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Japow - Hokkaido Tour 2016 - Page 2

post #31 of 57
Thread Starter 

Leaving Japan today after what has been an amazing 4 weeks. Definitely tired and looking forward to coming home, but so many great memories. Looking forward to 16/17 already. The show must continue, here's the next update.....

 

Day 13 (Fri 15th Jan) 

Furano

  This was going to be our base for the next 4 nights, but we’d be visiting a bunch of different resorts during that time. Again, I didn’t have too many expectations for Furano; my guidebook said it was big but the tree skiing and backcountry were pretty restricted. I was starting to think that the guidebook wasn’t 100% accurate though so I would try and keep an open mind.

 

  It was another bluebird day. I had to go and organize a guide for our trip to Asahidake, so I went to visit a local guiding company’s office before meeting the rest of the team at the gondola. We bought full day lift tickets and it only cost us 5,200 JPY or $42 USD, an absolute bargain. On the way up the gondola, the cloud had lifted in the background and we could see some big mountains behind us in the distance. These were 2,000m peaks (big for this area) and they were beautiful in the hazy sunshine. Again, we were in a really picturesque area and the sun was out affording us an amazing view. We felt pretty lucky.

 

  Our plan was just to do a top to bottom groomer run but after only a couple of turns, we saw an open gate. This would need to be investigated! We eased on in and saw an open gladed area with not many tracks on it. The light was perfect so we went for it. We enjoyed some nice knee deep turns and then had a reasonable traverse back to the groomed run. It was actually nice to do a long groomer back down to the base area. The snow was really fast yet grippy; perfect for some high-speed pure carved turns.

 

  We were looking at skiing the “Premium Zone” when the gate opened at 10:30am. It was getting close to that time but we decided we’d do another lap in the first zone as the far left side hadn’t been hit yet. The skiing was better again. We raced back down the groomer and got straight back on the gondola. By the time we got to the top it was after 11am and people were already skiing in the Premium Zone but there were plenty of fresh lines. It took about 25 minutes to make it to the top, we got pretty warm and definitely sweated a fair bit, but the hike was definitely worth it as we had some really deep turns and some legitimate faceshots on the way down. Gordon and Stefan decided against hiking and took the shorter, non-hiking option.

 

  We ended up going back up for another run. This time Gordon and Stefan were up for the full hike and we all made it together. We had dropped in on a nice ridge and taken it into the trees, but this time I had suggested we stay on that same ridge a little longer as it came out into a large open face that only had a couple of tracks on it. Sure enough we got to the right spot and looked down; it was really steep and really deep with only about 3 tracks on it. We dropped in one at a time and had some great deep fast turns. They were definitely some of the best turns of the trip for me.

 

  After that Dave and Javier split off and went back to the original zone. Gordon, Stefan and I went over to the Furano zone on the other side of the mountain which is a separate area in itself. We tried to find this large gladed area but didn’t make it to the right spot as we were worried about getting lost. It was late by this stage so we had to start heading back just after 3. It was a long ski down from the top down to the bottom, but fun with the snow still in good enough shape on the groomers for us to still be able to really hold an edge.

 

  “Funrano” was definitely a home run and another surprise favorite. Some of the guys said it was their favorite resort so far, I would agree with that as the snow, lack of crowds and lack of people hitting up the really good terrain makes it a great choice. If ever there was a resort that we would ski at 2 days in a row. Furano would be it! It is a big place with plenty of gates and good hidden stashes. I really look forward to skiing it again with group 2.

 

Matt

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #32 of 57
Quote = Mattadvproject:
I would agree with that as the snow, lack of crowds and lack of people hitting up the really good terrain makes it [Furano] a great choice.

Furano was our first ski day.  We had arrived in town past 1AM after 30+ hours travel time and did not get on the mountain early. It was also Saturday of a local 3-day weekend.  The snow was awesome but the "really good terrain" like Premium Zone was cut up quite a bit as the resort was quite busy.   Rainbow Jenny had been there a few days earlier midweek and had similar experience with deep untracked as Matt.   So maybe it's a good idea to hit Furano midweek.

post #33 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

Furano was our first ski day.  We had arrived in town past 1AM after 30+ hours travel time and did not get on the mountain early. It was also Saturday of a local 3-day weekend.  The snow was awesome but the "really good terrain" like Premium Zone was cut up quite a bit as the resort was quite busy.   Rainbow Jenny had been there a few days earlier midweek and had similar experience with deep untracked as Matt.   So maybe it's a good idea to hit Furano midweek.


G'day Tony,

  For session 1, we skied Furano on a Friday and it wasn't very busy. For session 2, we skied it on a Friday, Saturday and Monday. The best conditions were on the Friday of session 2 (best ski day of both trips!) and then on the Monday. Even on the Saturday it wasn't that busy; it was more the fact that we didn't have a lot of new snow overnight. I'd heard of a few Aussie regulars saying that they were amazed at how many people were on the mountain and that numbers had really increased in just the last 3 years, but I couldn't believe how few there were. If this is busy, then I can't imagine what quiet looks like.

 

  We never encountered any queues for the gondola or any lift lines, plus the vast majority of people seemed to stay on the groomers and not go into the trees or into the hike-to terrain. I had 4 days overall in Furano over the course of the two trips and it was definitely my favorite place out of all the places we visited (with Kokusai after that). For me it had the right blend of steeper slopes, great snow, lack of crowds, decent vertical, good infrastructure and it is very affordable.

 

  My 2 cents......

 

Regards,

Matt

post #34 of 57

Thank you for sharing this! Now I have another place I need to visit. :)

post #35 of 57
Quote = Mattadvproject:
steeper slopes

Premium Zone and some of the trees accessed by the short chair above the Furano tram were the only areas steep enough to maintain any momentum in the deep powder we saw.  That's a very small proportion of Furano's terrain overall.   But on a not busy day it's definitely enough.  We unfortunately had a relatively busy day.  I had a full tram wait at the base of the Furano side just before lunch.

post #36 of 57
Thread Starter 

Ok gang, time to post some more photos....... They are a little out of order, but I'll add a little detail and hopefully it will all make sense. Thanks to Javier Gibert, Gordon Stuart and Dave Liechty for all of these photos.

 

Taking the ride up the pizza box chair up to the summit area and the start of the hike-to in Niseko.

 

 

Roadside avalanche barriers on the way to Kiroro/Otaru. You may have seen lots of people skiing these in ski movies, but we got told that it's just been made illegal to ski them. We did see some new signage being put up telling people not to ride in these areas, so it seems like the rule is true. Makes sense to me!

 

 

You'll notice these arrows hanging down over the sides of the roads. They are there to show you where the side of the road is, during a white out. You definitely need them!

 

 

Nearly there! One excellent ski day in Kiroro coming up!

