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Japan 2016 / 17

 Poster: A snowHead
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@musehead, It's a bit of both Toofy Grin

You take the top pizza box/meat hook lift, and have to pole/walk 20m past a little wooden toilet shed on your left, so still facing up hill. In front of you there is then a low rope, and slightly to the right (with no rope) an open up hill trail, which is the boot pack line. We boot packed for 5-10 mins farming the lines and didn't hit the end of the slope.

The tree skiing is that whole back bowl, which includes a series of drainage systems. Once in the slope it is now skiers right, and you either exit left back onto the piste directly, or continue right to the bottom where you will hit a road. The road has sufficient gradient to return you to the main lift with gentle poling, but boarders would probably have to walk. There was no indication that this was officially illegal, and you cannot be seen from the top lift station hut.

The closer you get to the bottom, the more streams/creeks there are, so you need to keep left for the piste return, or you are going to the bottom. One warning is that there are snow covered liana type vines, some of which were head height, and pretty much invisible as you are concentrating on the gaps...... Toofy Grin

Oh, and the first rule of the Pippu tree run, is that you don't talk about the Pippu tree run Cool
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
6th day of our tour, is a transfer/down day. We have relocated from Furano to Otaru, stopping on the way for some site seeing in Sapporo. According to the forecasts many resorts were shutdown due storm and high winds. Furano was only running the Ropeway when we left. Resorts in the Otaru area were reporting in the 30-40cm new snow range, so hoping for an epic day tomorrow.

Two days of luxury in the Otaru Grand Park hotel, its a hard life, but someone has to do it Toofy Grin
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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?
Kiroro was over the head all day. Dumping when I left Smile
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@Mike Pow, As far as I am aware we will be in Kiroro tomorrow for first lifts. I'll be the one in blue Norrona jacket/pants, with the fat DPS skis.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@PowderAdict, Thanks v much, will definitely consider Pippu if (or when!) I make it back to the area. There doesn't seem to be much info online about most of the smaller ski hills - or maybe it's all on Japanese websites. So it's good to hear something first hand.

Sounds like you hit central Hokkaido at the right time this winter!
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7th day of our tour, this time in Kokusai, which is in the mountains between Sapporo and Kutchan. The access road is a spectacular spiral road which loops up on to a flyover in front of a large dam.

The resort was already fairly busy when we arrived at 09:00 (a Saturday and and a powder day), but the vast majority of the skiers/boarders were families who all stayed on piste. We spent our time lapping the drainage to the skiers right of the main gondola. You exit the top station, and boot pack left up maybe 10m, which gives you access to the slope. The top section is flattish, and had so much powder (40-50cm) that you ground to a halt unless you were following someone else's track. Even then we had to play ski leapfrog to make progress until the line opened up. Once at the rollover the slope hit 35-40 degrees and the real skiing (and face shots) started, but maybe only for 20-25 turns before a creek stopped play and the traverse out began.

Thankfully the traverse out discourages most who try it, so there was probably no more that 20 people in there. Our group put in 10 laps (100 tracks), and there were still plenty of new lines available when we left.

The day started bright, but snow soon started fall, and our guide estimated 2cm an hour, but at the top the strong wind was adding another 2cm. Each lap our boot pack tracks were almost filled in again. There are some even more spectacular lines further skiers right, but you need to skin for 20mins to reach them.

It was still snowing when we left, so tomorrow there should be just as good Cool
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8th day of our tour, this time in Kiroro. The original plan was to go to Teine, but Kiroro was reporting twice the snow fall, so there was no choice really.

The resort was already fairly busy when we arrived, but fortunately the off-piste registration process was rapid, probably due to our guide having worked in Kiroro for a month previously. Initial indications weren't good, with a large number of fat skis in evidence, but as with Kokusai, we rarely saw another skier off piste all day. However, there were a few boarders littering the exit traverses which were fairly challenging on skis by the end of the day, as they had become high speed toboggan runs. Judging by their skill levels and lack of backpacks, I suspect some of these had ducked under ropes, rather than signed up.

The snow was as @Mike Pow predicted, with only a hint of the previous days tracks, and everything else covered in 30-50cm depending on the aspect. Our guides did their jobs well, managing to find us 140 sets of fresh tracks from our first to last run. Snow was falling almost all day, so it should be pretty good again tomorrow.

Stats for the day were, 14 runs, 6000m vertical, 38km skied. Also one Go-Pro lost, and then found again 3 hours later, when we skied the same run again Cool
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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!
Very Happy
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9th day of our tour, and back in Kiroro again, as it has the best snow compared to Teine and Rusustu. The day dawned bright and sunny and not that cold.

