Guided Ski Touring Week in Japan
Join me for a guided powder skiing adventure to the legendary deep snow and mystical forests of Japan. I have seven years experience skiing in Japan, exploring areas like Niseko and Furano on Hokkaido but in 2020 we are returning to Hakuba on the island of Honshu, which is my favourite area! We will spend a week exploring all the best ski touring and off piste zones. Some days we will access the backcountry with ski lifts in the morning and on others we will tour from the road. The snow is incredible, once a northerly flow sets up across the Sea of Japan we can expect cold powder dumps of 5-50 cm a day for days on end! The terrain is the best I have seen in Japan, from lift accessed backcountry laps through perfectly spaced buna (beech) forest to tours through gnarled dake kamba (mountain birch) trees to big, steep lines off high alpine ridges and summits. To top this all off we base in the incredible Motoi Lodge, situated in a secluded forest near the base of Tsugaike ski area. The Motoi is a small, traditional, family-run inn. It is intimate, cosy and serves an outstanding menu of classic and modern Japanese cuisine. The Motoi is one of the all-time favourite accommodations for all my guests, and I consider it one of the premier ski lodges anywhere. You can join this trip right now or get more detailed logistical information here. Or contact me if you would like to discuss further.
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.
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. 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.
Motoi Lodge is in a quiet forest near the Tsugaike ski area, about 15 minutes drive from Hakuba. It is run by Hajime Kobayashi and his family.
It has a similar vibe to a backcountry lodge in BC - small and intimate. Breakfasts and dinners are at the lodge and is included in the price. The food is an outstanding blend of traditional and modern Japanese cuisine prepared by “O-Kamisan”, who was trained in France.
The nitty gritty
You need to have done some previous ski touring and be able to ski powder in the trees. If you have backcountry ski experience and are comfortable with a black diamond run at a ski hill then you will enjoy this trip!
An all-inclusive 7-day powder skiing trip to Hakuba, Japan.
January 16-22, 2020 (Japan Time)
Hakuba is on the island of Honshu. It is a 3 to 5 hour journey from Tokyo via train, bus, or airport shuttle.
Transport once you arrive in Hakuba