Sapporo Teine. April 13th
Although the season is winding down and the deep powder days of winter are long gone, a few hills in Hokkaido remain open. Sapporo Teine is open at weekends all the way until early May, and Nakayama Touge’s lift will keep turning as long as there’s snow, sometimes into June!
We had a great day at Teine at the weekend. The snow wasn’t amazing, but for this far into April, we weren’t complaining, especially as the sun was shining and the views were fantastic.
We went to check out the bowls, and although there wasn’t powder, the snow was nice spring corn which is a good second best. We weren’t hitting anything crazy, but just riding around and having fun. Once the sun hit the ‘Nature Zone’ it softened up nicely and we spend a good couple of hours lapping the Panorama lift getting some photos and working on the goggle tans.
The snowpack up in the hills is still very deep so will stick around for a long while, despite the warm spring sunshine that we’re having. We’ll still be riding for a good few weeks to come before we put our skis and boards away! An added bonus from this weekend was the bike ride we squeezed in on Saturday. It was one of those awesome Hokkaido weekends when ski season and cycling season overlap!
The park at Mount Racey has been getting bigger and better as the season progresses. Unfortunately though, all good things come to an end, and this weekend was Racey’s closing weekend. We’ve had some great days in the powder and the park at Yubari this year, and we finished off with a beautiful sunny day lapping the park.
Mike was hitting the biggest kicker in the park with ease by the end of the day, but it took him a few slams to get it right…
The snow has really suffered from all the sunshine we’ve had over the past week or so. There were quite alot of bare patches showing through and one really long stretch of grass, which I just had to ski!
It was a wicked final session at Racey. It’s a real hidden gem that very few visitors know about. We haven’t had a bad day there all winter!
Video from late season Gaper Day at Teine. We had been hoping for sunny weather, but mother nature didn’t cooperate. Still a fun time!
Iwamizawa Greenland February 27th
On clear evenings at Iwamizawa Greenland you get some spectacular sunsets. Add to that the background of a roller coaster and ferris wheel and you get a great backdrop for photos and video.
Short video with clips shot over a couple of evenings.
Saturday Feb 22nd
We had planned to hit Rusutsu on Saturday, but after hearing that it had been dumping all day Friday in Sapporo, we changed our plans hoping for an epic day at Teine. We weren’t disappointed. It was the deepest snow we’ve had there this season. Faceshots and no consequence drops were the order of the day. Big smiles and high fives all round.
As always, the further we went into the bowls, the better it got. We ventured out as far as 6 and 7 which gave us some great views over the bay.
We had been eyeing up a big pillow and dropping off the side of it, getting progressively bigger. On the last run of the day Flo (aka Air New Zealand) sacked up and hit it straight on carrying alot of speed and stomped the landing.
We got a little bit of video, but not much as we were too stoked on riding to get the camera out too much. Most of the decent footage was of Flo:
February 15th 2014
Asahidake, an active volcano, is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido at 2290m. There is a single ropeway which ascends to about 1500m, from which you can access a ton of different lines, from pillows in the trees, to alpine style chutes. On Saturday morning the sky was clear, the wind was low and the ropeway was busy, so we made the call to hike for the summit. From the top station, there is a mellow skintrack to a hut at the base of the crater, followed by a steep hike up the ridgeline around the crater to the top.
The wind had been strong during the week, so the ridgeline was windblown and very icy. We abandoned our skins once we got higher up and bootpacked the rest of the way to the summit.
The wind really picked up by the time we got to the summit and the sky had turned overcast. We didn’t stick around, just enough time for a couple of quick photos before clipping into our skis and heading down the backside of the mountain. The wind scoured snow was pretty unpleasant skiing, with only a few pockets of powder in the gullys. It was worth the effort though to bag the summit of Hokkaido’s highest mountain in mid-winter.
Sat Feb 8th
It was a stunning day at Teine on Saturday with incredible views over the Sea of Japan and downtown Sapporo. There wasn’t too much fresh snow, and the bowls were quickly tracked out as it was a busy day for powder hungry foreign riders. We didn’t get too many powder shots, but hit the park in the afternoon, where the bottom kicker has been set up to give an incredible backdrop for photos.
Tues Feb 11th
Tuesday was a public holiday, so we got a bonus day on the hill. It turned out to be a real bonus. Alot of Hokkaido has been hurting for snow for the past few days, so we didn’t expect great things from Teine. But we were wrong. Snow had been falling steadily overnight, so we had 30cm or more of light powder. It seemed like we were the only people lapping the bowls, so we got line after line of faceshots.
