Saturday, February 4, 2017

Snowpocalypse Part 2 - Nozawa Onsen

It was again dumping on our way to Nozawa and we woke up to (another) 50cm of snow overnight...
Since Nozawa Onsen has a constant supply of hot water from its thermal sources, they use the heat and the water to melt the snow on the street!

What is really cool about Nozawa Onsen is that its a town that as been there for hundreds of years. You have to  walk through town with your ski boots to make it to the lifts.

One of the problem with Nozawa is that they are grooming a lot....
Even the fresh powder!
There is only a few designated runs where they do not groom it...

It is also quite flat in a lot of places...


On the upside, the competition for freshies is way less than in Hakuba1

... and since the tree skiing is not allowed but since this rule is not stricly enforce, there are a lot of good turns to do out-of-bounds!

We spent most of our day lapping the trees under the Hikage gondola.
It has been nearly a week of constant snowfall and we were really struggling to dry our goggles and gloves in our non-heated campervan... at this point, Amelie was almost getting tired of the snow...

It was interesting to see the struggle of the resident of Nozawa Onsen that were trying to keep up with the gigantic amount of snow what was falling!

It snowed again 20cm overnight but, for once, the sun seemed to be nearby!
We made it to the Hikage Gondola by using a really long (and free) escalator that connect the gondola base to the village.

I guess you know your car need to be shoveled when you see Japanese people taking picture in front of your car!!!

There was a bit of an inversion early in the morning that eventually disappeared.
We lapped a few times the runs before heading back to the out-of-bounds trees.

The snow was really nice and dry and it was pretty cool to see a little bit as we were skiing!!

The big weather system that brought constant snowfall in the past week was now officially over! On our side, we were pretty toasted by the full week of opening-till-closure skiing!

I got pressured not to ski on our last ski day by Amelie who’s knee have had growing pain during the past seven days. I didn’t exactly accepted all smile out, but let her win anyway...

After a breakfast picnic made over a foot-onsen, we left Nozawa Onsen to try to see the snow monkeys.

As we made it to the nearby snow monkey park, we were somehow informed that the park was closed due to the last snow storm. To reach the monkeys, a 30 minutes hike is required and the management wasn’t able to keep up cleaning the snow and keeping the footpath open.

There was  nevertheless a slight chance to see them since, they were apparently pretty often making their way to a nearby onsen.

We made our way to this nearby onsen and they were there!
By looking at a bunch of adults getting all excited about seeing a few monkeys, I was really wondering who were the monkeys after all!!

After spending about an hour looking at monkeys not bigger than a small dog, we made our way back to the car.

We now had to drive to make our way back to Tokyo from where we were flying out the following day.

We dropped Caro to a nearby hostel since whe was staying in Japan for another 3 weeks and hit the highway.

The highway in Japan are fairly expensive, but they probably save you around half of the time than if you use the national roads.

We blindly followed the GPS and had to traverse the downtown Tokyo highway system.
That was quite an experience. I dont’ know which road we followed on our way out of Tokyo, but it was just a puzzle of highways that criss-crossed each others this time!

We stopped in various rest area on our way to the airport since we have previously bumped into some that were boasting showers. Despite their Disneyland-look, none of the one at which we stopped had showers.

We had planned to shower at the airport, but due to deficient time management, only Amelie had time to shower before going through immigration and customs.

Since I’ve already checked-in my luggage and didn’t want to jump into clean clothes before cleaning a bit myself, I ended up going from the drop-off to our gate in my skiing underwear!

I managed to have some kind of cleaning 5 minutes before changing in clean clothes and boarding!

All and all, it was another awesome trip in Japan!
Despite being my 5th trip, I manage to ski mostly places where I’ve never had good snow in epic conditions! I don’t if I would rather go to Honshu of Hokkaido on my next trip, but I really like to opportunity to be flexible on the destination on this trip!
Now on my way to Calgary where I will catch up with my Quebec friends Etienne, Babiche and Nic before rallying with JS in Golden.

From there, we’ll fly in to a hut in the Purcell where we’ll spend the week!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Snowpocalypse Part 1 - Hakuba

We met Dave on the ferry. We managed to squeeze him in the back of the van for the 5 hours drive from Niigata to Hakuba. Dave has spent a few season in Hakuba and according to him and his connection in Hakuba, there wasn’t any sign of snow in Hakuba. Weirdly, it was dumping on the coast and the drive was nowhere relax.

