Trip Report Central Hokkaido Feb 2014

telecommuter

One of Us
Sep 10, 2009
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In the Backcountry
Hi all, a quick trip report of our recent Hokkaido journey. I'll post some pics shortly.

· 2014-02-06 Melbourne to Sapporo

Flew Qantas (JAL codeshare) to Singapore – had 7 hour wait, then JAL to Tokyo. Collect gear then transfer onto domestic to Sapporo.

· 2014-02-07 Sapporo Snow Festival

Arrived in morning. Caught train to Sapporo station stored gear there and walked around Snow Festival. Was pretty good – those massive snow carved replicas of famous buildings are amazing!

Retrieved gear from station, caught the Super Kamui Express to Asahikawa. Stayed at Court Hotel near station. Reasonable price, comfortable enough. Had dinner at an Izikaya restaurant on main mall – very smoky but great food! Ice carvings in progress very interesting!

· 2014-02-08 Asahikawa Ice Festival and Furano

Spent the morning walking through the mall, looking at the amazing ice carvings. Headed down to the river where the festival grounds are located. Impressive Transformers snow carving! The ice slide was great – sliding down on a bit of cardboard and plastic at great speeds!

Retrieved gear from hotel, and caught the local railcar to Furano. A very scenic trip in good weather, with the Tokachi range looming impressive on the left side nearer Furano. Got there in time to settle in to Pension Furanui and head up the hill for some “nighta suki”! Good to get the legs in tune again!

· 2014-02-09 Furano Ski

Spent the day skiing Furano resort. Kitanomine Gondola was closed “for the machine problem”, the second chairlift was also closed so no ski access to the link chairlift. We warmed up with a few runs then caught the bus to Furano side.

Great skiing there, on-piste and off. Some great untracked lines in the trees still available. Skied until close, great snow, great day.

· 2014-02-10 Tomamu

Chartered a bus for Tomamu. Resort mostly deserted as usual… Fresh snow the previous day had left LOTS of untracked lines. We arrived and filled in our death-warrants to get the off-piste bibs. We had planned to start on green and work our way up, but ended up starting on blue and steering off onto black when we saw the snow… Lots of 20cm deep powder just begging for telemarks! Through the trees was great, as was on and beside the runs.

We skied the lines to the right and left of the gondola top station, and also a few off the groovy single chair to the summit, although it was a bit wind-blown up there. We must have skied hard as I was more than ready to turn in my bib at 3:30pm and stick to the runs for the rest of the day! A bonus was skiing some easy green runs and finding some untracked snow nearby that was just a really nice end-of-day cruise, making lots of squiggly lines in the process…

· 2014-02-11 Kamui Ski Links

Another day, another bus… Off to Kamui in perfect weather. After a quick warm-up run, we headed over the back. The snow was perfect, sun was shining and the run down the back gully was just bliss. Oh – and no tracks! We skinned back up and finished the day on/beside the runs. In true Hokkaido weather fashion, we had the sunny/heavy snow weather for most of the afternoon… Most pleasant!

· 2014-02-12 Tokachi Tour

Back on the bus again, this time for the short trip to Tokachidake. We got dropped off at the top near Ryounkaku Lodge. Weather was perfect, with spectacular views around the cirque of Mt. Furano, Mt. Miune, Mt, Kamifurano, Mt. Kamihorkametokku, Mt. Tokachi, Mt. Sandanyama and others. We climbed out of the car park heading north, and over the western ridge of Mt Sandanyama. We skied down and traversed a way from there – in hindsight we should have climbed higher towards Sandanyama and taken one of the ridges down. Ah well, next time.

We headed down towards Fukiage Onsen through the beautiful forest. Not steep, just a lovely cruise through the trees. Chased a white rabbit for a few turns too! Note to self: next time resist the urge to do those few extra turns, and avoid the steep traverse out of the nasty gully!

We emerged on the road at Fukiage, then skied to the lodge nearby to meet up with the rest of the group who took an alternative route. We had time for a lovely onsen at the Fukiage Spa out in the bush. The water was VERY hot, getting undressed/dressed out in the open was a little chilly!