 

 

It's a little hard to make out, but this was our first view of the Sea of Japan, on the way to Otaru, our second stop of the trip.

 

 

Definitely ocean there.....

 

 

The outskirts of Otaru.

 

 

The old canal district in Otaru where they have turned several old warehouses into restaurants and the Otaru brewery.

 

 

If you want to go out of the gates in Kiroro, you have to submit sign up in the Mountain Center and submit an uphill travel plan (basically you mark off all the areas you think you will be skiing in - we marked off all of them).

 

 

Dave and Gordon on the double chair in Kiroro, heading back up to the gates. It snowed hard that day!

 

 

One of the best views of the trip! This is from the summit at Sapporoteine where we had a half day ski, before moving on to Furano. You get to see the ocean and then all the way around to Sapporo. It's pretty amazing on a clear day, unfortunately this photo doesn't really do it all justice.

 

 

Moving on to Furano. Again we had great weather and the visibility was great. Here Matt (me) and Dave are hiking up the ridge to our drop in point in the Premium Zone. This was one of my favorite runs in Hokkaido and where we consistently found good turns.

 

 

A great panorama by Javier from the top of Furano. There are several 2,000m plus peaks in the background, plus one active volcano. It was a stunning view.

 

 

Back to the start of the trip (these must be Gordon's photos now), our beacon training in Moiwa. Javier, Dave and Chris get there beacons out ready to do a search.

 

 

Dave shoveling hard to retrieve the "victim" (my backpack with transceiver in it).

 

 

Yugokorotei in Moiwa, our closest natural Onsen.

 

 

Sashimi at a local restaurant in Niseko.

 

 

End of the day in Rusutsu, it was snowing hard and was really cold. We had fun though! Rusutsu has some great tree skiing with decent vertical, minus the crowds.

 

 

The view from our hotel window in Otaru, not bad!

 

 

Not sure what they were, but we spotted some small whales in the bay, right after we'd moved into our rooms.

 

 

Javier trying on the Kimono's.

 

 

Gordon, Dave and Javier in front of the canal, in Otaru.

 

 

Otaru Brewing Company. It was a little strange to see a Bavarian style brewery and beer hall in Otaru, but the food was tasty and the beer was really good. I can definitely recommend the Weiss!

 

 

Just 2 doors down was this awesome Japanese BBQ place. Here the manager is getting the coals ready for the subsequent feasting that was about to occur.

 

 

Stefan didn't hold back and promptly ordered 10 raw oysters. They were huge!

 

 

Tending to the grill, we have various meat skewers on the left and some mackeral on the right, plus some veggies and a sausage. I definitely liked this style of dining.

 

More photos to come......

post #37 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 14 (Sat 16th Jan)

Asahidake

 

  I’d hired another local guide, a really nice guy called Jeff from the US, working out of Furano. We drove in his van about an hour and a half and arrived at Asahidake around 9am. For the weekend, the carpark was looking really empty. Good stuff! Out of all the areas we were due to visit, I was most excited about Asahidake. I had heard that it was like the Gulmarg of Japan, with a gondola that gave access to a backcountry ski area with plenty of snow and steeps, minus the crowds.

 

  It’s interesting to note that Asahidake was never supposed to be a ski area. They put the tram in for summertime hiking and it was a while before someone decided it would also work well for the wintertime. Basically you have a 100 person tram that leaves every 15 minutes and goes to an altitude of more than 1,600m which is very high for Hokkaido. There is plenty of alpine terrain, plus you are on the side of an active volcano, with several steam vents visible up high.

 

  It was intermittent snow when we arrived. We all purchased all day passes (around $40), for unlimited use of the tram. We were on the 9:15am tram which was only half full. There is a gift store and café at the bottom, with nothing much else. There is no ski patrol, so if anything goes wrong, you are on your own (a la the backcountry). There are 2 groomed runs that lead back down to the base of the tram. You can hike as much as you want, but you will generally end up on one of the long flat groomers, back to the bottom of the tram.

 

  Our first run was a nice easy run, down one of the main ridgelines, to get warmed up and get the lay of the land. There was some new snow, but not a lot. It wasn’t looking like we were going to get a lot of fresh snow which we had kind of become accustomed to. 1st world problems eh?! The second run, we went further out to another ridge and it was pretty much the same outcome. Unfortunately, one of the group had a bit of a crash about half way down and were pretty banged up. They were done for the day and I ended up hanging out in the lodge with them for most of the day. The rest of the group kept skiing. I ended up doing 1 more lap with the group. Jeff took us skinning for about 20 minutes up higher, past a refuge and a couple of vents. We came out to a steeper open face, with pretty good snow on it. There were a few tracks on it but we had some good turns. Sadly, that was my last run for the day and we ended up leaving before 3pm.

 

  So, I guess my expectations for Asahidake were maybe a little high. I need to go back and experience more of the place, but I think I was expecting too much. We also didn’t have a lot of new snow, so it’s easy to be harsh on places in Hokkaido when you haven’t had too much new snow. So, my judgement is definitely not complete. I think what surprised me, was that the steeper terrain was really short and the run out pretty long and flat. I talk about this a lot in Japan; “the bang for the buck”, ie how hard did you have to work for the quality and number of turns?

 

  For me, Asahidake was a little low on that scale. I felt we had to hike a fair way to get some decent turns, but those turns didn’t last too long unfortunately and that long flat run out was a bit of a deal breaker. You also have to be careful with the weather, I can imagine it would get pretty socked in at times and that would make finding your way around really hard. So, I’m not sure how I feel about the place overall? I’ll have to try again next year I think……  

post #38 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super D View Post
 

 

Matt, that's what I'd like to do for sure. I don't think we could stay more than 10 days, so not as much exploring as we'd like, but will hopefully be the first trip to be followed up with a second to do more.

 

Do you lead the avi safety instruction, or did you find someone to book classes with? And is it something you think should be done there specifically, due to exposure to the same exact snow conditions and terrain you'll be skiing, or would it be sufficient to get instruction stateside before the trip? This is also something on our short list. And, additionally wondering if we can rent airbag packs (if needed, assuming it'd be a good idea).


G'day Super D,

  Sorry for my slow reply to your post, I missed this first time around, apologies for that. I lead the avi training for my groups. It's basically the same program that we run in Gulmarg, with a few little changes, a program that Karl Welter, one of my guides (and an AIARE avalanche course conductor in the US) and I put together back in 2013 for our groups. Our training program is an intensive 1 1/2 day course that focuses on developing the skills necessary to perform self-rescue in the backcountry and (hopefully) avoiding avalanches in the first place. I'd recommend doing a recognized avalanche course back home if you have plans to go into the backcountry, wherever you are, or do one in Japan if you can find a good one. You'll learn a lot and they are fun and informative. Then you'll be better prepared, if you do go out into the backcountry, at any of the resorts.

