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NOT Recommending Japan Ski Guiding www.epicskiadventures.net - Please Read

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
It's not often that I feel compelled to write a review, however in this instance I must do whatever it takes to make sure that anyone considering using the services of Jason Caulton or his company www.epicskiadventures.net to provide guiding or instruction for trips to Japan, Canada and the USA is informed of the following review.

In summary - I would whole heartily, NOT RECOMMEND that you use their services.

I'll stick to facts as that’s the only way I can write this. You will have to make your own mind up.

We were planning a trip to Japan for January 2015 and were looking for a guiding company that would show us the best off piste and some of the local culture in the area of Japan we were planning to visit. We came across www.epicskiadventures.net through the website www.powderhounds.com. They seemed to fit the bill of what we were after in terms of the skiing and cultural experience. A few emails later we were booked on the trip.

This was an off piste "course" with guiding. The other people booked on the trip were truly international, a large number were from Australia, a few Brits and a couple from Argentina.

I have used guiding companies and guides for the past 10 years in Europe so have developed a pretty good idea of what is standard good practice. I’ve also been involved in the odd “incident” so have become more and more risk adverse over the years. However that has not stopped me from skiing off piste.

I would describe the operation run by Jason Caulton as not meeting the professional standards I have come to expect in Europe.
    - Although clients were given transceivers, and shown how to put them on and switch them on, there was no training in how to use them. Shovels and probes were not provided that I can remember.
    - I have no idea if the guides were qualified to guide, I suspect not, as the guys were very young. They were clearly good skiers and boarders. Safety was not their first consideration and we often lost touch with them as they either skied behind the groups or skied off finding their own lines.
    - I'm used to the guide skiing first, down to a point of safety and then us skiing down to that point. Jason and the guides sent us down slopes first, with the rational that if anyone fell they could come to their assistance. - -- We skied in pairs when skiing new lines so we could keep an eye on each other.
    - We were "guided" by Jason's son, who we discovered was only 15!
    - We travelled around in a mini bus & small coach that was provided by the hotel. The driving was generally too fast and aggressive for the very snowy conditions we encountered.
    - I observed Jason do one risk assessment in the whole time I skied with him. One of the other guides did dig a pit one day and we did change a line we were going to ski because of the snow conditions, but to be fair it was my mate who I travelled with that made the observation and after a brief discussion we back tracked.


On our last days skiing on January 19th my group (2 Australians, 2 Argentinians my British mate and I) were skiing with Jason in the Ryuoo area when we were caught in an Avalanche. Tragically things didn't end well and the 2 Argentinian guys were swept away as they skied the slope first and were killed.

It was reported widely in the news, although if you do some searches you will not find any references to 2 Brits. We had left the scene to report the incident when it was obvious there was nothing more we could do for our companions. The Police were made aware of our presence but for whatever reason it was not followed up.

As they say Hindsight is an exact science and whilst a lot of us were privately not comfortable with what was happening during the trip we didn't voice our opinions strongly enough. It has also caused me to examine my behavior because at times I was too gun-ho and not thinking about my or my friends safety, despite me being more risk adverse . That's something that I've learnt from and will remain with me for as long as I ski.

The purpose of this post is not to lay blame at anyone’s door. We all know skiing off piste comes with its risks and you do what you can to minimise those risks, but sometimes even that’s not enough and accidents still happen.

I have my private opinions about what happened that day and while I've discussed them at length with those involved it's not something I wish to discuss in an open forum.

I just want it to be clear that I would not recommend Jason Caulton or www.epicskiadventures.net for any off piste guiding services in Japan, Canada or the USA.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of Ignacio Rodríguez and Mario Esparrica, may they rest in peace.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 11-03-15 12:54; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
A very sobering post.

Always sad when tragic but possibly avoidable accidents happen.Hindsight as they say.........Sad

I wonder whether the actual law on guiding in Japan is as tightly controlled as Europe?

IMO there is a big difference between a true mountain guide and what is effectively no more than terrain guidance.

In a country where effectively most European skiers paid top dollar and have gone on the trip to 'Ski Powder' it must difficult to take the decision not to ski in marginal conditions.

