We spend a few months every year in Niseko but had to cut it a little short this year due to the pandemic which was really starting to take hold in mid February. Back in Australia, reflecting on this beautiful region while in Covid-19 lockdown, the dominant image in my mind is the imposing, majestic Mt Yotei. Whether looking out our kitchen window, driving to the local service town Kutchan, riding in the Grand Hirafu resort or pretty much any activity in the region, Mt Yotei dominates the landscape. If you plan to go backcountry touring in Niseko, this is the box everyone wants to tick. The conical volcano has approaches from every side, and each approach offers a different riding experience. A mountain like this is not to be underestimated though – there is plenty of avalanche terrain on Yotei and human-triggered avalanches have occurred here. Best to go with a guide or study the topography carefully beforehand, so as not to get caught in one of the many canyon or gully terrain traps when avalanche hazard is present. Like all volcanoes, the climb gets steeper as you get higher, starting at only 250m above sea level and finishing at the crater at 1898m. Treeline is at around 1000m, and this is where a lot of tourers transition for what is usually an awesome deep-snow ride back down through well-spaced trees. If the summit is calling, then you can spend another few hours pushing to the crater, but be equipped with crampons and other climbing and safety equipment as this steep alpine zone can morph into ‘ski mountaineering’ with extremely variable snow and weather conditions. On the right day, you can drop into the crater for a few turns – as long as you leave yourself enough energy to get out of there and back down to the trailhead before dark...