rob in japan

Japow – Skiing In Japan

On the 2nd of December 2015 I left the UK heading for the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. The region is known for having some of the biggest recorded snowfalls in the world and offering fantastic tree lined powder skiing. Skiing in Japan has been a dream for the last ten years and I cannot wait to explore the skiing and culture of Japan this winter.

powder skiing in japan
Skiing in Japan has been a dream for the last ten years!

Arriving in Grand Hirafu at the base of Mt Annupuri  you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the amount of snow that has already fallen. Tree branches and buildings appear to be frozen in time  whilst  storms just continue to roll through this remote region. The first 5 days of our trip we rarely got to see past the first 20m due to the snow and certainly didn’t get a view of the surrounding valley. The snow itself is unlike any powder I have skied, it has an incredible spring to it that projects you out of each turn.  The first few days were amazing we hadn’t started work and enjoyed fresh snow everyday.

When the storm finally passed we were able to see the dominating view of MT Yotei that towers over the valley; it is an active volcano that rises from 200m above sea level to 1800m. It is by far the biggest peak in the area and is commonly referred to as Little Fiji, in Japan. This peak will be one of the goals for my touring this season, in the right conditions you are able to climb the peak and ski down into the crater of the volcano a truly once  in a lifetime experience.

mt yotei
Land of the rising sun; Mt Yotei.

The following clear days we took some treks out to the base to explore  the National Park and started to get our legs ready for the first tour of the winter. Having seen most of the fresh snow ‘skied out’ in resort we decided to head into the backcountry. We set off at the resort of Annupuri and ventured into the valley behind the mountain with the aim of getting to the peak a solid 1000m vertical warm up. Touring is actually easier here due to not having to deal with high altitudes and we enjoyed cruising up through the bamboo and silver birch forest to the first ridge. With the peak in our sight we estimated we had maybe another two hours to go, however, another blizzard rolled in making the final 200m some of the snowiest conditions I have been in. Despite the conditions, and with some good route planning, we found the refuge on the peak and sheltered from the storm. It was impossible to go back the way we came due to the weather so dropped back over the front down to resort. It was great to get the legs back in but a shame we didn’t get to do the descent we wanted. However it certainly opened our eyes to the quality and expansiveness of the terrain in this area.

The storm that hit us on our tour stuck around for four days so we have been again enjoying fresh turns every morning.  The consistency of snow here gives you a different perspective on skiing as you can wake up everyday knowing that you will be riding powder. The potential to improve that side of your riding is  amazing and I hope this winter I will be able to do just that; skiing in Japan.

I will keep you all posted on the Japanese adventure in the coming months, Rob.

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