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Hokkaido

Hokkaido Touring 2013

- - - - - hokkaido tomamu asahikawa otaru niseko

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#1
annika

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This site has helped gather much inspiration for our trips over the last few years.. so figured it was time to contribute back.




This is our 4th ski trip to the Hokkaido (consecutive years) and this year we’ve decided to rent a car and try get around to a few more resorts as we’ve loved the smaller/quieter resorts we’ve visited on previous trips.




A little background. We are snowboarders....from Aus. Both reasonably competent and love the trees and off piste-- but we are not geared up or have the avalanche knowledge for any serious back country riding. So in resort of off piste or slack country gates are more our style.






Day 0


Arrive via HK. Shuttle bus to pick up the car from Toyota. All pretty easy... and loved the little test track you had to run through to get you used to driving on ice (another only in Japan). Put our mapcode into the english GPS and we were on our way.



ABS Testing
Uploaded 26 Jan 2013 - 07:24




From there we had a pretty simple 2 hour drive (with food stops) to Tomamu.




Now for the fun part:




Tomamu




We had two days here. Both fun but completely different to each other. The fist day was the end of a unusual dry spell for Hokkiado (don’t think there had been fresh snow for 1 week). Sun was shining and visibility granted some beautiful views. Although I’d always take fresh snow... it was nice to warm up the legs, scope the resort and enjoy the views. Despite lack of snow for quite a few days we still found some fresh tracks and un-sun crusty sections in the trees.




I do really like the off-piste policy here too. If you sign in and get a bib and free rental helmet (if needed) and you are allowed in nearly all tree sections within the resort, and to hike to an older un-used part of the resort called “powder heaven”---- off limit/roped off areas were for an obvious reason. This opened up the resort as most tree patches between the groomers are fair game with well spaced trees. A word of warning though.. if you stay at the resort “towers” you’ll have a ride/walk or a bus trip to register each day.




On the morning on the second day I was beginning to despair that the promised front hadn’t delivered as much snow as hoped. They we wen’t for lunch and the snow turned on. We got around 15cm in 2 hours. Groomers transformed into easy powder runs and the trees came to life. The large amount of off-piste terrain and small number of people made this an awesome afternoon.




We stayed in a lovely little pension (Pension Ing) a 5 min drive from Tomamu, run by a very sweet local couple. It has an Onsen and breakfast and dinner included which were delicious. If you don’t have a car I’m pretty sure they drive you to the slopes. Despite the language barrier the owners were always keen to help or give tips-- we even shared a few laughs. If you’re not keen on the resort prices/feel I’d really recommend this place.





Tomamu
Uploaded 26 Jan 2013 - 07:24





Onto Sahoro today then towards Asahikawa.


#2
annika

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Hmmm.. The video works if you click the box. Not quite sure how to imbed it.

#3
gozaimaas

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Sounds like fun. I am doing the same thing but I didnt get to use the test track!
In japan may 3-25

#4
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Thanks for uploading annika.

I didn't even know that you could upload a video to the Forums gallery ( :doh: ) never mind embed it. I'll have to ask my colleague about that. (You can try uploading to snowjapan.tv if you like to add it there too).

Looks like fun.

:friend:
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#5
surfarthur

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Nice video :thumbsup:

Tomamu's off-piste policy does seem like a pretty good balance, certainly better than a blanket ban or simply turning a blind eye.

#6
onehunga

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View Postannika, on 26 January 2013 - 07:28 AM, said:



Put our mapcode into the english GPS and we were on our way.



Annika,
I'm assuming that by english GPS the car has GPS with English instructions and Japanese maps. Could you do me a favour and post the make and model of this, that's if they are on the GPS.
thanks

the video looked great, hope you get some good snow and look forward to reading about the rest of your trip

#7
annika

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Onehunga--- the GPS has an English screen (little bits of Japanese) and English instructions:

GPS
Uploaded 27 Jan 2013 - 18:06



I can't see a make anywhere... it looks like it comes as an option in the car (Toyota). Model is NSCT-W61

#8
annika

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Sahoro
Well. I think we've had a pretty lucky run weather wise. We spent all Saturday at Sahoro in sunshine and low wind (sounds like Niseko got blizzard conditions). From the state of the runs they must have been closed when they got the snow the day before at Tomamu. All the "advanced" runs hadn't been groomed and had a nice shin high coating on them -- that stayed pretty untouched for the first few hours:

Sahoro groomer
Uploaded 27 Jan 2013 - 18:05



In the afternoon we scouted out the many tree areas that aren't roped off where we could find some thigh high stashes (ok I have short legs). There was quite a bit of choice as ropes seemed to be only where needed. Even better most people at the "resort" seemed to be either beginners or on lessons so most people there were sticking to the groomed runs. Even on a Saturday there were no lift lines in sight and we had easy fresh tracks all day (no hiking, rope ducking or traversing required). Pretty dammed awesome really. For the Niseko crew... imagine having your strawberry fields x 5 in size with only 5-10 ppl to share it with.

