I was the first one to hit Japanese soil. Heading straight for Hokkaido, my mission was to check out as many areas as possible to get an idea of the Japanese ski terrain and how it would relate to our future clients. Hitting up Sapporo Kokusai for untouched deserted laps, I was properly introduced to skiing in Japan. I raced to the biggest, steepest pillow line I saw from the gondola worried it would get skied if I didn’t capitalize on it early. After figuring out the convoluted moves required to stand atop it, I soon realized that no one ever went within 100 meters of that zone (probably due to the maze required to get there). Totally worth it.
Now even more excited for the months to come, I took the train over to the more famous Niseko area, known for its abundance of snow and the close proximity of its numerous ski areas. It was somewhat difficult to get the lay of the land due to the amount of snow falling from the sky and hitting me in the face. It snowed over two meters in the first three days. Utilizing on a few brief patches of clear sky and lots of pow laps, I figured out the lay of the land at Moiwa, Niseko Annupuri and the rest of the Niseko United resorts. All of Moiwa seemed to be a secret stash, but the rest of the resorts required a bit more work before I put together a strong lists of must-hit-earlies, wait-til-laters, and seemingly-undiscovereds.
Watching the weather I chose the right day to take a shuttle over to Rusutsu (high on the recommendation list) for the deepest day of my life. Snow was packing up my nose so much on every turn on the first run that I literally got brain freeze from all the Japan powder. No Joke. Nipple deep, free refills and playful terrain made for an unreal day. I also figured out where to pass powder for way more powder for future reference. Also this happened:
The crew started getting bigger when SASS family member and helpful shred partner, Gabe Ciafre met me in Sapporo. The next day The Lucas and David Burg, logistics guru, joined us. A three-hour-left-side-of-the-road drive later and we were up at Asahidake to check out the lesser known, unpatrolled, off-piste, backcountry tramway. We were not disappointed by the 30 cms of new snow that morning. Asahidake delivered coldsmoke all day and it even went bluebird in the afternoon allowing us to push onto the further ridges for longer pitches. Plus it gave me the opportunity to get this dope shot of Gabe in Japan powder:
Day two at Asahidake was spent on skins with a thwarted attempt (thanks wind) at some of the volcano lines that rise up above the tramway. We still skinned around to figure out how far we can push it and what it requires to get back. The day added some less-than-obvious ridges and numerous pillow zones to our bag of tricks.
Oh, and we found a bar made of ice…
Back in Sapporo, Gabe and I went on a scouting mission over at Teine and found some serious lines that everyone seems to avoid as well as some more playful tree skiing all with views overlooking the city.
With more time later in the the trip scheduled for backcountry recon, now that we know the lay of the land it’s time to test out our knowledge on some eager clients…