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Finally off to Japan!

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
It has been a major bucket list wish to do an off-piste tour in Japan.
It is now becoming a reality in January next year. I can't wait!

I could do with advice from people who have already done this.
I have skied all around Europe and some in Canada. I have all the basic off-piste gear including an avibag.
Do you have any Japan specific advice for gear .... thing to do/not to do ... thing's you'd wished you had know before going.... cultural issues .... food issues .... language issues? Basically any information that will make, what I am sure will be a fantastic experience, even better.
I am stretching my finances to breaking point to get there. I really don't want to get it wrong ...

TIA
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@FoofyNoo, You mention an "Off-Piste Tour", are you going with a Tour Company or DIY?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@FoofyNoo, Any idae of where you are going to ski?
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I am doing the Whiteroom Tours 'Sky to Sea Powder' tour skiing in ...
Furano
Tomamu
Kamui
Asahidake
Kokusai
Teine
Kiroro
Staying in Furano and Otaru
Booking my own flights with Cathay Pacific
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Great itinerary.

Just go with their recommendations.

You'll have a ball
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@FoofyNoo, great stops and no Niseko. Niseko really brought my estimations down we had a tough 3 days battling Aussie peak holiday crowds. Everywhere else was a breath of fresh air. Conditions at Kiroro and Niseko were so good it almost fully distracted us from their commercial nature. The smaller resorts are just ace.
We went with a French group 2016 on a once in a lifetime trip - so we're going again Japanuary 2018 wink

You are definitely doing the right thing
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@FoofyNoo, I was on the White Room Hokkiado Explorer the last two years, and have booked the Central Hokkiado Tour for next season.

They are very well organised, and the guides seem to know every gap in the trees. The North Country Inn, is perfectly adequate for a skiing holiday, and the breakfast is excellent.

Be prepared for early starts, as we often left the car park at 07:30 fully suited and booted.

Any other questions, let me know.
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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!
Thank you so much guys.
I don't know if it is acceptable for a 57 year old to use the word 'stoked' but I think I am ....

@PowderAdict As this is my first experience with White Room, I was very uncertain as to which tour to go for?
For the tours you have experienced there is a requirement that you are an advanced powder skier with loads of experience and stamina.
I have partaken in 4 Snoworks Backcountry and Backcountry Access courses, not skiing in top group but normally the one below. I have also cat-skied and skied off-piste in some of the more serious resorts in Canada.
But I would say that I have limited experience in really deep snow or really tight steep trees.
In the end I went for the tour that had an element of instruction for the competent but non-expert powder skier.
I wondered what the level of skiing was on your tours? How hardcore was it?
Just want to be sure that I have made the right decision ......
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@FoofyNoo, I'm 53 and many of those on the trips I went on were over 50, so you'll fit right in.

The Whiteroom office administrator said that one reason for the 'Advanced' classification was to weed out the intermediates who have gone through a little slope side powder, and think they can powder ski. The booking form then asks you to detail what you have actually done. Your listed experience will be fine. Also, attitude is important, as everyone will fall over at some point, and you need to be able to sort yourself out (which isn't always easy in a meter plus of fresh snow). Everyone soon becomes friends, and will pull each other out of the snow if required.

They just want to make sure that you have actually skied 'proper' powder for for a few days. Even so they said someone will occasionally slip through the checks, typically one half of a couple, where one can ski and the other just traverses and falls over repeatedly. The first couple of runs of the day will form the group selection process, where the guides assess whether everyone can ski/board. Typically at Furano you will go up to the mid-station and then ski down the pistes to the base. They are not expecting you to be a world cup skier, particularly as most will be on fat powder skis/boards or touring skis, but they expect that everyone will reach the bottom together within a few seconds of each other, rather than a few minutes. The first year the groups split skiers/boarders, and the second year was largely driven by a group that had traveled together and wanted to ski together.

