Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | January 2, 2014

From Canada to Japan

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We have had the pleasure of the Woods family from Calgary, Canada for our start of season trip in both the Niseko and Central Hokkaido areas. They had just come from the start of their winter season to Japan and were keen to experience Japanese powder conditions after quite a cold and dry start in Canada.

The snow conditions have certainly not disappointed and they have skied powder every day. They have also really enjoyed the custom of soaking in thermal hot springs after skiing.

Their eleven day trip has been capped off staying in a traditional hot spring lodge in the heart of the Daisetsuzan Mountain Range. Here they skied Asahidake which is a live volcano and the highest mountain in Hokkaido.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | November 3, 2013

Are You Ready for the Hokkaido Backcountry

Skiing a Volcano in Hokkaido

Backcountry skiing is a challenging sport that can take you far beyond the groomed ski resort slopes that most people think of when they imagine a ski vacation. Skiing the backcountry requires outdoor skills and an understanding of the snowpack that many on piste skiers never acquire, and it provides the chance to experience empty slopes that have never been skied. If you are ready to test yourself in a new environment, or to experience the mountains you have climbed in summer in a new way, then you may be ready for the challenge of backcountry skiing in Hokkaido.

Why try backcountry skiing?

Backcountry skiing takes place on slopes where the snowpack has not been groomed and monitored as it is on cross country tracks and alpine pistes. It can involve tackling wilder routes near to the main ski resorts, or discovering new slopes far beyond the reach of civilization, but it always enables skiers to connect with the traditional roots of their sport as a means of traveling through an untouched winter environment. It is this urge to find new experiences and break snow that has never been crossed that is one of the best reasons for taking up backcountry skiing, in order to ski in new areas and to look beyond the main tourist slopes for your sport. The backcountry skiers’ instinct for exploration has carried them to all corners of the world in search of untouched slopes, and it has helped to make destinations such as Hokkaido into popular choices for this type of skiing, since they lie well beyond the famous and overly familiar mainstream ski destinations of North America and Europe.

Essential skills for the backcountry

Backcountry skiing is a unique experience that can take you to some of the remote and extreme environments in the world, but if you are new to backcountry skiing, there are some essential skills that you will need to learn first.

Understanding how to look after yourself in a remote area is one of the first lessons you will need to learn when you take up backcountry skiing. If you have any experience of other outdoor sports, such as hiking or mountaineering, you will already have developed some of the skills that will prove useful in the backcountry, such as map reading, route planning and being able to read the weather, but you may still need to learn how to handle the snow and cold weather if you are unused to being out in the winter. You can pick up these additional skills, or start your outdoor training as a complete beginner, by attending a course in outdoor skills and avalanche training. You will then be ready for the backcountry environment.

In addition to an understanding of the environment, you will also need to develop some ski skills before you head out into the backcountry, so you should consider undertaking some lessons on an artificial slope or on the piste if you are a total beginner. Some skiers do not feel ready for the backcountry until they have built up to a more advanced level of experience on the piste, but it is possible to start backcountry skiing with some basic ski skills, as long as you are willing to gain some experience on the level before you head up onto the higher or steeper peaks. Skiing these easier “slackcountry” slopes can also be a good introduction to the backcountry for more experienced skiers.

Your first backcountry trip

It is important to remember that backcountry skiing is an entirely different experience to skiing on piste in a resort, so no matter how experienced you are in other environments, you will need to approach your first trip into the backcountry as a beginner. Even if you are not entirely new to skiing, it is worthwhile checking the packing guide for first time skiers provided by IgluSki in order to ensure you remember all of your kit, including easy to forget essentials like lip screen and sunglasses, since there will be fewer chances to pick up any forgotten items when you are heading to the backcountry rather than a resort. It is also a good idea to check that equipment of the right size will be available if you are hoping to rent gear when you arrive, particularly if you wear larger ski boots. You will also need to learn to carry some additional gear when you are going into the backcountry in order to cope with the tougher conditions. Most backcountry skiers will usually carry an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel, while those attempting more advanced routes may also need to bring crampons, climbing ropes and ice axes.

