Our voyage takes us to the powder blessed forests of Hokkaido Island, which the local farmers believe to be haunted by the spirits of the roaming Ronin warriors. Each day will feature a complete dose of the renowned Japanese snow along with a complete immersion into the culture of this great island nation. Our local guides Hiro, Terry and Jun are well known for their powder hunting skills as well as their passion for the history and culture of their people. This grand tour of the best ski touring and off piste sites on Hokkaido Island is part road trip and part lodge based as we seek to sample the best that the island has on offer.
In 2012 and 2013 I had the pleasure of spending 6 weeks guiding and skiing in the forests of Hokkaido and I was completely blown away by the completeness of the whole experience. Not only did we enjoy the driest and deepest snow that I have ever encountered in all my years of skiing but we also submerged our selves in the culture of this incredible country with its rich traditions, fantastic food and amazing people. Hokkaido is with out a doubt the most complete and exotic ski destination that I have ever visited – Jökull Bergmann
Day to day Program:
Flight from Europe/USA to Japan.
Arrival in Sapporo/Chitose airport on Hokkaido Island where we meet our local guide for the 3-4 hr transfer to our Ryokan guesthouse, in Niseko where we enjoy our first Onsen session (natural hot springs) and relax after the long trip. We will be spending the first three nights at the Koikawa Ryokan guesthouse, which is the picture perfect traditional Japanese hot springs resort with paper walls, futon beds, different slippers for each room and everyone sporting their Yukata robes for dinner. The Koikawa is one of the oldest Onsen Ryokan guesthouses on Hokkaido island, but with its fantastic hot springs, both indoor and outdoor pools in a winter wonderland setting of trees and waterfalls you certainly learn to appreciate its rustic beauty.
We get our ski legs going by exploring the off piste possibilities of Niseko resort where we take on a little ski safari where we sample the best that the area has on offer. After our first big day of skiing we will again feast on some local delicacies and take full advantage of the local baths.
Jet lag out of the way we get going on our first big ski touring day where we climb the flanks of the great cone shaped volcano of Yotei-zan, often referred to as the Mt Fuji of Hokkaido. Here we will find some of the best ski touring possibilities Japan has to offer.
Today we move base camp towards Furano but will ski at the Sapporo Kokusai area where we can easily access some excellent off piste terrain using the lifts and than skinning to get the goods. The Sapporo Kokusai area is locally famous for the deepest snow on Hokkaido island.....and the fact that the ''foreign herds'' have no clue about it :-) We will spend the night close by at the Asari onsen.
We continue our road trip to Furano-dake with a stop at the Kamui Links ski area for a quick hit. In Furano-dake we will be staying at a nice little lodge with its own hot springs.
Sampling the goods at Furano-dake, which is one of the most famous spots in Japan for excellent touring options and great snow. Today we will have the option of visiting several different hot springs, including a natural one in the woods.
Our last ski day is a short one since we need to make our way back to Sapporo, but not until we have carved out some good turns and dipped into the hot springs one last time. In Sapporo we will enjoy a local feast at one of the cities hidden gems, only known to locals, such as our good friend Hiro.
Transfer to Chitose airport and flight back to the main island and on to new adventures.
304.000.- JPY / 370.000.- ISK / 2.500.- EUR / 3.020.- USD
Included in Price:
- Professional guidance of a fully certified UIAGM guide and assistant guide
- Accommodation including breakfast and dinners for 7 nights in double rooms
- All transportation during the week
- All lift tickets
Not included in Price:
- Flights to and from Sapporo/Chitose
- Lunches (Every day we stop at convenience stores for resupplying)
- Personal expenses
Arrival and departure: The start of the trip is in the afternoon of the first day at the Chitose airport. We will be collecting all participants between 1500 and 1800 hrs as we have around a 3 hr drive to Niseko and dinner that night. The earlier you get in the better so that we do not arrive very late in Niseko. On the last day we will be heading to Chitose airport in and around noon so please try and book a flight in the early afternoon for your departure. If you are traveling as a complete group with the same arrival times we can certainly make changes to the above.
Language: Now if you do not know any Japanese and can not read kanji or hiragana you will enjoy the extreme pleasure of being completely deaf, dumb and blind probably for the first time since you were a wee little babe. As horrifying as it sounds it's actually a fantastic feeling of exploration and adventure that you should relish in to its fullest. Most people in Japan do not speak English so you should definitively try and pick up a few phrases before arriving and than try your best ones there and you will find that the Japanese will love you for it.