· 2014-02-13 Tokachi Mt. Furano

Back on the bus for the last time, and again to Ryounkaku. This time we skied down the valley to the currently closed Baden Lodge, and skinned up for the climb onto Mt. Furano. After a couple of hours climbing, we reached the tree line and the top cover was giving way to wind-packed ridges.

A quick break to de-skin, and then what was one of the best runs of the whole trip. A lazy cruise in fresh powder, through the birch and pines with enough lines to go around for everyone! There were powder-grins all around! We descended around 500m until it levelled out a bit, then stopped for a well-earned lunch break.

We then paid the piper big time, skinning back up to our original track from the morning. Half the group headed back down along there, the rest of us could not resist climbing back up for a final fling. This time we skied a steeper line down the NW ridge, also in excellent snow. We caught up with the others for the exciting (!) ski back down the skin track to Baden where the bus collected us.

· 2014-02-14 Furano to Asahikawa

Travel day. We packed up and said our goodbyes to Takahashi-san, our ever gracious host. We caught the local train once more for Asahikawa. The on-train temperature was around 35 degrees! At Asahikawa we took the public bus to Asahikawa, arriving at the gondola station mid-afternoon before taking the short walk down to Hotel Bearmonte, our base for the next few days.

· 2014-02-15 Asahidake Outback

The day dawned clear and sunny, with light wind from the east. Given these conditions, and the lack of such on some past trips, we pre-skun at the hotel in preparation for a climb to the fumaroles and some more backcountry.

The views were superb, however heading east up the peak, into the wind meant that the aromatic gases from the fumaroles were coming straight at us! Hmmm…

We climbed up to the top fumaroles, but didn’t get too close due to the stinky steam coming our way. Then a traverse across to the gully that, as usual, held some lovely Goldilocks powder. Not too deep, not to shallow, but just right!

We followed this down a way, then down a few other great lines before reaching a small gorge. We could have followed that through to the bottom but this would have required a long trek back out to the bottom gondola station. Instead, we scaled a small nearby peak to ski the bowl back down. The top was horrible wind-crust, but the bowl revealed some very nice powder and great turns.

The weather had turned a bit, with high cloud and wind picking up at lunchtime. I retired at lunch to go snowshoeing with my partner (who wasn’t skiing), and in any case the lift closed shortly after due to the high winds.

· 2014-02-16 Asahidake

The wind overnight was horrific, but had settled by morning and the gondola was running. However the whole mountain had been blown out into wind-packed muck. I, my sister and the kids amused ourselves by having drag races down the cat tracks – faster and faster! At one point we had 12 of us vying for position through the S-bends at the bottom of the skier’s left cat track (course C) – lots of fun.

The wind eased further and snow was coming down quite heavily into the afternoon, freshening things up considerably and the off-piste was improving quickly.

· 2014-02-17 Asahidake

Heavy snow overnight was making things look good, but unfortunately the low-wind conditions down below did not extend to the top of the mountain. Gondola closed… Not to be deterred, we skinned up to the Course C/Course D junction for a run.

The wind up there was very strong and nasty, but the run down – oh the powder! Knee to waist deep, and very light. In the gullies where it had accumulated, it was snorkel territory! Very few had skinned up for a run, so we made the most of it. Just beautiful!

After lunch we did another run, the wind was worse up high, and the powder even better down low. Got some great pics and video, but was quite heavy work getting up there!

... to be continued
 

telecommuter

One of Us
Sep 10, 2009
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575
263
In the Backcountry
... Continued

· 2014-02-18 Asahidake to Kurodake

Travel day. We caught the 11:00 bus down to Asahikawa, and had planned to catch the free hotel shuttle to Sounkyo from outside the Washington Hotel. The allotted time came and went, no bus… Turns out we had to be outside the OTHER Washington Hotel…

Plan B was the public bus. It worked well and we got dropped at the closed information centre, in the dark, in a blizzard, not knowing where our hotel was! But the ultra-helpful Japanese people again came to our aid. The bus driver was phoning a cab, when one showed up anyway…

When the cab driver saw our group of 8, he turned around and took off! We scratched our heads briefly before he returned in a mini bus! In quick order we were relaxing in the pleasant Choyo Tei hotel. Very comfortable with a lovely rooftop onsen.

