Stories, pictures and video from the mountains of Hokkaido

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Spring days at Teine

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.

View of Mount Yotei, or Ezo Fuji, from the top of Teine 

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.

Mike scoring a new Facebook profile picture

Mt Muine. We hiked this in the autumn. It holds snow well into the summer, so its a target for a spring ski tour.

Spring snow in the bowls

Looking down the Summit Express chair and over the coast to Shokanbetsudake in the distance

With Dan and Mike. Photo thanks to a guy from Tokyo who had hiked from the valley up the summer hiking trail that runs up the backside of the mountain.

Last run of the day through Shangri La in the late afternoon sunlight

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!


Final Park Session at Mount Racey

March 29th/30th

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.

Shinya 540 blunt

Rory on the flat box

Wallride

Downrail

Mike getting comfortable in the air

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…

Eating snow

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!

Not always Ezo pow!

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!


Gaper Day at Teine

March 21st

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!


Greenland Sunset Session

Iwamizawa Greenland February 27th

Sunsets at Greenland

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.

Mike grabbing tail

Local skier getting it a bit wrong

The Ezopow crew

Short video with clips shot over a couple of evenings.

 

 


Deepest day so far at Teine

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.

Clare’s pole and forearm

Hattie in bowl 4

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.

Florent warming up in bowl 6

Scenic shot overlooking 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.

Air New Zealand

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:

 

 


Hiking Asahidake

February 15th 2014

The summit of Asahidake from the base of the ropeway

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.

Heading up the skintrack

The volcano still pumps out smoke, and stinks of sulphur

Fumeroles billowing steam

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.

Bootpacking up the south ridge

Lone climber taking ‘route one’, going straight up the middle of the crater

Final push for the top

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.

On top of Hokkaido. 2290m.

Hiking buddy and Team Daiso member, Ross Nixon

Stoked summit photo

 


A few shots from Sapporo Teine

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.

Toshi styling it over the city

Scrappy looking jump, beautiful backdrop

View of downtown Sapporo from Teine Highland

 

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.

Clare in bowl 4

Deep untracked powder. This is what Teine is all about.

Grady laying down a slash turn

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:

 

 


Mount Racey Powder Day

Feb 1st 2014

Toshi getting deep at Yubari

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.

Clare, all smiles

Toshi

Dan

Riding switch in the pow, inspired by meeting Eric Pollard!

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.

Toshi styling it out

Fun hip / wallride feature

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!

 

 

 


A Weekend at Rusutsu

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.

Clare skiing crusty snow on Saturday

Mike taking too much speed into a natural hit and getting off axis!

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.

Mike getting more comfortable in the air

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.

Powder lines in the trees

Hitting the classic Rusutsu chairlift drop

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!

With Eric Pollard. Getting photo bombed in the background by Pep Fujas

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.


Teine and Racey Again

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.

Grady getting the scenic shot dropping into Bowl 1

View over Ishikari Bay

Top of Bowl 4

The park has been set up at the top of Highland, and for a change, it doesn’t suck!

Grady getting deep

Dropping pillows

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.

Panorama from the top

Hitting rollers

Still a few pow stashes to be had

Video edit from the weekend. The Africa Edit

 


A Deep Weekend

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.

Cold light Hokkaido powder at Mount Racey

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.

Clare in bowl 2 at Teine

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.

A glimpse of blue sky as Grady drops into another pillow line

Deep in bowl 4.5

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!

Urban on the mellow run out to the traverse

Superhero snow!

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!


Back to the Snow

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.

View from the apartment this morning

 

Snowed in

Walking to work

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.

Hitting the park at Greenland


Christmas in the UK

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Spending a couple of weeks in the UK.

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Back to Hokkaido on January 6th

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Greenland is Open!

A terrain park and a theme park. Greenland has everything!

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 view from Greenland towards Sapporo and the sea in the distance

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.

Getting faceshots after work

Sliding sideways

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!

Latest X Ray!

 

 

 


North to the Links

Kamui Ski Links, December 7th 2013

We headed north this weekend, following the snow. Driving up through Sunagawa and Takikawa, the snow was pounding down so it looked like we’d made the right call.

Driving north through a classic Sorachi snowstorm

Arriving at Kamui Ski Links, near Asahikawa, there was still a real lack of snow low down, but higher up we could see the trees loaded down with fresh snow. Kamui is a gem of a hill, with loads of tree skiing and rarely any crowds. We know the place well having spent a lot of time there and we always seem to run into a few Asahikawa locals who are keen to shred. Today we met up with the southern hemisphere boys, Ross from South Africa and Andy from Oz.

Looking up from the base at Kamui. Lots of bare patches still showing.

From the top of the gondola, only a couple of runs were officially open. Of course, they were tracked out very quickly. But, turning left out of the gondola and ducking the rope gave us several options of wide open untracked trails, running all the way down to the base of the mountain.

Ross powering down the closed trails

Sending a 180 off a cat track

Despite the sketchy bottom section, our boards and skis remained unscathed. We continued to lap the gondola getting fresh lines every time.

Andy dragging a hand

Anything the snowboarders can do…

Clare getting in on the action

Slash turns in deep powder

An awesome day, but sadly my last for 2013. Operation on Thursday then a trip to the UK. We’ll be back in January, all healed up and ready to go. By then, the snow will have filled in all of the off piste areas, and we’ll be hitting some genuine Ezo pow!

Heading north after Kamui through northern Daisetsuzan. Beautiful empty landscape.


Crap. Injured already.

Broken 4th metacarpal

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.


Opening Weekend at Teine

Sapporo Teine, November 30th & December 1st

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Riding fakie overlooking the coast (Photo by Dan Andrews)

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.

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Looking up at the summit from the Highland Lodge

A good crew from the Hokkaido Cartel came up, stoked to be getting the season underway.

Crew from the Hokkaido Cartel (Photo by Dan Andrews)

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!

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‘Get upside down by Christmas’ was the challenge laid down over a few beers back in September

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.

Shredding pow no poles

Rory Bryce


Nakayama Touge, November 23rd 2013

Nakayama Touge. Busy carpark and cars parked all along the access road.

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!

Quite a wait for the lift. 10-15 minutes, for a short uplift.

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.

Having fun on the small lumps and rollers

Soft snow in places

Clare, first day back on skis this winter

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.

The K-Pass Crew. From left Hattie, Mike, Dan and Clare.

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…


The Waiting Game

November 19th 2013

Snow can come and go very quickly in November

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.


First Turns of 2013/14

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.

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Dawn at Iwamizawa Greenland

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.

Skis on and ready to slide

Skis on and ready to slide

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Dan (right) and Mike (left)

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First action shot of the 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.

Stay tuned.

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Winter Making an Early Appearance in Hokkaido

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.

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The view from the balcony on Monday morning

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5 centimetres on the car

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….

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The car on Tuesday morning. 35cm to clear.

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The wintery walk to work