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Japan 2016 / 17

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MONDAY 06 FEBRUARY 2017

HAKUBA - WHITE HORSE 2
It was the first trip to the Hakuba Valley in Nagano prefecture for both Ian (@powderbirdie) and me and we scored the storm of the season

Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, with many of the ski & snowboard events taking place in the Hakuba Valley

We stayed at the White Horse Hotel in Echoland and the owner Tony showed us around Hakuba Happo-One where we skied untracked powder all day.

Can't recommend the White Horse Hotel highly enough. Tony recommends the best mountain each day based on the customer's ability and what they're looking for, and then drives them there and picks them up.

Walking distance to the Echoland bars, restaurants and shops.

And the hotel has a very good bar and restaurant on site.

http://www.whitehorse-hakuba.com/


Yours truly (@mikethesnow) getting deep in the Hakuba Happo-One powder

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQYyz7BggwR/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Happo-One/Ski-Resort.aspx
Quote:
All in all, the tree skiing and off-piste skiing isnít that fabulous. There isnít that much good terrain, there are too many other powder chasers there, and itís hard to know whether ski patrol will reprimand you.

@Mike Pow would you concur?
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
NO in my brief experience

Lots of pages need to be updated / ammended / rewritten
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TUESDAY 07 FEBRUARY 2017

HAKUBA - WHITE HORSE 3
Yours truly (@mikethesnow) getting deep in the 'Double Black Diamond' terrain of the 'Tsuga Pow' sign up programme
Hakuba Tsugaike Kogen, Hakuba Valley, Nagano, Japan

Tsugaike trees the best I've skied in Japan.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQbWIKhAGQg/?taken-by=mikethesnow
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Interesting...again wouldn't think it would be worth a visit based on powerdhounds review alone...makes it sound like a beginner hill. @Mike Pow were you in the backcountry?
http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Hakuba-Tsugaike.aspx
Quote:
Tsugaike Kogen is well reputed for the backcountry access. Backcountry riding is permitted by the ski patrol, except in one zone where it previously avalanched onto the ski area.
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Happo-One
No. On piste, beside the piste, ungroomed runs

Tsugaike
Sign up for 'Tsuga Pow'. Takes 15 mins. You get an armband with ticket. Allows you to use the gates which acceses great trees. It's an area within the resort boundary

Iwatake
Skied inbounds on and off the ground runs
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THURSDAY 09 FEBRUARY 2017

TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC 1

I bumped into old friend and Niseko photographer Glen (@gcp_ @360niseko) at the bottom of the Center chairlift and spent the morning with him and his group who were over from the Niseko Resort Area on a ski photo trip

Kiroro had been skied hard the previous three days and even with no new snow in that time period, I was able to find plenty of untracked areas for Glen to shoot the Murphys - dad Kieran, daughter Grace and son Sam

Grace (@graceemurph) catching the light
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
THURSDAY 09 FEBRUARY 2017

TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC 2
I bumped into old friend and Niseko photographer Glen (@gcp_ @360niseko) at the bottom of the Center chairlift and spent the morning with him and his group who were over from the Niseko Resort Area on a ski photo trip
Kiroro had been skied hard the previous three days and even with no new snow in that time period, I was able to find plenty of untracked areas for Glen to shoot the Murphys - dad Kieran, daughter Grace and son Sam
Sam (@standardsockco) enjoying a pillow flight
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

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So I'm just back from three weeks on Honshu with great snow, a couple of Swedish mates and an Aussie. Skied Hakuba, Myoko, Tenjin, Hodaigi and Madarao. One rain day in Happo and one down day in Tenjin in a storm. The other days were all snowy and deep with two sunny days touring in Happo 47 and one in Myoko.

Really lucked out with the snow this year as will have a baby next year so a return trip unlikely for a few years! Not great the last couple of years so feel like we earned it.

I'd agree with Mike that Tsugaike was great for tree skiing but I was really impressed by the big mountains in Hakuba-reminded me of the alps. Loads of touring options for some serious lines. Half an hour touring off the top of Happo One lets you ski all the way down to Happo 47 but we did see a few natural slides so kept to the ridges one day. The other was blower with a few monkeys and Kamoshika spotted. Crazy animal.

Myoko was great in the trees also but the town isn't particularly Japanese like Hakuba and loads of Aussies. Stayed at the Kougakuro which is nice though and a cool outdoor onsen. Tenjin was wild staying in a lodge in the middle of nowhere. Amazing terrain when it opens up but you have to watch yourself there. Skied Hodaigi from there for two days which is a really Japanese resort and it dumped nonstop overnight and for both days. Two of the deepest days I have skied anywhere and better tree skiing than Hakuba IMO.

