Day 1: Fly overnight to Sapporo Airport.
Day 2: Arrive at Sapporo Chitose Airport. Transfer to Niseko, the powder skiing capital of Hokkaido. The village is an eclectic mix of old and new Japan; traditional bars and inns as well as modern hotels and night clubs. Mt Yohtei provides an impressive backdrop to the village, its shape closely resembling Mt Fuji.
Day 3: The first day is a free skiing day for you to use to warm up your legs for the week. Niseko is one of the most famous resorts in Japan for the consistency of powder and the sheer amount of snowfall it receives, the average snow depth by February is 3.5 meters. Niseko is comprised of four main resort areas which access great off-piste skiing.
Day 4: This is the first of our guided days. We will be taking you outside the ski area boundaries and in to the back bowls for some great powder skiing. A 15 minute climb accesses a number of options which provide long vertical and an easy egress back in to the resort. We finish the day in one of the 16 hot spring baths which are available in Niseko. Moiwa is a resort at the far end of the Niseko area which provides our bad weather option.
Days 5-7: 3 further days of guided off-piste skiing in the Niseko area.
Day 8: Rest and travel day. We transfer over to Asahikawa today in the Central Region of Hokkaido.
Day 9: We take you out to a local’s ski hill called Kamui Ski Links today. Kamui Ski Links sits in a valley and is perfectly located to catch snow from the predominant Westerly wind direction which deposits great quantities of snow on the off-piste we ski and ride.
Day 10: A further day of guided off-piste skiing in Kamui Ski Links.
Day 11: We travel to Asahidake, at 2,290m the highest mountain in Hokkaido and a live volcano. You will be awed by this conical shaped volcano that looms over the ski area and sends out a steam of smoke from its vents. The powder here is some of the lightest in the world and will not disappoint. A lone gondola accesses great powder terrain which we utilize for 2 full powder days.
Day 12: Second guided off-piste skiing in Asahidake and then transfer to Furano. Those who are participating in the ski tour extension will be transferring to the Tokachidake area.
Day 13: After breakfast transfer back to the airport for your return flight.
Optional 3-day ski touring extension
Day 13: For the next 3 days we will be based in the Tokachidake area of Daisetsuzan National Park. Accommodation is a hot springs pension located at the highest drive-able point in Hokkaido. From here we have sweeping views of Furano valley. Our first tour is to climb and ski Sandanyama, the ‘Three Step Mountain’ as well as finishing the day with a soak in a natural hot spring overlooking Mt Tokachi, the live volcano in the area.
Day 14: Today’s back country tour is to Furanodake which is some of the finest tree skiing in Hokkaido and a powder mecca for Hokkaido’s back country fraternity. It is an area that has been immortalized in magazines with pictures of skiers and snowboarders all trying to keep their heads above the snow. If the weather permits, we intend to climb and ski the ‘Giant’ course. Need we say more?!
Day 15: Our last day will be spent climbing and skiing the front side of Mt Tokachi. If you are brave enough, a highlight is to touch the great volcanic steam that billows out of its great vent. The day will finish with a soak in Fukiage Hot Spring which magically re-energizes the tiredest of bodies.
Day 16: Transfer back to the airport for return journey home.
A typical day involves traveling by vehicle from our base in Niseko and Asahikawa to surrounding ski areas where we access the off-piste via the lift system. Areas are chosen for their good access to off-piste and with the use of the lifts we can limit the time spent hiking and maximize the time spent going down. The day is then finished with a bathe in a traditional hot spring to soothe tired bodies.
The risk of avalanches is low. A lot of the skiing will be tree skiing and the mature birch and pines in the mountains of this area provide good anchoring. Despite the cold temperatures, Hokkaido receives a lot of snow and the deep snow-pack promotes good stability.
Average slope angles are 30 degrees with the steepest being about 35 degrees. It is more like the Rockies here with average runs of 600-800m of superb powder snow. In Spring, when there is good corn snow in the alpine there are areas with over 1,000 meter vertical descents.
On the ski touring extension, you'll be skinning for 3-4 hours on each day. No need for crampons, harscheisen or ice-axe.
Our intermediate level off-piste adventure courses are for people with between 2 and 5 weeks off-piste skiing. Capable of skiing 10-12 continuous turns off-piste. Can ski down most slopes but lack confidence on steeper pitches and in tricky conditions.
