Welcome!

Welcome to Powkkaido 2018! 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.
  • Pay for the trip (if you have not done so already)

FINAL PAYMENT

If you have already paid a deposit you can pay the balance owing by:

  • Pay with credit card by clicking here ($2700)
  • Emailing me an Interac payment ($2600)
  • Mailing a check to Mark Klassen, Box 1958, Banff, AB T1L 1B7 ($2600)

If you are just joining the trip and have not paid a deposit you may pay the full price by:

  • Pay with credit card by clicking here ($3700)
  • Emailing me an Interac payment ($3600)
  • Mailing a check to Mark Klassen, Box 1958, Banff, AB T1L 1B7 ($3600)

Please let me know when you have sent a payment.

This payment includes:

  • One lead guide, one tail guide
  • Lodge accommodation
  • Transport
  • Lift tickets
  • Breakfast
  • Powder skiing!

If we get more than eight skiers in the group I can drop the price a bit and will refund you the difference. So far it looks like we have seven participants.

Important Dates and Times

All dates Japan Standard Time.

Friday, January 19, evening

Arrive at Moiwa Lodge in Niseko and settle in.

Saturday - Friday, January 2o - 26

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

Saturday, January 27

Check out from the lodge and leave Niseko 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.

There are a few different airports to look into when booking flights:

  • In Tokyo you can fly into either Narita or Haneda. Haneda is better as that is where all domestic flights originate (so you can connect to New Chitose) but both work
  • In Hokkaido you fly to New Chitose airport (near Sapporo)
  • Apparently cheap flights to New Chitose may be available via Korea

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.

Moiwa Lodge

We will be staying at the Moiwa Lodge in Niseko. Click here for their website.

The address is:

451-6 AZA NISEKO, 
NISEKO-CHO, 
ABUTA-GUN, HOKKAIDO

Phone number is:

+81 136 583 003

The lodge is slopeside at Moiwa ski area and 3 minutes from Annupuri ski lifts, where we can easily access the entire Niseko skiing area. 5 minutes from Niseko Town, 12 min from Hirafu, and 18 min from Kutchan. Skiers and boarders can ski home easily from Annupuri right to the lodge.

Moiwa Lodge is a traditional large Japanese ski lodge, with 4 stories of facilities, including: restaurant, ski room, drying room, TVs and DVD, pool table, large comfy communal areas, wireless internet throughout, traditional Japanese bar, and games area. There is plenty of space to relax, hang out and unwind at the end of a hard day on the mountain.

Kirk asked for a bunk-style room because he has fond memories of band camp. It is also significantly cheaper. So we have a comfortable 8-bed room but we also have two twin rooms (check out the pics on the lodge website, the bunk room looks pretty sweet). We will assign rooms depending on who all comes on the trip (EG if we get a couple then they will get a twin room). The original plan was six in the bunk room, two in a twin and the staff in the other twin. If we get more than eight participants we will need to put more than six in the bunk room.

Breakfasts will be at the lodge and is included in the price. The lodge does not have an all-inclusive package deal with dinner though so we are on own for that. There is a restaurant at the lodge and many others close by. Dinners and lunches are not included in the price. The group is responsible for paying for the guides dinners, but we will take care of our own lunches.

Getting to Niseko

There may be an opportunity to drive one of the rental cars required for the week from New Chitose to Niseko. If that happens part of the group can use that as transport if one of you is willing to get an international drivers license and drive. I will confirm this as soon as possible.

Expect to take 2 hours from the airport or Sapporo to Niseko by car, 3 hours by train.

Bus FROM NEW CHITOSE AIRPORT or sapporo

Bus transfer is the most convenient and economical way to get from New Chitose to Niseko. The bus takes about 2.5-3 hours depending on road conditions and your drop off point.

It seems that the easiest to book scheduled bus service between New Chitose or Sapporo and Niseko is the White Liner ski bus. JPY 6000-8000. Get dropped off at the Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri or Hotel Kanro-no-mori stops; these are closest to Moiwa Lodge. Book before October 31 and you get 25% off. There is also a charter option with this company if part or all of the group wants to band together for the trip.

Hokkaido Resort Liner is the cheapest option for New Chitose/Sapporo to Niseko bus transport. JPY 3300. Get dropped off at the Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri or Hotel Kanro-no-mori stops; these are closest to Moiwa Lodge. Note that bookings can only be made from early October onwards and need to made at least 9 days prior to travel.  

Train FROM NEW CHITOSE AIRPORT or sapporo

For timetables and fares for train travel try HyperDia click here. There are about five departures per day it seems like. You will need to make a couple of transfers along the way. JPY 3500

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.

From the bus/train station to the lodge

You can get a taxi from bus and train drop-offs in Niseko to the lodge. There is a taxi stand across the street from the train station.

We may also be able to pick you up. I will be in Niseko a few days before the trip and available by iMessage and email when I am in Japan, but I will not have voice coverage there. If you want a pick up you will need to send me a message well ahead of time to ensure I receive it and can meet you when you arrive.

If arriving by bus someone from the lodge may be able to pick you up. Email them ahead of time at info@moiwalodge.com with your arrival time and place. Once you arrive call them for a pick up (someone at those hotels may be able to make a call for you).

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.

If you want to buy mountain rescue insurance I recommend joining 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. 

Japanese Food

Breakfast will 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. There will be options to eat a more western-type diet at the restaurants but sampling more traditional Japanese cuisine is part of the adventure!

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, with the possibility of ascending a volcano on skis.

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.
  • Pay for the trip!

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 following transceivers for those of you who do not have a lot of experience searching with transceivers:

  • Mammut (Barryvox) Element
  • Pieps DSP Sport
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 2

I can recommend the following transceivers for those of you who are willing to do a lot of practice searching with transceivers:

  • Mammut (Barryvox) Pulse
  • Pieps DSP Pro
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3

There are many other transceivers available. If they are sold by MEC they are acceptable. However, I do not have extensive experience in some other types so will not be able to help you learn about them as well as the recommendations above.

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 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. Here are a couple of tutorials: Replenishing Re-glueing

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 (see a G3 probe recall here)
  • 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.