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  1. #26
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    You can most definitely take a train to Hokkaido from Tokyo. You can pretty much go anywhere via train in Japan, comfortably and fast. Itís a pretty long haul though, vs a one-hour flight to Sapporo. I flew sfo->haneda->new chitose. Rented an awd car to go to Furano and hakuginso Lodge and back. Train from Sapporo to niseko area. Then train to Honshu to do regular tourist stuff (Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo), then easy train and bus to get to Hakuba.

    Hyperdia tells you how to get anywhere in japan via train.

    If youíre going to do a lot of traveling via train you can get a JR pass while still in the US thatís worthwhile. Maybe not for a skiing only trip.

    I donít have much interest in going back to Niseko but touring in Hokkaido very much so. Iíd rather go back to the Hakuba area though. The resorts are pretty mediocre across Japan aside from the pow being world class.

  2. #27
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    By the way, flights to Narita from ORD, LAS, JFK, SFO and IAD are under $700 today, generally from January through June.

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by TahoeJ View Post
    Following this thread since I'm headed to Japan in mid to late January...

    Thinking Hokkaido - I fucking hate crowds. Looking for a nice mix of lift served, side country and BC.
    Base yourself in Otaru.

    Day trips to Otaru Tenguyama, Asari, Kiroro, Sapporo Kokusai (avoid weekend, go touring), Sapporo Teine (avoid weekend, go touring).

    Side country from Kiroro, Sapporo Kokusai, Sapporo Teine.

    Backcountry at Jozankei Dam (between Jozankei and Sapporo Kokusai) and Shakotan Peninsula.

    You'll need a car.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    Is there a JONG guide to skiing Japan posted somewhere here? Mrs. C. and I are looking at planning a trip in January and there's so many options, it's hard to know where to start.

    At the most basic level: I'm looking at using credit card points to fly on ANA from San Jose, CA, to Tokyo. Do Americans generally fly to Tokyo then take a train north, or should I be trying to book a flight that terminates in Hokkaido instead? Neither of us have ever been to Japan, so we'd like to do some non-skiing sightseeing too.
    As mentioned train is fine.

    Flight too.

    Not much classic sightseeing stuff on Hokkaido in winter so either

    two centre holiday - ski Hokkaido, sightsee Honshu

    or

    stay on Honshu for everything - skiing Hakuba, Nozawa Onsen or Myoko and sightsee Tokyo and Kyoto

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by jorion View Post
    Iíd probably rather go back to the Hakuba area than either, but they each have their pluses and minuses.
    I don't mean to threadjack, but would you care to elaborate on some of those pluses and minuses?

    Planning a trip to Japan in january, but I'm finding it hard to decide where to go.

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrgha View Post
    I don't mean to threadjack, but would you care to elaborate on some of those pluses and minuses?

    Planning a trip to Japan in january, but I'm finding it hard to decide where to go.
    If you're familiar with Montana, in general terms

    Hokkaido is Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain Resort)

    Hakuba is Big Sky

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Pow View Post
    If you're familiar with Montana, in general terms

    Hokkaido is Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain Resort)

    Hakuba is Big Sky
    No, as a European, not really. But from what I've heard Big Sky is steep and rocky (?)

    My primary objective is to find good and plentiful snow (like everyone else, I guess..). I'm going with my GF, so I guess I'm not really looking for the gnarliest terrain. Expect to do some touring.

    I heard Hakuba has a more maritime snowpack, while Hokkaido is drier?
    Last edited by Adrgha; 08-01-2018 at 10:55 AM.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrgha View Post
    No, as a European, not really. But from what I've heard Big Sky is steep and rocky (?)

    My primary objective is to find good and plentiful snow (like everyone else, I guess..). I'm going with my GF, so I guess I'm not really looking for the gnarliest terrain. Except to do some touring.

    I heard Hakuba has a more maritime snowpack, while Hokkaido is drier?
    Sorry, missed your location.

    Hokkaido is generally treelined to the top of the mountain with mellower, rolling terrain and dry, light powder.
    It typically snows most days in December and January with 10-30cm falling

    Hakuba has similar terrain to treeline, then steeper, technical alpine terrain above that. The powder can be a little wetter but it's not West Coast USA wet.

    Both will suit you and your GF.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Pow View Post
    Sorry, missed your location.