· 2014-02-19 Sounkyo Waterfall Festival

Still very windy conditions, and no gondola. So we took a tourist day and wandered around town. What a spectacular spot! The visitor centre was excellent too. We also wandered around the Ice Fall Festival which, although good, is much better at night. We savoured the local fare at the food hut, but to be in and away from the blizzard was the biggest bonus of eating there!

After lunch and thawing out, we had our favourite maxi-taxi driver take us out to Sounkyo Gorge for some sightseeing and further blizzard immersion therapy! Again, very spectacular (yeah I have used that word a lot!) and worth a visit.

· 2014-02-20 Kurodake Ski

With trepidation I looked out the window this morning – Wow! I could see Kurodake’s summit and lots of blue skies! We made haste to the gondola station after brekky and ascended the mountain. The chairlift at the top was still closed for winter maintenance (!!!) but we knew this already, and it just meant that all the beautiful snow that had fallen overnight was still awaiting our tracks!

We skinned up under the chairlift and spent a few hours skiing the steeper top section. Very, very nice. After lunch we cruised the easier sections down to the gondola station. A very nice day to end off the trip. We declined the ski down from the top gondola station, but a small group of other skiers/boarders made the descent. Looked good, but with my knee problem I didn’t feel up to it…

Revisited the Festival in the evening, was much better without the wind, and the coloured lights in the ice domes looked amazing. The fireworks at 8:30 each night are also worth seeing.

· 2014-02-21 Sounkyo to Sapporo

This time we did catch the hotel shuttle to Asahikawa. To the real Washington Hotel! A short walk later and we were on the Super Kamui Express for the airport. We stayed in the hotel in the airport – haven’t stayed there for a couple of years, but it has been refurbished and was reasonably priced and comfortable.

· 2014-02-22 Fly Home

L JAL to Tokyo, JAL Tokyo to Singapore, Qantas to Melbourne. A great trip, and mostly fortunate with snow, weather, scenery and lack of injuries/illness!
 

Heinz

Fully vaccinated but nowhere to go
Ski Pass
Oct 14, 2005
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LOL Sounds like we may have almost crossed paths several times over the last few weeks. - Asahikawa, Tokachi, Sounkyo. If you have seen my thread you'll see.

I guess you were part of the large group of Aussies I bumped into in the foyer of the Court hotel in Asahikawa on Feb 7? Someone did say they were heading to Furano next day while I was going to Asahidake.
 

telecommuter

One of Us
Sep 10, 2009
202
575
263
In the Backcountry
LOL Sounds like we may have almost crossed paths several times over the last few weeks. - Asahikawa, Tokachi, Sounkyo. If you have seen my thread you'll see.

I guess you were part of the large group of Aussies I bumped into in the foyer of the Court hotel in Asahikawa on Feb 7? Someone did say they were heading to Furano next day while I was going to Asahidake.
Hi Heinz,
I read your post earlier and thought the same thing! I really enjoyed your photos. Yep there were 8 of us, we arrived at the Court Hotel in the evening of the 7th. We saw John at Asahikawa Station, at Furano with Tim, and again at Asahikawa a few days later but didn't catch up with him on the slopes this time.
Cheers,
TC
 

Heinz

Fully vaccinated but nowhere to go
Ski Pass
Oct 14, 2005
27,972
13,520
1,063
Adelaide
I'm sure it was you guys I saw then - was late afternoon/evening. Was actually another Aussie couple there as well - saw them in a cafe at lunchtime.

Went with John the following day. Saw Tim a couple of times in Asahidake when he was doing a small private group, then later at the hotel in Nukubira when he ws on an explorer tour.
 

telecommuter

One of Us
Sep 10, 2009
202
575
263
In the Backcountry
Some pics from Sapporo: My sister gets involved with the Panasonicu advertising spectacular!
DSC04176.JPG


Snow Festival
IMG_5317.JPG


Family affair - my sister, Dad, son and me!
IMG_5327.JPG
 
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