 

  There is definitely avalanche hazard in the backcountry in Japan and you should be prepared by understanding the conditions, having the right gear, be proficient in it's use and maybe even going with knowledgeable and experienced people. Avalanches can and do happen in resorts as well, so it never hurts to be more prepared than is necessary (in terms of knowledge and gear). Depending on where you go, you should be able to rent any of the necessary avi gear in Hokkaido. From what I saw, Niseko and Furano have plenty of shops that will rent you the avi safety gear you need, but you still obviously need to learn how to use it. Different resorts have different policies regarding access to the backcountry. Some of the resorts control the gates and ensure that people are properly equipped, but others have gates that you enter at your own risk and no checks are made. I saw plenty of people going through the gates and into the backcountry that weren't carrying any gear.

 

  Either way, Japan and Hokkaido are amazing places. Whilst the terrain in Hokkaido isn't crazy steep (think more like parts of New England), they do get an absolute ton of snow and it is normally good quality, nice and light and dry pow. Go for the snow, the culture and the overall adventure. You won't be disappointed!

 

Matt

post #39 of 57

Thanks for the trip report - this is an amazing one! With amazing photo! Looks like an incredible experience!

post #40 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattadvproject View Post
 


G'day Super D,

  Sorry for my slow reply to your post, I missed this first time around, apologies for that. I lead the avi training for my groups. It's basically the same program that we run in Gulmarg, with a few little changes, a program that Karl Welter, one of my guides (and an AIARE avalanche course conductor in the US) and I put together back in 2013 for our groups. Our training program is an intensive 1 1/2 day course that focuses on developing the skills necessary to perform self-rescue in the backcountry and (hopefully) avoiding avalanches in the first place. I'd recommend doing a recognized avalanche course back home if you have plans to go into the backcountry, wherever you are, or do one in Japan if you can find a good one. You'll learn a lot and they are fun and informative. Then you'll be better prepared, if you do go out into the backcountry, at any of the resorts.

 

  There is definitely avalanche hazard in the backcountry in Japan and you should be prepared by understanding the conditions, having the right gear, be proficient in it's use and maybe even going with knowledgeable and experienced people. Avalanches can and do happen in resorts as well, so it never hurts to be more prepared than is necessary (in terms of knowledge and gear). Depending on where you go, you should be able to rent any of the necessary avi gear in Hokkaido. From what I saw, Niseko and Furano have plenty of shops that will rent you the avi safety gear you need, but you still obviously need to learn how to use it. Different resorts have different policies regarding access to the backcountry. Some of the resorts control the gates and ensure that people are properly equipped, but others have gates that you enter at your own risk and no checks are made. I saw plenty of people going through the gates and into the backcountry that weren't carrying any gear.

 

  Either way, Japan and Hokkaido are amazing places. Whilst the terrain in Hokkaido isn't crazy steep (think more like parts of New England), they do get an absolute ton of snow and it is normally good quality, nice and light and dry pow. Go for the snow, the culture and the overall adventure. You won't be disappointed!

 

Matt

 

Thanks, very good advice! I'll get myself and my son enrolled in a course stateside before we get serious about planning our trip. 

post #41 of 57

Wow.  Great thread.  All the pictures make it so real.

post #42 of 57
Thread Starter 

Ok, it's been a long time coming,  but time to continue on with the Japan blog. Still plenty more to come...... Last time we'd just skied Asahidake and we still had a couple more days to go in Furano.....

 

Day 15 (Sun 17th Jan)

  I didn’t know what to expect with Kamui. It was just over an hour’s drive and when we got there the carpark was ¾ full. We grabbed trail maps and then got the lay of the land. The main lift that we would be taking was a gondola and this went right from the bottom straight up to the summit. It was refreshing to see that you could actually fit wide skis on the outside of the gondola! We would enjoy a relatively comfortable and luxurious ride to the top. On the way up we looked for potential lines but really all we could see was groomed runs and then tight trees, pretty standard really. Nothing was really sticking out as we clipped into our skis, so we took a run and headed into the trees next to the gondola.

 

  The trees were tight and it was pretty well skied already. We skied a few sections and then we found ourselves underneath the gondola. It was pretty skied out, but at least it was more open so you could let the skis run a little. We took that down a little ways before we popped out onto a groomed trail. We followed that down, back to the gondola. Time for lap 2 and hopefully we could find something a little better.

  Again we looked for new lines as we made our way up the gondola. We got to the top and noticed a ski patrol shack. There were a couple of guys walking behind it so we decided we’d have a look. Sure enough, there were some bowls back there. They looked like they wrapped around to the skiers right of the mountain. We had our gear, plus skins if we needed to hike out of anywhere, so we felt confident that if we kept pushing left, then we would make it back to the ski area. The guys were game so we went for it.

 

  It turns out it was a good call. We came into a wide open bowl with only a few tracks in it. We followed the fall line, each of us skiing different lines, down to a well-used traverse line. We followed the traverse line to the left and we came back into the trees. Here the line was marked with pink tape, so we kept following it. It went for a while and we passed many other nice-looking bowls and tree sections. There was plenty of accessible terrain in there. Looks like we had found the goods!

 

  Eventually we popped back onto a groomed trail and we followed it down to the chair. We had come to the Double Chair #5 and as we suspected, we had wrapped around to the skier’s right of the ski area. We took the double chair back up and straight away, there was another gate to the left that lead back into the trees. We knew that this would take us back into the same zone, but that the vertical would be a little shorter this time. No matter, it was untouched if we pushed right a little, so we dropped in and found good snow. The trees were pretty tight, but still fun. We had two nice sections before we hit the same traverse line back to the left and it was pretty quick lap.

 

  So we had found our zone, but there was still the question of finding the most bang for the buck lines and access. We could either do quick laps from the chair or ski all the way down to the gondola and access the top of the mountain bowls, where the fall-line skiing would be better, but the traverse back  would be longer. For the third run, we went back to the top via the gondola. We went a little further skier’s right and it was untouched. The skiing was mellow but it was really aesthetic in the open trees that were caked in snow. Again, we followed it down to the traverse line and came back to the chair.

 

  So that was really our day in a nutshell. We alternated laps from either the gondola or from the #5 chair. There was plenty of good snow left in there and not many other skiers going in there, so we pretty much had the zone to ourselves. It was a great day and we were all in high spirits. I have to admit, it was getting close to the end with the first group and I was definitely feeling a little tired, so when we didn’t find the goods on the first lap, I was a little worried about the terrain. It turned out pretty good in the end. Kamui had really exceeded our expectations by the end of the day and it was one of the more notable days of the trip.

