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Unlike most ski resorts, Niseko gets the overwhelming majority of its tremendous snowfall in December and January.
On average, it receives 45 percent more snow in January than Mount Baker. In early December, supercooled air starts blowing in from the frigid plains of Siberia, sucking up moisture from the Sea of Japan and dropping the results on Hokkaido's lonely volcanoes.
Balet, who earlier this month won her second world freeride title in the Swiss resort of Verbier, was killed on Tuesday morning near Orsières in her home canton of Valais, police said.
The 21-year-old champion was making a film on the Portalet mountain when the avalanche hit just after 8am on Tuesday morning.
By the time rescue workers arrived by helicopter at the scene, the snowboarder had been dug free, however resuscitation attempts failed to revive her and she died at the scene.
According to police another person had already skied the slope before Balet descended.
As she did, a wave of snow of around one kilometre in length detached from the mountain and swept her away.
If there's anything that his decades of regression analysis and standard deviations have taught him, it's that predicting the weather is really hard.
Our communication is slowed by their choppy English and my desire to speak using a second-hand Japanese phrase book, but even so, I have never experienced a powder day anywhere close to this peaceful. Niseko lies somewhere between a full-blown destination resort and a laid-back locals' hill.
Before the recent three-day drought, for example, snow fell constantly, an average of seven inches a day, for three weeks.
She lived her life with passion, it's all gone so quickly.” Alain Perruchoud, the president of the commune of Chalais where Balet lived, told the paper: “Everyone here knew Estelle.” “I can hardly imagine the pain of losing a child in these circumstances.” Tributes also poured in on social media, with British ski star Chemmy Alcott calling Balet “a lovely, friendly girl”.
After three sunny days, Niseko is finally getting back to normal. I'm with a dozen members of a snowboard club from Tokyo, and together we zip down a short run covered in fairy dust, then ride the lift back to the top of the mountain, only to discover that, in the ten minutes we spent on the chair, a fresh sifting of white has completely filled in our tracks."The run reset," says Mucchan, a member of the club. Combined, the resorts are as big as Alta and offer a respectable 3,000-foot drop.
And the water content of that snow is about the same as at Alta, which typically sees the driest powder in the U. The coldness of the January air, combined with Niseko's prime, snow-catching location on the western side of the island, creates what is essentially a monthlong, uninterrupted storm.