Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Way too) early spring skiing...

It hasn't been the greatest week for skiing ever.... with temperatures reaching +10C at the base of most of the resorts around Nagano (including Hakuba), the conditions has been closer to what you would expect from late april...

On top of it, it was pissing rain on Friday.... (nothing to help our motivation level that is now setting at an historic low!)
But even with our motivation quite low, we've manage to kick ourselves to go out skiing! (after drinking canned coffee from the distributing machines....)
We spend our first few days around Hakuba Goryu and Hakuba 47. Those resorts are quite weirdly layout. There are tons of trails on the flat lower part and on the flat top part, but nothing really to link them. And from what I've heard, the patrols are quite tough, so don't really think about poaching the nice steep trees that are everywhere unless you don't mind spending some time in an interrogation room...

So we lapped some blueish runs until we get totally bored and went hiking on the ridge that started at the top of the resorts.
There is some really nice terrain from up there, but the recent warm front has started a cycle of wet avalanches a bit everywhere. So we stayed on some safer lines and enjoy some good times hiking and skiing from the ridge.

The following day, we woke up and the clouds were very low and the temperature wasn't that warm. We finally gather enough motivation to go up Happo-One. To our surprise, it was a nice inversion and a bright, warm, sunny day was waiting for us at the top of the hills!
We run the moguls through millions of Japanese and our biggest challenge was to avoid running into some uncontrolled skiers.
We couldn't hold ourselves down from hiking a bit so we went up the ridge at the top of Happo-One for some mellow turns.
The following day was (as forecasted) a rainy one. From the weather reports it was supposed to rain all the way to the top. Well, we passed on that one and drove south to Omachi to visit the Alpine Museum.
There wasn't any information in English so our visit was rather fast! So we decided to visit a sake brewery and sample some of their production. A good onsen ended up our day.

On the night was a party organized by Outdoor Japan. It is a bilingual magazine that covers outdoor activities happening in Japan and a bit in Asia. I've met the editor at the beginning of January and I was quite stoked to get my hands on the edition that was covering my story!
The rest of the party is a bit blurred and we spent the following day recovering from it!
We were still having one day in Hakuba before driving to Niigata from where we'll be (hopefully!) taking the ferry tonight towards Hokkaido.

So we went out on the ridge at the top of Happo and started hiking.
At the beginning the snow was quite soft, but since the weather was overcasted, the higher we got, the harder the snow was.
We finally made it to the top of Karamatsu-dake from where the wind was really hauling! It was one of the worst wind I have ever experience!!!
We hiked down a bit before finally convincing ourselves to drop in the backcountry.
The snow was rather nice and soft at the top part, but it turned to a more glueish type lower down.
Going down that gully brought us through the most avalanche run-outs I have ever been into.
The warm temperature from the past days and the rain had really get the things moving around here!!!
Fortunately for us, there is a summer road going up the valley between Happo and Hakuba47 that we followed all the way down.
We finally arrived at Hakuba47 in a heavy down pour (again....).
We are in Myoko right now where we might be able to get some motivation to get some turns in if the weather cleared up a bit. From here, we'll drive straight to Niigata.

If we understand properly the ferry schedule and the tsunami travelling advisory is not holding the ferry at the dock, we'll be back on Hokkaido tomorrow!


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