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
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
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
Sunset 180 safety
Thanks for coming out to visit boys. Now Sambo, you’ve got all the footage, get working on that edit!!
Since the New Year vacation, the weather has been pretty mixed, and quite abnormal for Hokkaido. Warmer temperatures than average and longer gaps between snowfall has been the trend, we even had a very depressing day of rainfall a couple of weeks ago. BUT, we’ve still been able to get a good amount of riding in, and have been able to track down the best snow at the weekends. Not really much text to go with this blog post, just a load of photos, so, here you go…
Tom Steele from the US who contacted me for info on Hokkaido via Newschoolers.com. We were able to meet up at Teine for a day shredding the bowls.
Jon Horan from Australia dropping the knee. He’s travelling around Hokkaido this winter, living in his van. Who said telemarkers are smelly hippies?! (Actually much respect to the Car Danchi man!)
A day when the lift was on wind hold at Teine. Toshi, a park rat at heart!
After the rain and warm weather we had a couple of beautiful clear days. I took advantage of an afternoon off to go skin up Bozuyama a couple of times. Iwamizawa in the background.
The snow returned eventually. In Happy Valley at good old reliable Yubari!
Beth and Mike shredding together down ‘Girls Only’ at Yubari.
Friend of a friend, Parker, letting it rip down bowl 5 at Teine
A windy day at Teine, so the lift was running very slowly. Meant the lift queue grew pretty long.
I even had a day on a snowboard and enjoyed a lot more than expected!
It seems like the weather is back to a more normal trend for this time of year. Much colder, with regular snowfalls in the forecast. Hopefully that’ll continue. (Till April, preferably!)
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…….
Snow rolling in from the Sea of Japan
December 6th and 7th. Kiroro and Sapporo Teine
Finally! After seeing most of our snow disappear over the past week or two, winter returned and we had our first full weekend riding for the season. On Saturday, we hit Kiroro. First time we’ve been there for a couple of years despite always promising ourselves we’ll go. The Otaru area has been receiving most of the snow so far so we were hopeful of good conditions. Heading inland over the mountain pass from Otaru and down to Kiroro was like travelling forward in time to mid January – heavy snowfall and big snowbanks on the side of the road. The snow on the hill was awesome, deep and light. Still a little bit too much sasa to venture too far off of the marked trails, but it was knee deep on piste so we were more than happy!
On piste at Kiroro!
Dan spraying snow
I’ve said this too many times, but we really have to head down to Kiroro mid season when the whole mountain is open and the snow is really cranking!
On Sunday, on our way to Sapporo Teine, we got the word that the lifts were shut because of the strong winds. This is the biggest drawback for Teine, as it’s so close to the sea, it often gets really strong winds. Waiting in the lodge with a big crew, a decision had to be made between heading out to do something, or staying inside for morning beers. Mike, Cory and I decided on hiking a small way up the hill and building a kicker. We found a nice little windlip, built a takeoff and set up a pole jam type feature. We were soon joined by our buddy from Mount Racey, Shinya. Even though the landing only had sketchy snow cover, some decent tricks were going down.
Cory, shifty to late 180 on the pole jam
Eventually the lifts opened up, so everyone got out for the afternoon. We had nice little patches of powder in the trees and under the lifts. The sun came out too at points, so the mood was good. Especially for those that got stuck into the birus at 10:00am!
The crew enjoying an afternoon shred in the sun
Dan and Clare in front, Beth and Kyla behind
Video from the weekend:
This isn’t all skiing, but a general Hokkaido winter edit, by Dan Andrews. Nice work Dan, great edit. Shame about the Coldplay soundtrack.