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TR: SPRING ON HOKKAIDO

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
DAY 1 : WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH 2011

Arrived in Chitose under clear blue skies and 0 deg C temps at mid-day today.

Same on the drive to the Niseko Resort Area, but within 30 mins of arriving in Niseko Hirafu the temps dropped significantly and the flakes started falling. Hasn't stopped since.

Kiroro tomorrow to pick up my seasons pass and see what's fallen.

For anyone in two minds about visiting the mountains of Hokkaido, I haven't witnessed any damage or lack of goods or services in the short time I've been here.

Energy provision is not a problem, night skiing is still fully operational.

Hirafu is quiet but there are still people here very much enjoying the quality of snow and the lack of crowds.



DAY 2 : THURSDAY 17 MARCH 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day to you.

Ian MacKenzie and I had the luck of the Irish choosing Kiroro over Niseko this morning.

The closer we got to the Kiroro turn off the the deeper the overnight snow became and the heavier the flakes fell from the snowglobe sky.

10cm in the car park at the beginning of the day, and at least 20cm up high.

The southern aspects had a light sun crust beneath the new snow, the northern aspects none.

We lapped the gondola from 9 'til 1pm and didn't cross a path or meet anyone on our runs. Perfect.


'All by myself' - Ian Mackenzie at Kiroro













Back to the car at 2 to brush off the 15cm of dry, super light powder that had fallen during our visit, the drive home promising a little more than sping corn tomorrow.





An excellent first day, with more to come.

It's great to be back Smile
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Mmm nice. Great pics.
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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?
WOW! snow looks beautiful.

Keep us updated Very Happy
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AAwwwwww Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh!

We were sat wondering if we should cancel our trip next year. Stoke like this reminds us not too. Looking forward to the rest of your trip, thanks for sharing.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I'm going to regret following this thread aren't I? Looks awesome...
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Third pic, ooooooh Cool thanks for posting!
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Its a bit difficult at the moment to look at such fun pictures of japan but next year i want to visit japan with the kids to ski. i'll be following this closely. Thanks for posting.
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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!
parlor, You're coming out to Hokkaido? We might finally make some turns together!

Looking good down there Mike! You timed your arrival well for the weather!
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MagSeven, that's the plan. We won't be able to book until September time. I will be in touch!
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DAY 3 : FRIDAY 18 MARCH 2011

If it ain't broke...

Ian M and I returned to Kiroro with hopes of new snow and sunshine. Plenty of new snow, unfortunately our timing was off with the sunshine. Every time we got in the gondola the sun came out but by the time we got to the top it was snowing hard.

I'd skied Kiroro 20+ times prior to today but I was still able to ski a whole new area to me today that was untouched and untracked (except us) all day.

Ian's timing on the mountain was considerably better thankfully.





















The race course was closed today but Ian M wasn't too disappointed.




Tomorrow?

Umm, Kiroro maybe?
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I just made a mess Embarassed
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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.
Mike Pow wrote:
DAY 3 : FRIDAY 18 MARCH 2011

If it ain't broke...

Ian M and I returned to Kiroro with hopes of new snow and sunshine. Plenty of new snow, unfortunately our timing was off with the sunshine. Every time we got in the gondola the sun came out but by the time we got to the top it was snowing hard.

I'd skied Kiroro 20+ times prior to today but I was still able to ski a whole new area to me today that was untouched and untracked (except us) all day.

Ian's timing on the mountain was considerably better thankfully.




Great picture! If you don't mind me asking, what were the settings?
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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
clarky999 wrote:
I just made a mess Embarassed
Laughing Laughing

Amazing snow/pictures.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Timmaah

1/2000, iso 400 and plenty of touching up in photochop


DAY 4 : SATURDAY 19 MARCH 2011

Feezing level at 550m meant rain at Niseko's base and bitty snow at Kiroro's base.

Ian M and I drove to Kiroro but unfortunately it was greybird with a more than a bracing wind.

The gondola was closed for the day, and with most of Sapporo funnelled between two four-man chairs absention was the better part of valour.

An afternoon at Paddy Mcginty's with Craig from Meikle Associates and Steve & Toni on holiday from Hong Kong watching the Super 15s was an adequate alternative Smile
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
DAY 5 : SUNDAY 20 MARCH 2011

0cm of new snow, above freezing temperatures, and diffused sunshine at today's destination, Rusutsu.