 

Day 16 (Mon 18th Jan)

  Unfortunately the weather was really coming in and not in a good way. It was supposed to snow heavily, but all we had had was a small amount of snow and it was blowing an absolute gale. Everyone was feeling pretty tired and were feeling various nagging injuries, so no one was really psyched to go skiing. It turns out most of the lifts in Furano were shut down anyway, so we decided to have a day off and we went to the Furano Cheese Factory instead.

 

  Hokkaido and especially Furano, is known for its dairy. Furano is also known as the lavender capital of Hokkaido, but there was obviously no lavender fields in bloom. Anyway, after a fun scenic diversion (thanks to HAL, our fun-loving GPS!), we made it to the Cheese Factory. It’s a big building with plenty going on (in a quiet way, because there was no one around). We made it upstairs and that’s where they have the cheese samples and the ice cream, as well as a bunch of different displays and even a cheese-based interactive quiz.

 

  The cheese was really good. Cheese is definitely a weakness of mine….. Matt see cheese, Matt must eat cheese! They had some black brie which was really good, as well as camembert and cheddar. The color comes from cuttlefish ink but it doesn’t seem to do anything to the flavor, it was definitely better than it looked. Then we had some of the icecream. There were some pretty weird flavors from memory, things like tomato and also grape. I just went with the good old vanilla and it was really good. We’d had desert so it was obviously time for mains. We went downstairs and went to the pizza restaurant. The pizza was made with the same cheeses and it was really good. I had the “harf and harf”, a combination pizza that was really tasty.

 

  So, that was pretty much the highlight of the day. The next day we would be heading off to Sapporo for the night, with the first group due to head back home. I was staying on for another 2 weeks with another group but the first group would be done.

 

Cheese sampling at the Furano Cheese Factory.

 

 

I personally enjoyed the cheese....

 

 

Black brie, made with cuttlefish ink. It was good, tasted like regular brie, just looked different.

 

 

Javier training to milk cows.....

 

 

Tasty pizza aplenty!

 

 

Of course I had to find out what a "harf and harf" pizza tasted like. Apparently it was pretty good, similar to a half and half pizza, just spelled hilariously! Love it!

post #43 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 18 (Wed 20th Jan)

Return to Moiwa

  I was up early. Gordon and I had to take the train from the station in Sapporo to the airport. We’d done a quick little recce the night before, to make sure we knew how to get to the station and what gate we needed to be at. At was a quick 15 minute walk dragging all our gear to get to the station from the hotel. We’d avoided rush hour so it was pretty easy going. The challenge is the train is not very well set up to take ski bags, so we had to stand near a doorway.

 

  It took about 40 minutes on the express train and then we were there. I ended up having to dash a little as there was not a lot of time before I needed to be on the bus. There was some confusion with the bus and I wasn’t even sure if I had a seat, but I needn’t have worried too much as the bus was almost empty. Unfortunately I missed saying goodbye to Gordon as I was straight on the bus. Sorry mate!

 

  One of the group, Todd, from Denver was also catching the same bus and I spotted him pretty quickly. We sat opposite each other with only 6 more people on the bus with us. It took about 3 hours to get to Moiwa and there seemed to be more snow 2nd time round. I made sure all the rooms were ready and then quickly unpacked. We had 4 more people due to arrive that afternoon and then Nils, a former client from Norway who had been to India with me before, would be arriving the next night.

 

  Joel, Lauren, Nick and Megan arrived later that night. We managed to get through the indoor portion of the avi training and everyone was pretty tired so after dinner, everyone hit the hay early. The next day would be the avi training on snow and then hopefully some skiing.

 

Day 19 (Thu 21st Jan)

Moiwa

  I woke up early after a good night’s sleep. Breakfast started at 7am so I met the rest of the group upstairs in the dining hall. Looking outside, there was definitely some new snow around and we found out that it had been storming for at least 3 days, with the main chair being closed down. So, that meant that there could have been 3 days of fresh snow, at the top. This was very tempting……

 

There had definitely been a fair bit of new snow in Moiwa since we'd away. Megan leaving the lodge for day 1 of skiing. Thanks to Team Gratz and Wilder for use of their photos. I think nearly all the photos in the second half of this blog will be their shots......

 

 

  So, I made the executive decision to postpone the beacon training till the afternoon. Everyone was already pretty experienced with their beacons, some had gotten their avi level 1’s, so I felt confident in the groups abilities already. It would have been tough to practice with all of that fresh snow, so I made the call that we’d ski, as long as we stayed close to the resort. We were one of the first people in line and excitement was definitely in the air. They weren’t letting people out the gate to the right when we got to the top (rightly so and we weren’t thinking of that as an initial option anyway given the potential for avalanche danger).

 

A quick video of some of the first turns of the day..... (I had to watermark this video as I will be using it in other places, apologies for the logo being in there).

 

 

  Anyway, we got off the lift and turned right and went into the first bowl. There was one group ahead of us when we dropped in. We spread out and went for it, the snow was great, boot top deep, pretty consolidated but nice and predictable. Everyone was pretty happy so we quickly headed back up and up for another run. This time we turned left, you do have to go out of a gate but we went right next to the lift onto a steep face. The sun was also coming out, the first time I’d had a view in Moiwa and to our left, we could finally see the Mt. Yotei volcano. It looked awesome, with a little cloud shroud still left on top!

 

Lauren enjoying the view of Niseko and Mt. Yotei in the background.

 

 

  We started down the steep face next to the chair before heading skier’s right into the trees. Here the snow was a lot deeper and softer. It had been protected from the wind and was skiing really well. We did a couple of laps in that area before returning to the other side. We skied several laps in the first bowl, starting further down the ridge each time. Then we did a lap out the gate on that side as they had opened it. It was pretty skied out by the time we got to it and the sun had started to affect anything that was in the direct sun. It was interesting to note that the creek was really filled in this time around (compared to the first trip) and the final rope area getting out of the creek, had really filled in and was so much easier to get through.

 

  We did about 10 laps all up, then we had some lunch and then it was time to finish the beacon training. That lasted the rest of the day; everyone did well with some nice improvement across the board as we went through the progression. We had dinner at a fun little restaurant in Moiwa that night. I met up with another guide called Andy, who might work for us in the future. Andy is an experienced guide from Ridgway, Colorado and he was in Hokkaido, skiing with friends and exploring the island, like us.    

 

Sake time! End of a great first day.

 

- Matt

post #44 of 57

Loved the pictures!  Thanks for taking the time to post them.

post #45 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 20 (Fri 22nd Jan)

Kiroro

  The weather gods (and Joel Gratz) were predicting good snow for Kiroro, so we loaded up the van and made the relatively easy 45 minute drive north to Kiroro. We got there just after 9am and headed straight to the main lodge to buy tickets and sign up for access to the backcountry gates. The lodge was busy, way more people than the first trip, so it would be interesting to see how tracked up it got.

