About Us

Our certified guides have unmatched experience finding the best lines, deepest snow and most unique terrain in Hokkaido, but as much as we love skiing powder, our first priority is safety. The foundation is a team of qualified guides working within the boundaries of a professional snow safety program.

Our senior guides are certified through the ACMG, JMGA, NZMGA or AMGA which are all member organizations of the IFMGA. As a Japan based business, we`re able to combine these internationally recognized qualifications with local knowledge offering Japan`s highest quality powder adventures.

Please read on to learn more about the unique individuals that form the Rising Sun crew.

Meet Our Team

Andrew Spragg

Owner / Guide

Andrew first visited Hokkaido in 2003 and after a 1 week trip knew that he had to come back. He spent the next dozen years living, working, exploring and guiding guests to the best backcountry powder he could find across the island. Along the way, he met Sapporo local Yui Yamaguchi and together they established Rising Sun Guides.

Rising Sun is a professional backcountry guiding operation that aims to find our guests the best snow, most unique lines, incredible restaurants, onsens etc while maintaining the highest safety standards. We also view avalanche education as an important part of our role within Hokkaido`s  mountain community.

Qualifications:
  • ACMG Ski Guide (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides)
  • CAA Operations Level 2 (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • CAA Avalanche Professional
  • Occupational First Aid Level 3 (80 hour course)

Chris Engelhardt

Guiding Manager

Chris has been working as a ski guide for most of his professional career. The bulk of this time (~15 years) was at Silverton Mountain in Colorado and at their Alaska heli skiing operation. After meeting Andrew in Alaska in the spring of 2014, Chris made his way to Hokkaido and guided here for the `14-15 season. Unfortunately he wasn`t able to return for the next few years and instead took an avalanche forecasting position at the Eastern Sierra Avalanche center in California for the 2017 – 2021 winter seasons. The stars finally aligned for Chris to return last year and he`s now looking forward to his 3rd Hokkaido powder winter in the upcoming 2023-24 season.

Qualifications:
  • Avalanche Forecaster
  • Wilderness First Responder (80 hour course)

Ali Hogg

Head Guide

Originally from Scotland, Ali moved to Canada for a ski season 15 years ago and never quite made it back home! He started his career as a ski patroller which led to a position on the avalanche control team. Wanting to spend more time working in the backcountry Ali pursued his ski guiding certification, and has split his time over the last 5 winters working as a backcountry ski guide and avalanche forecaster.

Qualifications:
  • ACMG Ski Guide (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides)
  • CAA Operations Level 2 (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • CAA Avalanche Professional
  • Wilderness First Responder (80 hour course)

Kaj Sonnichsen

Guide
Kaj has Norwegian roots but grew up in Australia. He has spent the past two decades working in the ski industry in a variety of positions, starting out as a ski tech and then several seasons as a ski patroller in Norway and New Zealand before he began his guiding career. His passion for ski touring and travel has brought him to a variety of locations, from high altitude descents in the Pamir to longer traverses in remote regions of the Andes and arctic Norway.
These days he spends his winters working as a ski guide and avalanche forecaster; writing the public avalanche bulletins in Norway. Kaj is certified through NORTIND which is Norway’s IFMGA affiliated guide organisation. Kaj is looking forward to his first season with Rising Sun.
Qualifications:
  • NORTIND Ski Guide (Norwegian IFMGA Affiliate)
  • CAA operations level 2 (avalanche forecaster)
  • Registered Nurse

Steve Windross

Guide

Steve is from the U.K but made his way to French Alps in the mid 90s to work as a chef/restauranteur. He now calls Northern Norway home and guides expeditions around the world from the Arctic to Antarctic. If he`s not on a mountain, you`ll likely find Steve fishing for salmon or looking to surf a mellow left.

Qualifications
  • ACMG Ski Guide (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides)
  • CAA Operations level 2 (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Wilderness First Responder

Mark Taylor

Guide

Mark has spent most of his adult life working in the ski industry – first as a ski instructor then ski patroller, avalanche educator and now as a ski guide. He has spent most of his career in Utah with stints in Montana and Washington. In the summer Mark guides mountain bike trips across the western United States.

Qualifications
  • American Avalanche Institute Professional Level II (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • Emergency Medical Technician

Toshi Ota

Guide

Originally from Tomakomai, Toshi learned to ride in Hokkaido`s mountains before moving overseas for a 5 year stint between 2013-2017. During that time Toshi worked  as a raft guide in Canada and New Zealand. Toshi returned home in 2017 to re-join the Rising Sun team and has been with us ever since.

Toshi is looking forward to visiting his favorite backyard powder stashes with some lucky Rising Sun guests again this winter.

Qualifications
  • Japan Avalanche Network Operations Level 1 (Industry level course)
  • Wilderness First Responder

Yuya Kodani

Guide

Yuya is originally from Gifu prefecture in Honshu and grew up ski racing but somewhere along the way discovered powder and moved to Hokkaido. Yuya has been guiding in Hokkaido since 2009 and looking forward to another great winter this year. He now splits his time between guiding with Rising Sun in winter and working his family farm in Gifu during the summer months.

