Welcome!

Welcome to Japow 2019! I am really looking forward to this trip and hope you are too. 

Please read the following information carefully. It should answer most of the questions you may have. There is a gear list at the end.

If you get nothing else from this information package, please do the following:

  • Fill out the Guest Information Form. Click here now to fill out the form. 
  • Read the Guiding waiver carefully ahead of time. You don’t need to sign the waiver now, you will do that once you arrive for the trip. Click here to read the waiver.
  • Have a look at the gear list at the end of this information package and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.

FINAL PAYMENT

The final payment is due in September and I will remind you at that time.

This payment includes:

  • One lead guide, one tail guide
  • Lodge accommodation
  • Transport
  • Lift tickets
  • Breakfasts and dinners
  • Powder skiing!

Important Dates and Times - January 13-19 trip

All dates Japan Standard Time.

January 12, evening

Arrive at Motoi Lodge in Hakuba and settle in.

January 13 - 19

Skiing! We plan on accessing the touring both by the lifts and from the roadside.

January 20

Check out from the lodge and leave Hakuba in the morning.

Important Dates and Times - January 21-27 trip

All dates Japan Standard Time.

January 20, evening

Arrive at Motoi Lodge in Hakuba and settle in.

January 21 - 27

Skiing! We plan on accessing the touring both by the lifts and from the roadside.

January 28

Check out from the lodge and leave Hakuba in the morning.

Booking Flights

Travel dates are a bit confusing because we cross the date line. Make sure you take this into account when you book flights.

I would recommend arriving in Japan at least a day early to help with overcoming jet lag.

You can fly into either Narita or Haneda airports.

Delays

There is always the possibility of delays with domestic travel in Japan and/or international travel. Please be prepared for this possibility by giving yourself time to get to Niseko and do not schedule important events right after the trip.

Travel Considerations

Ensure passports are up to date with the expiry date well after the trip ends.

Full compressed air cylinders for avalanche balloon packs may not be allowed on airlines. Please check with your airline before you arrive at the airport. Click here for info on how to fill your own cylinders while traveling.

Motoi Lodge

We will be staying at the Motoi Lodge in Hakuba. Click here for their website.

The address is:

14718-199 Ochikura, Hakuba, Kita Azumi, Nagano, Japan 399-9301

Phone number is:

+81 0261-72-5245

The lodge is in a quiet forest near the Tsugaike ski area, about 10 minutes drive from Hakuba. It is run by Hajime Kobayashi and three generations of his family live there. It has a similar vibe to a backcountry lodge in BC. Breakfasts and dinners will be at the lodge and is included in the price. The food is excellent. 

Getting to Hakuba

There are several options to get to Hakuba from the airport or Tokyo.

Direct Shuttle from Narita or Haneda airport to the Motoi Lodge

Chuo Taxi runs a shuttle which will meet you at the airport and drive you directly to the Motoi. This is the easiest method, but more expensive and adds a long drive to the end of the flight.

About 5-6 hours driving time.

About $200 one way.

Click here for info.

Bus FROM narita or haneda AIRPORT to Hakuba Town

Nagano Snow Shuttle runs direct buses from the airports to Hakuba. Several departures every day. You may be able to add a drop off at the Motoi when you book. 

About 6 hours.

About $120 one way.

Click here for info. 

Narita to Tokyo

Shuttle service: click here. About $75.

Train: click here. About $30.

Haneda to tokyo

Taxi, train or bus: click here

Bullet Train FROM Tokyo to Nagano, bus from Nagano to Hakuba

Take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano Station from Tokyo, Ueno, or Omiya Station. For precise times, fares and platform numbers click here.

For information on how you can buy a train ticket once in Japan click here. You do not need reservations and you can not buy train tickets online beforehand.

Once at Nagano station, go to the east exit and find bus stop #6. The bus bound for Hakuba destinations leaves roughly every hour from 8:20 to 20:30 and costs 1400 yen. Please check with the Alpico website for updated times and info - click here. The last departing bus to Hakuba from Nagano station is at 20:30 – you have no public transport options to Hakuba after this time.

About 2 hours on the train and an hour on the bus.

About $65 one way for the train-bus combination.