The terrain isn't generally hardcore at most resorts, as they generally fall into the category of small hills with a flat top, steeper mid section and a shallower run out. You will need to be prepared for some long traverses to return to pistes. Also, at Asahidake you will probably be going on 20 min uphill boot backs carrying your skis (your backpack will have a ski carry option, so learn how it works).

Make sure you are prepared to leave on time, and have all your equipment/boots (skis/boards are often left in the vans overnight). You might get some leeway on the first day, but not if you are late/forget things every day.

Which AviBag do you have? As you may have issues if you are flying internally in Japan (many have lost gas bottles). I have an electric fan pack to avoid issues. In terms of ski width, go with what you know, providing you are on something around 100mm, you'll be fine.

In terms of culture, politeness is key in Japan, also check on the etiquette of using chopsticks during a shared meal. We also found that trying to change a set menu to order something different resulted in random results.

Also make sure you have proper off-piste insurance which is valid in Japan. I believe that most resorts have free recovery off the mountain from on-piste, but off-piste is chargeable.
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@FoofyNoo, if you don't mind me asking what is the cost of this? I've started looking into Japan possibly for next season Happy
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@PowderAdict Thank you so much for the invaluable info ... very reassuring!
I have a Jetforce electric avibag for exactly the reasons you stated.
I have Nordica Enforcers at 100mm underfoot with Marker Tour f12 bindings for mainly downhill, and Line Sick Day Tourists at 102mm underfoot with Vipec 12 bindings for mainly uphill.
I am presently investigating the ski insurance that comes with Platinum membership of SCGB. I am with ERV at the moment, but any suggestions would be well received.

@PaulC1984, all the tour cost info is here .. though in Aussie dollars
http://www.whiteroomtours.com/
You do get a small discount if you book and pay before the end of this month.
I have been in email conversation with a guy there called Ronan who is very helpful.
My flights are via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and are remarkably only £540 return from Gatwick.
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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.
@FoofyNoo,

Thank you.

I've no idea what costs would normally be but have to say for what you are getting it looks pretty reasonable to me! Happy
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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
@FoofyNoo, I have the SCGB Platinum Insurance, as it seems to offer everything I need for off-piste and worldwide cover. Good news on the Jetforce, I have Pieps Tour Pro 34. The guides generally use BCA Float packs

I skied with Ronan for a day last trip. Apart from being a guide, he is also (slightly bizarrely since he is from that well known Alpine Nation of Ireland) the New Zealand national Avalanche forecaster Cool

I agree with regards the cost, especially since it includes all travel, transfers, half board, fully guided days. Yes, it would be cheaper as a DIY exercise, but you would miss out on the best powder stashes in each resort.

Another thing, when you arrive at Chitose and are waiting for the Resort Liner transfer, you need to remain alert, as they tend to call all the boarding for the 3-4 buses to different destinations at the same time, and you need to be in the correct queue.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Great info all round in this thread. 👍
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Big skis, at least 90 mm width.

It can be COLD, face shield/balaclava may be useful.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@telemark15, I agree with the cold comment, as we had -36C on Asahidake, which being the highest mountain on Hokkiado as a direct feed from the Siberian winds snowHead

These days 90mm isn't big, the narrowest on the tours I was on was 108mm (the guide), while most were on 120mm plus. Having said that, there are some who ski powder on 65mm skis to get as deep as possible.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
That is a big tour for an old person in deep snow, so be sure to exercise hard before going.

Take warm clothes, fat skis, and be ready for a lack of sunshiney days.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Whitegold wrote:
That is a big tour for an old person in deep snow, so be sure to exercise hard before going.

Take warm clothes, fat skis, and be ready for a lack of sunshiney days.


