About Us

Our certified guides have unmatched experience finding the best lines, deepest snow and most unique terrain in Hokkaido.

As much as we love skiing powder, our first priority is safety and this starts with a professional snow safety program. Every morning we have a qualified avalanche forecaster up early reviewing previous day field observations, weather data and forecasts creating a detailed stability analysis for the day. We meet as a team at 7am every day to review this information and make appropriate terrain choices based both on our assessment of the hazard and where to find the best snow!

Our team approach to data gathering, certified guiding team and local knowledge sets Rising Sun apart as the most competent guiding operation in Japan.

Please keep reading to learn more about the unique individuals that form the Rising Sun crew.

Meet Our Crew

Thomas Fortin

Head of Snow Safety

Thomas returns for his 3rd winter of guiding in the powder capital. Originally from France, Thomas moved to Queenstown, New Zealand 15 years ago bringing his passion for the mountains with him. During kiwi winters, Thomas works as a guide for Southern Lakes Heli-skiing.

In addition to his guiding duties at Rising Sun, Thomas is responsible for managing our comprehensive snow safety program which provides our team with a daily forecast of avalanche conditions.

Thomas is a full cert NZMGA ski guide, has also completed Avalanche Safety management stage 2 and maintains professional membership with the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Toshi Ota

Originally from Tomakomai, Toshi learned to ride in Hokkaido`s mountains and spent his lifetime making tracks around the island 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 is back yet again for the 2019-20 season. Toshi`s looking forward to re-visiting his favorite backyard powder stashes with some lucky Rising Sun guests.

Toshi has completed JAN operations level 1 and wilderness first aid.

Yuya Kodani

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 here in the winters and working the farm with his young family in Gifu during the summer months.

Yui & Andrew Spragg

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 and safe backcountry travel education as an important part of our role within Hokkaido`s  mountain community.

Andrew is a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Returning in 2021-22

The COVID 19 crisis has not been easy on our team. Unfortunately due travel restrictions and significantly reduced tourism, the majority of our team will not be able to join us for the 2020-21 winter season. They are hoping and expecting to be back next winter though so we`ve kept their profiles here and look forward to seeing everyone again!

Andy Cole

Head Guide

Andy is a full time mountain guide from New Zealand. He started his career with air force search and rescue before transferring to the NZ Army where he ran ski touring, mountaineering and rock climbing courses. Following that, he established a New Zealand based guiding company called 4 Peaks Adventures. In 2018-19, Andy returns for his third winter of Hokkaido pow and will once again be leading the Rising Sun crew as our head guide.

Andy is an IFMGA Climbing and Ski guide, qualified with avalanche safety management stage 2, a professional member of the CAA and sits on the NZMGA board of directors.

Bronwen Waters

Bronwen entered the ski industry as a patroller and has spent numerous winters working in New Zealand, Canada and Norway. In the Southern winters Bron works with Aspiring Guides and Harris Mountain heli-ski. She also works as an avalanche educator teaching both recreational and professional level avalanche courses and is an important part of our AST instructor team. Bronwen returns in 2019-20 for her third season of Hokkaido powder with Rising Sun.

Bronwen is an NZMGA apprentice ski guide with avalanche stage 2 qualification and is a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Dan Phillips

Dan grew up in Perth, West Australia where he was always involved in the outdoors but after discovering snow and ice in New Zealand he was hooked and made the move to the mountains.

During his time in NZ, Dan spent 3 years working with the Mount Cook Alpine search & rescue team as well as several years with the Mount Hutt ski patrol before shifting to guiding work. Dan has since worked as a cat ski guide in Canada, Aspiring guides in New Zealand and is now re-joining Rising Sun for his second season of Hokkaido powder.

