Wildsnow Japan: First Days Skiing And Culinary Explorations


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 28, 2015      
Tiny skiers in the stunning alpine of Japan.

Tiny skiers in the stunning alpine of Japan.

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).

I'm enjoying all the weird and delicious Japanese food. This was one of the tamer items, a sausage with an animal bone for a handle.

I’m enjoying all the weird and delicious Japanese food. This was one of the tamer items, a sausage with an animal bone for a handle.

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.

They give you these things to put on top of your skis in the gondola. Not really sure of the purpose, but they were good for a laugh.

They give you these things to put on top of your skis in the gondola. Not really sure of the purpose, but they were good for a laugh.

Although most of the resort was fairly tracked out, we did find a few pockets of nice pow. Here's Adam showing off.

Although most of the resort was fairly tracked out, we did find a few pockets of nice pow. Here’s Adam showing off.

Night skiing on Niseko ski resort. Cool!

Night skiing on Niseko ski resort. Cool!

Nata jumping off a lovely snow covered tree. Pillows here are a bit different than the pine tree variety back home.

Nata jumping off a lovely snow covered tree. Pillows here are a bit different than the pine tree variety back home.

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.

Hayden skinning through beautiful trees near Niseko.

Hayden skinning through beautiful trees near Niseko.

Hayden ripping down Annapuri above the trees.

Hayden ripping down Annapuri above the trees.

Hanging out post-Onsen in our hotel room, in awesome Japanese robes.

Hanging out post-Onsen in our hotel room, in awesome Japanese robes.

I wasn't expecting the food in Japan to be quite as incredible as I've found it to be. Of course we've found delicious ramen, but also a huge variety of other foods, all for fairly reasonable prices. For this meal we had a smorgasbord of weird food starting off with raw pickled salmon brain (no kidding), and ending with this gigantic shrimp, eaten with the shell and all. Delicious!

I wasn’t expecting the food in Japan to be quite as incredible as I’ve found it to be. Of course we’ve found delicious ramen, but also a huge variety of other foods, all for fairly reasonable prices. For this meal we had a smorgasbord of weird food, starting off with raw pickled salmon brain (no kidding), and ending with this gigantic shrimp, eaten with the shell and all. Delicious!

This food place was rad, and seemed super authentic. This old Japanese dude cooked everything behind the bar with chopsticks on a charcoal grill.

This food place was rad, and seemed super authentic. This old Japanese dude cooked everything behind the bar with chopsticks on a charcoal grill.



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Comments

18 Responses to “Wildsnow Japan: First Days Skiing And Culinary Explorations”

  1. Max January 28th, 2015 11:30 am

    Just a foot of pow, too bad you lucky dog!

  2. Rachel Bellamy January 28th, 2015 11:45 am

    Dang you all look good in Japanese robes! Obviously that hotel is designed for tourists, otherwise you’d be writing your blogpost on a sweet floor mat. Looks like you all are having a blast!

  3. ffelix January 28th, 2015 12:08 pm

    The ski tip covers are to keep your skis from scratching the windows. The Japanese are tidy 😉

  4. Steven January 28th, 2015 12:30 pm

    Nice report!

    Curious if you guys use avalanche airbags out there. If so, can you talk about your experience getting canister refills? I’m heading out there in Feb and have a Mammut system but haven’t had any luck finding local information.

  5. Louie III January 28th, 2015 4:13 pm

    Yep, everything in the Niseko area seems pretty heavily geared towards tourists. We’re getting out in different parts of Niseko now though, so finding some more of authentic Japanese culture.

    As far as airbags, I’m not using one over here. You can’t refill a normal airbag canister here in Japan, only one bought in Japan, with a special sticker. I checked out the canisters for sale in Niseko, and they were super expensive, about $300 us. Alternatively, you can rent one for the trip, but I’m not sure of the price on that. Also, as far as I understand, if you’re not flying from the US, you can check a full canister in your luggage and it should be fine. However, I didn’t do that because I didn’t want the additional likelihood of my bag being delayed.