Money: Amazingly enough, Japan is all about cash and you will find many bigger places not accepting cards of any sort. It is therefore a good idea when you arrive at the airport in Chitose or Tokyo to get some cash out of a mini bank. Most convenience stores do have mini banks so no worries.
Internet and cell phones: You will find that your cell phone works in most places but it will obviously cost you. Wireless Internet is available in most places that we stay at.
Weather: In my experience its always snowing in Hokkaido and that is a good thing. You can expect cold temperatures, down to -20 on the summits on a windy day but in general it will be a comfy -5 to -15. There will be wind and it might be strong above treeline but in general we are staying below treeline and out of the wind. Sun is something I have not seen much of in my 6 weeks there, and that is a great thing as well since it means its always snowing.
Snow conditions: Deep and super light powder is what makes skiing in Hokkaido worth the long trip and jet lag for sure. In my 6 weeks skiing there in the last couple of years we have been consistently skiing knee to waist deep cold smoke blower Pow....... From what I hear that is the norm but you do have to take into account the fact that just like Iceland, Hokkaido is an island and the sea is always near, meaning you might get warm temps and rain even in the coldest months of the year.
The Bus: We will be using a 4x4 Toyota Min Van with a giant roof rack for all our stuff. Its not the biggest vehicle in the world but suits us fine and is great on the snowy roads.
Electricity: Japan uses the funky 100 volt system with a two pronged US like plug, see this link http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2225.html
Jetlag: Now this you will experience in all its might, as you will most likely be traveling through several time zones and at least half if not a full day off in terms of time. Sleeping pills do help with the balancing of time but the best is obviously to have a few days in Japan before the start of your trip so that your body can adjust. Bringing eyeshades and earplugs is definitively a good idea as you will most likely be sharing a room with someone in the same situation. Other methods that haver been scientifically proven to work well on jet lag include copious amounts of Sake followed by excessive Onsen'ing :-)
Flights: Japan is serviced by most major airlines from both Europe and North America. In my experience the easiest and cheapest way to get to Japan from Northern Europe has been with SAS which offers direct service from Copenhagen to Tokyo Narita. Domestic flights from Tokyo up to Chitose are pretty cheap and numerous. The best tickets I have found so far, are with Jetstar and Skymark. Here is a list of all other domestic carriers to check out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines_of_Japan
Trains: Train travel in Japan is a great experience well worth while if you have the time and the money....yes its quite expensive but if you are planning on using trains at all you should look into buying a Japan rail pass before arriving in Japan as those are very cheap compared to the individual fares but you do need to buy them before arriving in the country. Here you have all the good info on train tickets etc. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361.html
Further reading and viewing: When preparing for your trip to Nippon you should definitively take the time to do some reading. Japan is quite likely one of the most culturally rich places you will ever set your foot upon but also probably the most culturally different place you will ever visit, so read up and enjoy master pieces such as Norwegian Wood by Murakami or Yoshimoto's, Kitchen and make sure to bring a book for the long drives.
Equipment List for Ski Touring in Japan
☐ Waterproof Jacket - lightweight + breathable
☐ Waterproof pants - lightweight + breathable
☐ Down or fiber jacket for those cold lift rides and lunch in the field.
☐ Backpack 25 - 35l with ski attachments and enough space for all your gear
☐ Base layer (wool or synthetic)
☐ Fleece mid layer or equivalent.
☐ Ski pants
☐ Thin Inner Gloves
☐ Warm Ski Gloves
☐ Warm Hat
☐ Neck gaitor, Buff and or Facemask for all the faceshots
☐ Water Container + Thermos (It gets pretty cold so camelbacks have been known to freeze)
☐ Personal medications + blister kit
☐ Ski Goggles
☐ Sun Glasses
☐ Sun + lip cream
☐ Ski touring or Telemark Boots
☐ Skis with Touring or Telemark Bindings / Split board (No snowshoeing)
☐ Ski Poles
☐ Shovel + Probe + Avalanche Transceiver
☐ Passport, cash money in JPY,
☐ Earplugs, eyeshades and some sleeping pills or Melantonin
Please have your ski boots and avalanche transceiver in carry on baggage during your flights in case luggage gets lost. If you have any questions regarding gear please contact us and we will try our best to help you out.