Sahoro trees
Uploaded 27 Jan 2013 - 18:05



Apologies for the photos--- we are pretty bad at stopping for pics when we see a clean line to attack.

I'd definitely head back there again if there has been fresh snow in the area.

#9
onehunga

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View Postannika, on 27 January 2013 - 06:10 PM, said:

Onehunga--- the GPS has an English screen (little bits of Japanese) and English instructions:



I can't see a make anywhere... it looks like it comes as an option in the car (Toyota). Model is NSCT-W61



Thanks for the info

#10
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really love Sahoro. Been there many times. Wish you hadn't compared i to Niseko though :lol:

#11
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Tomamu is a bit of an enigma isn't it. Theres so much to do, it distracts from the great skiing, while you're doing one thing, you want to hurry up and do some more things.

#12
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Where to next? Looking forward to the reports.

#13
annika

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Thanks WVS... apologies for the Niseko comment. I was just trying to contextualise. These resorts are so quiet I don't think it's a bad thing if they get a few more international visitors.

Tomamu and Sahoro were both better than I expected. I think we were very lucky to get some good snow... but then we had few ppl to share it with so it lasted a long time. We spent some time at Furano last year and I got a bit frustrated with ropes everywhere. So it's a nice change where they not only acknowledge off piste--- but give some guidance.

We are staying in Asahikawa at the moment (5 nights in total). So far it's been quite a nice change to stay in the city instead of at one of the resorts. Feels more authentic Japanese experience compared to the more controlled/created feel at resorts such as Rusutsu or Tomamu. Plus it's cheap for hotels and food.... so thats a nice bonus.

Last four days have been four different resorts with powder at each... the sun has been out for the last couple of days so hopefully we get a top up tomorrow so we can continue exploring:

Kamui Ski Links:
I really like this little place. We came last year on a snowy day on a day trip from Furano and had a ball - especially after being hemmed in over there. This year we were met with a gorgeous blue bird day. There had been 5-10cm the night before, not quite enough to fill in old tracks but enough to refresh things a bit. The day started great as a local we met no the first gondola ride saw us get our map out and then proceeded to show us were we good find all the good powder. This was quite amusing... as he didn't speak English-- and we don't speak Japanese. But it's easy to sign thigh deep powder and point at a map:). We've met so many friendly and welcoming Japanese so far--- its been lovely. Probably as so far we've been some what of a standout as westerners on the mountain.

Kamui also has an awesome off piste policy. Ropes are there when needed only- and they even mark arrows in the "out of bounds" areas to show were you need to start heading back. Even into the afternoon we found pockets of powder in the trees to attack:

Kamui groomed run
Uploaded 28 Jan 2013 - 17:39


Kamui- tree patch
Uploaded 28 Jan 2013 - 17:39



The day was so lovely even the paragliders were out:

Kamui - paragliders
Uploaded 28 Jan 2013 - 17:39




Today we went to Asahidake for another bluebird day... I've had a beer or two many to continue typing though. Tomorrow we might have a bit of a lazy day to rest tired legs... so I'll helpfully do some more typing then.

#14
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excellent. :thumbsup:

#15
annika

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Asahidake

We failed in our attempts to find a guide for Asahidake---- but when we woke to another bluebird day and no wind we decided to go look at Asahidake anyway. Even on the drive up the mountain we were rewarded with some spectacular views:

Asahidake- distance
Uploaded 30 Jan 2013 - 07:07



With the excellent visibility we decided it would be ok to ride. We did a few "scouting" runs down the cat tracks and looking out from the rope car to pick lines. There hadn't been snow for a few days so other peoples tracks were also there to give a guide. After checking things out we were able to head in a bit deeper off the side of the tracks and find some nice stashes. Was pretty good-- my main gripe was the very flat (and uphill sometimes) bottom half of the runs which meant having to go for speed on the cat track to get through on the board. The beautiful views helped ease the boredom.







It was different to what I expected there. It's defiantly a off piste resort--- the two cat tracks are only really there to get you out. In fact it seemed the whole place isn't really intended as a ski place-- that just by chance - the ropeway is there for the views/hiking in summer. It's obvious on the ropeway ride that most are there for some serious backcountry/hiking work. This was also the first place we've been so far where Westerners outnumbered Japanese. People spread out from the top but it wasn't "quiet" on the runs below the rope way.