 

  Kiroro is basically 2 main peaks, with backcountry access through gates in both areas, with 4 main runs in total. I’d done the gates on the looker’s right peak but I was keen to try the left side gates as well. The plan was to start with the right peak. I’d found that going out the gate on the lookers left side of that peak, didn’t really give you good bang for the buck; you will undoubtedly get good turns in at the start, but then you have a long flat traverse out to get back to the gondola. The better option was to go out the right gate and then at least you could lap quickly if you used the double chair. That seemed like a better option, so we ended up doing 3 laps in that zone. There weren’t many tracks and we enjoyed boot top deep fresh snow, for 3 consecutive laps. Time had moved on quickly so we stopped for a relatively early lunch (getting down to the bottom takes time as you have to take a slow double chair that connects you with the main gondola and the base lodge).

 

   After lunch, the plan was to try the looker’s left peak. I’d heard that the line to the left at the top was ok, but you had to skin out, but the easier option was to go right. I wanted to see if we could find a line that took us back to the shorter quad chair at the top, rather than having to ski all the way back to the bottom. The short answer was yes, you could ski a shorter line and ski back to the short quad chair, but you sacrificed decent skiing. The terrain in that zone definitely undulated, the better skiing was to the left, but there were so many different lines, you had a lot of options.

 

  Again, finding fresh tracks in this zone was very easy, you just followed your line previous and then went left or right on the next lap. Easy stuff! Now, after a couple of laps, we managed to bump into Andy and his crew and they told us of this hidden spine,  slightly left of center in that zone. He agreed to take us to it. It was quite the adventure, but worth it. The spine was great. It was so hidden though (I will map it with the GPS next year) and very hard to find without a lot of prominent landmarks on the way. You definitely know it once you are on it. You have a short, 4 minute hike up the start of it (it’s very narrow) and then you can put the skis on again.

 

Megan Wilder in deep!

 

 

Nick Wilder enjoying the Kiroro pow!

 

 

Faceshot time for Nick!

 

 

Coming back up for air.....

 

 

  Then you have about 270 degrees worth of short but in places, very steep pitches. This was a great little zone and some of the steepest and deepest turns of the day, if not the trip. You definitely needed to give it some respect as on most sides, the pitch ended to a flat or to a shallow creek, so a definite terrain trap. The stability was fine, but you tended to kick off a slough here, so you had to watch out for that at the end. We did see one kid (Aussie I think), ski it by himself and take a nice tomahawk after an overly aggressive entrance at the start. He was fine and I watched him ski down, just to make sure he was safe.

 

  We ended up skiing that line twice, with each of us splitting into smaller groups; the Gratz’s and Wilder’s skiing one zone, whilst Todd and I skied the other side. We had some great turns and it was a great to ski something steeper. Kiroro had been fun and it was good to see that even with a lot more people there (compared to the first trip), you could still find plenty of untracked snow. The new lines were great too, so I think my opinion of Kiroro was lifted a little bit. I’m definitely looking forward to going back there as I have some more ideas of different lines I would like to try in 2017. I even bumped into an old Telluride friend in the base lodge, completely at random. Small world!

 

  I took it easy on the drive back and we decided to try the local Indian restaurant in Moiwa called the Taj Mahal. Nick was a big Indian food fan, so he was keen to go, plus the others didn’t mind trying something different, knowing we were going to be eating a lot of Japanese food anyway. The food was really good and the service was great too, so all in all, a rewarding 2nd day. Niseko was on the cards for day 3 and Nils, coming all the way from Norway, was due to arrive that night.   

post #46 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 21 (Sat 23rd Jan)

Niseko

 

  Nils had arrived the night before and I’d had a couple of beers with him, to celebrate his arrival. Nils had flown in from Norway and he’d done a week with me in Gulmarg, in 2015. He’d had a good time in Gulmarg but felt that only going for 1 week was too short of an amount of time, so I was excited that he could stay for 12 days this time. He’d done all the beacon training with me before, so I was happy for him to jump straight in.

 

  There had been a bit of new snow overnight (I always check the van to see how much new snow is on it, that’s my morning local indicator) but it was looking like a few inches at least, so how much up high we’d find (I was thinking more) would be anyone’s guess. I had arranged for my good friend Jarrah to go skiing with us. Jarrah was based in Niseko (Grand Hirafu) and was an instructor friend from my Mt. Hotham days. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years so I was enjoying the prospect of getting some turns in with him.

 

  It’s only about a 25 minute drive to Grand Hirafu, but the roads were really slick so I had to be careful. The plan was to head up high and get into the bowls from the summit. We’d only skied a short line there last time, so I was keen to try a longer lap. We took the Ace Quad lift up from the base and then went to the Ace Pair lift #3 (double chair) and then up the Ace Pair lift #4 (another double). The sun was out and the snow was looking pretty good, with some really light and dry boot top fresh snow to be had. We made the call to do a warm up lap in that area, before we would head skier’s right and over to the King Lift #4, the old single chair that we’d use to get us to the start of the bootpack.

 

 

 

  The snow on the first run was deceptive. The snow surface was great, with really light and deep fresh powder, but unfortunately it was really hard and bumpy underneath. So, what looked like good skiing, wasn’t that great. If you let the skis run too much, then the bumps underneath (that you couldn’t see), were in danger of taking out all of your fillings, so keeping the speed down a little (especially for the first run of the day), was a good idea. Anyway, we got down and headed skier’s left to get over to the old pizza box (single chair) to take us to the start of the bootpack to the summit. The sun was still out and we had fantastic views of Yotei and all the way to the ocean. It was beautiful up there.

 

  The hike is a pretty easy 20 minutes up a well-used bootpack. There was a steady stream of people heading up there, we were definitely not going to be alone. There were a lot of people up there at the top and unfortunately, the cloud had come in, so visibility was not good. Jarrah lead the way and we pushed out skier’s left. We stayed close together and eventually started into one of the open bowls. Visibility was still not great, but after 2 sections, finally we broke out of the clouds and we were left with some glorious looking pow. It was boot top deep, but because it was so light, you could easily get faceshots, especially if you skied fast and got the skis sideways in the turns. I had a lot of fun getting the snow to come up and we got some good photos. Then we came into some open, low brush type trees before getting into some bigger birch trees. We followed a predominant ridge down, with some good pockets of untouched snow. This would be quite the run if you got first tracks on it. To do that, you’d have to be first in line and not mess about!