Since we knew that we had probably skied the best of the powder the previous day, we started with a true backcountry adventure. I'm not 100% sure of the location, other than it was on the twisty road between Niseko and Kiroro. We basically stopped at the side of the road with 3m hgh snow banks, kicked steps into the bank and climbed up on the side, and passed the skis up. We then traversed / side stepped past avalanche barriers, and up through a wooded section, then skied valley the other side back to a road. Since this took a couple of hours, we headed up to Kiroro for an early lunch.

What a difference a day makes both to the crowds, and the snow conditions. Anything on a southerly aspect had suffered, with zip and caster sugar snow. The northerly aspect were massively better, though still not as good as the previous day.

We still found plenty of fresh tracks, but we had to work harder to find them. Also the exit traverses had become even more extreme. One of the best runs of the day was the last one, where we found an untouched slope with a steep entrance a mellow exit directly back onto the piste for a change.

We nearly didn't start the day at all, because as we were driving out of town down the main street, we were met with the sight of a spinning minivan heading straight for us at about 40mph. Quick reactions from our driver who timed his swerve perfectly, meant that it missed us, and fortunately everything behind us as well Shocked Shocked Shocked
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@PowderAdict, eesh, sounds like a close call! I'm really enjoying reading these updates, there's so much good info in them. If I can't talk a few mates into heading back next year I'll probably head out with Whiteroom. I take it from the reports you'd recommend them?

Does anyone know how Niseko and Kiroro tend to be crowd wise over Xmas and New Year periods? Is it likely to be similar to mid Jan? Also, how typical is it for the gates to be open and skiable in Niseko at that time? It looks like it might be my only window for a trip next year.
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@element, I highly recommend Whiteroom Tours. Everything is very well organised / managed, from the little things to the big ones. Some of us a already planning our returns next year. Just some examples:

1. One of our groups ski bag didn't arrive in Tokyo, so the guide drove him to the local hire shop and introduced him, rather than just saying you can hire your skis from shop X. His bag arrived after 2 days with a strap missing, indicating that it probably got caught up in one of the baggage handling systems. However, their deal is set up so that if you don't bring your own skis/board, you can rent the the skis/board in Furano and keep the same equipment throughout the trip, and then hand it back in Niseko.

2. Another one of our group needed a sixth toe punch on his new for this trip boots. Again he was taken to the best boot fitters, and driven to collect it again the next morning.

3. The most extreme example of support was when a guest (not our group) hit a tree very hard at Sahoro (I won't go into the details, but surgeons and equipment had to be flown up from Tokyo Shocked). A Japanese speaking member of Whiteroom, stayed with the guest for 4 days in hospital to provide support/translation.

The mid-Jan trips tend to sellout very quickly, and if anyone wants a single room, they also need to book early. Even if there are free places on the trip, if Whiteroom cannot book accommodation in three different hotels/locations, you cannot join. The numbers on my two trips with them have been limited by the room availability rather than places.
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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.
Were you with Ross of Whiteroom.

Saw him over at Kiroro the past couple of days.
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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
@Mike Pow, We are not with Ross, we are currently skiing with Sam and Tom. I know that Ross is based at Niseko at the moment, but Whiteroom have 3-4 tours running, plus some private, so there has usually been more than one of their mini vans at every resort we have been to.
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You know it makes sense.
10th day of our tour, this time in Rusustu. Rusustu is a volcano based twin mountain resort with a gondola connecting the two halves. The main East section is a series of valley's and ridges which largely meet at the top, each with multiple lifts (think fingers of a hand). The lifts are very efficient and the long tree runs mean you can rack up the vertical without long exit traverses. After a slightly dull start, we had a bluebird day, but that unfortunately brought positive temperatures.

However, I guess all good things have to come to an end, and after 8 days of powder lines, we had to come back to reality with a bump. With no new snow since the weekend, it seemed that every square metre of snow had been tracked, and that which remained was in very poor condition off piste (the pistes were in excellent condition). The warm previous day and cold overnight temperatures had put a creme-brulee crust on south facing aspects, turned much of the rest into sugar snow.

Since all of us were on powder skis, to a greater or lesser extent, we really suffered as the snow held on to edges and threw us about, rather than allowing us to float down the slopes as we have been used to. It really needs a massive dump to reset the conditions. On a mid week powder day the resort would be epic.

The stats for the day were 17 runs, 6100m vertical, 38km skied.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@PowderAdict, How have Whiteroom been for getting you to resorts on time in the morning? One thing that was frustrating about the BD Tours trip I did last winter was that we rarely made it to first lifts so the easiest access fresh tracks were already gone. Often we'd arrive up to 30 minutes after the lifts opened but when we went to Teine we arrived 2 hours after lift opening - a bit of a waste!
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@musehead, We haven't been getting to resorts as early as last year, where we nearly always had a 07:30 start.

