Ski Trip on Hokkaido Island, Japan

Posted on February 4th, 2013 by | 0 Comments

Hello to all BCA team,

After 10 days on the Hokkaido Island in Japan, I take a moment to inform you on this magnificent journey, to make you share my experiences, some images and make a first feedback on the equipment!

I take off from France on Wednesday, 16 for Sapporo, capital of the region of Hokkaido, the most northerly island of the Japanese archipelago. After almost 27 hours of journey and a stopover in Seoul, I land at the airport of Chitose after a randomly landing on the snowy track. We are almost at the level of the sea and the quantity of snow is already hallucinating.

2 hours and a half of bus later, between incredible “walls” of snow, I arrive to Niseko. This resort is considered as the biggest of Japan and known in all the world for the quality and the quantity of snow which falls here … In 48 hours, it fell more of 1 meter of snow on the sector and the weather report announces the same menu for the all week!

The domain being opened in the evening, with my 2 French friends, we just take time to bring out the skis of the cover to take off on the domain for incredible night-2 hours of ski. After the journey, legs are a little bit heavy but the conditions are so crazy that brakes are fast “left” …

The next day, on Saturday, January 19th, it has still snowed all night long and it is the noise of the explosives that wakes us up. The ski patrolmen are at work and I say to myself that here, their working days could be not so easy … After a fast Breakfast, we wear skis, and a crazy ride can begin! We ski from 8:30 am till 5 pm in a dream snow, the Japanese powder is not a myth, we are well in a dream but awakened!!

The entries of off-piste routes are organized in a system of Gates, doors of access towards the paradise… There are 8 Gates on the domain, more or less opened according to the conditions. The first day, Gates 2,3 and 4 which give access to the top of the resort and back to front of the massif are closed, nevertheless, on the other open Gates, we shall make new tracks run after run.

For the next day, the weather report seems to calm down and we leave for the seaside. With the objective to realize a first summit in ski touring as well as to ski a slope finishing on the beach, in front of the Sea of Japan!  We reach the summit and we continue by a descent of anthology in front of the Sea with direct arrival on the beach … The way of rise remains on the other hand untraceable and it is after 3 hours of research for route with headlamps, in “bamboo forest” and snow until the legs that we shall find the crest and the village of departure. It will have allowed us to realize the “first one” of this slope of 150 m approximately, on which never anybody had to put his skis in the north extremity of the peninsula of Shakotan.

 Ski touring above the Sea of Japan….!














On Monday, 21, after a short night, we leave to make the ascent of Yotei Zan in 1898m of height. With a departure in 300m of height, it is almost 1600 m that wait for us. The ascent of this summit is very rarely realized in the middle of winter because of the difficult weather conditions. Indeed, during December January and February, big disturbances come down from Siberia and loaded with humidity, putting enormous quantities of snow on the island of Hokkaido. In what concerns us, the weather report announces 3 days of beautiful and we plan well to take advantage of it to make long ascents in ski touring if the conditions of snow are stable.

Crater of Yotei Zan.












After 5 hours of ascent, in very different conditions (fresh snow and track to make on the way up, hard snow and freezes under the summit) we reach the summit of Yotei Zan. We are only in 1898m of height but the wind blows in more of 90km and the temperature is lower  -15 degrees … It is equivalent of winter conditions on a 4000m in our Alps!!

Once in the summit ( we couldn’t stop ourselves from “diving” into the crater of the volcano where the snow looks like excellent. We shall leave 2 tracks (one of my friends did not go until top) in the crater which will stay probably one of the most beautiful moments of ski of our life. We join again the summit and swallow the 1500m negative up to the car in a perfect powder …

Yotei Zan, 1500m of perfect powder.













On Tuesday, 22, the weather report is beautiful and the day is dedicated to make images on a small face of 150 m and wide of almost 1km. It is in fact a small canyon with one side to ski, on the other side, the crest which allows to a photographer or a cameraman to be ideally positioned. Without photographer with us, we have to take turns to make the images with our personal material… The descents will continue until 3 p.m with varied lines, passing from a spine to a corridor in a snow which allows to let to go the skis.

On Wednesday, 23, we leave for a long day of hiking with the plan to hike on the 5 volcanoes range from Annupuri 1308m to Chisenupuri 1134m. Weather conditions are exceptionally beautiful and we do not regret having taken a pair of ski touring to investigate the surrounding massifs. Of the road 66 in the North of Niseko, closed in winter, the playground is incredible and allows to leave on trips of 2 hours or on long “journey” in the day with more than 6 volcanoes in the area.

On Thursday, 24, the weather goes bad, we have time to make a track in the north face of Chisenupuri before the storm announced from the beginning of week arrives. We join the car, everything in “big curves”.

Float on the road!














On Friday, 25, Saturday, 26 and Sunday, 27, it snows almost 1 meter. Runs follow one after the other according to the opening of Gates. On the same route, from a descent to the other one, we don’t find our tracks … We are dipped up to the bone but happy as kids…!

Deep powder diving!!














In almost 10 days in the region of Niseko, weather conditions allowed us to discover all the off-piste potential but also the ski touring area.

Indeed, in this period the riders often content with riding powder on off-piste routes because of the deplorable weather conditions which limit the access to summits around. To realize these summits, it is often necessary to wait for the spring with conditions of lesser snow. In our case, the “mix” between days of beautiful and days of deep snow allowed us to vary the program and to return in France, with different images from what we are used to seeing on Japan.

Concerning the Float, I used this bag for the ski touring days and I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort and by the convenience of the bag during the long hiking days.

Moreover, I make the most of this e-mail to thank you for the confidence that you tuned me by means of “promoter’s” contract for this year of 2013. By hoping that this collaboration lasts as long as possible.

I quickly inform you of projects to come by means of photos and of reports. Furthermore, I will work next week on an article “Free-touring in Niseko” which I am going to “offer” to the various French specialized editorial staffs.


Yotei Zan crater, run 2 !!