 

  Eventually we came out onto a cat track. After an easy 10 minute hike, we put the skis back on and headed into the trees to our left. All the other hikers kept on going and there were no more tracks going where we were going. We had a flat push out past a frozen lake and then eventually we came out into a short, open face that ended at a creek bed. It was only a dozen or so turns, but it was worth it. Then we had a decent traverse with some climbing, before we could get to a well-used traverse line. This took us through some trees and then we came out onto a cat track. We followed the cat track, skiing past the golf course to our left and a parking lot full of buried golf carts (that looked like little snow ghosts) and eventually, we came out right at the bottom of the Hanazono base area. That had been a long ski, but was fun and I feel like we covered a lot of terrain. It really gave you an appreciation of how big Niseko is.

 

  We had a quick snack and then headed back up for more. This time the plan was to go back up to the summit, but to ski to the skier’s left and take the backbowls, for some potential ski touring. This area is quieter and a whole different feel to the competitive nature of the main summit ski runs. Again, we entered the cloud layer at the top, but quickly descended below it. We had a great view, there were some nice peaks in the distance and you could see plenty of skin tracks leading up them. This is definitely the zone to earn your turns. We didn’t have all day, so we found a north facing aspect that had great snow on it and cut some tasty lines. We did about a 25 minute (relatively steep skin) back up and did another lap.

 

  Now, this was the first day for Nils and Todd had never skinned before, so they didn’t want to go too crazy. Joel and his group were keen to stay in the area and cut some more laps, so we decided to split the group. I was happy for Joel’s group to keep skinning and skiing in that zone and they could even ski back to Moiwa or Annupuri if they wanted to, but I would need to head back soon and go grab the van (it was back in Grand Hirafu, a fair distance from where we were skiing), so we parted ways. Todd, Nils and Jarrah came with me and we headed back to Annupuri. We had a nice ski down, unfortunately our plan to ski some nice pow in the Annupuri zones was affected by pretty crusty snow. The snow had really stared to affect the snow down lower and the skiing wasn’t great. We had to get to the Annupuri gondola so we could make it across to Hirafu.

 

  It was a nice long ski back, through some trees and then out onto a groomer (Holiday trail). We got back to the van, I took a massive spill on the ice in the carpark and we got out of our boots. We had some street food (meat sticks, yum!) and then tried to find a place to go have a beer with Jarrah, to say thank you for an awesome day. We headed back to Moiwa and re-grouped with the rest of the group. Then we went out to this fun all you can eat BBQ place in Annupuri where you pay a fee and you can take as much food as you want for 2 hours. You cook the food on your own grill on your table. The beef tips were my favorite and plenty of tasty food was consumed by all. That was definitely a big day and we really got to experience a lot of Niseko.

 

The snow wasn't that deep (maybe knee deep), but it was so light and dry that you could get it to come up over you pretty easily. We'd hiked to the summit and then dropped down, finally we came out of the clouds and this is what we got to ski! Faceshots for me! Thanks to Jarrah O'Brien for the still from his video.

 

 

Joel Gratz in deep. When I look back at a lot of the shots that the Gratz's and the Wilder's took, it's easy to find the Niseko shots as they were some of the only shots of the trip where the sun was out.

 

 

Amazing views of Mt. Yotei and then all the way out to the ocean.

 

 

Our afternoon session in the back bowls of Niseko.

 

 

Megan getting some nice turns in and officially dropping the knee.

 

 

Skinning back towards Annupuri.

 

 

 

 

 

Great turns and lighting on the backside of the mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful shot of Joel with the cloud in the background.

 

 

Megan with some fun, drop-knee bamboo slalom turns!

 

Thanks to the Gratz's and the Wilder's for use of their photos.

 

- Matt

post #47 of 57

Great report, wonderful pictures.  Glad it was a fun trip.

post #48 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 22 (Sunday 24th Jan)

  The group decided they wanted to part ways. Half the group wanted to stay and tour around Moiwa and the other half wanted to head across to Rusutsu. This would be the last chance we would get to ski Rusutsu with the group as it would be too far of a drive if we tried to go there from Otaru or Furano. Being the driver and guide, I had to stick with Nils and Todd so we decided to head to Rusutsu for the day. The rest of the group decided to ski out the back of Moiwa. I wouldn’t normally go for that but it was the only way I could accommodate both sets of needs.

 

  I had really enjoyed the previous trip to Rusutsu with the first group and I was excited to show them around all the great tree skiing. It’s a pretty easy 45 minute drive to Rusutsu, from the Niseko area and the area is generally a little quieter too. The resort has some of the best fall-line tree skiing in Hokkaido, with decent vertical and an easy to interpret lift system. There are 2 sides to Niseko. The smaller West Mountain is known for its hidden, natural terrain park in the trees (made famous in the Salomon Supernatural video series) with the main resort and the fairground. Then and then on the East side you have 2 connected peaks (East Mt. and Mt. Isola) where the majority of the runs are.

 

  There had only been about 6 inches of fresh snow, but at least the sun was out and it was looking like a nice day (seeing the sun as you know, is somewhat of a rarity in mid-winter in Hokkaido). I didn’t realize that you could see Yotei from Rusutsu. In reality, Rusutsu and Niseko are very close (as the crow flies), but you basically have to drive around the base of Yotei to get around it and that makes the actual journey much longer. They should just build a tunnel right through it ;  )

 

  The first trip we had hit most of East Mtn so I was keen to push further to the skier’s right and get all the ways across to the Mt. Isola side. Rusutsu is one of the bigger resorts in Hokkaido and it’s tough to ski it all in one day (especially if you want to ski the West Mtn side too). If you had a 50cm plus dump in Rusutsu, this would be an absolutely incredible place to be.  

 

  We grabbed our day passes and headed up the East #2 Gondola to the top of East Mtn. We did our first run down through the trees underneath the gondola; we found some ok snow at the top as we pushed skier’s right each time. Eventually we came out at the bottom and took the gondola back up to the top. This time we made a long traverse to the skier’s right at the top to get all the way over to the Mt. Isola side. We traversed in quite a ways until we found some fresher lines and then we dropped in one at a time. We got some decent vertical before we popped out onto the groomer at the end of the trees and we followed the gully down until we came to the East #2 double chair. This is an important lift as it takes you back to the East Mtn side (where we were parked), so I wanted to show the guys how we would need to get back at the end of the day (this lift closes at 4:15pm).

 

  It takes you back to the top of East Mtn and you can ski some nice laps off the side of the East Tignes run that you can easily scope whilst going up the double chair. We ended up doing a couple of laps in there, skiing a variety of tight and open trees, but still finding deeper snow. Then we kept going past the double chair and all the way around to the Isola #2 quad for a few laps in that area. The snow was really good in this area, especially if you looked around, you could find some older snow that hadn’t been skied for a while and was still deep. We ended up doing several laps in that area. The laps were fast but the vertical was great, so the bang for the buck skiing was high. Then we cut around to the Mt. Isola gondola and went all the way to the top. We did a little bit of secret skiing in a hidden zone (can’t tell you where we went, but it was the deepest snow of the day) and then went all the way down and back to the same gondola.

