Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The spectacular Japanese Alps

We left Myoko and its nice Japanese vibe to drive towards Hakuba and its buzzling town and resorts. Unfortunately, the resorts around haven't receive the snow that we skied at Seki Onsen. Halfway down our first (and only) run, we just needed some motivation in cans. The conditions were not fast, not hard, but just shear, pure ice!
Since Etienne was to leave on the following day, we turned to the other option Hakuba has to offer: party! After drinking 3.6 liters of sake we went out.... the rest is history that none of us can remember!
The following day, we weren't much in the mood for skating down the hill, so we went to Matsumoto to visit a castle. It was one of the worst sightseeing I ever done! No history, no information, no nothing. Don't waste your time visiting this feodal castle.
We dove back north but this time towards Yuzawa. It is a nice little town nestle in the Japanese Alps with tons of visitors from Tokyo. After a quick call to the brother of a friend of mine, he directed us to Mt Tairappyo for a little tour. It has fallen around 15cm overnight so we were expecting some nice conditions. The way up was fairly easy and from the top, we were able to get our first glimpse of the mountain range.
We were both amaze by how big the mountains were and how steep some lines looked.

We kept ourselves from doing anything too stupid considering the snow conditions and we skied down the main face of the mountain.
Since we skied a west face in late afternoon, the powder had already started to get a bit more wet. The sun is really strong here and it really bakes the snow laying on the south and west facing aspects around.
The following day, we headed with Guillaume and one of his friend to Mt Daigenta to ski some glades he had scouted and who were straight north facing. It seems that is has been really windy around since all the snow we skied were some kind of wind crust.
Considering all this, we drove towards Minakami to ski Tanigawadake Tenjindaira. This tiny little hill (3 double chairs) usually ranked in the top 3 resorts for the most snow in Japan. If you add this statistic to the sick backcountry terrain just next to the hill, you have one of the best option for some great turns.
Unfortunately for us, the weather has started to warm up quite over the freezing level and we had to forgot any plans about riding some fresh, dry pow.

After two laps inbounds, Babiche had a little summit fever, so we packed our gear and started hiking towards Mt Tanigawadake. This big mountain lays just next to the ski hill and offers tons of option for some nice turns.
We made our way slowly to the top enjoying the nice, summer like weather.
From the top, the view was spectacular.
I had previously packed 2 beers and I don't remember having one in a more spectacular place! I can tell you that we enjoyed every sip of it.
After spending as much time as we could up there, it was more than about time that we headed down. The snow was soft and a bit melted by the warm weather.
We skied in some really beautiful light and finally arrived at the car just 15 minutes before total darkness.
That was a really great day out there and I was quite glad Babiche kicked my lazy ass up!
We'll now drive back towards Hakuba to see the spring-like conditions around there before the rain comes (yes there is some rain on the forecast now....)

It looks like it's going to be the last stretch of the Honshu journey since there isn't any rain forecasted on Hokkaido. Hopefully we'll be able to get some more dry stuff before we go back in 3 weeks!



Jyves said...

Nice shots! I wish I were there.

I don't really understand why you didn't enjoy Matsumoto Castle, it's probably my favorite (no need for too many instructions, just look around; and didn't they have some sort of English brochure, they had one when I used to live around there).

March is near, I hope you can score some powder before you leave. Should you choose to come all the way down south to Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka-Nara-Kobe) because the conditions 'sucent', let me know and I can show you around a bit and bring you to a place that serves poutine (although nothing like the Quebec original).

Keep on riding, mon compatriote.

Anonymous said...

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