The best way to begin backcountry skiing, regardless of how much experience you have with other types of skiing, is to join a training course. At a bare minimum, as a first-time backcountry skier, you will need to undertake avalanche safety training, but it can also be helpful to spend some time working on your technique with an experienced backcountry skier who can teach you how to make the most of what the terrain has to offer. Skiing with a guide will demonstrate how much local knowledge matters when it comes to backcountry skiing. Those who know where to look can help you to find plenty of untouched powder on slopes around Hokkaido, as well as routes that will challenge skiers of all levels, and unique experiences such as the chance to ski the slopes of live volcanoes and to swap the traditional ski lodge sauna for a relaxing soak in natural hot springs. Backcountry skiers are explorers, always looking for new routes and experiences, but they know the importance of local expertise when it comes to finding the best routes and understanding the terrain and weather. Even an experienced backcountry skier can benefit from partnering with a local guide when they head out to explore a new part of the world.

Missi Davis

 

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | April 15, 2013

Furano Powder Trip

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The last guided trip for the season was for Mod and Elina who joined us on the Furano Powder Trip. We had a combination of powder riding at the start of the journey, and then some fine weather and spring snow conditions near the end of the trip.

The highlight was riding from the peaks of two of the live volcanoes in the Daisetsuzan National Park. It isn’t often that we get blue sky days in this part of the world, but we were blessed with 2  fine days  during the week. It is an amazing experience to climb and ski these two mountains, both members of the ‘Hyakumeizan,’ or ‘Hundred most Famous Mountains in Japan Club.’

It wasn’t just about the skiing and riding though, along the way we sampled different hot springs almost every day and enjoyed some of the delicious local cuisine that Hokkaido is renowned for.

Mod and Elina are already thinking of their trip next season.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | April 1, 2013

April Powder Day

It is late season but we had a great day of riding powder at Asahidake today. Elina and Diarmuid have been living in Hong Kong for a few years and haven’t had the opportunity to snowboard.

Today was their first day in 2 years and conditions were knee deep powder. It was a great day for them to get back in to it.

The season here just seems to keep going with fresh snowfalls over the weekend in to Monday. The snowpack depth at Asshidake at 1,400 meters is nearly at 4.5 meters!

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Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | March 31, 2013

2014 Powder Ski Tests

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We spent the day at a very small resort on the west coast of Hokkaido testing next season’s powder skis. There was a range there, from the major brands such as Rossignol, Salomon, K2, Black Diamond, and also some of the lesser known brands such as Whitedot, Moment, 4FRNT, G3 and Rocky Mountain Underground.

We travelled from Central Hokkaido where it had snowed up to 20cm to the coast where conditions were definitely spring like and slushy. So we got to see how next years powder skis performed in the slush!

The skis which made the best impression on me was the k2 Annex 108 for a daily resort driver. For the powder days, which are plentiful here, the Salomon Q115 skied great.

 

 

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | March 26, 2013

Is it Spring Yet?

We have had a few days where the temperature has risen and the sun has come out, but just when you start to think that spring has arrived, we get blasted by another storm. The powder conditions have been fantastic this last month and we still have snow on the forecast.

The last few days we have been looking at new terrain options for future tours and enjoying some of the late powder conditions at the same time. Looking forward to a continuation of the present conditions, at least for the moment.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | March 1, 2013

Central Hokkaido Ski Trip

We just wrapped up a Central Hokkaido trip with Norm and Mary from the Yukon, Canada and Larissa and Adrian from New York. On the week trip we skied a live volcano in the heart of the Daisetsuzan National Park, cat skied at an abandoned resort and enjoyed some of Central Hokkaido’s great sidecountry resort terrain.

Other highlights of the trip was an illuminated Ice Village full of caves with hanging icicles. Its location was at the base of a canyon that had towering rock walls on every side.

Each night we enjoyed traditional Japanese cuisine such as shabu shabu, Asahikawa’s famous ramen and a local izakaya restaurant.

Each day we would sink in to thermal baths, some reputed to have healing properties.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | February 15, 2013

Deeper

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This is Harry’s second time to Hokkaido. He had such a  great experience on the first trip, he decided to come back with a group of friends.  There was about 30cm of new snow overnight and it kept on snowing through the day.This shot was taken around midday. We didn’t stop for lunch.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | February 12, 2013

Deep Days

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It was described by Lucy as the best ski day of her life. It was definitely one of the deepest days that we have had this season. In the photo is Alex, who together with Lucy are on a world trip and Japan is one of their stopovers. They had heard  in the U.K about the deep powder skiing in Japan and decided to experience it for themselves.

Posted by: hokkaidopowderguides | February 6, 2013

The Live Volcano

The skies magically cleared today and so we skied the live volcano in the Daisetsuzan National Park. There was a foot of fresh snow from the last few days and we werel lucky to have fantastic views of the vents near the peak. Around midday the clouds came in, but then cleared for our last run down the mountain.

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