Finished in Madarao for three nights staying at the Elm pension with the nicest old Japanese couple ever. They couldn't have been more helpful and cooked, drank and ate with us every night. I think you would go a bit mental if you stayed in Madarao for a period of time with no snow but we got a lot and the tree skiing in Tangram was unbelievable. Japanese queues on the weekend were crazy though. Have never seen so many boarders but you can hike the peak at Madarao and ski down to the road through the trees. Nice two hour walk out to finish.

Really got lucky this year and will definitely be returning with Hakkoda and Nozawa back on the list. Missed them this year. I find it hard to get too excited about Hokkaido after a couple of trips there and you would have to pay me to go to Niseko again....
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Thanks for the info.

Some interesting resorts there.
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@kesone1 great report. I'm considering a 2 centre Honshu trip for next year. Would you recommend Hakuba and Myoko as bases? Should Nozawa be on the list of resorts to visit, either for day trips or as a base?

Interesting comments about Hokkaido. Niseko I thought had good terrain but excessive powder stress, though staying at Moiwa was a result from that point of view, and I wasn't overly impressed with Rusutsu. Kiroro looks like it has a great snow record but otherwise I'm not desperate to rush back to the north island with the associated faff of getting there. Honshu looks very appealing in terms of variety of resorts and terrain, but Hokkaido supposedly gets more and better snow...hmmm.

Hakkoda yes definitely recommended! Great memories of the area immediately to skiers right of the cable car through the snow ghosts...mmmm...and the Sukayu Onsen, er, onsen Very Happy
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@hd, hey! I would stay at hakuba again for sure but would probably choose nozawa over Myoko. Amazing old, big cobbled town with a load of public onsens and great restaurants. Lots of tree skiing and touring and an easy bus over to Madarao. Definitely try and avoid chinese new year though.

I'll be back to hakkoda again. Amazing food and staff at the rope way hotel and sukaya onsen was great like you say. Couldn't believe it was mixed though and the ten rules were gold - no stalking of the opposite sex from behind Shocked

This has definitely been a Honshu year for snow!
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@kesone1, Good report, thanks!

I stayed at Nozawa for the first week of Feb after two weeks in Hokkadio this winter. I really like the town as it feels very Japanese and traditional, but there were so many foreigners there as well (mainly Aussies), I found the atmosphere quite strange. Also some embarrassing groups of drunk Westerners roaming around, which we did not see at all in Hokkaido (we didn't visit Niseko).

There looked to be some amazing tree skiing off the Skyline course in Nozawa and various other places but they were all out of bounds. The Yamabiko trees up the top are mostly too flat. I'm not particularity keen on ducking ropes and flouting local rules, the Japanese seem to deem it as disrespectful and I tend to agree. It's just so frustrating having all that great terrain so easily accessible and not being allowed to ski it. Crying or Very sad I heard there is a good off piste run off the top, right round the back (outside the resort boundaries to the lookers right) but did not try that.
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@kesone1 great thanks for info. Did you ski Suginohara? Looks interesting...big vertical http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Suginohara.aspx

@musehead how good/bad was powder stress at Nozawa?
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@hd, Only had one proper powder/big dump day, the queues for the gondola in the morning were huge (caveat: we were there the week after Chinese NY - but a good chunk of the crowds seems to be Westerners). Far in excess of anything i'd seen in Hokkaido the last two weeks of January. The Yamabiko trees and the unpisted black runs lower down were pretty hammered after a couple of hours. With hindsight, I wish i'd gone straight for the steep black runs rather than Yamabiko, as it's too flat up there.

The out of bounds areas stayed fairly untracked all day, they are easily visible from the lifts. Not very many people ducking ropes.
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kesone1 wrote:

This has definitely been a Honshu year for snow!


Debateable.

Honshu has had a number of big storms with rain/no snow in between.

Central Hokkaido started out very well, then very lttle since.

Much the same in the Niseko Resort area.

The Otaru Bay resorts have experienced a steady snowfall since the start of the season
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THURSDAY 09 FEBRUARY 2017

TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC 3
I bumped into old friend and Niseko photographer Glen (@gcp_ @360niseko) at the bottom of the Center chairlift and spent the morning with him and his group who were over from the Niseko Resort Area on a ski photo trip
Kiroro had been skied hard the previous three days and even with no new snow in that time period, I was able to find plenty of untracked areas for Glen to shoot the Murphys - dad Kieran, daughter Grace (@graceemurph) and son Sam (@standardsockco)
Kieran making waves on the lower mountain
Kiroro Resort, Hokkaido, Japan

