Stories, pictures and video from the mountains of Hokkaido

Rusutsu

100 Day Season and an East Hokkaido Roadtrip

April

We haven’t really been riding much recently. We’ve had a couple of visitors, and some weekends of rainy weather. I did have one really good day down at Nakayama Touge last Monday. The park down there is in good shape and due to stay open for the spring period and into May.

Spring Park at Nakayama Touge

I also bagged my 100th day of the season. It’s the second time I’ve managed a 100 day season here in Hokkaido. The last time was in 2011/12 when I got 102 days. I’m hoping to comfortably break that record by the end of the month!

At Sapporo Teine, 100th day for the season.

We missed a weekend skiing when we headed out to Eastern Hokkaido with my brother who was visiting earlier in April. We were lucky with the weather and saw some really spectacular scenery. A few photos:

Kurodake. They say there’s no steep terrain in Hokkaido.

Oakan-dake at sunset with Meakan smoking in the distance

Lake Kussharo from Bihoro Touge. Shari dake in the distance.

Not eastern Hokkaido, but Lake Shikotsu, near Chitose. We hiked Fuppushi-dake straight after picking up my brother from the airport. View of Yotei, Shiribetsu-dake and Rusutsu resort in the distance.

After some crap weather last week, the forecast is looking more promising for the coming weekend. Hoping to get a final lift access day at Teine, and then a park session at Nakayama Touge. After that, we’ll be hiking for turns.

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Locals Only March

Here’s the edit from the past few weeks. March in Hokkaido is always good as you still get decent dumps of snow but also more sunny days. And all the tourists have gone home!

Shot at Sapporo Teine, Rusutsu and Yubari Mount Racey


Rusutsu Pond Skim

March 22nd, 2015

With the season coming to an end and temperatures creeping up, it’s pond skim time! Rusutsu was hosting the ‘Splash Cup’ so we headed on down on a beautiful bluebird day to join the party.

Some of the competitors lining up

The ‘pond’ was more like a paddling pool, so didn’t present too much of a challenge. The water looked really icy though, so none of us fancied taking an unwanted dip. Everyone only got one judged run, so we had to lay it all down on our first try.

Mike looking very stylish

Yours truly

Andy Foster, superman-ing out

Dan, spraying the judges

More by luck than any real skill, I managed a 180 out of the pond and that was enough to score me 2nd place! I was stoked, and quickly eyed up the prize table, looking at six packs of Sapporo Classic, tshirts, vouchers and all kinds of swag. My prize – a second hand snowboard, with LED lights in the base. Kind of cool, but not much use to me. Luckily I was able to explain this to the judges who were happy to exchange the snowboard for the aforementioned sixers of biru.

Power rangers presenting me with a LED light up snowboard. Very Japan.

The day continued with a few slushy runs through the trees, and lots of grilled meat in the yakiniku area set up next to the pond skim. An excellent spring day.


Come in mid-February. Guaranteed pow….. ?

Is what I said to my friends Sam and James when they were planning a trip to visit us in Hokkaido. I should’ve known though. The last time all three of us were on a mountain together was 10 years ago in Whistler. That year, the Pineapple Express hit, giving us rain, wind, and generally crap snow for the majority of our 2 months in BC.

Last time we were all together on a mountain was Whistler in 2005

This time would be different though, wouldn’t it? It’s Hokkaido after all. Well, we had a bit of snow, but generally nothing like you’d usually expect for February. Pretty disappointing for Sam and James to have travelled from Hong Kong and the UK respectively for not amazing snow, but we had a good couple of weeks and made the best of a bad snow situation.

Welcome to Yubari, James

Straight from the airport we headed to Mount Racey. Not much powder but we gravitated towards the park like the park-rats we used to be! We were treated to a classic Yubari sunset to welcome the boys to Hokkaido.

I’m still doing the same old school tricks. James’ photo skills have improved a bit though

We had a good couple of days down in Rusutsu. A little bit of fresh snow to keep the trees interesting and an amazing bluebird day with views of Yotei, Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean. Plus a sweet night park session, with confidence boosted by the addition of chairlift cans of Sapporo Classic!

Sambo dropping a cornice at Rusutsu

James taking on a side hit on Hollywood Cliff at Rusutsu

Still some powder stashes

We were able to scope out some decent stuff at Teine too. The less obvious lines in the trees and out in the bowls were still fun, even without recent snow. And the park was also always an option!