This year the snow has been much better, so we have been targeting our 1% of the 100% powder available, so it was not critical to be first in every lift. This meant we left at 07:45 for the more distant resorts, and 08:00 for the closer ones.

Last year due to the poorer snow conditions we were targeting our 1% of 50% powder available, so first lift was more critical.

I'm pretty sure we didn't miss out on anything significant by starting 15mins later.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Great to read that you've had great days @PowderAdict.

Many have whinged that it's been a poor winter, but if you're prepared to travel around there's always good snow to be found 👍
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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?
musehead wrote:
@PowderAdict, How have Whiteroom been for getting you to resorts on time in the morning? One thing that was frustrating about the BD Tours trip I did last winter was that we rarely made it to first lifts so the easiest access fresh tracks were already gone. Often we'd arrive up to 30 minutes after the lifts opened but when we went to Teine we arrived 2 hours after lift opening - a bit of a waste!


We did a BD tour last year and didn't notice this. I couldn't really tell you what time we arrived at each resort but generally we'd ski back bowls, short skin etc so weren't competing for the piste side stuff. The BD guides were awesome at checking conditions at all the local resorts each morning and finding us the best snow.
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Naeba/Mikuni yesterday was in full swing of spring

https://www.facebook.com/MikunicatTour/videos/741868115975857/


Sorry don't know how to make Facebook video's visible
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11th day of our tour and the last ski day was at Niseko, primarily due to the requirement to catch the 16:40 coach transfer to Chitose. I didn't have time to post yesterday due to packing and the coach transfer.

We started first thing at Annupuri, taking the main gondula. The top chair lift was shut due to fog/visibility. The snow conditions were appalling, and not just in terms of powder (there wasn't any) but on the pistes as well. We were amazed at the deterioration in the snow, in the 2-3 days since last snow fall. Since the top lifts were all shut, so we couldn't ski across, we just skid back down to the minivan to transfer to Grand Hirafu, and found many others returning to their cars/trucks after a single run as well.

The snow was no better at Grand Hirafu, so we also tried Hanazono and the Village area, and found them the same. A couple of the group gave up for the day after the first run at Annupuri, and a couple more gave up after lunch. However, not wanting to write off our last ski day we eventually managed to rack up 13 runs, 6700m vertical and 39km. The day actually ended in the fun park, with one of the guides reliving his youth as a park rat (his signature move was a double back flip, but this wasn't tried on powder skis and with a large backpack). Both guides said that they couldn't believe that they had spent their last official guiding day in the park.

I really pity anyone arriving at Nisko in the last 2 days, expecting a slice of the famed Japanese powder, and getting refrozen concrete and sugar snow Sad
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Back home in Wales so a chance to catch up with posts.

TUESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2017

FUN IN THE SUN
John from Australia enjoying soft snow conditons in the sunshine
Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ1IGEBAeWh/?taken-by=mikethesnow



ROADRUNNER
Graeme from Brisbane, Australia letting the skis run
Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ32cIgAfT8/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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SUNDAY 19 FEBRUARY 2017

POWDERZONE
Yours truly (@mikethesnow) enjoying the return of the powder to Kiroro
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

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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!
TUESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2017

FINDING YOUR FEET 1
Brad (@bradsle) certainly finding his feet in the Kiroro powder
💿 Specials - Rat Race
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ_QS6lgGlE/?taken-by=mikethesnow



FINDING YOUR FEET 2
Longtime student & ski partner Ian MacKenzie (@powderbirdie) finding his feet in the Kiroro powder
💿 Jayhawks - Somewhere In Ohio
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRB8FKHgpeb/?taken-by=mikethesnow



BACK IN BLACK 2
Cameron 'Double' Black (@doubleblacksan) getting caked in 'Steepness'
ACDC - Back In Black
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BREv1ZKA0oY/?taken-by=mikethesnow



CAKED
Yours truly (@mikethesnow) getting caked in 'Steepness'
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRHetlmAAVa/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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WEDNESDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2017

DEADWOOD
Longtime student & ski partner Ian MacKenzie (@powderbirdie) dropping into the 'Deadwood' powder
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan





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wow, looks great!! Smile)))

There's a few of us thinking of heading to Japan next year for ~10-12 days of skiing, as it's a big b'day year for many of us. What's the 'top of the pops' for a trip like that in Japan say?

We're thinking 2, maybe 3 different venues, ideally close enough (say <= 2 -3 hours drive) to each other. (Nice skiing, nice food, ideally nice hotel & a good guide i guess)

Who is the best travel agency specialising in Japan??

thanks for any pointers.
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@horgand I would recommend my trip 2 years ago which was internal flight to Aomori, 3 days at Hakkoda staying at the ultra traditional Sukayu Onsen, then train from Aomori through the Seikan tunnel to whichever Hokkaido resort takes your fancy.
We went to Niseko Moiwa which was great. Niseko itself ranked a tad too high on the powderstressometer though.