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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
To anyone who has been, what's the in bounds off piste in Sapporo Kokusai like and how strictly is it policed? Do you have to duck ropes or are there decent unroped areas? Im trying to piece together another Hokkaido trip (can't let go) and wondering whether it would be worth visiting Kokusai, given Kiroro and Teine are so close by.
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@element, loads of stuff.
Lots of it unroped but ducking ropes not an issue there at all, duck away to your hearts content.
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@rungsp, Ta! Kokusai it is then.
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I'm back in Japan with White Room Tours on their Hokkaido Explorer tour (10 resorts in 12 days). After a hectic arrival yesterday, due to Chitose airport staff managing to take 1 hour to deliver bags to the luggage carousel, from the BA flight, the bags were so slow that the oversized ski bags arrived first. This resulted in 20-30 Brits having to try and make the 09:05 JAL flight in the domestic terminal in 30 mins. The Customs staff then made this much worse, by insisting that every ski bag was opened to check what it contained. I can only assume they have some sort of smuggling problem. We all made the JAL flight by running the length of the terminal. The flight and ongoing coach transfer went smoothly, and I arrived in Furano in the afternoon on Saturday.

1st Ski day in Furano, and apparently it was the best day of the season due to a recent, and ongoing, heavy snow fall. For a Sunday powder day the resort was remarkably empty, and we only had to wait for the Ropeway a couple of times. The snow was deep enough to cover the majority of previous tracks completely and the Diamond area to left looking up, delivered proper steep and deep snow on all faces. However, the long traverse out via the dam, was worse than before, presumably due to the weeks of poor snow resulting in a polished bob slay run with constantly changing chambers and compression's. The sidestep up to the dam was down to bare rock/roots after 3 circuits. A few days work with a mini digger in the summer would transform that traverse Very Happy

Not sure where we are off to tomorrow, but I'll post an update.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Sun 19-02-17 13:27; edited 1 time in total
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A video edit from our trip in January...done by The Lad.

I may be biased ("may" might not be the word!) but I think he is rather good a putting together a video that offers much more that POV Go-Ho stuff...


http://youtube.com/v/He8wrmhPDEc
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Great vid. Props for the lack of GoPro footage.
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Enjoyed that - it really gets the essence of it for me. I bought myself a DJI Osmo this year and it makes for infinitely more interesting and watchable footage than a GoPro, IMO, without the faff of a big DSLR and tripod.
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@rungsp, Great video!

@PowderAdict, Enjoy the trip, i'll be interested to hear how late Feb/early March conditions are. Considering skiing in Japan later next year compared to this year (late Feb rather than late Jan) as my girlfriend wants to run the Tokyo marathon at the end of Feb.
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rungsp wrote:
A video edit from our trip in January...done by The Lad.

I may be biased ("may" might not be the word!) but I think he is rather good a putting together a video that offers much more that POV Go-Ho stuff...


http://youtube.com/v/He8wrmhPDEc


Great stuff! Oh for some snow like that in Europe....
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Top notch.

Hokkaido delivering in a 'bad' season Wink
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Yep...the trouble is with Hokkaido that you don't get any sun, and it is all low-angle stuff so really not fun to ski...plus this year they have not had much snow

(All are real reasons that ski instructors elsewhere have given me for not going) Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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You know it makes sense.
rungsp wrote:
Yep...the trouble is with Hokkaido that you don't get any sun, and it is all low-angle stuff so really not fun to ski...plus this year they have not had much snow

(All are real reasons that ski instructors elsewhere have given me for not going) Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy


Excellent, all the more powder for me Cool
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2nd Ski day of the tour this time in Kamui, which is about 1 hour 10 mins from our base in Furano.

Kamui is a small resort with only 4 lifts, 1 of which is the main gondola, which runs from base to top station in one stage. Since we arrived on Monday, after 2 days of weekend abuse, pretty much everything in bounds was tracked. Also bizarrely many sections of the piste felt and sounded like man made snow, which was probably the result of high humidity and cold temperatures.

We spent the majority of out time in the North Bowl area, which still had plenty of un-tracked lines for every lap, and offered around 40cm of powder. As with many resorts, we had to hit the traverse line out, which left plenty of options for more powder below, for those with skins or prepared for a 20 minute boot pack back out. In bounds there are plenty of tree lines available, without any of the tedious gully floor traverse exits, so after new snow it would be a excellent resorts for powder laps.

The only downside is the incredibly slow blue chair on left, which is imaginatively named.........Double Chair No.5. It is the return route from the North Bowl exit traverse, so has to be used every lap. The lift also shuts at 15:00, so cuts out any last minute powder hunts, as the nearest ski-able run back to the base is a long boot back uphill.
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PowderAdict wrote:
We spent the majority of out time in the North Bowl area, which still had plenty of un-tracked lines for every lap, and offered around 40cm of powder.


