Backcountry skiing in Hokkaido, Japan has become known as one of the best places on the planet to ski deep powder snow. With an average of 15 meters of annual snowfall, plenty of natural hot springs to soak in and excellent food to enjoy this is an amazing area to experience for any avid backcountry skier. We will be skiing in three distinct backcountry ski locations with the possibility of great runs and views; all ending with authentic Japanese food and lodging. From famous deciduous tree skiing to skiing into a volcanic crater, this Hokkaido, Japan skiing trip will be an excellent blend of deep powder skiing and Japanese culture. Join Yamnuska Mountain Adventures for the ultimate Hokkaido backcountry skiing experience.
Day 1: Arrive in Chitose, Japan and stay at airport hotel for the night. We will meet at the hotel and review the details of the trip.
Day 2: After a local breakfast we be transferred by professional driver to the Goshiki Onsen Ryokan (hot spring and accommodation) which will be our base for the next four nights. Arriving early we will review avalanche companion rescue techniques before climbing to the top of our first runs on the island of Hokkaido. We will finish the day with a relaxing soak in the Goshiki Onsen (hot spring) and enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner.
Day 3: With a full day available to us we will explore the further reaches of the local area. We will be in search of deep powder in the trees that the area is famous for. Goshiki Onsen Ryokan will again be our finish to the day.
Day 4: After a Japanese breakfast we will be shuttled to the Niimi Onsen where we will traverse numerous small peaks the 10-12km back to Goshiki Onsen Ryokan. Expect a travelling day with lots of short but sweet descents. On a clear day we will be looking at the Sea of Japan towards the Russian coast. A soak in the Onsen will be well deserved at the end of the day.
Day 5: Our sights will be set on the impressive volcanic cone, Mt Yotei. With over 1000 vertical meters to the top of Mt Yotei and a ski descent into the volcanic crater this day will be a truly unique experience!
Day 6: Today we will transfer from the Goshiki Onsen Ryokan to the Tokachi area which hosts a remote range of volcanic mountains with many options for the following day’s adventures. Our accommodation, Tokachi Kamihoro, is a small family owned complex with skiing out its front door.
Day 7: We will put on our skis as close to the accommodation as possible and explore. The area is off the beaten track for the typical backcountry skier visiting Japan. Being further North and inland the area usually has slightly drier and colder conditions which typically means even lighter snow. We will finish the day with traditionally cooked Japanese meals and another good soak in the local hot spring.
Day 8: Today we will continue to ski in the Tokachi area. Looking for untracked snow and great turns from the Tokachi Kamihoro accommodation.
Day 9: Leaving Tokachi Kamihoro in the morning we will be shuttled to Asahidake, a peak further to the North. We will use the single gondola in the area to access the vast backcountry which has a variety of alpine and treeline skiing options.
Day 10: Having completed an excellent trip we will have a private transfer back to the airport.
Weather and Conditions Note
Japan receives large amounts of snow. With this, poor weather, avalanche or driving conditions have the potential to change the itinerary. As with any trip into the mountains these conditions cannot be guaranteed. Regardless expect the trip to be a great adventure in a beautiful area.
Meeting Time and Place
Fights arrive in Chitose, Japan late on Day 1 and guests will be given directions for reaching the airport hotel. Once all guests have settled in we will meet the group and review the program. A Japanese guide will be our link to the local culture and help with logistical needs on the program.
Our connections, Guides and Group Size
Yamnuska has specialized in running mountain tours for Japanese people in Canada for many years. Due to this we have excellent Japanese connections and local guides who we use in operating this tour.
There will be one of our ACMG guides on the program as well as a Japanese guide to help with logistics on the trip.
Minimum group size is 6 participants plus guides, maximum is 8.
You will be responsible for your flight costs to arrive and depart Chitose, Japan. Included in the price of the program is all ground transportation costs starting from day 2 through day 10 returning to the airport. A lift ticket at Asahidake is also included.
Accommodation is included in the tour price.
We use a mixture of modern hotels and traditional Japanese Onsen (Hot Spring) Lodges. In all lodges and hotels rooms will be double occupancy. We can arrange accommodation before and after the tour for you as well. If you would prefer your own room, please let us know in advance and we will try to organize this. A single-supplement charge will apply.
Food is included with the exception of lunches on days 2 and 6 and dinners on days 5 and 9 where we will be in local towns and different options will be available for guests to choose from and purchase on their own.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing and gear for day ski tours.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact upon the quality of your experience. Please be sure to bring all items listed. If unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
There are two ski systems you can use: System 1 Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift whilst going uphill or across the flats and then ‘locks down’ to become a regular downhill safety binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background of downhill skiing who is not already an advanced telemark skier. System 2 Telemark skis. These should only be used for this program if you are at least an advanced-intermediate telemark skier with some backcountry experience. This system is more difficult and less forgiving than the other.
Which should you use? If you are a downhill skier then you should use Alpine Touring gear. Only if you are already an advanced Telemark skier should you bring Telemark gear.
Both types of gear can be rented in Calgary or Canmore prior to the trip
You need to bring:
- Skis We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder
- Climbing skins
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Avalanche beacon
- Snow shovel
- Collapsible probe
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle.
- Sun block & Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Large Travel Bag (to bring all your other stuff in)
- Small Flashlight or Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister & 1st-Aid Kit
- Family FRS radio (short range, multi frequency) (optional)
The climate in Hokkaido is cold and moist so it is important to have a range of layers with you. An essential item is a ski mask as it’s easy to get facial frost nip in the prevailing strong moist winds found higher up. We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest and from the ascent to the descent.
- Polypro underwear (top & bottom)
- Warm pants (nylon blend, insulated or fleece)
- Warm shirts (not cotton)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Fleece Jacket
- Light insulated jacket or vest (it’s a moist & cold climate)
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers)
- Socks (wool outer & polypro liner), several sets
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Neck tube
- Ski Mask … strongly recommended!
- Casual clothing for travel and to wear in the towns at night
- Hut Slippers
- Snow boots
- Swim suit (optional in most hot springs)
- Bath and hand towel
- Soap and shampoo
Japan is largely a cash society and ATM’s are scarce in the smaller towns. You will need cash to pay for lunches, drinks and other incidentals.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require a 35% CDN deposit at the time of booking. Final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
Please ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance.
All ground transport for the program from airport to airport is included by professional drivers. Accommodation and food in Japan is included with the exception of lunches on days 2 and 6 and dinners on days 5 and 9 where we will be in local towns and different options will be available for guests to choose from and purchase on their own. Two guides will be scheduled for the trip to allow flexibility and local knowledge.
Flights to and from Hokkaido, potential rescue costs, meals as outlined above, alcoholic beverages, gratuities or additional costs related to changes in itinerary due to conditions are not included.
Is it for you?
Guests on this program should be comfortable skiing in a variety of untracked snow conditions on runs through the trees in the blue to black difficulty range. Carrying a day pack with personal equipment, clothing, food and water weighing approximately 20 lbs should also be expected. This is an excellent program for guests who are comfortable using their backcountry ski equipment and climbing approximately 1000 vertical meters per day.
Any training you can do will greatly enhance your experience. The ideal would be to do some ski touring or cross country skiing in your own area. Don’t try to go too fast but concentrate on even breathing and pacing. The hillier the terrain the better and if you can carry a moderate day pack then better still. Running or cycling is also good training.