Mount Racey Powder Day
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!
Greenland is Open!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Despite the sketchy bottom section, our boards and skis remained unscathed. We continued to lap the gondola getting fresh lines every time.
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!
Opening Weekend at Teine
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.
Nakayama Touge, November 23rd 2013
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…
The Waiting Game
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.
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.
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.