Check out resort reviews on Powerderhounds. Not difficult and probably cheaper to DIY it rather than selling your soul to a tour operator.
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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.
Thanks HD,
They're great possibilities for a trip to Japan,
Tks,
Horgand
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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
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
Thanks for all the updates everyone - loving living vicariously through everyone else's powder fun Happy

@Dashed,
Quote:

We did a BD tour last year and didn't notice this. I couldn't really tell you what time we arrived at each resort but generally we'd ski back bowls, short skin etc so weren't competing for the piste side stuff. The BD guides were awesome at checking conditions at all the local resorts each morning and finding us the best snow.


Yeah but we all had touring kit so could skin up or out to access better lines, so potentially the first lift issue was less important. We never started THAT early, sometimes not on the snow until 10.30 but we did have quite long drives in the mornings, and it takes time to sign in for backcountry.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2017

Face Shot Friday at Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

FINDING YOUR FEET 1
Longtime student & ski partner Ian MacKenzie (@powderbirdie) dropping into the powder

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRNInFnAYD5/?taken-by=mikethesnow



FINDING YOUR FEET 2
Brad (@bradsle) dropping into the powder
💿 Specials - A Message To You Rudy

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRP9ER6AO9P/?taken-by=mikethesnow



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE 1
Tim (@tim_wikman) from Queensland, Australia had been waiting for the deep snow to arrive all holiday. On his second to last day his patience was rewarded

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRTCej_A3V6/?taken-by=mikethesnow



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE 2
Jack (@jwwikman) from Queensland, Australia had been waiting for the deep snow to arrive all holiday. On his second to last day his patience was rewarded

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRU--4oAsmv/?taken-by=mikethesnow



FACE SHOT FRIDAY PART V
Yours truly (@mikethesnow) getting caked all over the mountain
💿 Katie Melua - Wonderful Life

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRXg6xbgCin/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I'll be landing in Tokyo on Saturday Mar-18 for a two week work assignment. I didn't realize Monday was a national holiday, so I may take a day trip that Monday.

I'm hoping to take a ski trip the following weekend, leaving Friday March 24 until the following Sunday evening. Any input on the best snow situation on Honshu? Offhand scanning past few pages sounds like a trip to Hokkaido wouldn't be worth it, was thinking Hakkoba but I'm not wedded to any place in particular.
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Kiroro is still going off

http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/KiroroSnowWorld/6day/top

66cm forecast between now and Monday morning
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2017

Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

BRAD 'TRENCH'
Brad (@bradsle) trenching through 'Deadwood'













https://www.instagram.com/p/BRcqlu8gxCM/?taken-by=mikethesnow



DEADWOOD
Yours truly (@mikethesnow) cruising bluebird powder in 'Deadwood'
💿 Ima Robot - Scream

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRfd1WSAbXO/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
A bit late, but still so sad:

A Niseko based snowboard guide was killed in an avalanche.

http://snowbrains.com/new-zealand-ski-guide-killed-in-avalanche-in-niseko-japan/

I do not want to be wise after the event but two things are worth mentioning:
In Japan the term Guide does NOT mean a UGAIM qualified guide, it means (usually) a qualified instructor who knows where to go and will show you the way. There is no more than that.

He was avalanched in a zone that is utterly, 100%, off limits due to its highly dangerous nature. In the attached article it is the central shaded area on the map.
Anybody who has been there would know where it is, and anybody who can read terrain would say No-Way.
I am so surprised that he went there, and so sad that he did.
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Yes very sad.

Sam was a great guy.

Very bad decision to go into that area with the high avalanche risk snow conditions.

Wrong place, wrong time.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Looks like Kiroro is having great end of season powder conditions. 34cm at base today and 15cm yesterday with -8C at the top.

A proper end of season warmup is on the cards in the coming weeks:

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Big slide today in Nasu Onsen, just north of Tokyo.

Around 8 chidren dead. Looks bad.

It has been an unusual season of mass-avvy deaths in Europe and Asia.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4351976/Children-feared-dead-avalanche-hits-Japanese-resort.html

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musehead wrote:
Looks like Kiroro is having great end of season powder conditions. 34cm at base today and 15cm yesterday with -8C at the top.

A proper end of season warmup is on the cards in the coming weeks:



'Jarch' always delivers at Kiroro 👍
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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!
Whitegold wrote:
Big slide today in Nasu Onsen, just north of Tokyo.

Around 8 chidren dead. Looks bad.

It has been an unusual season of mass-avvy deaths in Europe and Asia.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4351976/Children-feared-dead-avalanche-hits-Japanese-resort.html



From the initial reports on the web it seems this was very avoidable.
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