Other options

There are other train and bus options if you want to do some research online.

From the bus/train station to the lodge

I should be able to arrange a pick up for you if you let me know well ahead of time when and where you will be.

Alternatively you can call the Motoi at the number above once you arrive in Hakuba and if someone is available they will come get you.

Or you can get a taxi from the train or bus stations.

Staying Connected

There are a few ways you can stay connected in Japan:

  • The lodge has wireless that you can connect to with your device.
  • If you have an unlocked smart phone you can get a SIM card delivered to the hotel. The best plan seems to be to get a SIM that gives just data and if you want to make calls you can use the Skype app on your phone. Try b-mobile click here.
  • Getting voice coverage seems difficult in Japan unless you are a resident. There is an option on the b-mobile site but you have to get it after you arrive in the country and it costs 10,000 JPY (C$100) for 7 days. Other options include renting a phone in the airport when you arrive. You can research it with a Google search.
  • Many phone plans in North America allow roaming overseas. It can be expensive, especially if you don't organize it ahead of time. Consult your local carrier.

Safety

Safety is our number one priority.

We have a tail guide on this trip so there is back up in case of an incident. We will be able to communicate with each other and outside agencies with cell phones or my SPOT device (via satellite).

Skiing together as a group is all about trust. The more we trust each other the more fun we will have. The more prepared you are, the more the guides will trust you and the more comfortable we will be to get us into the most interesting terrain available with the conditions we encounter. Also, the more prepared you are the more you will trust us as you will understand the factors going on in our decision making.

There are a variety of ways you can help me and the other staff make this a safe trip:

  • Listen to the guides’ instructions and if you are uncertain of what is expected of you please ask!
  • Practice with your avalanche beacon prior to the trip – at the very least understand all of its functions and how to use them. Please do this!
  • Take an Avalanche Skills Training course with me! Click here
  • Take the online avalanche course at the Avalanche Canada website. Click here. It's fun! 

Risk

It is important to understand that no matter how well prepared we are there is still an element of risk to backcountry skiing. To lower your risk do the prep work I’ve outlined in the safety section above. You can have a large impact in regards to your own safety!

You will all need to sign a waiver that will make you well aware of that risk. You will sign them when you arrive in Japan. Please have a look at the waiver so you understand what the risks are and what you will be signing when you get here. Click here.

Mountain Rescue and Rescue Insurance

I  nearly thirty years of guiding I have only had two guest evacuations from the field for minor injuries and one for a medical condition. The probability that we will need a rescue are low but if we do need one the financial cost could be high.

In Japan we may be charged for a rescue (depending on the situation). This could amount to thousands of dollars.

I recommend you buy mountain rescue insurance for this trip. The easiest way is to join the American Alpine Club for $80, for which you get $5000 mountain rescue insurance. This would probably cover most of the cost for a majority of incidents. You can also upgrade to get $500,000 coverage. Click here to learn more.

Medical insurance

Travel health insurance is also essential as your Canadian plan will not cover all your expenses in case you need medical attention. Beware of plans that claim to cover mountain rescue as they may have a different definition of the term, make sure you question a representative carefully. American health care plans may cover foreign travel, consult your provider.

Food and Medical Issues

If you have any food allergies or strong preferences, or any pertinent medical issues, please make sure you include that when you fill in the guest information form. 

IF YOU HAVE ANY FOOD ALLERGIES OR OTHER ISSUES REGARDING FISH, SEAFOOD OR RICE THIS TRIP MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOU. IT IS VERY HARD TO AVOID THESE FOODS IN JAPAN.

Japanese Food

Breakfast and dinner is provided at the lodge and is included in the trip cost you have paid. Eating in Japan can be an adventure - virtually all traditional meals would involve fish, rice, root vegetables and pickled vegetables. If you have any strong food preferences or allergies please let me know as soon as possible. We can only accommodate special diets with notice well ahead of the trip.

You provide your own lunches. We will make a couple of shopping trips over the week and there are some fridges available at the lodge. Are we all ready for mystery rice balls? Game on!

Booze

Alcohol is not included in the trip price. There is plenty available in Japan!

