I’m sitting in Makato Takeishi’s van heading up to Asahidake in search of colder temps and deeper backcountry snow after waking up to rain pattering on our roof this morning in Niseko. We met up with Mako and Yuki yesterday after exploring the Niseko area ourselves for a few days. We’ve found our share of good skiing along with a few mishap-filled adventures, but have yet to experience the mega-deep pow of legendary Japan. I’m a bit behind in trip reports, but I’m going to split the first part of our trip into two posts: one for the ski of Mt. Yotei (epically rad), and one for everything else we’ve done (also pretty rad).
We arrived in Niseko to pounding snow and blowing wind. Our first day we explored the Niseko Hirafu ski area, riding the gondola, and skiing down the trees on the side of the resort. We were able to find untracked stuff, and decided to do a bit of skinning up a treed slope next to the lifts. Once on top of the slope, we were surprised to find lift towers visible through the trees since we thought we were out of the resort. Still, we skied down what we hiked up, and found a good foot or so of fresh pow. Unfortunately wind closed the lifts a bit early, but I was grateful to rest a bit more after the exhausting traveling.
That evening I met up with friends from Washington: Tim Black, Adam Roberts, Jason Hummel, and Jeff Rich, as well as a bunch of new friends from Canada. We were excited to try out night skiing at the ski resort, especially since it had been pounding snow all day since the lifts closed, with about 20cm of accumulation. The wind was still blowing but they opened a few lifts, and we had a blast.
The next day we decided to explore the terrain above our hotel, near the Moiwa ski resort. The terrain looked good out the hotel room window, and we decided to head for a nice looking treed slope in the distance. After skinning a while around the side of the resort, we took a turn toward the slope that was our goal, and discovered a deep ravine blocking the way. I later learned that Mako calls this ravine the “ravine of hell,” and it lived up to its name. Eventually we made it to the other side, managing to avoid the water through some precarious skinning maneuvers.
On the other side we discovered that our beautiful slope wasn’t so beautiful. It was very low angled at the top, and then transitioned to unskiable bush cliffs that dropped directly into the ravine. Even better, when we topped out we discovered that we were on the side of a well-traveled road, not in the middle of nowhere like I had expected. We skied a few laps on the hill anyways, which wasn’t half bad. We skinned a long circuitous route back to the resort, in order to avoid the ravine, and ended up coming up on the other side of the mountain. Having completed the Moiwa ski resort circumnav, we skied back to the bottom and quickly headed back to the Onsen for an end of the day soak.
The next day I headed up to Mt. Yotei, while the Kennedys skied out of the upper gates of the ski area and found excellent skiing on Mt. Annapuri.