Qualifications
  • Japan Avalanche Network Operations Level 1 (Industry Level course)
  • Wilderness First Responder

Scott Walker

Guide

Scott is from New Zealand and has been actively involved in the ski industry since 1994. He started guiding in 2001, obtaining his full Ski Guide certification through the NZMGA in 2014. The 2023-24 winter will be Scott’s 4th season guiding in Japan. When he`s not skiing pow with Rising Sun, Scott spends his kiwi summer`s building mountain bike trails in Canterbury, New Zealand. In the Southern winter`s he works as the ski patrol manager at Porters Alpine Resort. He`s also a father of 2.

Qualifications
  • NZMGA Ski Guide (New Zealand Mountain Guides Association)
  • NZ Mountain Safety Council Backcountry Avalanche Forecaster
  • ARM6 – Avalanche Risk Management level 6
  • PHEC – Pre-Hospital First Responder

Sam McGrath

Guide

Growing up in Australia, Sam has called Canada home for the last decade. Beginning the guiding program in New Zealand and finishing in Canada, Sam has a sincere passion for ski touring, and has guided and skied all over North America, Norway, and New Zealand. When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, being able to share the experience of the backcountry and facilitating peoples ‘best day ever’, is what keeps him coming back to ski guiding season after season.

Qualifications
  • ACMG Ski  / Splitboard Guide
  • CAA Level 2
  • CAA Avalanche Practitioner
  • Licenced Emergency Medical Responder

Sven Gorham

Guide

Originally from Australia, Sven`s enjoyment of the mountains took him to New Zealand and then Japan where he has spent the past decade chasing endless winters while working in the ski industry. Sven`s first Hokkaido winter was 2012 and with the exception of the COVID years, he`s been here every year since. Sven joined Rising Sun in 2018 and 2023-24 will be his 4th season with us.

Qualifications
  • NZ Avalanche Risk Management Stage 6 (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • Pre-hospital Emergency care

Adam Cotterell

Guide

Originally from Sunshine Coast, Australia, Adam spent his youth surfing, ocean swimming and scrambling. In 2017, he gave up his science career in medicinal research to start guiding in NZ and has never looked back.

Since then he’s worked as a ski guide in Canada, run climbing & trekking programs in Patagonia and worked as an alpine trekking guide in NZ.

Qualifications
  • NZMGA Assistant Ski Guide
  • NZMGA Assistant Alpine Trekking Guide
  • CAA Operations Level 1
  • Pre-hospital Emergency care

Sam Lam

Guide

Sam began his career in the ski industry as a ski patroller at Mt Washington, B.C. Despite loving patrolling, he felt the need to grow as a skier and began to pursue a career in ski guiding. From 2018 to 2022 he worked as a tail guide at Keefer Lake cat skiing. In the summertime Sam is a sea kayak guide and deckhand on the charter boat Columbia iii. Sam is looking forward to returning to Rising Sun in 2023-24 for his 2nd season of Japow!

Qualifications
  • CAA Operations Level 2 (Avalanche Forecaster)
  • CSGA Level 1 (Canadian Ski Guides Association )
  • Occupational First Aid Level 3 (80 hour course)

Megan Roth

Guide

From Canada, Meg has been living and working in the Canadian Rockies for the past decade.
She started her career as a ski patroller before continuing on to to pursue more medical training. Meg currently works as a registered nurse in Canada and guides for KPow CAT skiing in Alberta, Canada during winter. Her love and pursuit of ski mountaineering has taken her on some incredible trips in the Rockies and in the Yukon. Meg is looking forward to her 2nd incredible powder season with Rising Sun in 2023-24.

Qualifications
  • CAA Operations Level 1
  • Registered Nurse

Anna Mascaro

Reservations Specialist

From Spain, Anna is a software developer who usually works in the Pyrenees where she is close to the mountains and can ski, climb and hike regularly. She also enjoys visiting the Alps in search of skiing and climbing adventures. This winter, Anna is looking forward to joining the Rising Sun crew and a season of endless powder days.

Yui Spragg

General Affairs & Admin

Born and raised in Sapporo, Yui knows all about Hokkaido snow. She started snowboarding at a young age and can hold her own with the crew in any terrain… as long as there`s pow! You won`t find Yui riding in any other snow condition because why would you if you grew up here?!

At Rising Sun, Yui works behind the scenes to make sure everything is running smoothly, that our guests are booked into the best hotels, find the best restaurants, onsen`s, cultural sites and other off snow attractions. You might not meet Yui on your trip but she`ll almost certainly have played a role in ensuring you have an unforgettable experience.

Brannen Maloney

Rising Sun Legend

Sadly, during the summer of 2023, Brannen passed away in a tragic mountain bike accident in Whistler, BC. Brannen was our operations manager and an essential part of our team from the day we opened our doors. His incredible stoke, great humour and desire to ski as much pow as humanly possible was a driving force at Rising Sun Guides. Brannen will be dearly missed but the stoke lives on and as usual, he`ll be looking after us, making sure we all stay safe, find the deepest turns and have the best times.