 

  This time, we skied in the Isola #1 quad drainage and found some good turns, in that zone,  before heading out even further skier’s right to the furthest zone, the Isola #3 and #4 areas. It was more of the same, skiing several runs through trees into the gully. We did see some tasty looking stuff behind the tops of those two chairs; we’d have to save that for another day as it was getting late. We ended up doing a couple more laps in the East Mtn side before calling it a day and heading back to the van.

 

  We got out of our ski boots and then I drove us back across the main road over to the big resort at the West Mtn. I was curious to take a look inside as I’d heard reports of a big fairground and some weird things inside. We found the resort pretty easily and then went inside. The hotel complex is absolutely huge and it’s easy to get lost inside. We found the famous talking tree (a tree that comes to life with all of his pals and sings you this awesome story) and also an indoor fairground complete with merry-go-round. It was pretty surreal but so very Japanese. I loved it!

 

  We walked around trying to find an open restaurant (it took a while to find one open as a lot of the bars and restaurants close in the afternoon), so we could sit down and the boys could enjoy a beer and we could get some snacks. We ordered several different dishes and Nils and Todd enjoyed some ice cold Sapporo’s. It was a fun day and they both enjoyed seeing a new resort. We made the drive back to Moiwa safely and met up with the others who were walking home from an Onsen. Everyone had had a fun day. We would have to pack up the next day and start the drive to Otaru.

 

Parking Clarence the Van with the West Mtn behind us.

 

 

 

You can see the start of the fairground near the Rusutsu resort.

 

 

The runs are much shorter on that side. That is the area where the sidecountry terrain park is located.

 

 

Mt. Shiribetsu has some sweet looking lines....

 

 

Closeup of Mt. Yotei.

 

 

Nils, with Yotei and then Niseko, in the background.

 

- Matt

post #49 of 57
Thread Starter 

Day 23 (Monday 25th Jan) – Otaru Travel Day

 

  We didn’t do any skiing this day as it was a travel day to Otaru. It’s not a long drive, only about an hour and a half and closer to Otaru, the sun came out and the crew had a lovely view of the ocean as we started the descent to Otaru. We arrived at the Grand Park Hotel and the crew settled in. Half the team wanted to take the train to Sapporo and then the rest of the crew wanted to stay in Otaru. I took Nils and Todd around the mall attached to the hotel and then on to the canal district. Todd and I had dinner and beers at the brewery (Nile had to stay back and do some work). Then we had an epic 3 days skiing in Kokusai!

 

Day 24, 25 and 26 (Tuesday 26th Jan – Thursday 28th Jan) – Kokusai powder days, Otaru Brewery for drinks and dinner.

  A decent storm was forecast for the central coastal region so we decided to give Kokusai a try. We could have gone to Kiroro but I had told the group I thought that Kokusai would get just as much snow but it would be quieter than Kiroro.

 

  Kokusai is really close to Kiroro (as the crow flies) but it doesn’t have any hotels or accommodation so it tends to be quieter (or at least fewer powder hungry Westerners!). The majority of the people visiting the resort are Japanese and the biggest majority of them tend to be school kids in big groups. There is not much pressure for fresh snow therefore.

 

  It’s worth getting there early so you can beat the rush when the school kids inevitably turn up. There can be a decent queue at the main gondola when the kids are in lessons, but if you get up there before them or take the singles line, then you don’t have to wait too long to get up the gondi. The only challenge is if you go into the singles line, then if you have fat skis, you will have to take them into the gondola with you (they only have narrow racks for skinny skis) and you will definitely find the ride a bit squishy if you jump in last. You’ll probably end up making a lot of new friends in that case.  Anyhow, don’t let that dampen your spirits as there is so much great powder skiing to be had, when you get to the top.

 

  Now, there is plenty of pow if you go into the sidecountry. The challenge as always is navigating back along the creek beds that weren’t filled in. In Kokusai there is one crucial area that you need to get to, if you want to make life a lot easier in the traverse out, if you can find that point then it’s a pretty easy out without any hiking. If you miss that point, then you might have to work a little harder for your laps, that’s all I’m saying.

 

  We had 3 consecutive days in Kokusai and it kept snowing and it got deeper and deeper. By day 3, it was upper thigh deep and the snow was pretty epic. This was one of those Hokkaido powder days you dream of. The third day was one of the highlights of the whole trip. We had some truly deep runs and many, many legit faceshots. I think I’ll let the photos and video do the talking but it was a lot of fun. It was so good that we didn’t want or need to go skiing anywhere else. We finished off each day back in Otaru and out on the town. Otaru and Kokusai definitely delivered! Onwards to Furano for our final zone.  

 

  Thanks to the Gratz's and Wilder's for use of their photos.....

 

Megan getting in some great turns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find some steeper stuff in Hokkaido!

 

 

 

 

 

Nils from Norway, evidence of many faceshots in Kokusai!

 

 

A hard days skiing deserves a decent dinner! BBQ in Otaru.

 

 

Kampei!

 

 

Videos to come.......

 

Regards,

Matt

post #50 of 57
Thread Starter 

Kokusai Skiing Video

  I managed to edit some video of the 3 days in Kokusai. I must warn you that there is some colorful language at the end. Nils was pretty fired up on the run at the end and was excited as he had had a really good run, so there are some F-Bombs and some S-Bombs at the 3:13 mark. If you don't like coarse language, then please stop the video before then.... I apologize for that but it was pretty funny at the time listening to Nils' "powder tourettes" and it was nice to see hear him so stoked. He is a Viking after all...... The video is from my POV cam and features myself skiing and then Nils in blue and Todd in red. Here are the highlights -

 

 

  I think that video pretty much does the place justice. We all really enjoyed Kokusai and it has some great skiing and snow, minus the crowds. There were only a few other Western powderhounds getting after it and there is so much less pressure for freshies in Kokusai compared to other resorts, even Kiroro which is not that far away. I can't wait to go back there in 2017. Thanks for watching!

post #51 of 57
Thread Starter 

It's been a while since I last wrote on this blog. Hokkaido just had it's first snow of the season up at Asahidake, so that has acted as a reminder for me to finish the blog!

 

Day 26 - 28 (Thursday 28th Jan - Saturday 30th Jan)

  After our epic 3 days in Kokusai, it was time to head to Furano for our last 3 nights of the trip. It was a 3 hour drive and we made it to the North Country Inn by the time it was dark. We had dinner that night at the Furano Brewery; they have some great food. Unfortunately Todd was coming down with a terrible cold so he wouldn’t ski for a day. The next day (day 27 – Friday 29th of January), we headed up to the gondola nice and early and had 2 fresh  runs out of the gate at the top of the gondola, before the Premium Zone was ready to open.

