Hokkaido — All About Patience


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 9, 2015      

Julie Kennedy

DPS Yvettes + Hokkaido white smoke make for a pretty dreamy ride!

DPS Yvettes + Hokkaido white smoke make for a pretty dreamy ride!

A Hokkaido family skiing holiday has been a dream of mine ever since my most challenging days when I was recovering from bilateral knee replacements two years ago. I remember lying in bed, eating as many Percocets in a twenty-four hour period that was medically allowed before something really bad would happen. With daily doses of painkillers and Felt Soul Media’s film “Unicorn Sashimi,” I was well on my way to realizing this dream ski trip to Hokkaido.

So the planning began. A few emails and phone calls to my 5Point filmmaker friends was all it took to get the ball rolling. Next step was finding three mileage seats Denver to Sapporo. Luck, karma, whatever you want to call it was on my side when I locked up three tickets all for the same flights — BOOM!

So here I am in Hokkaido with my husband, my son, my second son, Louie, and our guides Mako & Yuki — me and the dudes on the hunt for JAPOW!

Enjoying gentle slopes on Hokkaido.

Enjoying gentle slopes on Hokkaido.

Our first week we experienced it all: super high winds closing the higher lifts, side country powder laps, skiing the alpine in shin deep cream cheese and then waking up to RAIN. RAIN in Niseko, the Aspen of Hokkaido? Of course the ski flicks and social media warn of that. Needless to say, we bolted immediately and headed north to where it was dumping snow buckets.

Amazing what happens to one's attitude when you land on a heated toilet seat! It’s all about the controls, front & back rinsing, what a concept!

Amazing what happens to one’s attitude when you land on a heated toilet seat! It’s all about the controls, front & back rinsing, what a concept!

Indeed we found way colder temps with super enjoyable powder. Skiing here in Hokkaido is a true experience. The vertical is definitely shorter than what we are accustomed to, but the snow quality is exceptional. Perhaps our expectations were a bit high from all of the films and social media hype. After nine days of patiently chasing JAPOW, we finally fully experienced blower face shots with every magical turn!

While the skiing is just a part of this whole adventure, it’s really been all about enjoying the Hokkaido cultural scene, amazing cuisine, après ski onsens (fresh water mineral baths), heated toilet seats, and most of all the most respectful Japanese people and being with this awesome group of laughter and psyche!

Louie & Hayden quite serious and strategic about their Genghis Khan BBQ! One of Hokkaido’s most popular dishes is Genghis Khan BBQ (Jingisukan), which consists of grilled mutton and vegetables grilled on domed iron plate, together with special Jingisukan sauce (unique to each shop).

Louie & Hayden quite serious and strategic about their Genghis Khan BBQ! One of Hokkaido’s most popular dishes is Genghis Khan BBQ (Jingisukan), which consists of grilled mutton and vegetables grilled on domed iron plate, together with special Jingisukan sauce (unique to each shop).

With every wrap to a wondrous Hokkaido ski day, a unique onsen (Japanese fresh water mineral bath) awaits you!

With every wrap to a wondrous Hokkaido ski day, a unique onsen (Japanese fresh water mineral bath) awaits you!

So this is what all the this JAPOW hype is all about!

So this is what all the this JAPOW hype is all about!

(Guest blogger, Julie Kennedy, former owner of Climbing Magazine, founder of the 5Point Film Festival and terrific skier — WildSnow Über Girl!)

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Comments

10 Responses to “Hokkaido — All About Patience”

  1. Robin February 9th, 2015 10:21 am

    Having run the O.R. gauntlet (surgery, not gear) a few times recently, with a stepwise return to the slopes, and a previous Hokkaido ski trip, I grasp your joy completely. Good on ya! How about those lonely vending machines on the Niseko sidewalks half covered with snow, yet serving up perfectly heated “Royal Milk Tea”? Ambrosia. Beware the “Gaijin smash”; when we as westerners commit a social faux pas – easy to do in the structured society, yet you will never know due to the complete politeness of the Japanese. Mine were too many to detail here. Recommended reads for those planning a Hokkaido powder pilgrimage: T.R. Reid’s “Confucius lives next door: What living in the East teaches us about living in the West” and “Ski Japan”; WSG Media’s “Snow Search Japan”, and Ruth Benedict’s “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”. Keep the articles coming. Cheers.

  2. Chet Roe February 9th, 2015 10:32 am

    Julie…..I am facing knee replacement in the next couple of years….would you mind talking via phone about your experience some time? thanks, Chet Roe ctroe3@comcast.net

  3. Lisa Dawson February 9th, 2015 2:26 pm

    Robin,
    Thanks for the reading list!

  4. Scott Nelson February 9th, 2015 5:13 pm

    Looks like magical skiing!

  5. Jason February 9th, 2015 5:54 pm

    Julie, you did such a great job of capturing the Hokkaido experience in your article. Thank you for a great piece of writing and the pictures.

    I also arrived in Niseko a few weeks ago when it was raining, but eventually the snow came and I got to experience that very special Hokkaido powder. The tree skiing is magical and as my souvenir hat says, “Japan is #1 ” . I was a little depressed when I arrived at the Vancouver airport on my return to find just plane old standard toilets awaiting me…..

    Agree with Robins comment about the vending machines. I put 130 yen in and out tumbled a “hot” dark expresso and I was in a country store in a rural area. Never experienced that in Canada before.

    How about the fresh food selection in their 7-11stores? The quality is amazing. (A nod to the blog , “Snowchasers” for that tip)

    Thanks also to Louie for updates on Hokkaido. I should have listened to his earlier advice ( 2014) on purchasing a Dakine Double Concourse ski bag. My standard 2 ski , shoulder strap padded bag disintegrated on my 2 week trip to Japan. It came home stuffed with cardboard to protect the tips& tails and wrapped in duct tape.

    Thanks Wildsnow

  6. Patrick February 9th, 2015 6:10 pm

    You say Niseko is the Aspen of Hokkaido. Did you run into the Niseko version of Hunter S. Thompson?

  7. Max February 10th, 2015 9:07 am

    Patrick, more! Who are you referring to?

  8. Rachel Bellamy February 10th, 2015 7:58 pm

    Julie I’m soooo hungry now for pow and wonderful Japanese food! Thanks for making a write up happen. I’m glad that your dreams are coming true 🙂

  9. Daniel February 11th, 2015 4:19 am

    Looks like lots of fun. I love skiing at the parkhotel brenner.

  10. Patrick February 11th, 2015 11:19 pm

    Max — Hunter was part of the redefinition of Aspen in the 60s. In 1970, he ran for county Sheriff on the -Freak Power- ticket. Dang near won. One might think of Hunter as an old-school dirt bagger. Check him out on Wikipedia. Doubt if Hunter was much of a skier. Without colourful characters (like Hunter) to spark things up, Aspen and other mountain resort towns, can get a bit like vanilla pudding.

    Ya, the 60s were great for me: Banff, Jasper, Mammoth, Alta, Jackson, Vail, Aspen (worked at the Jerome) – and Carlos Santana at the Filmore West. My skiing evolved to the backcountry in 1980. Still hunting the deep and steep.

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