For the second year me and a group of 6 friends travelled to Japan searching for the elusive powder that Europe so often lacks. The previous year was a blast; amazing snow and an alien but very friendly culture so the urge to go again was strong! The main aim of the trip was to ride as much powder as possible, with photography taking a little bit more of a back seat.
Our first stop was in Niseko one of the best know resorts in Japan, very popular with Australians. The mountain is not large compared with European resorts, but it has a good lift system and powder in abundance. Unlike most resorts in Japan off piste skiing/snowboarding is allowed within gated areas which are opened depending on conditions.
Hiking to the peak in Hirafu with Mount Yotei behind
Our hire van that took us around Hokkaido in Northern Japan
Shoki tree drop
Whilst travelling around Cambodia at the end of last year I met Shoki, who it turns out lives close to where we were snowboarding in Sapporo. He came up and met us for a couple days boarding in waist deep powder, he picked the right days.
Snowboarding down from the peak of Harifu before I lost my Go Pro
One of my favourite purchases of the last few years was a GoPro camera, you clip it to your helmet and head down the mountain. I used it a lot on this trip until the mountain reclaimed it from my head into some powder, never to be seen again…
Japanese food shopping is always an experience
Hanzono base station at night
Rusutsu Resort roller coasters in the snow
After about a week in Niseko we were off on a road trip around Nothern Japan to ski some different resorts hoping to find some more Authentic Japanese experiences. First stop was the resort of Rusutsu, a strange resort with a large tower hotel and a roller coaster for the summer time. The roller coaster certainly makes the resort memorable.
Sunset at Rusutsu Resort
The ropeway at Mount Asahidake disapearing into the cloud cover
Our next stop was Mount Asahidake, a more remote location with just one cable car, or ‘ropeway’ as they are called in Japan. There are two cat tracks leading down from the summit and some pretty full on off piste terrain in between. The temperature was -18c, with fierce winds and very low visibility, but the deep powder made for great riding. I would love to go back here with proper trekking equipment and better visibility as we only scratched the surface of what this place had to offer. The mountain definatly wasn’t the steepest I had ever ridden, but there were tons of fun gullies and tree runs to keep things interesting. You did have to keep you eyes open for volcanic vents and other random holes in the snow…
The hotel we stayed in was very old school Japan, with dated beds and a very traditional atmosphere. The amazing on-site Onsen (natural spring baths) and quirky food made for a memorable experience. The hotel played Western pop songs, but played by bells, giving an eerie horror film feeling to the place.
The trees looked like something out of fairy tale. There were some pretty flat sections, so you really felt you were floating through them
A river on the drive down from Mount Asahidake Ropeway
Whilst driving between resorts we came across this place and had to go in and have a look, it roughly translates ’24 hour, we will buy anything’. It was a mad emporium of everything you could ever want to buy, everything from DVDs, to sex toys, to fishing gear, to guitars and everything else in between. I could of spent hours in this place wondering around its neon aisles.
Our final snowboarding stop was a resort which has 4 massive tower blocks and seemed to be a kind of Japanese Centre Parks, including a huge indoor wave pool. The lift system was pretty extensive here, and not very busy. We had been really hoping for a final big dump of snow before we got there, but it wasn’t to be. Even without snow for a few days there was still powder to be found between the trees higher up.
Corridors leading between towers in Tomamu
Linking the towers were these massive, freezing corridors which felt strangely abandoned, you could often run through them in the depths of the night without seeing another soul.
Room view from the 28th floor of Tomamu tower at sunrise
Waking up to this view from the 28th floor of Tomamu towers at sunrise at sunrise, having forgotten to close the curtains the previous night was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.
By this point we had been snowboarding and skiing pretty much non-stop for 2 weeks and were all pretty knackered. As we were leaving the resort to drive to the airport for our flight the next day to Tokyo a warning light showed up on the van, so for the next 3 hours we sat awaiting a call from the hire company as to whether we could drive it to Sapporo. Eventually we got the all clear and we made it without problem thankfully.