WildSnow Japan!

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 22, 2015      

The Pacific Northwest has had a dearth of powder this season and the lack of fluffy white stuff got to me. I’m an addict, and these past few months put me in dire need of a fix. The solution was obvious: head to Japan, land of the best snow on earth (sorry Utah).

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Over the past few years of Japan dreaming, whenever I’ve talked to someone who’s gone, the only response is: “You’ve got to go ASAP.” The attraction lies not only in the sumptuous deep powder, but the incredible culture, food, and hospitality as well. After years of thinking about the snows of the East, I was finally able to make it happen this year.

Welcome to Japan!

Welcome to Japan!

The DPS monster cometh...to Japan! Click to enlarge.

The DPS monster cometh…to Japan! Click to enlarge.

Accompanying me are Julie, Michael, and Hayden Kennedy. For the last portion of the trip, Penn and Kir Newhard will join the crew. The plan is to fly to Hokkaido, then spend the initial five or six days skiing out of the Niseko area. After that, we’ll meet up with Mako and Yuki, who’ll show us some other spots around the island of Hokkaido. Mako and Yuki are owners of the eponymous van in Patagonia’s excellent “Japan By Van” video. I’m excited to get to know them, as well as follow them to some of Hokkaido’s best pow spots.

Of course, this being Wildsnow, this trip wouldn’t be complete without some hardcore gear testing. DPS Spoons are tailor-made for deep pow, so they seemed like the right choice for a journey like this. Indeed, I feel like Hokkaido is one of a few places to really give a ski like the Spoon an adequate test. We shall see, but I have a feeling they’ll do pretty well. I’ve got them mounted with
G3’s new Ion LT 12 bindings. I’ve been impressed with the original Ion, and I’m psyched to test out the parred down LT version. I’ve also got Black Diamond Front Point bibs and Sharp End Shell jacket, as well as some new top secret high-tech fully Gore-tex Arc’teryx gloves.

To follow tradition, I could do some “Guess That Pastry” posts, but since this is Japan, they might be more along the lines of “Guess That Weird Looking Seafood And Rice Concoction.” Stay tuned!

For the shoppers:

G3 Ion bindings

Black Diamond men’s bib pants

Arc’teryx ski gloves

DPS skis


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


15 Responses to “WildSnow Japan!”

  1. Sue January 22nd, 2015 9:45 am

    Yay! I’ve been wondering when WildSnow would give more love to Japan. Looking forward to reading about your adventures. Have a great trip!!

  2. Jim Lamb January 22nd, 2015 10:24 am

    Those DPS boards remind me of the hilarious vid call “The truth about Powder


    Hope Japan offers you the opportunity to drop in heavy and blow Sh%& up while dissing on your bro-brah’s!

  3. Jeremy January 22nd, 2015 12:55 pm

    I have Beast 16’s mounted on my Spoon’s, and I have to say they are the most fun I have ever had on skis. I find the Spoon’s almost telepathic in their turning ability, and as expected with 148mm under foot, the level of float is surreal. They also work reasonably well on groomed runs (if needed returning to a resort on a powder day), due to the effective edge of around 40cm.

    Spoon’s and Japanese powder……enjoy.

  4. DavidB January 22nd, 2015 3:56 pm

    Louie, you’ll have a ball on the Spoons in Japan.

    Also don’t discount the pastries as well. There are some pretty good bakeries in Japan. Try this cafe in Niseko, “Graubunden” (yeah I know hardly sounds Japanese but it really is) their 9 layer chocolate cake is awesome and their banana chocolate pie is killer. Take some pics and make Lou jealous.

  5. Grant Alexander January 22nd, 2015 3:59 pm

    Sounds like an awesome trip Louie. One request: Can you give us more than the “The Snow In Japan Is sooo deep” type of trip report? Japan feels a bit overdone in that regard. It would be really awesome to hear more about the people and culture that surround the skiing. Of course I won’t complain if there are some ridiculous photos of chin deep pow 🙂 Have a great time!

  6. Dave H January 22nd, 2015 4:58 pm

    We just left Niseko after ten days. Maybe climb Mt. Yotel and ski the crater? You will need ski crampons at the top its icy. Also next to Rusustsu ski area there is a volcano that looks very nice . Oh yeah I think a full Onsen report is required.
    Please don’t give too many details we want to keep this area special. As I say “tell no one”.