As you say maybe that high degree of risk aversion and ultimately safety and professionalism was not applied appropriately Sad
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Guiding in Japan is not controlled at all, anyone can call themselves a guide if they like. There are a few companies who are rapidly getting a name for being reckless. Really sad to hear this happened, was this the one in Niigata?
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Shocked
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Sad story.
One of the reasons I understand French approach to ski instructing and guiding profession.
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Quote:

was this the one in Niigata?


No, it was at the Ryuoo Ski Park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
mooney058 wrote:
Sad story.
One of the reasons I understand French approach to ski instructing and guiding profession.


Money and guiding are a dangerous mix, even in France.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Shocked Thanks for flagging this up@Bod, all the best.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Sad outcome and tragic post Sad
Being involved in an incident like that will live with you forever.

One comment : A professional mountain guide is someone with UIAGM certification.
To obtain this qualification takes several years and lots of experience. (Arguably it is easier to become a GP than a fully certified UIAGM)

As mentioned above it sounds like guiding is not regulated in Japan (unlike europe or north america).
If however you are renting a "guide" it is best to confirm what this means.
The term ski "guide" can mean many things depending on the context....
For example :

1) A total unqualified 19 year old ski host working for chalet company in france
2) A ski instructor who has their L3 (ISIA) / L4 and off piste qualifications.
3) Proper UIAGM mountain guide.

To state the obvious : All of the above 3 are very different things, with different levels of experience and skills!
World wide it is generally accepted that the minimum level of qualification to safely lead people off piste is a L3 (ISIA) ski instructor.


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 11-03-15 10:56; edited 2 times in total
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@Bod,

very sad what happened.

What really strikes me is that this Jason Coulton is willing to let his own son, who at 15yrs old I don't see being anywhere near qualified to be a professional guide (especially with your comment re them skiing off to find their own lines) lead groups and be in a position that he is putting his life on the line every single day he goes out, without the training and experience to do so, with a reasonable degree of safety.

If he thinks so little of his sons saftey how can any client expect him to care about their safety?

.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
speed098 wrote:
@Bod,

very sad what happened.

What really strikes me is that this Jason Coulton is willing to let his own son, who at 15yrs old I don't see being anywhere near qualified to be a professional guide (especially with your comment re them skiing off to find their own lines) lead groups and be in a position that he is putting his life on the line every single day he goes out, without the training and experience to do so, with a reasonable degree of safety.

If he thinks so little of his sons saftey how can any client expect him to care about their safety?



Yeah, that says it all really, doesn't it?

So tragic.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
One of the reasons that guiding is not regulated in Japan is that the Japanese have some religious issues - Shinto based - about going up into mountain forests. A core theme in Shinto is the notion of chinju no mori, or (sacred) shrine forest. Shinto worshippers believe their gods live in the forest. It is only comparatively recently that one could officially go off-piste in Japan, you were always meant to stay on the pistes and not stray. Gaijin obviously do not have the cultural and religious barriers to shredding the forests but to many Japanese Shinto worshippers, the concept is close to sacrilege. So ski guiding in the back country has never really been developed by the Japanese.

I am really sorry about your friends but it would not surprise me if the locals quietly held the view that the gods were punishing disrespect and that may have influenced how you were treated in the investigation.

Needless to say 15yr old kids should not be guiding anyone, anywhere.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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RattytheSnowRat wrote:
One of the reasons that guiding is not regulated in Japan is that the Japanese have some religious issues - Shinto based - about going up into mountain forests. A core theme in Shinto is the notion of chinju no mori, or (sacred) shrine forest. Shinto worshippers believe their gods live in the forest. It is only comparatively recently that one could officially go off-piste in Japan, you were always meant to stay on the pistes and not stray. Gaijin obviously do not have the cultural and religious barriers to shredding the forests but to many Japanese Shinto worshippers, the concept is close to sacrilege. So ski guiding in the back country has never really been developed by the Japanese.


The thing about scared trees is actually not the entire truth and bit of a myth Wink
Though you are right that, for various reasons, off piste has often been banned in Japan until recently.
It is only in the last decade (the 2006 ski movie explosion) that Japan has become a popular destination for euros, yanks and aussies shredding deep pow.

