Japow Hakuba trip information

If you have landed on this page via an internet search then you may want to have a look at the overview for this trip here.

If you are signed up for this trip already, welcome to Japow 2020! 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.

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

  • Read and understand the waiver ahead of time. You don’t need to sign the waiver now, you will do that once you arrive for the trip.

  • Have a look at the gear list and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.

PAYMENT

Total trip price is C$3400.

A deposit of C$1050 is due upon booking and is required to hold a spot for you. Go here to pay the deposit if you want to join this trip.

The final payment is due in September 2019 and I will remind you at that time.

The price includes:

  • One lead guide, one tail guide

  • Lodge accommodation

  • Transport

  • Lift tickets

  • Breakfasts and dinners

  • Powder skiing!

Important Dates and Times - January 16-22, 2020

All dates Japan Standard Time.

January 15, evening

Arrive at Motoi Lodge in Hakuba and settle in. Someone should be able to pick you up at the bus or train station if you arriving there, and bring you to the lodge.

January 16 - 22

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

January 23

Check out from the lodge and leave Hakuba in the morning. It is normal for us to make an evening flight out of Tokyo that evening.

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 Hakuba and do not schedule important events right after the trip. Domestically things usually are smooth, but I have had international flights get delayed by up to 24 hours in the past.

Travel Considerations

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

Although most airlines will allow the canisters and batteries for balloon packs on the aircraft there are special regulations involved. Please check with your airline well before you arrive at the airport.

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 his family. 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.

Here are some options for coverage. Research options carefully to make sure they are appropriate for your situation:

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 is the Site Administrator for Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. She has completed her Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 course and the CAA Avalanche Search and Rescue course. She 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:

  • Read and understand the waiver ahead of time. You don’t need to sign the waiver now, you will do that once you arrive for the trip.

  • Have a look at the gear list and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.