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Japan - planning a trip / guiding and instruction (Snoworks / Warren Smith)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So, it's my 40th birthday this year Confused and I'm thinking about ticking-off a few things on my 'to do' list ... one of which is to visit Japan to experience some of the rather awesome skiing we've all heard about.

Over the last few years I've done a reasonable amount of off-piste skiing, including a couple of trips to La Grave - however, I'd still class myself as an improver, and in an ideal world I'd like to get myself on to a 'Snoworks' or 'Warren Smith' type course.

However, whilst I realise a Japan trip isn't going to be cheap, I'm not sure I can quite bring myself to drop quite the amount of cash that these sort of courses charge. Unless I'm mis-reading things, this years' Snoworks course seems to have cost around £5000 + flights on top (+another £1000 if you want your own room) - so we're looking at £7000 for 10 days skiing/guiding/tuition.

Has anyone got any thoughts/advice on an alternative way forward. If it ends-up happening, there's a good chance I'll be travelling solo (I'm not sure it's the right type of trip for my 2 and 5 year old kids!) - so it would be nice to part of an organised group.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 3-05-17 14:20; edited 2 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Dates please.

Those costs are RIDICULOUS for a group learning environment.

You could live large for £200-250 per day.

So £2000 - £2500 for a 10-day trip to include flight, transfers, accommodation, lift tickets, 3 squares and moderate drinking per day Smile

Add in approx. £100-150 per day to join a guided group and that's significantly less than the prices you quoted.

If you've skied off-piste at La Grave then Hokkaido and lift-accessed Honshu won't be a problem.

If you haven't skied trees much, then that would be the steep learning curve.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 3-05-17 14:19; edited 2 times in total
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I might be out solo next season and Ive been looking at Whiteroom Tours packages - they are coming in a lot cheaper than that. I think theyre generally guiding rather than tuition, but you could easily stick on a few extra days of solo tuition and still come in way under those prices.
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@Mike Pow, thanks for this.

I think the costs I found for Snoworks included all the transfers, accommodation, etc., etc. - but it still seems a huge amount of cash to me too!

I haven't done much tree skiing - so you're right it saying this is the bit I'm a little concerned about. I'd be keen to get some tuition whilst out there, but how easy is it to find English speaking tuition/guiding in the main resorts?
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@element, thanks for this ... I'll take a look at Whiteroom.

I'm an okay(ish) off-piste skier - but am aware that I don't have a huge amount of experience, so was hoping to team-up the guiding with tuition - which might be where I struggle.
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abj wrote:
@Mike Pow, thanks for this.

I think the costs I found for Snoworks included all the transfers, accommodation, etc., etc. - but it still seems a huge amount of cash to me too!

I haven't done much tree skiing - so you're right it saying this is the bit I'm a little concerned about. I'd be keen to get some tuition whilst out there, but how easy is it to find English speaking tuition/guiding in the main resorts?


My pleasure.

Ammended my original reply re costs - please see above.

Companies like Whiteroom and Pro Peak cater to individuals looking to join a group for a combination of pick up & drop off, guiding and help with technique when needed.

If you feel you need to work on technique on and off-piste then ski school is your answer.

Plenty of English speaking instructors and guides in the main Japanese resorts.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Wed 3-05-17 18:34; edited 1 time in total
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Quote:

so we're looking at £7000 for 10 days skiing/guiding/tuition.

@abj,

They're having a laugh?!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Agree on the taking the wee wee. Better to go with an outfit where you aren't having to fund multiple coaches personal travel and recccie trips etc with your fee i.e. take the guiding and instruction from a local outfit (who'll be Aussie/international anyway) or of course hire Mike.
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Snowpenguin and I are also looking to go to Japan next season, ideally in late January with a bit of flexibility (not March though). We also looked at the Snoworks offer and were shocked at the cost! £4,145.00 and it's not exactly "all in" - that doesn't include any other meals except breakfast, lift passes, flights, or ski equipment. Reckon it would be cheaper to hire our own guide for the week...

Anyway, I've been looking at alternatives, which seem to offer a similar deal for well under half the price. Namely, Black Diamond Tours, White Room Tours, and Powder Recon. Any particular recommendations for or against? We are reasonable skiers and comfortable with off-piste (including trees) but would really like to do some kind of guided/ organised tour to make the most of our time out there. By guided I mean guided rather than led around the pistes by a BASI L2 or equivalent on a gap year.

We'd like to do an organised tour as we'd like travel around a bit and get off the beaten track, ski with a group of similar standard, and stay in Japanese places rather than international hotels that could be anywhere. Opportunities for actual touring would also be great.

The icing on the cake would be if two friends of ours who are more at the "intro to off-piste" level could be on the same tour but in a different ski group.

