Skiing in Japan: the island of Hokkaido

Many of you already know it, some have been there, many talk about it and too many people would like to go!
I’m talking about Hokkaido, an island in Japan in the far north. The island is located almost on the border with Siberia and over the years it has become the Mecca of powder. Thanks to the Siberian currents that bring cold and snow, in fact, on this island in January and February it snows a lot.

In this article I try to answer some curiosities and questions about our short but intense journey and to illustrate our itinerary.

Day 1: Street Kart in Tokyo 

Having never been to Japan, I decided to fly to Tokyo to take advantage of the afternoon to visit the city.

In one afternoon we didn’t manage to do much, but the goal was a GoKart ride through the city and having organized them previously from Switzerland we did it. Three hours of tour masked as cartoons.

Street Kart in Tokyo

In the evening we went to the restaurant for dinner, which inspired Quentin Tarantino for the fight in the film Kill Bill: Gonpachi.

Day 2: Niseko Night Ski

The next day we flew to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture, in 1 hour. There we met our friend Pascal.

We decided to rent a motorhome through Arigato Campervan. It was actually like in a slightly larger car as the bathroom didn’t work and we didn’t even have water. That is why we parked in the supermarket parking lots in the evening to make ourselves more comfortable. In any case, no one blinked when entering dirty dishes in 7Eleven.

Our Motorhome

 

On the way to Niseko, the most popular village on the island.

Every night in Niseko (and other places as well) it is possible to ski late on some of the illuminated slopes.

First impact with the positive Japanese powder. Maybe because I didn’t see anything, but I skied very well.

Day 3: Freeride in Niseko

The next day we spent it on the slopes in Niseko. One of our former colleagues from the ski school, Björn, has lived there for years and that’s why we let him guide us for some freeride.

The best part of the day was definitely putting your skis on your shoulder, going up the volcano, and then going down the opposite side.

The worst? Losing the GoPro under three meters of powder!

On our return we went to an On-sen in Niseko, the so-called Japanese baths. It is definitely worth experiencing and reading about this Japanese tradition.

Another thing that I recommend is a Japanese whiskey in the so-called Fridge Bar. The owner of this bar had thrown the fridge on the street because he was annoyed of the fact that the bar was not that popular. Since then, the refrigerator has become a door.

The Fridge Bar

Day 4: Skitouring on Mt. Shiribetsu

We start with a simple route that is about half an hour away from Niseko but has beautiful snow.

You reach this volcano after about 500 m through a magical forest. We don’t think we can reach the summit as it is quite windy and instead … I’ll take home a summit and a frozen nose!

What a satisfaction!

On Mt. Shiribetsu

 

Reminder for those planning a trip to Japan: never forget to cover your face. Also wear good gloves and a goggle with a good lens. For the ascent I used Snowlife leather gloves – I am usually very cold – which can be found here, while for the descent I used my Powder Snowlife gloves.

The goggle that I chose for Japan is from Happy Powder. It has a beautiful lens and fits perfectly with my Shred helmet.

Day 5: freeride in Rusutsu

Today we stay in the same area and go skiing in Rusutsu, the second most important resort in the area of Sapporo.

Personally, I liked it a lot more than Niseko: there were fewer people and therefore the snow was better.

 

Lack of snow: are you sure about it?

We ski until 1 p.m. and then go hunting for souvenirs in the Rusutsu Resort & Convention Center, a very nice resorts up in the mountains. The goal is to stay fit for the next day of hiking on Mount Yotei.

I recommend this resort for families with children as it is a real fun resort. There are several shops, bars and restaurants, playrooms, an area for children with real animals, the ski school, a climbing hall, a swimming pool … and certainly everything else that a dream hotel should have.

Dinner at the Izakaya Tanpopo Restaurant, the best restaurant of the whole vacation.

Day 6: Mt. Yotei

You have to be lucky to climb the top of this volcano, the locals say. Sometimes the weather doesn’t allow it, sometimes people get too tired. Pascal and Andrea were successful and even on a sunny day.

Pascal und Andrea on Mt. Yotei

 

The tour is about 1000m high. You start at the entrance of the national park, cross a magical birch forest and when the trees end, you almost reach the top.

Many people, including me, end the trip here because the next section is very frosty.

Pascal and Andrea go further and reach the top. From the photos and stories it must have been an unmissable experience, but mine was good too.

I went down alone and practically landed next to a Japanese temple, which I then visited. I walked to the camper on foot with skis on my shoulder for 6-7 km. But it wasn’t that bad … I’m a trail runner.

Time for a Waygu meat meal in Sapporo and after two hours of sleep we are already on the way back.

What an experience!

 

 

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