Saturday, February 28, 2009

Furano rules ?!?

Furano is about two hours drive (on regular conditions) north of Sapporo. It is having a continental climate and is usually staying colder all winter long. They are usually having a little bit less snow than Niseko, but it is usually of better quality and it usually stays a little bit longer.

The resort is located on a nice mountain is having perfectly space trees and somw nice steep runs and a lot of mellow blueish/greenish runs. The only things that is bugging in Furano is that they don't allow ANY tree skiing, any runs under the lifts, an illegal backcountry and the only blacks (all 3 of them) that they are legally letting you skiing are pretty much ungroomed blues...
Oh yeah, Furano seems to be the official training ground of the japanese army... I guest the terrain is quite perfect when you are skiing in leather boots with leather bindings!They have the reputation of being really strict about it. But after holding ourselves for a full morning of skiing, we realize that a lot of japanese were poaching there own rules! Apparently, there were some signs about the backcountry rules...

But we had some really hard time about reading them.

Since we didn`t see them, we kept skiing some really good powder! The runs were long into some perfectly steep and spaced trees.

Then we went to Mt Tokachidake to try some real backcountry. We haven't found the best spot to do some backcountry on the day we skied, but we scouted us some really nice steep lines.

After a last quick day we headed back to Chitose, where we had to take the plane on the 26th.

After the biggest food sampling session ever (crab, chocolate, cheese cake, candy) at the airport, we had to go back.

I left Japan figuring I definitively didn't had time to really figure it out. We skied only 12 days in 7 differents resorts and had only one day of real backcountry.

Considering the fact that there are more than 300 ski areas in Japan .
Considering that we only checked out Hokkaido (north island) and that we didn't even checked out Onshu (the main island).
Considering the fact that no one is even using the slackcountry, you can imagine how pristine the backcountry stays for a long time...

So, I guess if someone could take a full winter off to go skiing, that would be a really good place to hang out...
Since Mt Baker justed received more than 34in of snow this week, I guess I might go check it out with JS tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Snow !!!

...we wanted more...

...we had more!!

Every single morning since the last post, we had to take minimum 15cm to 20cm of snow off the car. That meant about 20-30cm of snow on the mountain!

We manage to get some complimentary tickets from Niseko Village. Thanks to them we enjoyed every days of one of the best week in Niseko (source of this information: some local guy in the Gondola). With planning to open a now permanently closed area (Moiwa no Sawa), Niseko Village will at least triple his expert terrain. Hopefully, it`s gonna happen next winter!

We had planned to do a little bit of backcountry, but the inbounds and the really nearby slackcountry (5 minutes hike-in to a direct ski-out) was offering steady mid-thigh run in some untouched POWDERRRRRRR!

The first few days that I was in Niseko, I was really wondering if they were really having as much snow yearly than what they claim (10-15m) but after this week I don`t doubt it for a split second! It was as snowy as the epic week we had last winter in Utah. I definitively had couples of my best days of the seasons here in just one week.
I`m not use to ski the same resort for coupls of days in a row... so when my dad told me he had booked a full week in a single place, I tought it will be really long and boring. But this morning, when we where packing our stuff to move towards Furano, I realize that week as just gone too fast!

As we were packing our stuff into the car into a full on blizzard, I was really wondering why we were moving. Being on our first journey we both thought it was a good idea to see more than one place.

So we drove on the not so nicely maintained japanese road for more than 6hours to cover the 250km that separate Niseko from Furano...

It has finally fallen more than 20cm over the day and a lot of the lift has stayed closed here because of the high winds. We only got 4 more possible days of skiing so hopefully Furano will be good to us!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It finally turn to r@!% but ...!!!

... 20cm of new snow ruin by the r@!%...
We didn't ski that day, we walk around Niseko and spend most of the day touristing around.

After one day without skiing, it was enough so we headed out to Rusutsu resort about 30min from Niseko. That resort has some nice terrain that was mostly cover by a hard crust call ice...
The view was nice, but after spending an afternoon skiing on shear ice we headed back home to drink some beer...