Any recommendations?
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I would highly recommend mountain guide.se. There are normally one to two groups of max 6 per guide. They run a fantastic trip, with great skiing and then a rely nice atmosphere, dinners etc post skiing. I've no affiliation but have been a numerous trips with them and have found Andreas and his team to be great guides, hosts and fun.
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Dublinfella wrote:
I would highly recommend mountain guide.se. There are normally one to two groups of max 6 per guide. They run a fantastic trip, with great skiing and then a rely nice atmosphere, dinners etc post skiing. I've no affiliation but have been a numerous trips with them and have found Andreas and his team to be great guides, hosts and fun.


There was a video posted about Andreas on one of JPN threads
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Dublinfella, Cheers, I'll have a look.
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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
Surely it's not all that difficult to enjoy the full JaPow experience without paying stupid money for guides etc???

For example -

Hakkoda - all of the mountain is uncrowded off piste. Yes you need a guide for the backside but the frontside area is huge and not difficult to explore - all routes lead back to the cable car. Stay at the ultra traditional Sukuyu Onsen for the authentic Japanese experience.

Niseko Moiwa - avoid the Niseko crowds and benefit from the easy accessibile gated off piste. Again route finding is very easy. Head over to Annupuri on a quieter day (if there is one...) for more gated off piste and bigger vertical. All very straightforward.

This came in at only just over £1500 in Feb 2015 for 2 weeks for flights/accomm/transport/everything (admittedly with a better exchange rate).
You can of course hire a guide for a day or 2 if you feel it is necessary.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Gämsbock, if interesting, found the link to that video of Andreas trip in Hokkaido:
THE SOUL OF SKIING from Soul of Skiing
https://vimeo.com/129558144


Oops, my bad - the video is about Stephan (?) it is also a Swedish mountain guide, so I assumed it is the same ... apologies. Do not know if he/they work for the same company.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Gämsbock, spookily my usual ski group are also floating the idea of a trip over there next season around the same time. There could well be around six/eight of us depending on everyone's final availability.

Most of them have done a little touring too (about as much as me!). We're still at the initial destination agreement stage at the minute, Jackson Hole has also been mentioned, but decent snow is the priority.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Warren Smith group:

You can simply book A DIY trip to Niseko and bolt on their group instruction for the week.
I think it is about £600 just for Warren Smith element that....and that would be very reasonable compared to local charges.

Where the Tour people win though is in the name! They go to a variety of different mountains, to me that would be a huge attraction.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
hd wrote:
Surely it's not all that difficult to enjoy the full JaPow experience without paying stupid money for guides etc???

For example -

Hakkoda - all of the mountain is uncrowded off piste. Yes you need a guide for the backside but the frontside area is huge and not difficult to explore - all routes lead back to the cable car. Stay at the ultra traditional Sukuyu Onsen for the authentic Japanese experience.

Niseko Moiwa - avoid the Niseko crowds and benefit from the easy accessibile gated off piste. Again route finding is very easy. Head over to Annupuri on a quieter day (if there is one...) for more gated off piste and bigger vertical. All very straightforward.

This came in at only just over £1500 in Feb 2015 for 2 weeks for flights/accomm/transport/everything (admittedly with a better exchange rate).
You can of course hire a guide for a day or 2 if you feel it is necessary.


Can't speak for Hakkoda, not been.

But I have skied Happo-One, Tsugaike, and Iwatake in Nagano, Honshu and all the major players on Hokkaido and @hd is correct.

Most of the skiing both within the resort area boundary and outside the resort boundary on Hokkaido is obvious.

The Nagano resorts are a different animal with technical, avalanche prone, alpine terrain beyond the boundary.

However when the snow starts pumping and the visibility deteriorates then you'd better know what you're doing and have all the necesary equipment.

Getting in is easy, getting out is a whole different ballgame. Especially in resorts like Rusutsu, Kiroro and Sapporo Kokusai.

A combination of self-discovery on the first couple of days whilst you're finding your feet & fitness combined with a guided experience on select days - especially if you're travelling to a resort just for one day - would work. And save you a fortune on your original quote.

Better yet organise a SH Bash and share the cost of the guide.

When are you thinking of visiting?
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@Mosha Marc, would you be interested in guide sharing?

@mooney058, thanks - on my phone at work but will check it out tonight.

@Mike Pow, late Jan, thereabouts.

@hd, I take your point, but that doesn't get us the group element, and I'm concerned that by going peak season the obvious places will be busy, and I won't find the less obvious places.
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@Gämsbock, yes fair point if you want some social. Re less crowded places Hakkoda for example is very much an off the beaten track location, wasn't at all busy when I went in early Feb 2015 and gets sh*t loads of snow. Recommended. http://www.powderhounds.com/Japan/Honshu/Hakkoda.aspx
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Daft question probs - but if you went total DIY how big an issue is the language barrier/ road-signs/ car hire etc issue, ie can you get about and get away with English in resort etc?

