Group of French skiers lost, then found, outside Hokkaido resort

Kyodo, Staff Report

A group of six French skiers who disappeared on the slopes of Hokkaido’s famous Furano Ski Resort on Thursday have been found safe and sound, the resort’s operator confirmed on Friday.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Police said they received a call at around 6:05 p.m. Thursday reporting that six French skiers were missing. The resort’s patrollers searched the area and confirmed the party’s whereabouts at 10 p.m.

None of the skiers, aged from 19 to 52, suffered injuries or reported any health issues.

They came to the resort, located in the city of Furano, with another French woman, who earlier separated from the group.

The woman told resort staff at around 5 p.m. that the group, which included her husband, had not arrived at a parking lot at the bottom of the slope where they were supposed to meet, a resort spokesman said.

According to the spokesman, the group presumably entered one of the areas in the resort’s Furano zone, but crossed a boundary to ski in the backcountry and failed to return to the designated trail.

The resort has more than 20 runs between 235 meters and 1,074 meters above sea level for all levels of skiers.

The spokesman could not confirm which trail the group used but presumed they were experienced skiers.

“People who aren’t good (at skiing) wouldn’t think of skiing off-piste,” he said. “But they got lost as they don’t know this area.”

He explained, however, that the resort cannot take responsibility for skiers who leave its boundaries.

Given that skiers are alerted in English of the possible risks and the need for additional emergency gear if they choose to ski in the backcountry, the six individuals who went missing must have been aware of potential consequences, the spokesman said. But the group had not been prepared, he added.

According to the operator, about 200,000 skiers visited the resort’s slopes last year, 15 percent of whom were non-Japanese.