    Hokkaido is generally treelined to the top of the mountain with mellower, rolling terrain and dry, light powder.
    It typically snows most days in December and January with 10-30cm falling

    Hakuba has similar terrain to treeline, then steeper, technical alpine terrain above that. The powder can be a little wetter but it's not West Coast USA wet.

    Both will suit you and your GF.
    Much appreciated.

    My GF is holding a button on Hakuba since it's on Honshu and makes visiting Tokyo etc. faster and easier. I'm fine with either, really.

    Strictly statistically (!) speaking; which part of Japan amasses the most snow?

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    Google tells me that the bullet train runs between Tokyo and Hokkaido in about 4 hours. I have not looked at train departure / arrival times yet.
    Had no idea. Is it a tunnel or a bridge? Looks to be about 15 miles to cross the ocean between the 2 islands. I noticed the train line goes through Fukushima; is that the Fukushima of tsunami/nuclear disaster fame? Or was the disaster in Fukushima Prefecture on Honshu?

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by MyNameIsAugustWest View Post
    Had no idea. Is it a tunnel or a bridge? Looks to be about 15 miles to cross the ocean between the 2 islands. I noticed the train line goes through Fukushima; is that the Fukushima of tsunami/nuclear disaster fame? Or was the disaster in Fukushima Prefecture on Honshu?
    The line goes through both Fukushima Honshu and Fukushima Hokkaodo.
    Fukushima Honshu is the name of a whole region, not just the nuclear plant. Like the size of a small US state or something.
    I feel real sorry for the farmers/etc in the area. The nuclear disaster effected a tiny area, but the whole huge region is suffering.
    Imagine not ever buying anything from any growers in Pennsylvania because of 3 mile island.


    I did a quick comparison on train vs plane to Hokkaido a few years ago. You may find it useful. The train time tables have probably changed tho, so I wouldn't trust those times.
    https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/sh...kutchan.76668/

    After going through the Fukushima region no one spontaneously exploded or started glowing (as the western media would have us believe)
    Last edited by anything; 08-02-2018 at 01:37 AM.

  12. #37
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    Hokkaido Japan; Central Hokkaido or Niseko

    Mike Pow is a great resource for these questions. Heís spent years in Japan, whereas I have only two winter seasons.

    However, I like to chime in and say that Hokkaido is the Holy Grail of ski touring.

    You can pretty much rent a car and drive around the whole goddamn island and eyeball stuff to ski.

    Central Hokkaido has some of the most incredible terrain Iíve ever experienced. Kurodake in December and late February is gnarly. Itís closed in January for maintenance!

    Skiing at Mount Yotei and Shiribetsu Dake near Niseko are some of my best memories. Yotei is close to 5,000 vertical and you can ski the crater. Shiribetsu is unparalleled in steep trees.

    That is literally my list of must dos.


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  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by SUPERIOR View Post
    Mike Pow is a great resource for these questions. He’s spent years in Japan, whereas I have only two winter seasons.

    However, I like to chime in and say that Hokkaido is the Holy Grail of ski touring.

    You can pretty much rent a car and drive around the whole goddamn island and eyeball stuff to ski.

    Central Hokkaido has some of the most incredible terrain I’ve ever experienced. Kurodake in December and late February is gnarly. It’s closed in January for maintenance!

    Skiing at Mount Yotei and Shiribetsu Dake near Niseko are some of my best memories. Yotei is close to 5,000 vertical and you can ski the crater. Shiribetsu is unparalleled in steep trees.

    That is literally my list of must dos.


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    Cheers.

    Don't disagree with that, just didn't want to come across as too partisan.

    Try the Shakotan Peninsula and Kariba Mountainous District on your next visit.

    And if you hit a weather window, Rishiri is supposed to be 'the elixr of youth' inside the 'Holy Grail'











    Pity there are no steeps on Hokkaido

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrgha View Post
    Strictly statistically (!) speaking; which part of Japan amasses the most snow?
    Western coast of Honshu.

    But quantity is just part of the equation

  15. #40
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    That tidbit about Hokkaido being 4hrs from Tokyo by bullet train is a big miscalculation. After four hours, you're not even half way. It's a full day of travel time. And it's a rad full day if you want to see the country. But most people, admittedly, are tired of sitting after they arrive in Tokyo from their flight overseas. If you have time to spare--- slow down and take it easy.

    In regards to the legendary "Japanuary"--
    If you want early season pow lines, you hit Hokkaido.
    If you want early season warm-up lines for the rest of your winter madness, you go to Hakuba. Then in February you go to NA, and close your season in AK.