Grady and I found a nice big drop that neither of us had hit before. It’s way out beyond bowl 5, so the landing was totally untouched and deep. We went for it, and caught it on video:
Feb 1st 2014
We had planned to go to Teine on Saturday, but the forecast had strong winds which we thought might close the upper lifts. So we decided to go to Racey, which is more sheltered from the weather. As soon as we arrived, we realised we’d made a good decision. Probably 30cm of fresh snow had fallen overnight, ontop of a load of untouched snow from the previous snowfall. We lapped the gondola, finding new lines filled with deep light snow.
After a late lunch we hit the park for an hour or so. It’s starting to look really decent with 2 very nice sized kickers and some creative jibs. I’m looking forward to a few sunny park days over there in March.
Racey isn’t a particularly well known ski area, especially with foreigners. So when it does snow, there’s never any competition for fresh tracks. It’s not huge, but it has some really decent lines and bowls if you know where to go. It’s a real hidden gem, but don’t tell anyone!
January 25th and 26th
We skied at Rusutsu both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. We stayed at Iwanai overnight on Friday and Saturday, giving us an easy drive up to the ski hill each morning. The weather had been really warm, with rain on Friday. Saturday it was still warm, with a dusting of new snow with a hard crust underneath. Sunday was way better, with 10 to 15 centimetres of new snow.
We headed over to West Mountain after lunch on Saturday to check out the new Sidecountry Park. With the crappy snow and bombed out landings, we weren’t going anywhere near the features. It’ll need a deep powder day for most of the drops and jibs to be rideable by even the best amateur riders! We headed further down West Mountain and spent a couple of hours at the end of the day lapping the terrain park. First time I’ve been in there and I was impressed with the setup. Although the landings were surprisingly hard! I’ll be back in the spring for sure.
With more snow on Saturday we had alot more fun. Lots of nice lines in the trees, and a few drops. Plus, I was using poles again, so I felt more comfortable and balanced on my skis.
Also on Sunday, we saw the crew from Nimbus Independent who are in Hokkaido for a month or so skiing and filming. I got a photo with a skiing hero of mine, Eric Pollard. Stoked to meet them, and to see them shredding at one of our home mountains!
The wind really picked up on Sunday afternoon and it got pretty unpleasant on the mountain. We called it at around 2, and hit the road. Hopefully the wind and unsettled weather will bring more snow this week.
This was more or less a repeat of last weekend. If it ain’t broke, right?! Saturday it was Teine, with a crew of mostly skiers, plus Toshi holding it down for the snowboarders. Weather was pretty decent so we had great views over the city and the bay. The snow was still nice and deep, especially further out in the bowls.
There was no new snow on Saturday night, but plenty of sunshine in the forecast for Sunday so we decided to head for Mount Racey. We mostly stayed on piste and in the park. The incredible weather more than made up for the lack of fresh snow.
Video edit from the weekend. The Africa Edit
The January snow keeps coming. We had a three day weekend and each day the snow got deeper and deeper. This is what Central Hokkaido is all about.
Saturday 11th at Mount Racey in Yubari, a town famous for $10,000 melons and a bankrupt local government. It doesn’t often get as much snow as elsewhere, so I usually only go there in the spring for their excellent terrain park. Saturday was different though.
On Sunday we headed to Sapporo Teine. It was dumping all day. Poor visibility meant we only ventured into bowls 1 and 2, but we still got fresh lines well into the afternoon. The camera was pretty much useless in the bad weather.
Monday was back to Teine with Grady and Meghan. The visibility was better so we ventured further along the summit ridge. Bowls 4 and 5 were chest deep and we had our choice of lines all day.
It was good to meet another skier, Urban from Switzerland. He’s finished his post at Hokkaido University and is taking a month off to ski. Great timing!
An awesome weekend, and the deepest turns of the season so far. The snow looks set to continue, so next weekend should be equally good!
We’re back in Hokkaido. And as you’d expect its snowing. A blizzard was raging last night, giving us around 30-40cm this morning, drifting much deeper in places thanks to the wind.
I’ve been hitting the Greenland for the past couple of nights. Feels great to be back on skis! We’ve got a three day weekend from tomorrow so we’ll probably hit Mount Racey and Teine.
Spending a couple of weeks in the UK.
Iwamizawa Greenland (also sometimes called White Park) is one of the dozens of local ski hills to be found all over Hokkaido. Almost every larger town has a hill with one or two lifts, cheap or free lift tickets and usually night skiing. Iwamizawa actually has two ski hills, the other being Haginoyama, whose claim to fame is that it’s ‘Japan’s widest ski hill.’
Greenland is by far my favourite local hill. It has a nice steep slope, a decent park, no crowds and being in Iwamizawa it gets a ton of snow.
The glow of the floodlights a couple of nights ago alerted me to the fact that Greenland has now opened for the season. Normally I’d be there after work, lapping the kickers and getting the odd powder run between the trees.