    I’ve seen lots of people here with ABS packs, as well as a few Scott Alpride packs. I assume the ABS people just bought a new canister here. Scott’s system can be carried on airplanes fairly easily.

  6. Dave January 28th, 2015 4:32 pm

    Not sure if it’s available in Niseko, but you have to try to find a sushi kaiten joint. (conveyor belt sushi!)

  7. DavidB January 28th, 2015 8:18 pm

    You’ll have fun in Asahidake if the snow gods kick in. I hear it’s been a lean January.
    Had the deepest day of my life in Asahidake with barely 20 people on the entire mountain in ’07. Hope you score.

  8. Jonathan Moceri January 28th, 2015 10:43 pm

    I skied Niseko for two weeks in January 2013 and had an amazing fun time skiing and eating.

    Best salmon I’ve ever had was at Mina Mina. Best overall seafood was at Ezo Seafoods.

    And a Kiwi ski buddy was just skiing through a meter of powder snow at Asahidake, Hokkido, last week. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for a little snow here in the PNW.

    Jonathan

  9. Jonathan Moceri January 28th, 2015 11:42 pm

    And yes, there is a God. In Japan, and Niseko, you can purchase beer in vending machines!!!

  10. gringo January 29th, 2015 1:58 am

    I flew into Sapporo with my ABS twice now with zero issue. I find it funny that this ‘flying with ABS mystery’ still keeps coming up.

    Though last time I was there there was no ABS dealers on the island to buy a new cartridge from.

    How about some Yotei details? We got shut down twice and would love to see what the top looks like 🙂

  11. David Brophy January 29th, 2015 2:16 am

    Hey Lou – I did a season in Niseko a couple of years ago. As well as Yotei, you should try to make time to do a few laps of Mizuno no Sawa. It’s an area of steeper terrain under the Niseko Gondola. You need to pay 2000 yen and sit through a short avalanche lecture before they’ll let you in, but once you’ve done the lecture once you can enter the area as many times as you like with no further payment. They give you bibs and make sure nobody is left in there at the end of the day. Safety first as usual.

    http://www.niseko-village.com/en/white/mizuno-no-sawa.html

    Anyway, it’s well worth the price because it’s great terrain and doesn’t get tracked out because of the small number of people.

    Enjoy!

  12. David Brophy January 29th, 2015 2:18 am

    BTW here’s a little account of my trip up Yotei: http://360niseko.com/blog/an-englishmans-first-ascent-of-mt-yotei/

  13. Andrew January 29th, 2015 2:34 am

    Asahidake had decent coverage in trees when I left three days ago and the storm came as I Left. Guess you will find some good snow

  14. palic January 30th, 2015 3:28 am

    @ffelix – these ski (and SNB) tip covers are used only in Niseko. Here in Rusutsu, if you have wider skis or snowboard, you are just scratching everything inside the gondola.

  15. palic January 30th, 2015 4:12 am

    As we had spent in Niseko several last days, and such untouched snow was only in off-limits prohibited areas (behind the ropes), we are wondering, where the night photo with great fresh snow was taken.

  16. Caleb Wray January 30th, 2015 8:17 pm

    Simply awesome Louie. I spoke with Mr. Newhard yesterday and understand he will be joining you guys shortly. Japan is the powder skiing mecca, I hope it dumps for you guys, though that is generally a February given. We looked up tickets to Sapporo leaving tomorrow and they are reasonable…..hmmmm.

  17. Calvin February 1st, 2015 5:36 pm

    We were in Niseko 1/27, but move on to Rusutsu (much better off piste). Found some nice pockets of pow and then went to the BC.

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/103727466702143735136/albums/6110089640073093793

    Want to go back to ski Mt Yotei.

  18. Kade Spears February 2nd, 2015 2:52 am

    Louie –
    If you are still in the area check out Kiroro.
    Had one of the best powder days of my life there yesterday.
    Photos and videos at kade122.tumblr.com
    Enjoy.
    Kade

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