Rolling solo and flat light conditions meant the camera stayed in the backpack.

Although there were plenty of cars in the East Mt. car park, up on the hill it was deserted.

The warmer temps and sunshine (and maybe a little drizzle) the past two days has turned the powder to a smooth, springy custard with about 5cm of ski penetration. It made for fast, open, carved turns in the trees and under the gondola. Something different and a real treat.

Shared a chair with a retired Japanese couple from Kyoto who spend their winters near Sapporo skiing as many of the resorts on Hokkaido as they can. He did the talking and she did the nodding and smiling.

He'd skied in Europe three times in his youth - the resorts out of Innsbruck, Davos and Garmisch - and there was a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye when talking about skiing.

50 years skiing under his belt and the passsion was front and centre. A real gentleman. Neat little skier too.

I'm so grateful that he initiated the conversation, made my day to meet him.

Ian M is on his way to Indonesia to caddy for Aaron Townsend in the Indonesia PGA Championship on the One Asia tour so I'm basing myself in Rusutsu until Friday.

Staying at a house a short walk from the Rusutsu North & South Wing Hotel owned by the great people at Hotel Romulus. Highly recommended.

They also own The Pirateman restaurant and I'm there at the moment eating Otopus, Karage, Kimchi and Hokkaido potatoes. All washed down with a Grape Sour. Happy days.

Will wait to see what the morrow brings weatherwise, but over the next five days some or all of Rusutsu, Sapporo Kokusai, Grand Hirafu, Sun Laiva and Kiroro are on the cards.

A return to colder temps and sustained snowfall is forecast for the coming week. The farmers will not be amused.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Mike Pow wrote:
Sun Laiva


Where's that? Haven't heard of it!

Kinda warm at the moment isn't it. Lovely and sunny, but lets hope the temperatures drop again!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Just out of Noboribetsu. Great little place. TR to follow.

Haven't had internet for a couple of days.

Below freezing down here, and snowing.
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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?
DAY 6 : MONDAY 21 MARCH 2011

I'd visited today's destination - NOBORIBETSU SUN LAIVA - a few summers ago on one of my exploratory excursions around the Shiribetsu region of Hokkaido.

The small ski area of three lifts and seven runs looked promising in green, and after almost three years I got a chance to see it in white.

The 200km round trip took me from Rusutsu through Toyako Spa on Lake Toya and then over the mountains down towards Noboribetsu. A beautiful drive on a beautifully sunny day.

Tucked into a fold in the range about 15km from Noboribetsu, Sun Laiva affords magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the ocean.

On the ride up to the top of the ski area I was getting very excited about the untracked, steepish tree runs to the left and right of the pisted area.

After admiring the scenery, I set off in to the trees. About 10cm of dry, light powder had fallen overnight and was sitting on a velvet base.

But before I could enjoy it I heard a whistle in the distance behind me. Twenty years of team sports had conditioned me to 'play the whistle', I looked back over my shoulder and ducked back on to the piste to get my reprimand from the advancing patroller.

If only all reprimands could be so civil and charming. In his better than my Japanses English he explained skiing off piste was not allowed at Sun Laiva. When asked why, he just smiled and shrugged.

A real pity. Sun Laiva has got as much if not more to offer than similar small ski resorts like Moiwa and Chisenupuri.

I proceeded to bomb the empty groomers, and each lap was greeted with a wave and a smile from the patroller.

After about half a dozen laps I decided to hike to the peak above the top lift to get my tree skiing kicks.

Open access and no reprimand leaving the ski area, the route up followed a ridge line and is part of a recognised hiking route to the summit of Raibadake (1,004 m)





View from the summit of Raibadake (Sun Laiva base area in the foreground and Noboribetsu coastline in the background)





View from the summit of Raibadake with plenty of inviting peaks





I dropped in to well placed trees on a steepish, sheltered slope that held dry, boot top powder. Not bad for 15km from the ocean at the end of March.

I jagged right until I came out at the top of the beginner lift.

After packing up the car I drove down to the abandoned film set just outside of Noboribetsu used for a Japanese TV drama series. Ironically one of the very few examples of traditional Japanese architecture on Hokkaido





Driving Route 2 back to Toyaka Spa the road wound its way through some awesome road side hits. Once this series of snow has passed through I think I'll go back for a second look.









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DAY 7 : TUESDAY 22 MARCH 2011

Back to RUSUTSU with 15-20 cm of new overnight.