    Also take care as we had two Argentines who left our group in Niseko and went to Nagano and perished in an avalanche which was in the news. They were some unusual circumstances which I could write about. I am awaiting the Japan Avalanche network report. Don’t be lulled into complacency by the low angle and trust no guides. There are a lot of totally bogus “guides” in Japan. Many from New Zealand or Australia and the locals dislike.

    In Niseko you could contact Chie Tanyka and her husband. They are super people.

    Look forward to your report. Onsen On!

  7. Lisa Dawson January 22nd, 2015 6:54 pm

    Dave H, sad news about the recent avalanches. Thanks for your advice about avalanche awareness. I rarely hear about them in Japan and have been curious about the hazards, available avalanche information, etc.

  8. DavidB January 22nd, 2015 8:48 pm

    Dave H, I’ve been skiing Japan predominantly Hokkaido for 15 years and know the terrain, the snowpack and the guide situation very well.

    Yes there are some guides that I wouldn’t trust but in no way is it a situation where you watch out for the Aust & NZ guides. In many cases I can tell you their experience and professionalism was sorely needed on both the main island and Hokkaido. Some the locals like and some not so, same as everywhere. This is more about business than skillsets.

    In fact the biggest Avi I assisted on was lead by two local guides (main island) who had been working a particular area for over 20 years. They got slack and put 8 people in hospital with varying serious injuries and two deceased.

    The snowpack on Hokkaido is generally more stable than the main island. There were some telling weaknesses in the snowpak involved in that avalanche and I believe the Argentinians slipped off on their own and put themselves into that tragic situation. There were a couple on the main island that week, so I believe I have the facts right with this one. Relayed to me by a local.

    Louie, take note of Shinya san’s avi report and then do your own DD.

  9. Calvin January 22nd, 2015 8:58 pm

    Meeting friends there January 27 because the lack of snow in the Northwest.

  10. Sedgesprite January 22nd, 2015 9:22 pm

    Evergreen Outdoor Center is a reliable source for information in Hakuba.

  11. Matt N January 23rd, 2015 12:43 am

    Sounds like an awesome adventure Louie. Super jealous: I’ve been eyeing Japan for the better part of a decade, but haven’t been able to make it happen. Take good notes on accomodations, guides & routes that work out for you, I know I’d love to read about it, and given how grim the Western snow pack is this year, I’d bet your potential audience for a good blend of travel narrative & beta is as high as it will ever be.

  12. Rich January 23rd, 2015 2:14 pm

    Heading to Hakkado late Feb. Eager to hear your Japan report…

  13. Coop January 24th, 2015 3:41 pm

    Wildsnow Japan round 2?

    Looking forward to seeing pictures and reading about all the wonders of Hokkaido we didn’t see last year. I know there are endless.

    Enjoy Louie-san! Don’t forget about the rice triangles from Seico-Mart!! and Pocari Sweat!

  14. guides January 24th, 2015 11:59 pm

    There are partially misleading blanket statements in these comments. Any guide should be evaluated according to the qualifications they have. Many have not nearly enough, across Japan, both foreign and Japanese operators. Others do have a high level of training and professional operational conduct.

    In Japan, be very diligent in understanding the guide training, avalanche training and first aid training your prospective guide has attained. Many well known names in the industry in Japan do not have enough training, some literally have none. Others only have recreation courses. Meanwhile, some lesser known people/companies do have enough training, some only employ IFMGA guides. With the current state of affairs and non-regulated environment it is up to the consumer to differentiate. The hard part is Japanese and foreigners are all prone to state what training they have (little) knowing that most consumers do not understand what constitutes well trained. “Avalanche Operations Level 1” sounds impressive, but it is meaningless, just the first step in a long process.

    Some guides can be trusted.

  15. Wookie January 26th, 2015 7:22 am

    I was there two years ago, and by looks, there was very little competency on display. I am sure there are great guides there, but what I saw was not confidence inspiring….
    The biggest problem we had was getting any kind of reasonable information on the prevailing conditions. What we found was often conflicting, not very precise, and dated….
    It was a lesson to me also in how much I rely on the quality work of the Bavarian and Tyrolian Avalanche services.

    Have a great time!

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