Dan is a full cert ski guide with NZMGA, holds Avalanche operations level 2 and is a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Paul Schmidt

Paul was first introduced to the alpine while spending summers visiting family in Bavaria. He developed a deep love of the mountains, climbing several peaks with his grandfather and uncles.  Shortly after graduating from college he moved to Colorado and has lived, worked, and played in the Rockies for about 20 years.  He has previously worked as an Avalanche Technician,  guide and avalanche course instructor.  Along the way, Paul has also spent several winters working in New Zealand as a ski patroller and heli ski guide.
Paul is an AMGA Apprentice Ski Guide, AIARE level 3 avalanche forecaster and an Emergency Medical Technician.  He also speaks fluent German and loves a good Pilsner!
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Mitch Potter

Mitch first made his way to Hokkaido back in 2009 and has never looked back. 2019-20 will be his 10th consecutive Japanese winter and let`s just say that he has things pretty well figured out over here. Even for Mitch though, there’s still plenty of new terrain to explore and he’s always looking to find the next uncharted line. Mitch mainly finds himself on the road, lapping up Hokkaido’s best kept secrets.

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Kasuya “Tak” Takahiro

A Hokkaido local, you’ll generally find Tak “cheering” (that means chillin` in Tak-speak) somewhere in Hokkaido’s backcountry. Tak loves skiing and it shows. After a lifetime of shovelling, moving and generally dealing with snow (a huge part of life for any Hokkaido resident!), Tak decided that playing in snow was better. After several years instructing at Kiroro resort, Tak has been educating himself in safe backcountry travel techniques, snow safety and returns to Rising Sun as one our trusted multi-day trip guides. Combine his enthusiasm with the type of local knowledge that can only come from growing up here and you’ll be stoked to get out on a trip with Tak.

Willie Sloop

After a decade of ski patrolling at Hood Meadows resort in Oregon, Willie joined Rising Sun for the 17-18 season. He spent his first winter primarily working at our cat ski operation. Entering his third season with Rising Sun, Willie is back for more pow . You`ll still find him lapping up easy pow on the cat but he`ll also be stretching his legs guiding backcountry and lift accessed tours.

Vince Genannt

Vince was a pro rider before turning to coaching and now guiding. Originally from Germany, Vince moved to Whistler, Canada in search of more snow and has lived there for the past 10 years. Eventually even Canadian pow wasn`t enough so Vince made his first visit to Hokkaido to join Rising Sun in 2016-17. Vince returns in 2019-20 for his 3rd season with the Rising Sun crew.

Vince is a CSGA level 1 snowboard guide and an active member of the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Jakub Doubic

Jakub “aka” the Horse is known amongst the crew for his ridiculous ability to charge up a skin track. A ski instructor turned guide, Jakub has spent 7 seasons guiding in Hokkaido and has been an integral part of our multi-day trip guiding team. Jakub is a full cert ISIA instructor with avalanche qualification.

Jakub is taking the 2018-19 winter season off to see how Canadian powder compares but we`ve left his profile here as we expect Hokkaido to lure him back next year.

Hiro Nakamura

Hiro has worked extensively in the Niseko region and with several operations across town including NISS, Hanazono Powder Guides and most recently Hokkaido Mountain Experience. Hiro has also spent time in New Zealand on both the North and South Islands teaching snowboarding at Mount Ruapehu and Cardrona. Hiro joined our team in the 2016-17 and is back for his 4th winter with Rising Sun.

Soren Rasmussen

Soren was born in Tokyo and grew up skiing in Nagano, but hadn’t been blessed with Hokkaido powder until he started working as a translator in the local ski industry 4 years ago. He’s hooked, and is looking forward to his second season with Rising Sun. When it’s not snowing, Soren applies his love for the outdoors and Japanese language skills together as a hiking guide climbing Mt. Fuji and other pilgrimage routes across Japan. Soren`s favorites include ramen, hot springs and finding great snow.

Brannen Maloney

After several winters living the Hokkaido ski bum dream, Brannen has finally taken on a “real” job with Rising Sun. Brannen is responsible for just about everything required to keep our operation running day to day. Amongst other glamourous jobs such as securing roof racks and snow clearing Brannen is our marketing specialist, responsible for our rental fleet and most importantly our manager of manager`s.