The company who own Rusutsu used to own Steamboat, Colorado (hence the Steamboat restaurant at the bottom of the Isola lift) and the past couple of days has seen Colorado weather - snow at night and sunshine by day.

Neither of the gondolas were running due to wind and/or lack of customers, but the efficient lift system got you to all that is good about Rusutsu.

If it can't be deep, then superlight pow on velvet comes a very close second. Especially when wherever you looked there was plenty of untracked.

Unfortunately this much snow hadn't fallen overnight





The recent warm temperatures and sunshine has started to degrade the south facing terrain above West Mt. Spotted this glide crack on the way back to town.





Anyone contemplating hitting Shiribetsu-dake should be careful.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Thu 24-03-11 15:26; edited 1 time in total
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Mike - thanks for posting such a great report and photos once again. Its gripping stuff
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make that gRipping stuff Very Happy
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Thanks


DAY 8 : WEDNESDAY 23 MARCH 2011

First day back at GRAND HIRAFU, NISEKO in over two years, and it was a cracker. And I even found people to ski with!

On the way over from Rusutsu I drove through some of the heaviest snow I've seen, and was down to 5km at one stage.

20cm had fallen overnight and it was snowing most of the day, with the odd patch of bluebird.

Made turns with local photographer Glen Claydon, fellow Welshman and longtime Niseko resident Owain (formerly of Dragon Lodge), and Ben Thorpe of UK based operator Japan Ski Experience.

We made the short walk from the top of the gondola up to the start of Miharashi and continued to lap that all morning.

Glen behind the camera setting up for the shot





Ben getting on the pow train. All aboard!

















Glen smashing it in front of the camera

















Yours truly courtesy of Glen Claydon Photography









Had dinner at Niseko Pizza with Cezar and can recommend the new Genovese pizza with gorganzola cheese.
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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!
^ Those pics potentially blow a gaping hole in the power of the pants theory. Potentially some interesting coloured kecks on display but fairly immaterial if the shots just going to show a head and one arm.

Sluts.
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Late season goodness. Brilliant Happy
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DAY 9 : THURSDAY 24 MARCH 2011

After such a good day yesterday it was back to GRAND HIRAFU, NISEKO for more of the same. Except today the peak was on the menu.

Was hoping to meet up with Glen and Ben again, but our paths didn't cross all day.

Which was also the theme for the day's skiing, untracked knee deep lines all day.

Miharashi again, the north bowl off the peak, and the slopes just round from the cornice off the traverse from Gate 4.

Yotei from Route 66 between Rusutsu and Makkari





The view from Main St. Makkari





North bowl of Annupuri (the mountain)

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Love this Smile
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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.
Just amazing.
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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
Mike Pow, Amazing pics. can you bring some of that deeeep pow back in your suitcase please!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Thanks all.

BobinCH
Could well be in central Europe end of April / early May. Expect snowfall Wink
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Mike Pow, -just make sure you are in Ischgl at the end of April - fantastic shots Cool
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DAY 10 : FRIDAY 25 MARCH 2011

After a couple of days in Hirafu it was time for a return to KIRORO.

Glen, Ben and I were joined by Kiroro first timers Thom Heald, Liam Bartley and Tomoko.

Mostly greybird and snow showers in the morning with boot top powder and stashes of deepness.

Thom Heald enjoying his first turns in Kiroro





Thom Heald earning his wings





Tomoko nailing the grab





Glen Claydon airing it





Ben Thorpe laying arcs











Check out Thom's Niseko movie 'Silhouettes' that was warmly received at the recent Niseko movie night


Silhouettes from Thom Heald
http://vimeo.com/21292492
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
DAY 11 : SATURDAY 26 MARCH 2011

Last night was Jam Bar's end of season bash. And what a bash it was. I left at 3.30 in the am and there were still plenty of locals polishing off the last of the liquor.

Another 5cm overnight and sunshine but today was a much needed rest day for me.

Had a wonderful dinner of smoked salmon, lamb with black olives, and creme brulee with camembert ice cream at The Barn's closing party. A wonderful interior, ambiance, meal and service from Brett and his team. Highly recommended.



DAY 12 : SUNDAY 27 MARCH 2011

Another 5cm of snow in the village overnight and another day of sunshine at GRAND HIRAFU, NISEKO

Ran in to Greg Heptonstall and Peter Gilbert at the Alpen quad and we proceeded to lap the north facing slopes of the peak through Gate 4.