The Kamui lift ticket is terrible value for money
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Yesterday at Mikuni Cat



Straight lining to try and make headway in rain soaked snow



The lens isn't fogged the weather was just THAT bad!

Today the weather rectified itself



In Naeba at 10.30 am - the road was cleared at approx 7.30 am!
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3rd Ski day of our tour this time in Pippu, which is about 1 hour 15 minutes from Furano. Many of the other central resorts either had poor wind blown snow, or were shut due to high winds.

It is small largely unknown resort with only 4 lifts, but has some excellent tree skiing. In fact the best tree skiing Iíve ever experienced. It didnít took that appealing when we arrived with three wide slopes, each of which was half pisted and half natural. The place was also filling up with school children and the Army practicing on army issue telemark skis.

However, there is a large area of trees to the left of the resort which has variable gradients and perfectly placed trees, and a simple exit back on to the piste, or resort road, depending on line choice. This can be accessed via a traverse, or extra turns can be earned by boot packing for 5-10 mins. We found fresh lines every time, in fact probably 10 times. The pistes though not our target were in very good condition, and again the best experienced this trip. We used the option of a 5 hour lift ticket with lunch included.

When we got back to Furano it was dumping heavily, but I don't know how long it is supposed to carry on.


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Tue 21-02-17 14:02; edited 1 time in total
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@PowderAdict, Sounds like you've timed the trip well. Keep the updates coming!
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THURSDAY 09 FEBRUARY 2017

Grace (@graceemurph) getting waist deep in 'Deadwood'





Kieran laying them over in 'Deadwood'





Sam (@standardsockco) on board the Powder Express in 'Deadwood'





Niseko photographer Glen (@gcp_ @360niseko) snapped whilst snapping Sam (@standardsockco) riding the Powder Express in 'Deadwood'





Yours truly (@mikethesnow) enjoying velvet on and off the ground runs

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQv5mUOAy8U/?taken-by=mikethesnow



WHEN DINOSAURS ROAMED THE EARTH
These 'Three Rex' caused quite a commotion as they rampaged through the mountain centre and on to the Yoichi chairlift









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4th day of our tour, this time in Asahidake, which about 1 hour 30 mins from Furano. Asahidake is a one lift resort, with a 100 person cable car running every 10 mins first thing, then every 20 mins the rest of the day. It is primarily set up for touring.

We were greeted with blue sky's and sunshine, so had spectacular views of the volcano and active fumaroles. Temperatures were around -8C, so the coldest day of the tour so far.

The top was wind blown and in places resembled frozen ocean waves, making skiing a challenge. The short middle section offered 30cm of heavy untracked snow/powder, which we lapped 5 times.

It is not one of my favourite resorts, mainly due to the long run out to return to the lift, and the approx 50 minute lap time (or longer if you just miss the 20 minute lift). However it makes a nice change, and it is one of the view places you can ski lift assisted above the tree line.
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@PowderAdict, if you're with tonelli please say hi from nick who was with him in niseko last week. Sounds as though you've done better with the snow than we did -enjoy !!
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@nickH, Not come across a Tonelli, our guides are Fernando and Tom.
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5th day of our tour, this time in Sahoro, which again is around an hour from Furano. Sahoro is larger than the previous resorts , but was almost completely empty when we were there. There were probably less than 50 people in the large base station restaurant at 1pm.

The main lift is the 6 person gondola, but due to the ancient ski racks, any ski over about 80mm (and all boards) has to be taken inside, so the capacity is reduced to 3/4 persons. It was no issue for us on such a quiet day, but I can imagine it being annoying when busy.

In the morning we spent our time lapping the trees off the Sahoro Express 4 person chair, where there was plenty of un-tracked lines, among the tight trees, and slightly more open glades. Only the creek at the bottom spoilt the run, forcing us back on to the piste, and leaving un-tracked lines Sad

In the afternoon we took advantage of our 4x4 van, and lapped a wide tree run from under the main gondola to resort approach road. There are 8 of us in our group (normally as 2 groups of 4), and we all just disappeared into the run, and came out of the bottom whooping and hollering at the bottom with insane grins. We did it 4 times, and only really crossed tracks at the bottom for the return to the road. So far easily the best run of the trip, even exceeding the excellent Pippu run.

As for the road pickup. This is not strictly legal, and they have attracted police attention in the past, but we were fine. We just had to pile into the van while the guide and driver loaded the skis/poles.
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@PowderAdict, At Pippu - was that skiers left or lookers left where you found the good trees? Also, do you know if skiing the trees is officially OK there or do you have to duck ropes / be sneaky about it?
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