All in all I think we could have gotten more out of it with a guide and some hiking. But it was still a fun experience- and worthwhile just for the views. If the visibility was poor I wouldn't have gone out or felt game enough to go off piste at all without a guide-- this place does feel more rugged than any other place I'd been.

We finished the day at one of the spa hotels in the nicest onsen I've ever had---- luxury with couch shaped comfy onsens to soak out the sore muscles.

#16
annika

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Pippu

What a nice surprise. When we first arrived my first thoughts were this place was tiny....

Pippu
Uploaded 30 Jan 2013 - 18:00




Definitely more of a hill than a mountain. But what a fun one. It had been three days since fresh snow so we really came just to check the place out expecting the off-piste to be tracked out or sun affected. We splashed out a full 1600 Yen for a 3 hour pass (super cheap) and then set out to explore. At the top of the first lift we were greeted by a sign to saying "Deep Snow Course". Sounding too good to be true we ventured in slowly at first to find some fresh patches of snow over thigh deep! I was super surprised by both the depth and quality after the little dry spell we have had. We then tried the "strawberry" course to skiers left--- this has potential but was sun-affected. I think the temps stay very cold here (was -20 this morning) so despite the low altitude the snow was in good condition.

During the lunch break we provided some entertainment to the local kids---- who I don't think are that accustomed to seeing Westerners. They had fun trying to practise English with us. Quite a laugh. In the afternoon we explored some of the inbound trees (we were rewarded) and then hit the deep snow course a few more times. Big smile on my face by the end.

Well worth the trip and the 1600 yen. On a full powder day this place would be a private powder nirvana.

In the arvo we went to Asasiyama Zoo which was a good laugh. I've really enjoyed staying in Asahikawa. Loads of food options and feels quite authentic Japanese. On our last night we bravely ventured into a little restaurant which had no pictures or English menu/speaking staff. It was a bit of a mission to order but we were rewarded with fantastic food at a good price. The ladies there were so lovely to us that they even gave us a handmade present to thank us for persisting and eating there. Had to love it!

We had a change of plans and went 1 day early to Otaru to try find the snow. Report on Asari (today's venture) to come...

#17
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Great stuff. Thanks.

#18
panhead_pete

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Annika - great TR. Really hope to do a similar trip next season. Somehing I do every year is go to those cheesey souvneer shops in Oz and buy packets of those stuffed little koalas. Normally $10 will get you a couple packs. I try and keep a few in my jacket and back pack for times when people are really nice or the lifties are really hot. The smile they bring is gold.
Silence is gold but duct tape is silver.

#19
andrewandfi

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Your trip has inspired me to try some different areas rather thean the old familiar Niseko formula!
thanks for the info

#20
annika

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Thanks guys... the reason I wanted to post this was to help give people ideas. There are soooo many quiet resorts out there. Not just Hokkiado but other places too.

Awesome idea with the Koala's Pete... we've had a few ppl just mention Koalas after asking where we are from. I don't think I could go back to being locked into a resort again. I don't think we've had as awesome snow conditions as on previous years... but it feels that as we've had the car we've been able to make the most of things. Next trip I'd go a step further and not pre-book accommodation. They we can really go with the weather/mood.

This instalment is Otaru based. I was expecting another stock standard tiny Japanese hotel - but it seemed we lucked into a 4 star place for reasonable price ($100 per night for 2 ppl). We're on the water and right next to a big shopping centre with lots of different restaurants. Spoilt part is if we can't be bothered heading into the cold the hotel is linked to the centre so we can pick from lots of different food options (and a large supermarket) without getting cold.

Asarigawa Onsen
Another baby resort - this time just outside of Otaru (10minutes). It started snowing (albeit lightly) as we got close to Sapporo and didn't stop. Seeing a bit of wind we decided to stay low and try on the smaller places - being Asari. It's got 4 lifts - although it takes 3 to get to the top. There is a small gap between the lifts so this was slightly frustrating on snowboards - but our efforts were again rewarded. The resort was busy-- but everyone seemed to be school groups or with the ski club practising slalom. No one seemed to want "deep snow". So even the powder on the side of the groomers was untouched. We had a late start after the drive from Asahikawa, but spent a few hours cruising the sides of runs finding bits of untouched snow. Ocean views were quite the novelty too.

Visibility wasn't epic, and quite a few tree patches seemed to have either a dam, bad fall line or a creek around so we didn't head too far into the off piste areas. Didn't really have a need to either.

Another fun day.... for a bargain 2500 yen day ticket.
Asari - Ocean views
Uploaded 30 Jan 2013 - 18:36











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