Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great pow just off the road in Japan backcountry!

We headed back to Etanbetsu pass on the road 72.
From Google Earth, there seems to be some nice openings that we didn’t reach due to the poor weather. 

We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather.
It was about -5C, no wind and blue sky.
Even if it was really tempting to head straight for the turns, we figured it would be good for everyone to beacon practice a bit.

After everyone had practiced and showed good beacon skills, we kept hiking on the ridge towards a nice bowl with openings.
We didn’t get much elevation hiking on the ridge, but the openings got bigger.
As far as we were able to see, we weren’t able to see any tracks around.
We eventually dropped on a ridge that looked to be nicely opened.
It wasn’t as open as we hoped, but it was quite skiable!
We got a run about 250-300m long before slapping our skins on to climb back for a second lap.
Back to Asahikawa, we made the plan to drive to the northeast to a backcountry spot I visited 4 years ago, Ukishima (aka Floating Island) on the road 273.
I’ve skied the deepest pow of my life in this backcountry spot, so I was quite eager to make it back.  Even if the runs are short (about 120-150m long), the snow makes it quite a valuable place for someone who doesn’t mind multiple short laps.
As we rolled in, there was only a few tracks on the face, and a skintrack had been already laid down.
It wasn’t as deep as what I’ve experienced in the past but with about 2 feet of really light fresh, there wasn’t much to complain about!
We lapped all day adding much more tracks then what was there when we got there!
Since it was our best day so far in this trip, we figured we would come back the following day.
We drove north towards Takinoue to get some accommodation. There wasn’t much option around and even if the only hotel there was a bit pricy, we stayed there to make it back to Ukishima.
As we woke up the following morning, the air seems really cold and for the first time of the trip, there wasn’t any snow on our car.

By the time we rolled in to the pass, the temperature as shifted and was much more pleasant, but the best thing was the 20+cm of fresh that fell overnight!
We ventured a bit further south on the ridge to get some fresh runs.
I really loved those runs as they were starting with some short steep pillows and followed by some long meadow skipping deep powder hoping terrain!

We lapped it over and over. Wherever, we skied, the snow what nice and soft, making it quite easy to do some brainless skiing!
We wanted to move to another place, but the snow was too nice to make a move.
We tried this time to drive south towards Kamikawa. This town is fairly small and there was only two ryokan and one hotel.

One of the ryokan and the hotel were close and the other ryokan was full… We drove down to Sounkyo where I remember seeing multiple huge hotels.

There weren’t any problem to get a room. All the hotels there had room ranging from 50$US to 100$US per person. Sounkyo is probably the best option for skiing Ukishima.
We had only a 10-15cm overnight to top off the already really good conditions.
We debated for some time to try an option just south of the top of the pass, but we eventually settled for the same starting spot.
Not much to had than is was an (other!!!) awesome day of skiing! Everyone had good lines and countless multiple faceshots!
It is hard to believe that someone can get enough of that kind of perfect skiing condition, but after 3 days of lapping about the same slope, we were all set to try other skiing spots. When, we got back to the car, there was a sign posted at the start of the skintrack.... just another japanese thing impossible to understand!
We’ll have a day off and drive north of Asahikawa towards Nayoro to check out some other options.

I kinda still feel the clums of snow in my beard from the multiple faceshots I’ve got in the past days!

Gotta love skiing deep to enjoy Japan!!!


Seb D said...

Salut Evans,

Beau trip cette année! Je me demandais si tu étais prêts à partager quelqu'un de tes trucs de voyage concernant Hokkaido? Du genre ou as-tu loué ton véhicule, quelque hôtel histoire de compléter ma liste. Merci à l'avance.

Seb D

Voici mon e-mail:

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Unknown said...

Got an idea what the sign says. I skied the FI for the first time on Jan 28 this year. 11 Glorious runs in deep japow just like in your pics and there were no signs. It was so good I returned the next morning for more. As I pulled in I observed three Japanese man with hard hats installing signs on both sides of the building and along the road where you would go to access the ridge left of the tunnel. They've added English at the bottom of the signs. It read "Here, skiing and snowboarding is forbidden".

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