    Hakuba can be hit or miss for January if the season starts late.

    Truthfully, and only if possible, you should be making your final plans in December. Line up refundable accommodation reservations. If the snow starts flying in Nov/earlyDec, you can score tree lines in Hakuba in January. But if we're sitting here twiddling our thumbs in mid-december wondering if winter is coming, choose Hokkaido.

    Late winters exist. Japan will get 2-3 introductory storms before the 10-week white room arrives. Sometime those intro storms come in November, sometimes December.

    If you want to come to Japan strictly for the forests for which they're most famous, Feb/March are insane. I've had the best snow of my life in April here. January is just getting our legs together and letting the base set in. I don't even feel like I'm skiing until February. In March, it's on fire. The pow isn't as blower, but the base has flattened the undergrowth so the forest lines are insanely fast. Still pow, though. It's not as rolly-polly mario land, which really does interrupt the flow of forest lines. Fun and jibby versus tronning.

    If you want to come to Japan for big lines, Mar/April are for Hakuba touring. (But there is also AK... so... it depends on your $.)

    Also-- storm season touring in Hakuba is some of the most dangerous skiing in the world. 90% of those lines have massive hanging exposure above you. It's not even skiing. It's avi-control all day. The locals who live there live there for post-storm season touring-- which is world class.

  16. #41
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    +1 to ^

    The trees on Hokkaido in March are as described above, but with plenty of blower days.

    It stays colder, for longer on Hokkaido.

    Last edited by Mike Pow; 08-02-2018 at 07:33 AM.

  17. #42
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    Glad to see that this thread is up and running again. Booked my trip with a group of 5 friends and I will be skiing 10 days based out of Furano Jan 26 - Feb 5. I am hoping that is late enough in the season to get a good base while still getting there early enough to hit the consistent dumps that I hear slow down mid/late Feb. Should be a blast. Hoping to get a few days at Asahidake as that place looks so fun but I know it is hit or miss with weather. I know the terrain won't be the central BC steeps that I am used to but they slackcountry powder will sure to put a smile on my face. 5 more months to go!

  18. #43
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    Was in Hokkaido two weeks late Jan last year. My takeaways:

    -Tokachidake has TONS of potential. On a whim my buddy and I went on a storm day while the remaining in our group rested. So, vis was pretty limited the entire day. Still, poking around the lower flanks of Furanodake (one of the 2-3 peaks there) was amazing. I'd love to get there on a clear day and it definitely felt like you could spend 4-5 days there and not get bored with the skiing. The Onsen at the end/top of the road is a stellar bonus to the day. And based on my interpretation of the rules poster you could bring a tall boy Sapporo from the vending machine outside into the onsen with you.

    -Don't sleep on the Rusutsu sidecountry. Forget the name of the peak to lookers right of the "backcountry park", but it's got some big, steep lines on it and you can totally tour to it from the residential neighborhood below it (we did from Villa Rusutsu Lodges). Onsen in the tall hotel there (Hyatt or something like that) is sweet.

    -If you get a clear day and are close, Yotei is well, well worth it. Trailhead at the SW side, tour up, couple laps in the crater, and drop off another side (we did SE side, I think.......not the best side for snow conditions, but we decided to drop a car last minute and just really didn't know where to go. If you're considering Yotei, so some research and make a plan....but def try to do a shuttle if you can. Probably guide services that will arrange for you as well). Yotei wasn't the best skiing of the trip, but the day was definitely the highlight.

    -Sapporo Teine. Looker's right going up steep quad, yes you can go out there. Yes, that's a groomed cat road to "out there" just past the patrol shack at top of quad. Couple pucker worthy chutes just below derelict upper tram station.

    -Rent an AWD if you can. Flexibility of a car is pretty key in Hokkaido, in my opinion. Get a van if you can. Their rentals never have roof racks for some reason, so all your shit has to go in the car. Our "7-8 passenger" van was TIGHT with 4 dudes and gear.

    -Lastly, I have yet to be disappointed in Japan by a "let's just check it out" venture. Sapporo Teine was largely that, and it was one of the best days of the trip. On another transfer day, we saw the town hill at Otaru was getting 10" overnight, so we stopped as we drove through. Got a 2 hour ticket and picked off all the powder the other 10 people there that day didn't get...and there was plenty they didn't get. The steeps under the restaruant were closed, but I think there was a ton to be poached out there. Just lookout for the lone patroller who cruises around straightlining everything on 120s. He's omnipresent and he KNOWS what you're thinking. Anyway, point is, don't just rely on what you manage to find on the internet or hear from people. Seems like Japan is the land of always pleasant powder surprises.
    ROBOTS ARE EATING MY FACE.