The Snow

I have never seen it snow anywhere like I have seen in Japan. If the weather systems set up right (a low pressure sitting NE of Hokkaido and a high pressure sitting over Siberia creating a N or NW flow coming over the Sea of Japan), we will get 5-50 cm (or more…) of cold blower pow every day (my first night ever in Japan it snowed 65 cm in town overnight). This would mean we would ski in the trees.

In between these systems you can get clear weather, which would allow us to travel further afield and to higher elevations. We can also get a (usually) shorter-lived warm system where the snow is denser but still good skiing. This warm system often precedes the colder snow, which sets up well for more stable avalanche conditions.

That all said, we need to be prepared for avalanche conditions that may limit where we can go or weather that may create some poor skiing. This holds true for any ski trip in any mountain range. In Japan that could include rain.

In my experience any week of a ski season anywhere in the world could be the best or worst week of the winter. I can't guarantee the snow or weather conditions, but I can guarantee that I will provide a unique mountain and cultural experience that always will include some good skiing and often includes fantastic skiing! If we go into the trip with the expectation of an enjoyable week spent in the mountains with friends we will not be disappointed.

Terrain and Trips

The mountains are predominantly volcanic in origin. The area has never been glaciated and as a result the terrain is heavily modified by water erosion. This means ridges and spurs with steep walled gullies and valleys are the norm although there are also areas of more planar terrain. 

The defining feature of Japanese skiing are the forests. They are nothing like you find in western Canada. It is open deciduous forest, tree density is far less than here and combined with no limbs on the lower part of the trunk it has a very open feel. It is truly beautiful to float through the powder in this mystical forest. There is also open alpine terrain at higher elevations that also give great runs.

Some of our trips will start at one of the various ski areas and a ride up the lifts. Then we tour from there.  The last run may be down the piste. We will also be starting tours from the roadside.

Expect tours that involve an average of 1200 m elevation gain over the day and 6-8 hours in duration. This may include several shorter runs or one long one.

Staff

There are two guiding staff for the week:

  • Margie Smith: Margie will be tail guiding for the week. She will help out at the back of the group, help break trail when the old mountain guide gets tired, and generally just keep me in line. Margie has been a ski patroller, paramedic and emergency room nurse and presently manages the ambulance, emergency room and diagnostics department at the Banff hospital. She has completed her Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 course and has extensive backcountry skiing experience. Margie still rolls up her sleeves and helps in the ER when it gets busy and is also an accomplished professional mountain bike racer.
  • Mark Klassen – That’s me. I’ve been working as a ski patroller, avalanche forecaster and guide since the mid 80’s. In the summer I guide mountaineering and rock climbing. I’ve been a fully certified ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide since 1996. Click here for my bio.

Questions?

If you have any questions let me know! Email me.

The bottom Line

If you get nothing else from this information package, please do the following:

  • Fill out the Guest Information Form. Click here now to fill out the form. 
  • Read the Guiding waiver carefully ahead of time. You don’t need to sign the waiver now, you will do that once you arrive for the trip. Click here to read the waiver.
  • Have a look at the gear list at the end of this information package and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.

Equipment

You need to have everything on the list!

I can provide safety gear such as shovel, probe, transceiver and harness. Let me know as soon as possible if you need any of this.

I provide transceiver rentals for $80/week, all other equipment I provide free of charge.

AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVERS – IMPORTANT

Your transceiver has to have been manufactured since 2001 (so it meets EN 300718 standard). It is best if your transceiver is less than 10 years old. 

We only allow modern digital transceivers on our trips.

Modern transceivers can have compatibility issues with transceivers manufactured before 2001 and any analog transceivers even if they work on the same frequency.

The manufacturer should have tested your transceiver within the last 3 years. If this hasn’t been done you must have tested your transceiver yourself for distance in both transmit and receive modes – it needs to have a signal at a minimum of 30 metres.

No "analog" transceivers are allowed. We also do not allow some older style digital transceivers. 

The following transceivers are not allowed on this trip:

  • Ortovox: F1, M1, M2, X1, D3, Patroller, Patroller Digital
  • SOS: all types
  • Pieps: Vector (recalled) and Freeride
  • Others: any transceiver manufactured before 2001

I can recommend the Pieps DSP Sport or Pro transceiver. This is the brand I use.

