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 for this 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 are able combine these internationally recognized qualifications with local knowledge to offer 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 Professional Member
  • Wilderness First Responder (80 hour course)

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. Andy has worked with Rising Sun since 2017  and is looking forward to returning for the 2022-23 winter. Andy is Rising Sun`s head guide and also sits on the NZMGA board of directors.

Qualifications
  • IFMGA Mountain Guide
  • NZ Avalanche Risk Management Stage 6 (avalanche forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Wilderness First Responder

Thomas Fortin

Head of Snow Safety

Thomas returns for his 4th 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 snow safety program.

Qualifications
  • NZMGA Ski Guide (New Zealand Mountain Guide Association)
  • NZ Avalanche Risk Management Stage 6 (avalanche forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Wilderness First Responder

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 Advanced First Aid

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

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.

Returning in 2022-23

The COVID 19 crisis has not been easy on our team. Unfortunately due travel restrictions and significantly reduced tourism, the majority of our team remains unable to join us for the 2021-22 winter season. They are however, hoping and expecting to be back for the 2022-23 winter season.

Bronwen Waters

Guide

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 2022-23 for her 5th season with Rising Sun.

Qualifications
  • NZMGA Apprentice Ski Guide (New Zealand Mountain Guide Association)
  • NZ Avalanche Risk Management Stage 6 (avalanche forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Wilderness First Responder

Dan Phillips

Guide

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 3rd season in Hokkaido.

Qualifications
  • NZMGA Ski Guide (New Zealand Mountain Guide Association)
  • NZMGA Avalanche Risk Management Stage 6 (avalanche forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Wilderness First Responder

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 the past 2 decades.  He has previously worked as an Avalanche Technician,  guide and avalanche course instructor.  Along the way, Paul also spent several winters working in New Zealand as a ski patroller and heli ski guide.
Qualifications
  • AMGA Apprentice Ski Guide (American Mountain Guide Association)
  • AIARE Level 3 (avalanche forecaster)
  • CAA professional member
  • Emergency Medical Technician
mitch-potter-profile

Mitch Potter

Guide

Mitch first made his way to Hokkaido back in 2009 and has never looked back. 2022-23 will be his 12th winter in Japan 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.

Qualifications
  • AIARE Level 2
  • Wilderness First Responder
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Kasuya “Tak” Takahiro

Guide

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.

Qualifications
  • Japan Avalanche Network Operations Level 1
  • Wilderness First Aid

Willie Sloop

Guide

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.

Qualifications
  • CAA Operations Level 1
  • Emergency Medical Technician

Vince Genannt

Guide

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.

Qualifications
  • CSGA Level 1 (Canadian Ski Guides Association)
  • CAA Operations Level 1
  • CAA Active member
  • Wilderness First Responder

Brannen Maloney

Operations Manager

Originally from the US, Brannen now splits his time between Whistler, BC and Japan. He has been with Rising Sun Guides since its inception and is essential to managing our operations. He also keeps our rental fleet ready for the backcountry, manages our marketing department and fills in wherever needed.

Most importantly though, he skis pow every chance he gets.