As we dropped in at the Hakuba Powder Lodge, his friends added a layer of doubt to our concerns. They were saying that the forecast will be wrong and that the snow will all fall in the ocean.

We went to bed a bit concerned about the choice we made to leave Hokkaido!

Fortunately, the forecast was right and we woke up to a nice foot of fresh snow
We headed up to Hakuba 47 to check out the new delivery of white gold!

By looking at the right places, it was possible to find some nice deep pocket of snow!
Around 15-20cm of snow fell overnight!!
Weirdly, signs were still present about the thin cover!
I've seen some quite more marginal conditions in resort without any warning...
We were both pretty happy about this first day in Hakuba!
After a little drying session of about an hour in the day lodge, we caught up with Caroline, a friend of ours from Quebec that would be joining us for the coming week. The snow was falling heavily!
Here is what piled up on the car during our drying session!
As we woke up the following morning, we had an hard time to open the slide door of the van as the overnight snow had piled up about 15cm above the lowest part of the door! There was probably around 50-60cm of snow in the parking lot!!!
Needless to say that we were really excited!
One of the problem we face was the fact that two buses were blocking the nearby entrance and the second problem was that the parking lot wasn’t plowed at all!!

As Amelie was cleaning the van and installing the chain on our 2WD van, I shoveled a trail out of the far end of the parking lot!
We made it out of the parking lot on our first try but as we were driving to pick up Caro, one of the chains broke. We stop to quickly remove the broken chain and left the other one in place.

We manage to make it to the parking lot of Hakuba 47. Without any other breakdown. There were a lot of snow in the parking lot as some cars who were left there overnight were almost totally buried!

We were later than expected, but the resort was experiencing opening delay due to the amount of snow!
Word was out that some other resort in the Hakuba valley were already fully open and there was no confirmation about when Hakuba 47 was to open.

We stayed figuring it was already a bit late to change plan and to drive to the other end of the valley. That ended up being quite a good call since about 10 minutes after a lot of people left, the ticket office announced the opening delay would be only 30minutes!!
We lapped the resort all day.
As the snow was fairly heavy, the conditions deteriorated over the afternoon.
The backcountry policy of Hakuba 47 is not the most progressive one and a lot of the tree skiing is closed. Nevertheless, since a lot of people were already putting tracks in the closed area, we ducked the rope and made it there as the snow was still pretty awesome!
The following morning, we headed out to Hakuba Cortina.
With around 50cm of new snow overnight, the conditions promised to be quite awesome!
This tree skiing there is not restricted and the terrain is steeper than in Happo One or Hakuba 47.
It is also the resort with  one of the most open policy about backcountry in the Hakuba Valley
Those characteristics also made it one of the most prized resort for westerners who are looking for fresh powder!

Despite being there about 45 minutes before the opening, we were far from making first chair!

It kept on snowing heavily all day and probably around 25cm fell during the day.
By the end of the day, we got tempted by dropping on the backside of the resort.
From the top of the chairlift, you can easily traverse and drop in the backcountry which consist of some really nicely spaced trees.

Just follow the tracks and make your way back to Cortina chairlift no.7 for some really nice accessible slackcountry!

It was so good that we returned for more the following day.
With another 50cm of new snow, it seemed to be almost too good to be true!

We arrived a bit earlier than the preceding day, but the word must have been out that the conditions were pretty epic since there was a lot of people who showed up.
To line up in the morning, the people just lay their skis in the lift line.
Most of the people respect it and  we figured that the best thing to do is to show up early and put your skis in the line up....
We lapped again the resort and the slackcountry from opening to closure!
It is really a nice resort! Certainly the best one in the Hakuba valley for some storm skiing!

With solely 30cm overnight, we returned (again) to Cortina for more!!
With a better knowledge about how the resort is layed out and making almost first chair, we had some really great turns inbound!
In the afternoon, we skinned a bit further in the backcountry.
The scenery and the light was pretty awesome.
The snow was also quite magic....
After 5 quite awesome days, we left Hakuba for Nozawa Onsen where an equal part of snow has already fallen and where more snow is forecasted in the next 2 days.

Snowpocalypse to be continued!!