / -1 )


Good comments.

I am not a skier or Winter sports' enthusiast so it was good to see your explanation.

I imagine it is a kind of Zen?

When I go out cycling I get a similar rush/serenity at the same time.

RIP to the both of them.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The thrill of the unknown and the danger of moving at such speeds on unpredictable terrain is attractive to some. It's one of the closest ways to feeling like you're flying when you're moving down the mountain at those speeds. Then there's being in pristine nature and having the vast outdoors yawning before you. It's gorgeous and humbling.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What makes the backcountry so appealing to skiers and snowboarders despite the danger?

The answer is in the question.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In good snow, its a fantastic floaty feeling. In places like Hakuba there is alpine terrain, so you are above tree line and so surrounded by dramatic scenery.

It must be said though that going into the backcountry is also fantastically trendy. It is seen as a rite of passage as a skier/snowboarder, almost to the point where some people cannot get out of the resort fast enough to show that they have made it. Easy access backcountry that is close to ski lifts is now full of beginners. The people killed this week were experts, Nagano Prefecture had partially subsidized their trip, but the vast majority of people in the backcountry are not.

As it happens, lots of Japanese have headed into the backcountry for years. This is referred to as "yama ski". People go in spring because the avalanche risk is far lower, so you get the scenery, the fresh air, etc. with next to no "despite the danger". The snow isn't as good, but that's only one aspect to a mountain trip.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What makes the backcountry so appealing to skiers and snowboarders despite the danger?

The answer is in the question.

beat me to it. It's the danger that makes it so appealing

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I used to ski at the slopes where the Chinese Eillen (Olympics champion) used to do her skiing and training at the Tahoe ski resorts. It was horrendous long drive from San Francisco Bay area, about 4-5 hours each way but nothing would stop us. She used to do that too. Would get up very early in the morning to be at the slopes by 7.00am.

I came across some people who just skied to live. What a passion.

I also played ice hockey, grass hockey, tennis, football and enjoy cycling too.

Enjoy life before it passes by you.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I work In the area for three years, Got to meet some great local snowboarders who know the area. I was ask often to join them. I told them I stick to the lift thanks any way. With all that climbing you be waiting for me to catch up all the time. In March the ropeway open up above Tsugaiki leaving this area untouched which signal the locals when to do backcountry. In other word the local will wait until march because the ropeway save a 4 hour hike.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To get away from the incessant blaring music on the main slopes.

Yup. In Japan, there has to be noise. Supermarket, noise. Station, noise. Deep limestone cave, noise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, out in the backcountry you get a completely different skiing experience to that within resort boundaries - at least most of the time. Those differences can include things like steeper runs with small cliffs and drops to huck off of, tree runs to navigate, natural terrain features to add interest and variation to the ride and mainly, just more chance of skiing fresh, untracked powder snow. You can get powder in resort (especially in Japan), but unless it is battering down with snow all day and the resort is not crowded, then it will be tracked out within 30 minutes of the resort opening.

Skiing in resort on groomed flat runs with no obstacles or powder just gets a bit boring for advanced riders - in the past, people were just happy flying down at ever-increasing speeds down groomed flat runs - that can be fun too, but comes with its own dangers and again is a completely different experience to backcountry skiing.

Some here mentioned that it's the danger that makes it appealing - for me that is absolutely not the case - while not going completely out into the backcountry I often go off-piste in lift-accessible areas and for me personally, any additional danger is nothing to do with it - I would much prefer to keep the danger to an absolute minimum.

There is nothing strange, weird or extreme about people wanting to ski out of bounds - it is a perfectly natural progression for a skier or snowboarder; the desire to go out and explore, to have fun, to challenge your skills is one we were all born with, what we all did as children and what some of us lost somewhere along the way - when you look at it like that the question looks somewhat loaded - we should be asking, given what an amazing experience it is, why don't more people want to ski the backcountry? What can we do to get more people into it, to educate people to assess the risk appropriately and to get them doing it in as safe a way as possible?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites