Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Revisiting some Hokkaido backcountry classic

We took the ferry from Aomori to Hakodate.
We had an early start in order to meet Stéphane Gagnon and his son Guillaume to do some backcountry around Niseko.

The Yotei was really tempting, but with some snow and clouds forecasted for the afternoon,
we decided to head to Shiribetsu to check out the snow of the past days.

We parked on the East side of Shiribetsu in order to avoid the crowds that are hiking the south side from the lifts of Rusutsu.

There weren't too many people there and we found some really nice snow.
We had to be careful not to ski towards the southerly or westerly aspect since the warm temperature of the previous days built a slight crust underneath.

It was probably the biggest delegation of Xalibu skis ever happening in Japan! Since the four of us were rocking those planks!

We had two laps and the second one being even better than the first one, since it was more on a east-north-east aspect.

Following Stéphane's recommendation, we aimed to Nimi Onsen to check out the backcountry. I've never heard of it, but apparently, it is becoming a classic area for backcountry skiing near Niseko.

Past Niseko Moiwa, just follow the indications towards Nimi Onsen. The road eventually stops there. We climbed through the forest onto an adjacent ridge, but as we stepped in the open, the wind was really howling hard!

We dropped lower in order to get some shelter from the wind.
The snow in the forest was nice, steady and light.

We aimed to climb onto a different aspect, but as we moved higher, the wind was also quite present and rapidly building a nice wind slab. We removed our skins and ski down since it was useless to keep climbing up.

We heard some sledding going on and eventually got to an area where it was really thrashed by snowmobile tracks! I don't know where they parked and/or where they were coming from, but it was my first encounter with sledders in Japan.

The area around Nimi Onsen is a bit confusing.
Since we didn't know the area quite well, we aimed back to the car earlier than later.

With some more snow and wind forecasted for the following day, we drove to Otaru.
Otaru is quite a nice little Hokkaido town that worth checking out. Despite being a bit touristy, there is some really nice old building quite well preserved.

After a quick stop at the convenient store in order to get a nice bowl of greasy noodle for breakfast, we aimed to Kiroro to check out the conditions of the backcountry there. Kiroro is really trying to control the access through the backcountry and positioning the resort as a backcountry mecca. Unfortunately, you need to sign up, tell you itinerary and enter through a gate and exit from the same gate which I feel is really restraining the feeling of freedom of going backcountry skiing.

Kiroro has put up some gates and restrained to access to the area located behind the Tribute Portfolio Hotel. There are now signs every 200-300m to tell you that the access behind is not allowed anymore. There was really a lot of people there going to the backcountry. With not that much snow lately,

We figured that if we couldn't see a sign from where we would be entering towards the backcountry, it must be all right!
We went straight behind the hotel and hike to the slope located behind.
The sometimes 50cm of trail breaking through some really nice and soft snow was really getting us excited!

The snow was effectively perfect!
So perfect that we lapped it 5 times!

With such perfect snow, the skiing gets really easy and brainless… which is really a kind of skiing that I appreciated greatly!
Here we were after quite an awesome day of backcountry facing a big dilemma.
Either stay on Hokkaido were some snow was forecasted but where some high winds were also forecasted or take the ferry back to Honshu in order to catch and even bigger forecasted snowstorm with less wind.
Having spent quite some times on Hokkaido on my previous trips, we decided to go for the uncertainty of going towards Honshu were I had some really deep days last winter.

I am now fighting sea sickness on the ferry which is getting rocked by some fairly big wave.
Hope the forecast is right!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was there in 2014 brother!!!!!

And yes i read this while at work.....

Keep the dream alive