We love mountains

My thoughts and experiences cycling, snowboarding and travelling around the world

Japow; Snowboarding Hokkaido, Japan

Snowboarding in Japan is amazing. We visited Hokkaido which is the northern island of Japan. Hokkaido has without doubt the best snow in the world. This is due to the Siberian cold winds sweeping across the warm sea of japan and picking up moisture, as soon as it hits land it dumps as snow. These Siberian winds are like a conveyor belt constantly dropping snow, metre after metre. It is not unusual to have well over 20 metres in a season, for comparison most European resorts average 4 or 5 metres, the best in Canada average about 14m. The powder in Japan is champagne of the finest type, it has to be consistently not only the deepest but also the lightest in the world.

After a quick stop in Tokyo for New Year, which was surprisingly low key. It seems the Japanese exit the city for New Year, so it was a bit like a ghost town in large parts. We flew north to Sapporo  from where we explored 6 or 7 ski resorts. Teine Highland and Kiroro were near Sapporro, both small with views across the city and the coastline, however the locals all stay on piste meaning the off piste was untracted and epicly deep. Technically off piste is banned but no one said anything to us. We toured these few resorts from the city before moving over to Niseko Hirafu. Niseko unlimited is made up of 4 resorts and together it is the largest area. It snowed 3 metres of fresh light champagne powder during the 3 weeks we were there, just to give you an idea of how epic it was.

People say the costs are high, it’s not cheap but we stayed in a youth hostel and a B&B which didn’t break the bank. I think it was about £30 each a night on average for the entire trip. That was trying to find the cheapest spots. In Niseko it was ski in ski out from the door too. The lift passes compare to Europe or N America at about £35 a day.

The night skiing is unique, the whole area is lit up so you can ride off piste in waist deep fresh snow at night. It is an odd experience to say the least, but if you still have the legs worth doing. Some days we had a nap then went back out again to ride in the evening.

The terrain is generally quite flat, enough gradient to ride the deep stuff but no cliffs to huck of steeps to fly down, it does make it safer as this much snow on steep stuff is a recipe for disaster. That isn’t to say nothing happens in resort, a chap was killed in an avalanche the week before we arrived. The snow slids easily in the early seson when it is directly on the bamboo leaves. The resort next to Niseko is Moiwa, an entirely off piste resort that is great fun, although  again never too steep but endless opportunities for fresh tracks. It felt like a lot of effort getting here and arranging the trip but it has to be done, if you getting lucky you will experience snow like you could only dream of!


2 comments on “Japow; Snowboarding Hokkaido, Japan

  1. Jean Alaba
    June 10, 2013

    Beautiful shots! My favourite would have to be the Sensō-ji.

    • welovemountains
      June 12, 2013

      Thanks, it was quite a contrast with the tacky food stalls in front of the impressive temple!

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