  19. #44
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    Also did storm day skiing below treeline on Furano-dake and had a pretty great day. The next day was clear and got fairly high up on a nearby mountain. The snow was wind-scoured but the views and terrain were incredible. I will def go back to tokachidake.

    I was lucky to catch Yotei between storm cycles and before wind got to it. Skied a super long face above treeline in shin deep pow, which ended up being the second best run of the season for me. Thereís also a sweet hut up on the sw side.

    日本に行きたい。

  20. #45
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    Tokachidake has some superb terrain with easy ridgeline access.

    Highly recommended.

  21. #46
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    Hokkaido Japan; Central Hokkaido or Niseko

    Been a couple years, so I forget where we took this pic but pretty sure it was Tokachidake. We skied some badass chutes lookers left below the exposed rocks, and had some fun, long mellow pow runs on the other side of that ridge too. Pic was taken maybe 15 min skin from the parking lot and the onsen. Edit: found my notes from the trip and confirmed this is Tokachidake

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    Mt Shiribetsu has some great skiing too. About a 3k skin up, and seems like you can ski 360 degrees of tree protected aspects. Long, sustained, steep-ish skiing with perfectly spaced trees.

    Approaching the top of Shiribetsu in this pic. Thatís my wife in the purple jacket getting pumped to shred:

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    The old lady getting after it:

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    So yeah, thereís enough steep terrain in Hokkaido to keep you interested for a while.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by jorion View Post
    You can most definitely take a train to Hokkaido from Tokyo. You can pretty much go anywhere via train in Japan, comfortably and fast. It’s a pretty long haul though, vs a one-hour flight to Sapporo. I flew sfo->haneda->new chitose. Rented an awd car to go to Furano and hakuginso Lodge and back. Train from Sapporo to niseko area. Then train to Honshu to do regular tourist stuff (Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo), then easy train and bus to get to Hakuba.
    We might be doing something similar to this ^^^.

    Mrs. C. and I, and a friend, booked tickets on the recent Singapore Air fare sale for LAX-NRT, for Jan 15-30. Now to fill in the trip. We have Mountain Collective passes, so free days at Niseko are included -- may as well go there, right?

    I'm reading all the old Japan threads on TGR, and many of the posts about Hokkado are about touring. Would we be disappointed if we only brought alpine gear, and stuck to inbounds/ sidecountry (out the gates/ back to the lift type skiing)? We all have backcountry experience and gear, but Mrs C in particular doesn't want to do the whole trip on her BC gear -- would rather have her alpine boots + skis.

    Is Hokkaido sidecountry something where you have to skin up a ways, or can you bootpack? Or just ski out the gate/ return at the bottom?

    We have a lot of planning to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by gaijin View Post
    ...It's not as rolly-polly mario land, which really does interrupt the flow of forest lines. Fun and jibby versus tronning.
    Tronning is my new favorite verb. Great post.

  24. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post

    Is Hokkaido sidecountry something where you have to skin up a ways, or can you bootpack? Or just ski out the gate/ return at the bottom?

    We have a lot of planning to do.
    The Hokkaido sidecountry is definitely accessible via a short boot or skate at most resorts.

    Niseko, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Teine, all have great sidecountry accessible this way.

    However, that also means that the majority of decently skilled foreign pow seekers are able to access these areas.

    Iíve seen some of these resorts fully tracked in under 2 hrs, so Iíd definitely make it a point to investigate the BC potential surrounding them, which is off the chain!

    Can you fit two pairs of skis in a roller bag? I always brought a lightweight dynafit rig and a fat downhill rig with one pair of boots that worked for both bindings. Most going for a season would agree.



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  25. #50
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    Every resort I went to (including sidecountry) was tracked out super fast in pow days. I think itís worth dragging extra gear or just skiing bc gear inbounds so that you can tour. But with the caveat that my ratio of enjoyment bc:inbounds is higher than most on tgr.

    I enjoyed Tokachidake and Yotei a lot more than the Niseko, Hakuba and Furano inbounds days I did. And I regret not getting to shiribetsu, asahidake and some other spots.

    I also wish I had had time for Rusutsu, Otaru and Teine but I regret that less.

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