We weren't too worried about the conditions because they were forecasting snow for most of the week. Well, we didn't have to wait much because on Monday morning, we woked up to 25+cm of new snow!
We headed straight to Niseko Village which is boasting the best terrain around. It was a really good choice!!!

Since it was really windy and really cold there wasn't much skier on the mountain. Plus, it kept snowing all day!

We skied until we weren't able to ski anymore...
To get some fresh legs, we went to a nearby "Onsen". It is pretty much like a hot tube but with a much more complicated routine before jumping in the water. The water is flowing naturally at just the perfectly (really) warm temperature.

With some new legs, we were all set to face another big day of skiing. With more than 65cm in two days, the conditions were getting really good.

We even had some blue sky for some times but then it started snowing again...

We skied non-stop from 8h30 until 15h00 enjoying some of the terrain that was not open the day before because it was too windy.

The weather around Niseko is really unstable. It can be snowing really hard and 5 minutes later, you have a blue sky and then 15 minutes after, it is snowing again.

At the time of writing, it is still snowing hard outside, but I can't be sure it's gonna last all night.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Japan... part 1

It’s been now two days that we are skiing in Japan and up to now, it has stand to it’s reputation as being of the best destination for the snow. There even seems to be a Japanese counter part of the Snowchasers!
During our short journey in Japan, we will drive around Hokkaido Island (the northern island) and try to hit the most famous powder spots of this legendary island. We will stay around the south east for a little bit more of the first half of our trip and then moving a little bit north toward Furano. We start our trip by hitting Sapporo Kokusai. It is a small resort deserve by 2 chairlift and one gondola. We figure we didn’t need our backcountry gear since it was our first day and that we wanted to play it cool… Surely enough, after one run, we ducked under the roped and headed out for some slackcountry runs.
It looks like Japan ski culture involves more ski racing than powder skiing because almost all of the slackcountry was untouched and was waiting for us! Under a blue sky, we enjoyed our first turns in the samurai country. We also looked at the backcountry laying just minutes away from the resort. It mainly consists of untouched north facing runs of about 300m long… We gotta come back for those! Today, we skied Kiroro resort. It is another small resort mainly deserve by one gondola. We bought a 3hours ticket figuring we would head out to the backcountry after. This resort mainly consists of short steep pitches that end up in some flat sections. Here too, the steeper terrain sees way less skier than the beginners slope!
As we were thinking of going out of bounds, the wind really start to pick up and they shut the gondola (our main access to some proper backcountry). We then figure it would probably be a good time to start our hour and a half drive back to were we are staying (yes, I won’t be leaving in a car since I haven’t been able to convince my dad to do so…)
It is now puking outside, but it may turn to rain somewhere during the night. Tomorrow is suppose to be fairly windy shutting a lot of the good terrain…but tomorrow is another day!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Good times!

Last week as been a pretty cool one.

Beside the lack of new snow, we did enjoy some nice run that are hidding a lot of nice powder.
Skiing with some friends around one of the nicest backcountry area in Canada is always really cool. And being able to do it again this winter was bringing a lot of excitement to everyone.

We skied all around the Pass and did enjoyed some nice powder. (Hermit, Avalanche, Glacier Crest, Lilly Traverse, Teddy Bear trees).

Etienne has been able to get his first turn in the backcountry and I was stoked to be able to show him around.

The week as been pretty mellow: skiing, drinking beer, poaching hot tub, camping... and ski golfing!

I think we did the best skiing possible considering the conditions.

We were told today at the Roger`s Pass Center that almost half the good skiing area (Ross, Shaughnessy, Smart, Fortitude) will be close for this season and maybe permanently because of an issue of trespassing on CP properties.

Park Canada will be looking for some way to get those areas open in the future. I’ll keep you updated with the forecoming information.

Today has been en exhausting one, after skiing a quick run, we drove to Vancouver, had a last dinner with the boys and packing my stuff.

I’ll be taking the plane to Japan tomorrow we’ll (my dad and I) be around Hokkaido from the 9th until the 26th.

Some interesting stories are up to come!!!