Location: Kyowa, Iwanai-gun/Kutchan, Abuta-gun (Niseko)
Altitude: 1045m (~500m elevation gain)
Length: Half-day (~7km roundtrip)
Hiked on: March 5th, 2016
The story goes that long ago there was a ski hill called Niseko Weiss on this mountain, but now all that remain are the defunct ski lifts. The mountain is now known for being the base for what is probably the flattest cat skiing operation in the world. Of course whoever has hiked in the area can quickly see that there’s much more to the mountain than cat skiing. Weiss is in fact a very big (wide) mountain and there are many beautiful bowls and ridges to be accessed by what is a fairly quick and a very scenic hike.
The hike begins at the point where Route 58 from Kutchan to Goshiki Onsen closes off for winter. Park your car where the snow clearing ends and start walking down the logging road to the right side. After crossing the third bridge, hike onto the start of the ridge on the left side of the road. Walking through the trees for a bit, you’ll eventually join onto the large ridge going up to the top. You’ll see the old ski lifts to your right as you walk up.
Eventually you’ll get onto the top ridge, where the views of the entire Niseko Range open up. There is one false summit and the true summit is just another few minutes up. There are no signs to indicate the summit (at least in winter) but it’s fairly obvious. The views are phenomenal. I’ll refrain from listing what you can see, but let’s just say a few different mountain ranges, all of the tallest peaks in the area, and a couple oceans (well one sea, and one ocean.)
From the top, you can ski back down the ridge you hiked up, down the ski resort, down the open bowl to the south, or the steep corniced bowl to the north. Please choose according to your skill level and the avalanche risk for that day. The ridge to the northwest is also tempting, but will require you to hike back up to return to the car.
Once you’re back down to the logging road you will have to skin/hike back up to your car. If you want to ski straight back to the car, consider starting the hike from Weiss Hotel where the base of the old ski hill is, but you’ll have to walk up the ski runs and possibly deal with rich Australians. A summer hike is also possible from Weiss Hotel, but the trails only go up to the top of where the lifts are before being overrun by the thick sea of dwarf pines.
Update – quick description of how to access the mountain from the Weiss ski runs:
You can access the runs from the Weiss Hotel on the right side of the same road going towards Goshiki Onsen (look for the sign and turn off to the right just before you reach the closed gate.) Follow the road behind the hotel building to the left where you can park your car, hop over the small gate and walk down the gravel (in summer?) road down towards the ski lifts. You pretty much just follow the ski runs up which will get you to the ridge that leads to the summit. You will probably want to avoid doing this route when the cat skiing is operating and I think the other route is just an easier and more enjoyable route overall, but this is a great early season option as Weiss typically seems to get much more snow earlier in the season than the other mountains the Niseko range and the runs are actually quite well maintained.