International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) 2023 Hokkaido Trip Report

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Mattadvproject

Mattadvproject

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Is Japan 220V/50hz?
Yes and they have a very similar plug to the US, two rectangular prongs like the US, but without the third rounded ground prong. That was the one plug I didn't have with my travel kit so had to buy a travel adapter at the local hardware store and then I was all good....
 
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Mattadvproject

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24th Jan - Back in the Otaru Zone

On the 23rd we headed back to Otaru for 5 nights. We had a quick stop at a computer store and the sake brewery and then checked into our hotel around 3pm. We had dinner in the small restaurant where we had met Hashimoto-san during the last session. Sure enough, we have some lovely interactions with some local Japanese people. These little stalls that only have seating for 5 or 6 people are a great way to meet people. They seem to be the most consistent place for talking to local people. We love it and the food is awesome too!

On the 24th, we headed out to a favorite resort about 45 minutes drive away. It had been snowing hard and the freeway was closed, so we had to take the local road but that didn't hold us up much. When we got to the resort there was about 20 cm's of fresh. When I was getting my boots on, another van pulled up alongside us. The two guys had these amazing Transformer-esque costumes on. All of a sudden there were about 12 more people all dressed up in amazing anime-style costumes. They let me take some pics. Just when you think you've seen a lot of things at ski resorts, this was something very different and totally amazing. Very cool way to start the day.

We purchased full-day tickets and headed up the gondola. The immediate sidecountry was looking great. We traversed in and found a nice bowl. It had tracks in it from the day previous were covered with about 20 cm's of really light and dry snow and there were plenty of deeper sections so there were definitely a few faceshots to be had. We had so much fun, we did the same run again.

Then it was time to find completely untouched snow, so we put the skins on and went for a hike. 30 minutes is all it takes to get you to an amazing area with a big ridge. I wanted to try the open face next to the ridge as I thought that should be good too. There was a skin track already in, it was a decent line but went a little too far to the right, so not as efficient as it could have been but I was definitely not complaining as I didn't have to break trail for a lot of the way.

I did break off the track when we got near the face. Sure enough, it was untracked. There was a lot of snow on it so it had filled in and was not very steep, but a nice safe line. I had about 30 premium short turns on it and then filmed the guys coming down one at a time. There was a lot of hooting and hollering in the knee deep powder. The snow was really bouncy and consistent and made for really fun skiing.

Then we had to put the skins on again and in about 15 minutes of touring in the deep snow, regained the ridge. To my surprise, it was untouched. I was not expecting that given we had been in a well-used skin track. Unbelievable. We'd have this whole next zone to ourselves! The top of the ridge is pretty flat and took some pushing, but then it rolled over and we had magical turns. I had told the guys that if it was really fun, I probably wouldn't stop so they could easily follow my track. After a little while I dropped left where it gets even steeper. It was a dream run, deep, untouched and all to us. The quintessential Japow experience. The guys were stoked and said this was the run of the trip for them.

We had several amazing pitches before hitting the creek bed and our traverse out. The track had already been skied so was very easy to follow. It was a lot wider than we I had done it with Rob in the last session. There were some technical no-fall sections where you were exposed to the open water below with a steep drop down. You could not fall. I coached the guys on what to do each time and we made it through safely. By the time we were done it was close to 2pm so the guys wanted lunch. I had a massive pork cutlet curry and by the time we finished, the guys were done. We were back in Otaru by 3:30pm.

I took Phillipe out for dinner, down the canal district. We stopped in at the brewery for a Weiss and Pilsner and then headed to another little eatery area and settled in for some tempura. We had a lovely conversation with a nice couple from Taiwan who were staying in Otaru for their last night before heading home early the next morning. This is what it all looked like.....

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Tomorrow is forecast for very high winds, so we'll have to see what's open. I think we'll have to stay closer to Otaru.....

- Matt
 
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Mattadvproject

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26th Jan - Keeping it local

On the 25th, I went back to the same place as in the previous post. I didn't get any photos (only POV from the GoPro), but it was another great day. My group wasn't up for skiing and they went to Sapporo instead, so I took one of the keener guys from the other group and we went for a wee rip. We did a couple of laps in the sidecountry bowls and then did the skin out to the same ridge as last time. We definitely worked for it as it was a white out at times and we had to stop as we couldn't see anything (cue vertigo) but we made it to the ridge and it was amazing. Deep and untouched, just the way we like it!

Let's skip to the 26th then.... the storm had died down and the local ski area had reopened. They were reporting 22cm's of fresh but as always, it would be deeper where people hadn't skied and those areas were numerous...... It's a 10-minute drive from our hotel and we were there just after 9am. The carpark only had a few cars in it, just what we like to ski. We bought 4 hour passes and headed up the tram. The sun was coming out and it looked glorious.

We did an easy warmup lap on a main run with the 20cm's plus of powder on it. I skied a little bit into the trees and it was very deep. Faceshots were had on this first little jaunt. Then on the next run, we headed into more trees near the tram and we had amazing snow. It was really light and blower and it was almost knee deep. For our next run, we skied a marked run that had a big glide crack on it. We could easily get around it and we had two amazing pitches with no tracks on it. It was steep and deep.