"old person" Ouch! ..... but I take your point.
I realize fitness is a 'must' and intend to do a lot more gym and running prior to the trip.
Don't think there is any skinning in this one ... that really kills me!
Just got an Air Hole merino balaclava to help with the cold. Along with Norrona shell jacket/puffer jacket/Ortovox merino fleece/t-shirt layers.
My skis are 100mm and 102mm underfoot which, though not the widest, should be OK ..... ?
I would always prefer great snow to sunshine.
Thanks for the info
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@FoofyNoo, have you tested your shell /puffer jacket combination? I went over with a similar combination , bought for the trip, (both by mountain hardwear) and though not a particularly sweaty person found that the puffer ( down) became surprisingly damp at times and hence not particularly insulating. I rather wish I'd taken my old ( not down) insulted jacket instead.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I've been to Japan the last 3 times with 112mm underfoot skis (Volkl Katana) which I've been using for skinning as well. The width is probably quite good for skinning in deep snow, although they're heavy. However I feel like they just float too much and i'd rather ski something narrower to get the feeling of being in the snow a bit more. I did most of my learning to ski powder on all-mountain 78mm skis and I miss that feeling! I probably won't replace the big ones as I already have too many skis lying around, but I reckon ideal for me would be something around 85-100mm in Japan.
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musehead wrote:
I've been to Japan the last 3 times with 112mm underfoot skis (Volkl Katana) which I've been using for skinning as well. The width is probably quite good for skinning in deep snow, although they're heavy. However I feel like they just float too much and i'd rather ski something narrower to get the feeling of being in the snow a bit more. I did most of my learning to ski powder on all-mountain 78mm skis and I miss that feeling! I probably won't replace the big ones as I already have too many skis lying around, but I reckon ideal for me would be something around 85-100mm in Japan.


In my first season on Hokkaido I was skiing Salomon Equipe 170cm 125-65-109. Great for everything except touring.

I've since gravitated to a 'quiver of one' centred mounted twin tip set up for resort, sidecountry and touring.

Between 173-178cm in length with 114-118mm in the shovel and 79-85 underfoot.

Light - ski itself and Dynafit bindings - and manoeuvrable, especially in the trees.

I'm 188cm and 90-95 kg.

This set up gets me deep into the Hokkaido dust Smile
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FoofyNoo wrote:

Just got an Air Hole merino balaclava to help with the cold. Along with Norrona shell jacket/puffer jacket/Ortovox merino fleece/t-shirt layers.
My skis are 100mm and 102mm underfoot which, though not the widest, should be OK ..... ?


My preferred clothing on my Japan trips has been shell (Norrona as it happens), thick Norrona trollvegen fleece (prefer it as a mid-layer to my Acteryx Atom LT as it's just fluffier and more breathable) and merino-hybrid base layer, plus thicker Sweet Saviour 3/4 lengths on my legs under a shell.

Re. skis, I wouldn't worry about the width so much (though it would help your legs after a few long days), but personally I'd prefer a more playful surfy powder orientated shape than either of your skis (I love the Enforcers, but they're not a powder ski). If you want to stay relatively narrow you can't go far wrong with Salomon QST 99s or Rossi Soul 7. The extra tail rocker will really help you turn quicker and save energy in the trees.

I've never had any issues getting pitted on bigger skis in Japan - just learn to throw the skis sideways and drift (which is also the most fun sensation you can have on skis!). My last trip I took a 125mm pair, previous trip 135mm and 118mm and used the 135mm more.

To illustrate the point this is on Down Throwdown 125s and in heavy late April powder in Austria rather than blower Hokkaido dream-particles, and only maybe 20cms of it too:

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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!
clarky999 wrote:
FoofyNoo wrote:

Just got an Air Hole merino balaclava to help with the cold. Along with Norrona shell jacket/puffer jacket/Ortovox merino fleece/t-shirt layers.
My skis are 100mm and 102mm underfoot which, though not the widest, should be OK ..... ?

I've never had any issues getting pitted on bigger skis in Japan - just learn to throw the skis sideways and drift (which is also the most fun sensation you can have on skis!).


That takes skill, speed and confidence which may or may not be beyond the OPs level.
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Mike Pow wrote:
clarky999 wrote:
FoofyNoo wrote:

Just got an Air Hole merino balaclava to help with the cold. Along with Norrona shell jacket/puffer jacket/Ortovox merino fleece/t-shirt layers.
My skis are 100mm and 102mm underfoot which, though not the widest, should be OK ..... ?

