Our trip to Japan includes long days of skiing endless powder, soaking in onsens (Japanese hot springs) and learning from the locals. We work with a local guide, Jun Horie, to show us all of the secret spots throughout the Niseko area. Join us to find out why Japan is known for some of the best powder skiing in the world!
Niseko gets its snow from cold fronts coming out of Siberia, picking up moisture as they cross the Sea of Japan, then dumping it when it hits the mountains of Hokkaido and Honshu. The combination creates a huge amount of very dry snow, and you get to ski it over, and over, and over again. It snows relentlessly, but don't worry--when the avalanche hazard climbs too high, the birch forests are perfectly spaced for tree skiing. The backcountry terrain is easy to reach, easy to travel through and fantastic to ski. We have been guiding in the Niseko area for over a decade and are excited to guide together with Jun Horie, our Japanese guide. The week is designed as a ski touring week with some lift assisted skiing touring and possibly a snowmobile assisted day. The general character of the week consists of 1000' to 1200' ascents with amazing powder ski descents in relatively moderate terrain (up to 35 degrees).
TRAVEL: Keep in mind that you lose a day when you fly to Japan from the US because you cross the international date line. We recommend that you fly directly into Sapporo on Friday, most likely arriving at Chitose airport Saturday evening or Sunday morning. This allows time to take an evening or morning bus to the village of Niseko, which sits at the bottom of majestic Annupuri. Four massive ski areas - Niseko United - girdle the southern and south-eastern sides of the mountain. Remember you also gain a day on the journey home so you still have six days of skiing!
LODGING: We'll stay at the Moiwa Lodge, which resides only 30 meters away from the Moiwa ski area on the southwest arm of Annupuri. The lodge is not only conveniently located to access the ski area, it also offers great backcountry access. The lodging is simple, but very comfortable with wifi access and a cool bar inside the lodge.
We'll also have the option to visit any one of a number of local onsens (hot spring baths). One of our favorite days is to ski all day and slide right up to an onsen nearby, then have a short 15-minute climb and a final run down to the lodge in time for dinner. If you have time, consider spending a few extra days in Tokyo. It is an incredible experience. If you'd like help or advice with additional bookings, we're happy to assist. Rentals for powder skis, air bag packs, etc. can be arranged for you.
Day 1: Let us help you with your bus reservation to get from Sapporo to Niseko. We will have a meet and greet in the early evening once everyone has arrived and make sure that we are ready for the first day.
Day 2: After all that sitting, today is going to focus on the down. We'll pick up a single-trip or half-day ticket to ski the back bowl of Moiwa, the local hill only 100m away from the lodge. This backcountry basin separates Moiwa from Mt Annupri (1309m/4295'), and so we'll traverse over there and pick up a second ticket to reach the summit, a 20 minute bootpack outside of the ski area. A 1800-2500' runs exist on the west and north aspects. We'll ski what looks best before heading down to the Moiwa-Io onsen. After a good soak, we'll be fresh for a 15 minute climb back to Moiwa and a final run to dinner.
Day 3: All right, now we're going to get after it. The north side of Mt Io (1090m/3576') features some great 1000' couloirs. From here we can explore north to Waisuhorun (1020m/3346'), which features incredible tree skiing and open glades on moderate slopes, and ends at the Hanazono onsen; or head east to climb the Chisenupuri (1130m/3707') before getting an 1800' ski descent to the Chisenupuri ski area for a pickup back to the lodge.
Day 4: We'll drive back to the Chise ski hill to get one-trip lift tickets and a 800' leg up. Our goal today is simply to ski and traverse as many peaks as we can - or want to - westwards. From Chisenupuri there's Shakunagedake (1030m/3376'), Shirakabayama (930m/3051') and Zenmennaidake (970m/3182'). From the summit of Shiraka we'll have a 1400' ski descent to Niimi onsen, where we can soak while we wait for our ride.
Day 5: We'll return to the Niimi onsen to continue the hunt for summits and snow. This time we'll climb the massive Mt Mekunnai (1190m/3904'), and Mt Raiden (1220m/4003') . Mt Raiden is particularly special - this massive mountain sits right on the edge of the Sea of Japan, and features descents up to 3000' - the longest in the area. We'll finish the day back at the Niimi onsen.
Day 6: Mt Yotei (1898m/6227') is almost a perfectly symmetrical stratovolcano, towering over 6000' above the valley floor, and one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains (a list penned by climber and author Kuuka Fukada in 1964). We'll have a 4900-5200' climb, depending on where we start. From the summit, we'll get a one-of-a-kind summit, and a 1000' ski descent in the crater! A short climb back out will give us a 4600' descent back down to the car.
Day 7: This will be a shorter day as we will need to pack up to leave our lodge...most folks arrange their bus for this evening back to Sapporo.
**Please be aware that this is a suggested itinerary. The Niseko area can receive some very stormy weather, which may provide for amazing storm skiing in the trees, but may make ascents up Mt Yotei difficult or impossible.
• Transportation to and from Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
• Lunches and dinners
• Onsen visits outside
• Lift tickets (which can range from $35-65 USD for a full day ticket, or as little as $4 for a single-trip ticket)
• Gratuity/tips for guides
Snow Travel Gear