There were a relatively high number of Westerners out (still hardly any people in general), but there were a few people competing for the same fresh tracks, so we had to move quickly. Some areas were tracked quite early but I still found plenty of untouched lines in the various treed areas. We got plenty of quality laps in. Unfortunately on the last run (good old last run!) I skied this really awesome steep pillow line into some open trees and then was late on a turn and ended up hitting a tree with my leg. That sent me flying down the hill (thankfully I did get it on film) but the tree smashed my leg.

Thankfully my bones are pretty strong and I didn't break my leg, but I now have an impressive contusion there. Glad it wasn't worse. Tonight I will lay low in order to rest up for tomorrow's last full day of skiing. I have a feeling it will be a big day.....

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- Matt
 
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Jan 27th - Last day skiing!

This was the last day of skiing for the session 2 group (it's gone real fast!) and they wanted to head to our favorite resort about 45 minutes away from the hotel. When we got there, the sun was shining and winds were light. We were on the mountain around 9:30am. The guys were pretty tired so we just did the one lap so I made sure it was quality. From the top of the gondola we put our skins on and headed into the backcountry. It was a beautiful low-angle skin using the track that we had used several times before.

The wind started to increase as we got up higher and there was definitely some wind slab developing. I dug some quick hand pits and was getting some clean shears but the slab was about an inch thick and still quite soft. I jumped on a few small test slopes but not getting any big releases or major propagation. After about 30-minutes we came to the large open face that we had skied a couple of days ago and discussed this as an option to ski.

I was definitely concerned about the wind slab so I looked for an entrance that was low angle and didn't have any pillowing/wind slab formation above it. We found a nice sheltered opening below some trees and I did a ski cut and jumped on a few key spots and nothing moved. When the guys were ready I dropped in and took some speed into the steeper part, cleared that and then started my turns. The snow was nice and soft and turns were smooth. The wind had definitely compacted the powder but it wasn't slabby on the wide-open ridge. It was great skiing. Then the guys dropped in one at a time and skied some nice turns as I filmed them from below.

Then we had to transition back to ski touring mode to regain the ridge to the looker's left. It was an easy 10-minute skin as the snow wasn't too deep, We regained the ridge which had obviously seen some traffic from the day before. We only had to travel a little ways down it before we found untouched snow on the left side, on the sheltered northern aspect. We skied one at a time and enjoyed really nice turns in the deeper snow. We skied three long pitches before hitting the creek below and our exit traverse. We made it through the exposed parts (with open creek below) and out onto the main traverse line.

We headed back to the lodge just in time for the hoards of school kids to start clearing out. The other group joined us for lunch and then we were done. We headed back to Otaru and I got my washing done. Then we headed out to an old firehouse with a Japanese friend, for sushi and other delights. Tomorrow we will spend a little time in Otaru before heading back to Chitose for 1 night. Then we will be heading down to Hakodate for a couple of nights before heading to Tohoku on the Shinkansen (bullet train) for the next trip. Plenty more to come!

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- Matt
 
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@Mattadvproject, awesome photos!

We had about 90 minutes of sunshine at Chise. Really amazing snow but definitely had moments of low vis.

Hope the leg tree encounter was relatively minor and that you’re doing well today!

Thanks Jenny! Glad you are having fun too! As you know, it's rare to see the sun in Hokkaido in January, so it's an amazing treat when it does come out and you get the views and the backdrop becomes even more magical...... My leg is doing a lot better thanks, the second kneecap I had has now reduced greatly and the pain has subsided, so all good again. Will try to give way to the downhill tree next time!
 
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Mattadvproject

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Looked like a delightful session. I can’t wait for the adventures with Capt. John and Dave.

Cheers mate, I think everyone was pretty happy. Hokkaido has been wonderful all round. I think session 2 definitely had the more consistent snow, although session 1 had the deepest day. It was a shame we couldn't get the most out of it as all the good stuff was closed at Teine. We have the Tohoku trip coming next (Chris, Caroline, Dave and a new guest Mike) and then Myoko for the second half of Feb (John, Gary, Gordon and Dave). Plenty more to come.....
 

dan ross

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I think that’s just so cool. My brother lived on the North Island for almost 10 years , speaks fluent Japanese and skied several times a week. I really regret not taking him up on the invitation s to come over and ski. Maybe a brother trip is in the future.
 

dan ross

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We regret it too!
Yeah….it was always I’ll get over there next year”, but career and family always got it in the way. I sent him screenshots of some of those great pictures to prime the pump for a “better late than never “trip. I also love the idea of skiing in a completely different culture, just adds to the overall experience.
 

Rainbow Jenny

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I think that’s just so cool. My brother lived on the North Island for almost 10 years , speaks fluent Japanese and skied several times a week. I really regret not taking him up on the invitation s to come over and ski. Maybe a brother trip is in the future.
Do it, my brother has been living here for 7+ years. If not for COVID, I’d be over even more frequently. But I’m not complaining about spending 5 weeks here. :daffy:
 
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