Sunshine, knee deep powder, untracked slopes all day, and no lift lines made for a fantastic day. This was Peter's first season in the Niseko Resort Area and his last day of skiing before heading back to Vietnam for the summer to set up an English language school in the mountains. He went out with a bang!

Greg Heptonstall (blue jacket) and Peter Gilbert (yellow jacket) skiing the powder out of Gate 4

















We went a little further round the mountain to get these shots with the full majesty of Iwanupuri in the background













Peter flying on his last day in the Niseko Resort Area

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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?
I love the 4th shot down in that last series... the smile says it all snowHead

Great trip report and a pleasure to read and look at pictures. Japan looks amazing. Maybe a good place for my 40th in a few years time.
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Thanks. Would be a great 40th birthday trip and all the other birthdays before that Wink


DAY 13 : MONDAY 28 MARCH 2011

A sprinkling of new snow in the village overnight and met up with Glen and Ben at GRAND HIRAFU, NISEKO expecting another powder day like yesterday.

Alas no.

Upper lifts on windhold so no access to Gate 3 or 4. Greybird too. Skied a couple of laps of fast groomers, but there are already patches showing at the Alpen base area.

Over 13m of snowfall at the base and patches already appearing. Useless.

Annupuri mountain and the Niseko Resort Area looking like the Serengeti at sunset

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DAY 14 : TUESDAY 29 MARCH 2011

Ian M was back from his jaunt to Indonesia and with rising freezing levels and sunny skies it was time to head back to KIRORO.

Although it's school holidays here on Hokkaido and the lodge and base area of Kiroro were jumping we didn't wait for a lift all day.

The south facing slopes had been sun affected and although spongy were very enjoyable, but the north facing aspects offered up untracked knee deep dry turns all day.

Ian M brought his A game today.

The evidence m'lord





























It's been said that the name Kiroro is derived from the Ainu (Japan's indigenous people) word "kiroru" meaning a wide road that has been hardened by many people walking on it.

Not in our experience Smile
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DAY 15 : WEDNESDAY 30 MARCH 2011

With no new snow in the Shiribetsu area it was back to KIRORO with Ian M for more powder but this time from the summit of Yoichi-dake (1488m), the above tree line peak and bowl that dominates the skyline from the top of Kiroro's lift system.

It was an easy 90 minute walk from the top of the gondola to the peak, with only the last pitch getting the heartrate and breathing rising.

For a sense of scale, the speck of black at the bottom is a group of 8 Japanese hikers out with 2 guides.

Yoichi-dake above Kiroro ski resort. The true summit is hidden in the clouds









Clouds, mist and light snow rolled in as we got to the summit and it stayed that way until we got to the bottom of the second bowl









Hard packed base with 5-10cm of ski penetration on the aspects that had been in the sun earlier in the week. Boot top dry powder in the sheltered aspects. Fantastic terrain between 30 and high 30 degrees, wide open, gullies, cornices. Fun, fun, fun.

And it to make it all the more enjoyable the run out takes you right back to the chair. And a much easier and shorter run out than Jackson's in Grand Hirafu for example.

Much less visited than other slackcountry spots in this area and as a consequence more care needs to be taken during slope and snowpack assessment.

A must do if visiting Kiroro on a bluebird day.

The night was spent at Irori, a small izakaya in Makkari, talking with the teachers from the school where Ian's daughter goes. Great company, great atmosphere, great food.



DAY 16 : THURSDAY 31 MARCH 2011

Day off snow waiting for the next storm to roll through.

Great night in Hirafu for Paddy McGinty's closing down party. Most of Hirafu there made for a boozy and late night.



DAY 17 : FRIDAY 01 APRIL 2011

Another day off snow, and a great day to night at Paddy's with Craig and Ian drinking the black stuff and watching the Super 15s on the big screen.

As we drove back to Makkari the light drizzle turned to big fat flakes and Saturday was looking very promising.
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Shocked snowHead Shocked Fantastical. snowHead
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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!
Mike Pow, your photos are simply magical. Thank you for posting, a real treat. Very Happy
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May this thread never end Cool
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Frosty wrote:
May this thread never end Cool

Hear! Hear! After a day of skiing the Chamonix boilerplate, it's good to be reminded that there is snow out there... somewhere...
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