Not the case this winter though. My hand is still pretty well bandaged up, with four pins supporting my broken matacarpal, so skiing is still off the cards until January. Reports of deep powder from friends hitting various ski hills last weekend were tough to hear! The doc says my op went well though and so far things are healing up nicely. I’m itching to get skiing again!
Not the way I’d planned to start the season. Turned out that ‘sprained’ hand from last weekend is actually broken. I’m going back to the doctor next week and they’ll pin the bone together. I won’t be skiing the weekend immediately after that, and then I’m heading to the UK for Christmas and New Year. So it looks like my season is on hold until early January. Bugger.
4 ski days so far. I’ll have some catching up to do.
Sapporo Teine, November 30th & December 1st
Not a bad couple of days up at Teine. Far more terrain available than last weekend at Nakayama, and no crowds. In fact, we didn’t have to wait in a liftline once.
A good crew from the Hokkaido Cartel came up, stoked to be getting the season underway.
The peer pressure got the better of me on Saturday morning, leading to a crashed front flip and injured hand, meaning I rode the rest of the weekend no poles Harlaut style!
There’s a lot of sasa (bamboo leaves) still above the snow, but we found some decent powder stashes under the chair. The real highlight of Teine is the summit ridge, below which a number of bowls and chutes give some of the best steep skiing in Hokkaido. It’ll be a couple of weeks before they’re filled in with enough snow to be rideable.
Perched on the pass between Sapporo and Rusutsu, Nakayama Touge is one of Hokkaido’s smaller ski areas. Thanks to its position in the mountains, it is usually one of the first hills to open and almost always the last to close. It’s somewhere we rarely go, except in the autumn, when they have decent early snow, and late season, when they have a legit terrain park. It only has a single chairlift and a short, relatively mellow slope.
At this time of year, and with the warm weather during the week, I was more than happy to make the drive out to Nakayama to get our first lift served skiing of the year. With only a few hills open (Kokusai and Rusutsu being the other two options) it was always going to be busy. The lift line was 10-15 minutes or so for a chairlift ride of about 5 minutes!
We got there early, so the snow was still decent through the morning. Boot deep powder at the edge of the piste. Lots of lumps and rollers all over the place so we had fun jumping around and making the most of the short run.
We were riding with Hattie, Dan and Mike who also got the K-Pass this year. Hopefully this’ll be our regular crew for the winter.
A fun morning, good to get back on the snow and start finding our feet again. Hopefully after some rain on Monday, we’ll get some decent snow through the week. Teine should be open next Saturday, so we’ll be heading there if mother nature cooperates…
November 19th 2013
After the initial high of getting such a big dump of snow last week, we’re back to the autumn waiting game. Checking weather forecasts and webcams, and hoping for more snow. Hopefully for now the rain has passed. We had a full day and night of heavy rain and thunderstorms, which has washed away alot of snow. The webcam up at Nakayama Touge is at least showing that some snow has survived the downpour, but they still need alot more. The forecast suggests we’re in for some light snow everyday until the weekend, so fingers crossed (I’ve been saying that alot recently) it’ll build up enough for an opening.
Our K-Winter Pass covers 5 ski areas, 3 of which could potentially open this weekend – Nakayama, Sapporo Teine or Rusutsu. We’ll just have to wait and see where we’ll be heading to on Saturday morning.
Iwamizawa Greenland. November 13th 2013
A 6:00am start for some turns before work. I headed down to Greenland with Dan and Mike. The snow was quite deep and crusty which made hiking a challenge for our unfit legs.
A short steep hike up the small bowl to the lookers right of the main lifts gave us a nice pitch for our first turns of the winter. Not the best snow, or location, but considering the date, we were happy with it. And for Mike, starting his first winter in Hokkaido, this was one of the deepest powder days he’s ever had! He’s in for a treat this winter.
We did a run down the side bowl, and then back to the top and down the front slope. It looked like someone had made a jump on one of the kicker mounds the previous day, so we headed over to hit that, with mixed results. ‘Unfortunately’ the GoPro video didn’t come out so there’s no footage of our jumps.
Not a bad start to the winter, but looking at the forecast, we’ll be waiting a little while for our next session. Hopefully more snow will arrive in time for Rusutsu and Sapporo Teine to open on the weekend of November 23rd/24th.
On Monday (November 11th) we woke up to a dusting of snow. Probably not more than 5 centimetres or so, but it was earlier than normal for snow to be falling in town and the forecast looked like we were due for another day or two of cold weather. It’s always good to see the first snow, but I’ve learned over the past few years not to get my hopes up in November, as cold snaps are often followed by warm wet spells.
Then on Tuesday morning, we got 35cm of new snow! Things were starting to look very wintery. Thoughts tuned to shredding, and plans were hatched. An early start, turns before work? When’s sunrise? 6:22, that’ll work. It’s on….