I've never had any issues getting pitted on bigger skis in Japan - just learn to throw the skis sideways and drift (which is also the most fun sensation you can have on skis!).


That takes skill, speed and confidence which may or may not be beyond the OPs level.


True, but she(?)'s going to the best place to learn!

Though as above, I reckon a narrower ski with a powder shape (QST 99 etc) is probably more along the right track.
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Absolutely, I [bloke with a weird nickname] specifically chose a tour with an element of instruction. I wasted years skiing with no instruction .... mainly due to lack of funds.
My aim is to experience true powder that you don't really get in Europe.
I went to Canada a couple of years ago to chase this aim but ended up in their worst winter for 40 years. Still had a ball but hardly any powder by their standards.
Hopefully my luck will change in Japan ........
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Sounds like you are following the same path as me. I went to Whistler 4 years in a row, and got 2-3 days of proper powder skiing out of a total of 8 weeks. After reading posts on SnowHeads about Japan, I gave it a try and skied more powder turns on my best day than my entire time in Whistler.

What makes this more impressive is that Hokkiado has had relatively poor winters the last two years.

In terms of ski width I'm with @clarky999, my narrow skis are 124mm and the fat ones massively rockered 148mm. Although I have skinned for powder on the 124mm, if I was planning long touring days I would drop down to lighter 112mm with ST 2's
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@PowderAdict, @clarky999,

Thinking of following in Foofynoo's tracks in 2019.
What would you recommend for touring there? I've got Director CLs and Redeemers (not CL, sadly).
I get the deal about being "in" the pack but then there's nothing like that "surfing" feeling either.
Then to complicate matters, there's the weight-on-the-up thing too.
Thanks in advance.
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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
@Big Paua, absolutely take both!

To pre-face this, my first trip to Japan I took 118m Moment Bibby Pros and 135mm Down Countdown 1s (and Marker Barons quiver killed to use on both). I used both a lot over the 3-5 weeks, probably the Downs slightly more, but there were definitely days I was glad I had the narrower/more versatile Bibbys too. BTW one week of that trip was a road trip with Black Diamond Tours chasing snow around Hokkaido, similar itinerary to above. Last trip I just took the Throwdowns at 125mm with Guardian bindings - no touring, but didn't miss a change of skis (I was only there for 4 days though!).

Personally I wouldn't want to skin for more than an hour on a ski as big as the Redeemers, even in Japanese powder. Just too much work.

If you really can only take one ski, I'd therefore take the Directors - they're definitely enough of a fun shape to get your surf on, will be much easier on the skin track, and a little easier on any tracked out days between storms if you're unlucky.

Though frankly you should just find a way to take the Redeemers too for maximum rampage on the days it's so deep you can lap one lift all day giggling like a maniac Very Happy
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You know it makes sense.
@Big Paua, I'm with @clarky999, and suggest you take both if at all possible. If not and you can only take one ski, and you will definitely be touring for 1 hour plus, then the Director CL is your best bet.

Your Director CL's are in the same ball park weight as my Wailer Pure's, which are my more serious touring option, but still have plenty of float/surf for deep powder (depending on your geared up weight).

The first year I went I took Lotus 122mm and Spoon 148mm waist powder skis, and used the 148 every day. Last year I took the new Lotus 124mm which has a wider sweet spot, and used them for a few days due to poorer snow conditions.

Alternatively, if you are thinking of an organised tour, you will probably be based in one of the main resorts where there are plenty of hire options.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Thanks both.
They're both quiver killered for Beast 16s so easy enough to take em both.
I've not skinned on the Redeemers yet and yep, reckon it would be a mission to avoid if at all possible.
During my initial research, I thought the resort tours would be the way to go but the Whiteroom Tour option is now looking very tempting. Like the idea of no crowds - Aussie lite as well as carbon lite!
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@Big Paua, Make sure your Beast 16's are fully greased to prevent freezing issues. I had mine freeze on a couple of occasions, the toe wouldn't close, after taking a gondola from a warmish village to mountain top and stepping out into what felt like a blast freezer, then boot packing up with skis over my shoulder.