 

 

  We did the hike 3 times and had 3 awesome runs. They were probably the best runs of the entire trip and I got some great footage. The snow was super light, deep and hardly any tracks on it. Todd was pretty bummed he missed out, but we would head out again the next day and do it all again.

  The sun came out on Saturday and warmed up the south-facing aspects. Anything in the shade was still skiing really nicely. We skied the Premium Zone again and still found plenty of good lines, although the snow had settled a bit.

 

Day 29 (Sunday 31st Jan) – Tomamu.

  Nick and Megan left early that morning, so that just left us with 4. I decided to roll the dice and try somewhere completely new. I had heard good things about Tomamu, but didn’t know what the conditions would be like. I suggested we try it just because it was the end of the trip and it might be a nice change to try somewhere new. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t good at Tomamu as the sun had gotten to it the day before and only a little bit of new snow had blown in, so it was mostly dust on crust, definitely the most sub-par conditions of the trip unfortunately (Tomamu is mostly south facing).

 

  We did manage to explore most of the resort though and with better conditions, this would be a good mountain with nice open glades. We found the best snow on the smaller mountain after the hike-to. It’s a weird set-up as they have this smaller mountain that has an abandoned chairlift on top. You can hike to the top if you’ve filled out their backcountry waiver. We hiked that and then went and checked out a couple of the twin tower-like hotels that they have, linked by a massive covered walkway. Then we finished the day by checking out Mina Mina Beach and the wave pool. Again, it all felt totally random but was interesting to see it all.

 

Day 30 (Monday 1st Feb) – Furano – 5 hours – Our last day of skiing and we had some more new snow overnight. We did 2 quick laps out the gate next to the gondola where we stayed skier’s right and found some deep untouched pow. Then we did 1 lap in the premium zone where the wind had blown snow in and refreshed everything. We got some proper faceshots again and everyone was pretty stoked (especially Todd who had missed out on the first day in the Premium Zone). We finished the day with several laps near the double connecting chair in the trees and the last run of the trip was really nice. I’m happy we skied a really great line in the trees to finish off the trip with a bang.

 

Day 31 (Tuesday 2nd Feb) – Back to Sapporo – dropped off Nils at New Chitose Airport and got rid of my ski bag (1,000 yen) at the airport left luggage and then dropped Joel and Lauren at the ANA Hotel in Chitose. It was just Todd and I so we stayed at the Ekimae Nest Hotel in Sapporo. That night we walked around the underground shopping mall at train station and ended up getting very lost. I was on a mission to find some souvenirs for my wife (no luck there) but we managed to have a nice steak dinner instead. We were up early the next day to take the train to the airport. It was definitely a lot easier second time around to take the train to the airport without ski bags! My flight out was via Narita and San Francisco to Denver. It had been an epic trip, one I will never forget. Thankfully, I get to do it all over again in a couple of months. Bring on winter!

post #52 of 57

This blog is brilliant! Thanks for sharing. We are doing a trip to Japan over Christmas and new year and this has helped hugely (and made us more excited to go).

post #53 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Escotia View Post
 

This blog is brilliant! Thanks for sharing. We are doing a trip to Japan over Christmas and new year and this has helped hugely (and made us more excited to go).


Thanks Escotia,

  Thanks for following along and taking the time to comment. It was a long time dream to go to Japan and I was not disappointed. It is a truly special place, with amazing people, snow, food and culture. It's an all round trip. I can't wait to go back this season. To think that that was considered to be a poor season by local standards last season, can't wait to experience a good one then! You'll have a great time! Where abouts are you heading?

 

Matt

 


Gotta love sub-par conditions!

post #54 of 57
We have 5 ski days based in Furano and 4 based in Niseko. Think we will work out where to go when we are there. Had looked forward to visiting asahidake, sorry to see it didn't meet expectations. Buzzing to get over there!
post #55 of 57
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Escotia View Post

We have 5 ski days based in Furano and 4 based in Niseko. Think we will work out where to go when we are there. Had looked forward to visiting asahidake, sorry to see it didn't meet expectations. Buzzing to get over there!


Sounds like you are going to some good places Escotia. You are going to love Furano and Niseko. I definitely liked Niseko, it has the most impressive vertical out of all the resorts and decent terrain too, I just found there to be too many eager powderhounds competing for fresh tracks. I liked other places more that maybe didn't have the same terrain, but had less pressure for fresh powder. I'm all about the pow pow. I liked the amount of very available backcountry outside of Niseko too, if you like to hike a little for your turns, then you will be well catered for. Make sure you hope over to Moiwa for half a day at least. It's a lot smaller than Niseko (plus it's a separate lift ticket, but you can buy individual lift tickets and ski it very cheaply), but again, there's a lot less pressure for fresh snow if you hit it at the right time.

 

Furano was my personal favorite for the whole trip (one of our bases for the upcoming winter). It has a good lift system, plus a decent vertical too. It's a nice blend of Eastern and Western culture and not super busy. Last season, early on, there was more snow up north compared to down south so Furano was the place to be. Furano has some great inbounds hike-to terrain, plus plenty of trees that don't get skied that much either. There's even some nice groomers to get you back to the top for that next powder run, not that I went to Hokkaido to ski groomers, but a groomer run or two was actually a fun change of pace. The restaurants were decent and the food good. There's plenty of other ski resorts close by (will be looking at skiing some different resorts this winter) that you can access too.

 

I think on the right day, Asahidake could be really good. I think my expectations were just a little too high (I'd been told it was the Gulmarg of Hokkaido and I didn't think it really compared to that), so it was my fault that I was a little underwhelmed. I can imagine that on a bluebird powder day, then it would be amazing. There is some steeper terrain there and if you could get that view of the (active) volcano and could skin up it, that would be really special. I found the terrain (that I skied at least), to be a little too "shelvy" with a long flat runout after only a relatively short steeper pitch. For me it didn't have the sustained steeps I had built up in my mind. I didn't get to get as many runs in as I would have liked, so it probably needs another look. Don't let my comments put you off, check it out if you are able to. Have a great trip, Hokkaido is starting to get some snow.

 

Regards,

Matt

post #56 of 57

Our trip this past January was similar to Escotia's plan, 6 days in Niseko and 6 elsewhere on Hokkaido. Niseko's fall lines are longer and more continuous.  Competition for the powder is more than the other places in Japan but still not at the level of most North American resorts.  At the other places you may see very little competition for fresh tracks but the runs are shorter and at least half your ski time will be on traverses and runouts.  I agree that mixing up the resorts is a good plan. 

post #57 of 57

Amazing Pics!

 

I've had a few friends live for a couple of years in Hokkaid Island and they want to go back again! Their food and scenery looked so good in the pictures they've shown me

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