There are many other transceivers available. If they are sold by MEC they are acceptable.

Let me know if you would like more information on transceivers.

If your transceiver does not meet the specifications above you will not be going skiing!

Common Equipment Problems

Issues I see with ski equipment include the following. Some of these problems might end your ski week or at least make life very frustrating! Make sure you have these things sorted out before the trip.

Slow skis/boards. Make sure your bases are smooth and waxed! A tune-up for your skis/board is well worth the investment.

Inappropriate backcountry skis/boards. too heavy, too narrow or skis/boards that are not backcountry specific. Try to keep your set-up as light as possible. Ski width under your foot for a Japan trip should be in the 100-115 mm range, give or take. Narrower than this and you may have issues in deep snow or crust conditions, wider than this is often too heavy.

Old skins. Make sure your skin glue is in good shape and get them fixed if the glue is dirty, in clumps, or the glue has worn off at the edges or ends of the skins. If your skins don't work you can't go skiing. Some shops can replenish or re-glue skins for you or you can do it yourself. G3 skins manufactured before the 2018 season are not recommended.

Boot problems. Ill-fitting boots will give you blisters. And all boots have bolts and rivets that may come loose. If your boots are brand new or well-worn make sure fittings are tight and in good shape. Bring specific tools to tighten the bolts/screws on your boots and check them a couple of times over the week.

Binding problems. Beware of the following bindings:

  • Any Naxo bindings
  • First generation Diamir Vipec bindings (manufactured 2012-2013)
  • Early generation G3 Onyx or Ruby bindings (2008-2010) - more info here
  • Dynafit Radical 1.0 (manufactured 2011-2012) - see information for a recall here.

Skiing Equipment

Make sure all ski gear is in good shape and you are familiar with its use.

  • AT touring skis or telemark skis or splitboard: Understand that telemark and snowboard bindings may not be releasable and greatly increase your risk if caught in an avalanche. No snowboard/snowshoe combinations, splitboards only. I recommend skis in the 100-115 mm range.
  • Skins
  • Boots: If they are new ensure you have all fit worked out! I recommend a professional boot fitting.
  • Digital avalanche transceiver
  • Avalanche shovel
  • Avalanche probe
  • Skin wax: I find a simple candle works fine.
  • Sunglasses
  • Goggles
  • Water bottle and/or thermos
  • Small headlamp
  • Small personal first aid/repair kit: band aids, blister kit, headache pills, hand and toe warmers, extra batteries for transceiver and headlamp, duct tape, pocket knife, special binding and boot parts.
  • Toilet kit: toilet paper, baggie for used paper, hand sanitizer
  • Camera
  • 30-40 L capacity backpack. All your gear and clothing must fit in your pack. Nothing should be strapped to the outside.
  • Optional safety gear: ski helmet, Avalung, balloon pack

Clothing Systems

  • Several thin layers are better than fewer thicker layers. No cotton!
  • Long underwear tops and bottoms - wool or synthetic
  • Ski pants – softshell or light hardshell pants both are fine
  • Thin windbreaker/softshell - for walking uphill in warm conditions
  • Warmer softshell jacket – I prefer a hooded jacket but it’s absolutely necessary
  • Shell jacket – to keep the wet out, Gore-tex or similar seems best
  • Down or synthetic jacket – for breaks and emergency use
  • Lightweight gloves – for walking uphill in warm conditions
  • Warm gloves – 2 pairs (mittens are optional but recommended if you get cold hands)
  • Toque
  • Balaclava or neck tube – essential for cold conditions
  • Sun hat

Town Gear

  • Lodge slippers (the lodge will have slippers available but I find they are usually too small!)
  • Casual street clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Towel and onsen (hot spring) gear
  • Electrical plug adapters
  • Ear plugs

Travelling

  • Passports. Ensure the expiry date is well after the trip ends.
  • Airplane tickets.

The Guides Provide

  • Group first aid kit
  • Group repair kit
  • Emergency toboggan/shelter
  • Spare clothing
  • Radio/SPOT
  • GPS, compass, map
  • Good looks and bright personalities

Extra Ski Gear

If we have equipment problems in Japan there are places we would be able to rent skis, split boards, etc.