Whiteroom or similar are great for learning resorts, as you will miss loads of powder without local knowledge. We often lapped lift accessible powder stashes a couple of days after a storm, that had been missed by everyone else.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
FoofyNoo wrote:
I am doing the Whiteroom Tours 'Sky to Sea Powder' tour skiing in ...
Furano
Tomamu
Kamui
Asahidake
Kokusai
Teine
Kiroro
Staying in Furano and Otaru
Booking my own flights with Cathay Pacific


I'm doing the exact same tour with husband and son in February. I'd love to hear how your trip goes and your advise on all aspects.
Like you were stoked and also (apart from our son) in the same age bracket. Already started the get fit routines.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
As above really. Shape and flex pattern more important than outright width - whatever you're on you WILL get face shots. Bit of width helps with stability on landing if you like pillows and drops - of which there are many.

Spend as much time as possible at Teine, Rusutsu and Kiroro. Niseko gets very busy but we still managed nearly 10 hours of ever deepening topped up feather light snow so we couldn't complain. Did I mention Teine? Go there.

Don't cross the rope unless there's a gate - some tree areas are sacred. Take your shoes off at the front door if staying in traditional guest houses - for the same reason.

Go to Sapporo and find a restaurant off the main strip. Use hand gestures - English won't work.

Be prepared to discuss your Airbag at length when flying from the main island to Hokkaido.

Don't eat the sea urchin gonads.
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@FoofyNoo, what airline are you using for Japanese domestic flights? We are booked with JAL and from my research, they are very strick on the size of hold luggage. Be prepared for charges for oversized bags.
If you are booked straight through to Chitose you may be allowed the Cathy Pacific allowance. We have fallen into the trap of doing a 4 day tour of Kyoto before skiing and then 1 day in Tokyo before flying home. Because our flights are all on different days they are seen as non-contiguous and we get an oversize charge for each leg.
(Ok on the way out as we have 4days to use the baggage delivery service provided) but we'll be caught on the way home.
I suppose my point here is taking more than one set of skis could also throw you into overweight charges over and above oversize.
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@Suzi snowflake, I can confirm that on straight through flights on one booking number, JAL will honour the luggage limit from the international airline.

My ski bag is well in excess of the JAL size limit but was carried without question.
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@PowderAdict, Living in Europe we usually drive to resorts and yea I got over excited about a trip of a life time. Tried to squeeze in as much as possible and forgot about transportation of skis.
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@Sharkymark,

Avoid the gonads!!! Shurely not! After the all day face shots that was my second reason for going. Between white bread with brown sauce for lunch.

@PowderAdict,
Top tip on the grease. Thanks. I believe Spyderjon has posted here before on the how's and where's of that so will check it out.
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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!
Also - bring ear plugs and paracetamol. Im not one to use painkillers in general, but i got an absolute stonker of a cold and my head was agony for a few days. Must have different bugs over there. I couldnt find paracetamol or ibuprofen anywhere and it didnt seem to translate.

Earplugs are an essential if you are room sharing. I was sharing with a mighty snorer, and it really prolonged the jet lag. I was asleep standing up by 10 every night, then wide awake from 3 or 4. Ended up improvising plugs from toilet roll and gaffer tape.
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@element, that is funny! although I understand the pain of being subjected to the snore choir (I am trekking in summer so dortoirs with 20-30 people is a known concept and earplugs is the only albeit limited remedy).
Paracetamol - check (and not on my phone to get some more)
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@Suzi snowflake Sorry for the late reply ... I am in the Maldives at the moment and the internet isn't great .... I know ... poor me!
I am back from Japan on the 4th Feb. If I don't post anything, please PM me and I will help as much as I can.
I am flying to Chitose via HK, all on Cathay Pacific so there should be no problem with luggage allowances on the two flights.
Just hoping I can get everything into my double ski bag!
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