These weeks will be led by Mountain Guides and so the focus will be on off-piste guiding and mountain awareness with some general coaching and instruction.
For the off-piste adventure courses you need to have good physical fitness in order to enjoy full days on the hill. On these courses you will mostly use the lift systems to gain altitude but you can expect some walking/climbing in order to access some runs.
Dates & Duration
The trip includes 8 days off-piste guiding and 1 day unguided (3 extra guided days on the ski touring extension. Other dates/durations are available on request for private groups. The peak powder season is mid-December until end-February.
Single room occupancy may incur additional charges. Further information available on request. The cost for the 3-day ski tour extension is £495 per person based on a minimum group of 4.
The trip is priced on a group size is 10 with 2 guides. Additional charges may apply for smaller groups.
Participants will be accommodated in twin rooms at a mid priced pension. The accommodation place has been chosen for their social and friendly atmosphere and the hospitality of the owners and staff. Breakfast is included in the price. Breakfasts are included in the accommodation package. These will be a mix of traditional Japanese style food which will consist of rice, fish, miso soup and salad. Western style breakfasts when available will consist of a cooked breakfast with cereal and toast.
Climate & Temperature
Niseko and Asahikawa are cold places in January and February. The average day time temperature in the mountains could be in the range of -12 to -20 degrees Celsius, although colder days of -30 degrees Celsius are also possible.
Nick Parks IFMGA will be teaming up with Chuck Olbery from Backcountry Powder Tours. Chuck is a member of the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association and has been based in Hokkaido for many years. He speaks fluent Japanese.
A copy of our recommended kit list will be sent to you at the time of booking. The likelihood is we will be skiing deep light powder most of the time therefore it is highly recommended that your skis should be about 90-100ml in the waist. Alpine touring equipment is strongly recommended for this trip.
It is possible to hire touring equipment in Japan but it is expensive and we'd recommend bringing gear from the UK. All skiers will need to carry a small day sack (max 25 liters) containing their safety gear and any personal items e.g. camera.
Safety equipment: everyone is expected to ski at all times with the three essential items of avalanche safety equipment; transceiver, shovel and probe. If you ski off-piste regularly we recommend you purchase your own set. We use and recommend the DTS Tracker and can offer you these at a discounted rate.
Lunches are available at all resorts. Menus typically consist of Japanese noodles, curry and rice dishes and pasta dishes. About 1,000 yen to 1,500 yen will be adequate (£5-8 per day). At all of the areas that we will be staying in there will be a good selection of restaurants for dinner, both Japanese and western style. Budget between 2,000 yen to 3,000 yen. (£10-15 per day).
We strongly recommend bringing sufficient Japanese yen with you to Japan as late night arrivals in to Asahikawa Airport do not have access to money exchange vendors. There are two money exchange vendors in Furano; the Bank of Hokkaido or the Furano Post Office.
Bank of Hokkaido: US dollars can be exchanged, travelers cheque can be cashed and cashing services for Visa and Diners Club are available.
Furano Post office: The following currencies can be exchanged: US Dollar, Canadian Dollar, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Korean Won, Swiss Franc, Euro. Travelers cheque can also be cashed. Amex International, Visa and other cashing services are available.
Cash Dispensers (ATMs) are open between 8.45am and 7.00pm on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays the Post Office ATMs are operational from 9.00am to 7.00pm.
Many hotels, lodges, restaurants and shops are unable to accept credit cards. Please ensure that you have sufficient cash to cover your expenses.
For all medical needs such as general illnesses and injuries, people attend the two local hospitals. There are English speaking doctors and nurses in attendance and medical forms in English for your convenience. Medical and health care is of a very high quality in Japan. Like most countries it can be expensive and this should be taken in to consideration before your departure.
We strongly advise that you to bring sufficient quantities of any specific medication that you require. You should also bring a personal basic first aid kit containing band-aids, pain killers, elasticized bandage and Second Skin for blisters.
Japan standard time is UTC/GMT plus 9 hours. There are no daylight savings in Japan.
The standard voltage in Japan is 100-110V / 50Hz. A voltage adapter is recommended for sensitive appliances or for use over long periods.
Citizens of most European Countries and USA do not require visas for short visits to Japan. For further information visit your local Japan Embassy website. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of your trip.
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