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OlympicMtnBoy

Japan in late February? Suggestions?

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Hey CC.comies!  My wife and I are planning a two week trip to Japan the second half of Feb.  Anyone skied over there and have tips/suggestions?  We'd like to do some resort and some BC skiing.  Neither of us has been there so we were considering joining a ski tour group or getting a guide for a couple days.  Also trying to decide about gear as neither of us has a great powder skis right now.  I'm also open to non-skiing suggestions!

  Cheers,

   OMB

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Which part of the islands are you going to? Honshu or Hokkaido?  What kind of terrain do you enjoy?  Steep, mellow, scenic?  How fat are the boards you have?  It is starting off to be a banner season over there right now.

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Good to hear!  We are heading to Hokkaido, but really don't have anything set in our itinerary other than tickets to/from Tokyo.  I've done a fair amount of touring and ski mountaineering but my wife is not quite as good of a skier so we are probably aiming more from scenic and moderate.  My powder skis are K2 Sidestashs, 108mm underfoot, she doesn't have good powder boards and may just try to rent, we haven't decided that yet.  Any suggestions?

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Great!  I've spent more time in Hokkaido, we're planning on our third trip next season.  So you're going to want to set up accommodations somewhere around Niseko village for the greatest access to the most places.  A key point to know for BC access in Japan is that wherever there is an Onsen the road will be open and maintained year-round.  For Niseko area you will want to use the roads toward Goshiki Onsen or Niimi Onsen as access points to some awesome terrain.  Also, you can tour the north slope of Yotei from Niseko easily as well as the north side of Mt, Shiribetsu.  On a rare clear weather day you can tour/hike all the way up the north side of Yotei and ski into the crater.  Mt. Shiribetsu has a rather large resort on the south side named Rusutsu but the north aspect is better terrain and more importantly generally untracked pow laps.  The easiest BC terrain from Niseko is the road to Goshiki Onsen, Goshiki is nestled in a high mountain valley between Mt. Niseko-Annupuri and Mt. Io, during winter it is the terminus of road 58.  There are great laps to be had off of Mt. Io or the back side of Annupuri but the valley can get blasted during high winds and be a pretty uncomfortable whiteout.  For better storm skiing the old resort of Chise, or Rankoshi Chisenuppuri is a surefire bet; when we first went to Japan we toured right in the old resort, now they are running a cat op there on the low angled old lift lines and plan to open up the whole thing again at some point.  That's no problem though, you don't want there tracked out pow anyways, the better terrain is to the west and north of their boundary anyways and a clear day you can watch overstoked Aussie's howling into their GoPro's while their lower bodies struggle to ambulate anything resembling a reputable powder turn, while you harvest the good goods on the neighboring slopes in comparable silence.  Park at the intersection of roads 66 and 58 and tour up the closed portion of 66, you can head almost straight NW immediately towards the top of one volcano 1060m between Io and Chise dake (dah-kay, means mountain/volcano) or tour up to the hairpin and continue from there to the top of Chise and continue over towards Shakunagedake (Chaka-khan-dake).  You can also tour out of Niimi onsen which is the turnoff before Chise and heads up into a gnarly valley east of Shakunagedake.  From Niimi you can head back west towards Chaka or tour Shirakabayama dake and Zenmekunaedake.  Personally we liked heading over the hump to the flat plateau south of Mt Mekunnai and then dropping into drainages on the SW aspect.  Locals generally tour with snowboards and snowshoes so they don't head out very far but will punch out your skin track, conversely you can take their pow trough on the approach towards the good terrain.  108 is about the minimum but will work fine for February, I ski Icelantic Gypsies which are 125 under foot but my wife skis something in the 1-teens, it doesn't really matter when it is coming in super cold and light, every ski maker is making cheap DPS clones these days, if you go to the resort you'll see a lot of people skiing really nice powder boards and never leaving piste.  Late February is a good time to go because the storm cycle breaks up a bit and you actually get to see the volcanoes, when it's pukin' stay in the trees, when it clears head up and summit something the foreshortening on their volcanoes isn't like ours.  The nice thing about touring out of an Onsen is coming back to it for a soak when you're done so bring a towel, some coins for the beer machine in the lobby, and your apre ski clothes.  One of the guys at Niimi ran a ramen house in Bellevue for a few years, it's a small world.

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DAMN.  That is some solid beta.  I can see I need to plan a trip over there at some point.  Sounds really cool!

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Sweet, thanks JSG!  That is great beta, we'll have to check some of those spots out!  

Do you normally just rent a car there then?  And any thoughts on renting BC gear?  We will probably only be skiing for a portion of the trip so not sure about dragging our skis around if we might be able to reasonably find some powder boards over there better than ours anyways?  Probably take our own boots.

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