Classic Teine views dropping into bowl 1

James at Teine

Slash turns in Nakazawa, Teine Highland

If all else fails, there’s the park

Jibbing

We had a random half day at the unheard of Bibai Kokusai Ski Hill. (Kokusai means international in Japanese. Interesting choice of name for a one lift ski hill in a dying former mining town!) It actually turned out to be a great time though. We found lots of short but fun lines through the trees, some powder and even a park! And other than a few army dudes in leather boots, we were the only ones there.

Mellow powder and pillows at Bibai Kokusai

The ribbon jump at Bibai. We got shouted at by the lifties for this!

Sam headed back to Hong Kong slightly earlier than James, leaving us to have a sweet final park session at Mount Racey. A sunny day, with no crowds had us lapping the park with the essential Go Pro on a pole.

Go Pro on a stick chairlift selfie!

Follow cam screen grab

Critical grab

Wallride

Sunset 180 safety

Thanks for coming out to visit boys. Now Sambo, you’ve got all the footage, get working on that edit!!


Video – Christmas and New Year

Edit from Rusutsu, Sapporo Teine, Kamui Ski Links & Mount Racey

 


Christmas and New Year in Hokkaido

Dec 20th – Jan 4th. Rusutsu, Teine, Kamui Ski Links and Mount Racey

What an epic couple of weeks! Usually over Christmas and New Year we take a couple of weeks off to travel somewhere outside Japan. This year, we took the time off, but stayed in Hokkaido to travel around with a few friends and ski.

Lake Toya and the Pacific from Rusutsu on Christmas Day

There’s no denying we had a slightly slow start to the season this year, and this was very apparent at Rusutsu over Christmas from the amount of sasa bamboo and tree branches still poking through the snow. But the snow started really cranking when we arrived on Christmas Eve, and just didn’t stop. It got so good that we decided to book another night in a hotel there to squeeze in an extra day skiing as the snow was so damn good.

Big smiles and freshies at Rusutsu

Sending it off the big side of Hollywood Cliff at Rusutsu

Cory getting off axis under the chair at Rusutsu

After Christmas we had friends, James and Daphne, arriving from the UK. We’d lined up a mix of Sapporo before New Year followed by a trip up to Asahikawa for a couple of days in early January.

Clare showing James and Daphne the way down Happy Valley at Yubari

Initially the snow at Teine was up there with the best snow they’d ever had in Europe, although to us it was decidedly average. We still had fun picking our way through the trees to find decent powder stashes, but unfortunately it wasn’t the best Teine has to offer.

Flo finding a decent patch of powder in bowl 4 at Teine

After a big night out on New Years Eve, and a mellow New Years Day, we drove up to Asahikawa. On the first day at Kamui Ski Links the snow was good and a lot lighter than Teine. We hit the backside and the lines down the spine under the gondola. Even with relatively long lines for the gondola, the trees and backside areas remained largely untracked.

Tree jib at Kamui

By day 2, after a solid night of snowfall Kamui was even better. The snow was really deep and confidence was soaring. Some bigger drops were going down, and pillows were getting boosted with deep soft landings.

Deep powder on the backside of Kamui

Classic drop under the gondola at Kamui

Heading back home from Iwamizawa, we caught the negative side of Hokkaido’s insane snowfall. The Expressway was closed and the main north-south road was gridlocked thanks to 1 metre of snowfall in Central Sorachi. Eventually we got home and dug ourselves back into our parking space. Looking around at all the fresh snow, we figured that the following day, the last of the holidays, would be a pretty good time to hit Mount Racey at Yubari.

It turned out to be one of the best days we’ve had in Hokkaido. The snowfall in Iwamizawa area had continued Eastwards and intensified as it hit the mountains at Yubari. The ski area got absolutely pounded and to top it off, the sun came out in the morning to give us the dream combo of snow and sun. Lap after lap on the gondola gave us chest deep blower powder in the trees and incredible faceshots in the steeper terrain in Happy Valley. A perfect day to round off James and Daphne’s trip and one for us to remember for a long time.

Faceshots on the Roller Coaster, just metres from the piste at Mount Racey

Deep in a zone called ‘Joy Division’ at Mount Racey

I took a load of video over the 2 weeks, and will try to edit it down into something watchable. Hopefully. For now, here’s a mini edit from an insane day at Mount Racey.

 

Back to ‘work’ and ‘reality’ as of yesterday. But we have a three day weekend coming up and another big snowstorm brewing tomorrow…….


Hokkaido Season Edit

 

This isn’t all skiing, but a general Hokkaido winter edit, by Dan Andrews. Nice work Dan, great edit. Shame about the Coldplay soundtrack.