I've often fancied Japan but being a careful Yorkshireman don't subscribe to Made In Chelsea Ski type outfits and prefer to DIY wherever possible. Is it possible, or a PITA?
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@Markymark29, I'm probably in your tight northerner demographic. When I posed the question previously @spyderjon confirmed that Annika at Ski Independence is the solution to putting together something suitable on a budget

http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=1551582&highlight=annika#1551582

Could well be up for something - I mean I need to do Japan at some stage right? I suspect we could get a respectable crew together if we just take the interest in this thread for starters.
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@Markymark29, in my experience:
Language barrier in ski resorts etc not too much of an issue, a bit of goodwill goes a long way. We never, ever found it a problem.
Perhaps the only thing to be wary of is that the Japanese are so nice, and they are very reluctant to say "no" so will sometimes say "yes" even when they really should have said "no".

Food: The great majority of restaurants (everywhere) either have illustrated menus, or plastic mock-ups of the food on display.
In any case...just about everything is nice.

Hotels: Just use the normal booking websites, could not be easier.

Car hire: book online. The actual pick up might be a bit tricky if they don't speak English, but in our case the agent rounded up a nearby shopkeeper who he knew to speak English and all was well.
One-way rental is normal, and no surcharge at all so long as you within the same zone (for example just about the whole of southern Hokkaido is the same zone. We collected in Niseko (Kutchan actually) and dropped off in Sapporo.
Cost is a bit higher than Europe, but only a bit.
Everything is 4x4 with winter tyres....even little cars are 4x4, not just SUVs.

Sat-Navs in Japan are a step above ours, and your hire car will have one. Obviously multi lingual, and you just put in the destination's phone number. Very easy.

Road signs (in Hokkaido at least) are in English script as well.
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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!
@Gämsbock, of course snowHead

@Markymark29, when were you thinking of going?
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Mosha Marc, @Dave of The Marmottes
Well this is starting to look interesting Happy

Paging MaireadOConnor...
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@Markymark29, where there's a will there's a way. I split my chin open on 2nd day at hakkoda, needed to find a hospital urgently to get it stiched up, nearest was 1 hour away in aomori. Would seem like an impossible predicament given how isolated we were and the language barrier but got it done. The Japanese are so friendly and helpful that language to a certain extent doesn't matter.
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Ooh interesting... watching this space...
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Oohhhh...
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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
Gämsbock wrote:
@Mosha Marc, would you be interested in guide sharing?

@mooney058, thanks - on my phone at work but will check it out tonight.

@Mike Pow, late Jan, thereabouts.

@hd, I take your point, but that doesn't get us the group element, and I'm concerned that by going peak season the obvious places will be busy, and I won't find the less obvious places.


Just bought my tickets with ANA for 2-17 February 2018, so definitely going Smile.

Never really done true off-piste (snow conditions or skiing with children did not allow for it) so will be looking into getting a good instructor for the first couple of days (individual or in a small group) and would be also interested in joining a guided tour if calendar allows.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
OK. Question for the Japanskizy. How easy is it to busk plans by resort hopping using booking.com etc a couple of days in advance. Can envisage a putative plan flying to Sapporo involving renting a few cars and doing some independent touring if accomodation is relatively easy to find.
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Quick gander on holiday Autos suggests around £1200 for an Xtrail for 2 weeks. Should take 4 with sensible luggage or 3 with less sensible I guess.

Plus a bit lower with shopping around etc.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Dave of the Marmottes, That is exactly what we did this year...very easy indeed.
Just stay at a local town and drive to mountain(s).

We did that at 2 days notice in Sapporo and Otaru.

Do more Google-ation...Holiday Autos were not the cheapest for us, we used Toyota Rent a Car (find Japanese sites, not international)
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I'm going to be in the Hakuba area from 21 Jan till 4 Feb if anyone wants to catch up for a few turns.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Does anyone know what happened about the proposed Snowheads Bash to Japan ? Didnt he go over there to check it out ?
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Meant didnt Admin go to Japan to Check for a Bash?
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YES, Interesting topic - watching this space to...
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snowxxx wrote:
Meant didnt Admin go to Japan to Check for a Bash?


If an Hokkaido Bash is on the cards I'm more than happy to provide any and all info needed Smile
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Don't know if the dadmin way of organising things is particularly compatible with a formal bash in that part of the world - part of the fun for me would be doing a bit of driving around and "discovering" places for myself. Plus with airfare being a major element we might want to get that locked down well ahead of the usual confirmed timing. But maybe we could get some Desperado Outlaw Nippon nonbash going.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, my thoughts too.

@Mike Pow, thanks!

So how many reasonably seriously interested do we have?
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I'm a potential hand up here - 2 weeks from mid- late Jan contemplated. Meaning departure 3rd or 4th week Jan

Did a bit more googling and it seems can probably get a van (nominally 8 seater but guessing up to 6 with kit) for around £100-150 per head for 2 weeks.


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Sun 7-05-17 1:25; edited 1 time in total
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Gämsbock wrote:
So how many reasonably seriously interested do we have?


Maybe me. Looked at it last year and it didn't work for me. Need to go.
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