FWIW : Guiding is also not legally regulated in Norway, the UK or Argentina either.
For example you could teach off piste skiing, or canoeing, in Scotland with no qualifications.
However you would most likely be un-insurable.
snow conditions     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
My impression was simply that until recently most Japanese skiers prefered the security and familiarity of skiing on rather than off piste (often with J-Pop on speakers and coming down the slope in a synchronised corporate ski team). There used to be a sign at Narita saying "Welcome to Japan. Please obey the rules." On the ski slopes for most Japanese the rules said don't ski off piste (it's dangerous). So most didn't.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Sobering read.

If the terrain and snowpack on Hokkaido were similar to that of Nagano and Niigata then there would have been many more incidents here.

There are very few true guides working on Hokkaido - UIAGM, ski guide under the Canadian system - in fact the influx of foreign guides bringing their customers to Hokkaido bolsters the number.

They're still 'guided read shown around' by people without the necessary qualifications, skills or experience.

The reasons most didn't ski off piste were

1. they didn't have the skills and/or equipment.

2. most resorts lease land from the forest service or national park service and the terms of the lease only cover the groomed / managed runs.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Bod wrote:

As they say Hindsight is an exact science...


A quick glance at their web site told me everything I needed to know

http://www.epicskiadventures.net/our-crew

No mention of qualifications or where he or the others (whomever they may be) have learned and worked.

Wouldn't have touched this gang with a bargepole.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I'm very late on this post.....but it was only recently forwarded to me.
What happened was very sad, however what is sadder was that it was completely avoidable. The decision making process which lead to this accident was fatally flawed.
The individual leading this group -
1. Chose to ride this slope the day after a heavy snowfall and after warmer weather.
2. Rode a slope which was roped off and with no anchor points, a slope which was known to give way.
3. Did not know the area well enough or had been monitoring the snow pack.

These were all basic mistakes. While certification is good a combination of certification and local knowledge is even better. Spending the season means you see the snow pack build and monitoring it means you are building up a picture of the snow pack especially in relation to different aspects.

The truth is anybody with even a little knowledge or common sense could of avoided this.....a case of white line fever and taking the easily spotted line (right underneath the cable car).
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I am also a late recipient of this Post but I can confirm the attrocious experience with Epic from our trip to Hokkaido in Feb 2015....do NOT use Epic.
We were a group of 12 that Jason "guided" on his own until complaints about the group size resulted in Jason bringing his son across from New Zealand, who we later discovered was only 15. This kid could ski. But that's not the point.
It was ridiculous to subject this young son with the responsibility Jason so casually assigned to him...especially if needing to save someone or apply CPR or some other emergency requirement. For the first day, because he was so excited to be back on skis, he'd ski off on his own line.
Our tour comprised going to several ski fields; it shocked me one day when Jason revealed he had never been to the ski field we were at...so he was learning the area at the time whilst supposedly being our guide.
We came to learn that he sacked one of his guides and one left him altogether.
What disappointed 6 of the guests was that for the first 4 nights of our trip, we were placed into a 2 star (lucky to be 2 star) accommodation with no Onsen or any fascilities that we were promised in our tour package and had paid for. What made it really sour was that he and his son stayed at a 5 star hotel with the other 6 guests?! We had to convene a meeting with Jason and as a group demanded some refund as our research revealed the hotel's tariff was half the cost of his hotel, but he had no intention of refunding us if we had not confronted him.
The shear oversized group led to many accidents and incidents that started to cause friction amongst some of the guests and Jason. It was really unpleasant. This trip was intended to be an adventure, and at times it was, but we skied in areas where some of the Americans (from Colorado) and Canadians expressed was dangerous.
We only learned about this tragedy after we returned home and if we had known earlier we would not have gone on the trip.
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Hi, late to this tread and glad I found it.
The information about guides in Japan is causing concern.
Are there any companies doing ski tours to Japan that fellow Snowheads would recommend.?
Do they all have the same problem with unqualified guides?
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Has anyone had experience of Whiteroom tours? Also based down under.
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@Suzi snowflake, the search function may help you. There is a whole thread named "Ski Japan - has anyone used Whiteroom Tours?"
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Suzi snowflake, if the search doesn't give you what you need, start a new thread, the title might put some off
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Whiteroom thread
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=2838698&highlight=whiteroom+tours#2838698


Other operators and ideas thread
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3057855&highlight=whiteroom+tours#3057855
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