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The Hokkaido Backcountry Project launches in Niseko, Japan

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi Epicski,


This is Matt Standal, longtime TGR member, journalist, and skier.


I'm working to create a ski documentary that follows the first modern helicopter ski and snowboard operation on this island of Hokkaido in northern Japan during the 2014-2015 season. 


The Hokkaido Backcountry Project will:

  • Document the return of heli skiing and snowboarding to Hokkaido
  • Examine BC human-powered skiing, cat skiing, and sled-access
  • Go behind the scenes with mountain guides and professional skiers and snowboarders as they explore the island
  • Work with the Niseko community and Japanese government to promote better safety and open up new terrain.

Check out the details here: 




Dragon Heli pilot Inada-san lands his AStar helicopter on Shiribetsu-Dake in the Hokkaido Backcountry


With your help we can work to improve safety and access in northern Japan. 


Thanks, Epicski. 

post #2 of 3
Yeah, I'm sure this will make a killing, but my first reaction is 'first the Australians and now helicopters.' Just glad to have been there and skied much of when it was off the radar.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Quick update here from Hokkaido -- more than 70 cm of snow in some locations over the past 48 hours!

The Niseko Village resort is preparing to open next weekend, and we're just a bit closer to getting out with the Hokkaido Backcountry Club and checking the off-piste conditions around the mountain. 

The Hokkaido Backcountry Project is also nearly 30 percent funded!

Here's what happens after 48 hours of continuous snowfall - 11/15/2014

I arrived at New Chitose Airport on November 10, and have been exploring amazing northern Japan with the staff at Black Diamond Lodge and Tours for the past four days. The skiing community here includes four major resorts sharing one 1,309m mountain that receives more than 500 inches of snow each season.

Here's an interesting fact: I was interviewed by TV Tokyo upon landing in Hokkaido for the famous TV series "Why did you come to Japan?"

Getting interviewed by TV Tokyo - 11/11/2014



I told them we wanted to document the first modern helicopter skiing operation in Hokkaido, and show why the Niseko ski area is among the world's finest.

In reality, we want to do much more than that. 

The Hokkaido snow riding community is huge. More than 18 resorts and plethora of guide services populate this 83,000 square-kilometer, mountainous region in the sea of Japan. What it doesn't have is a standardized system of avalanche prediction, control, and backcountry access.

There's also a serious debate about the development of helicopter and snowcat operations on the island.

Add to that a growing population of skiers, snowboarders, pro athletes, and film crews, and you'll see why we're titling it "The Hokkaido Backcountry Project."

Me struggling while skinning the Niseko resort on 11/15/2014


Yesterday, I was able to get my first turns on the mountain, and I look forward to the impending snow that famously coats the green sasa bamboo. For those of you who have pledged to back this project, Clay, Makoto, and I are very excited to begin fulfilling our promises to backers. 

However, we still have more than $5,000 to raise, and 20 days to do it.

Stay tuned!

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