Skiing Japan, Hakuba Backcountry
Skiing Japan: Dramatic snowfalls, famously deep powder, rugged towering peaks, alluring open deciduous forests (think endless tree skiing), natural hot springs (onsens) and a rich multifaceted culture defines the skiing Japan quintessential Japan backcountry skiing tour — simply put — not your average ski expedition.
The Hakuba Valley, in the heart of the Japanese Alps in central Honshu, gets slathered in 11 metres (on average) of snow each year, thanks in part to its favourable position directly in the path of Siberian snowstorms. Its varied terrain makes it exciting, challenging and unpredictable. Imagine plunging down a track-free descent through cold smoke on what’s arguably some of the best powder on the planet; you’d be hard pressed to find a destination that delivers the 1,200 metre-plus vertical experience of a backcountry ski adventure quite like Hakuba.
On any given day during your Powder Guides ski tour it’s not uncommon to wake up to 50 centimetres of fresh powder, an accumulation of just one overnight snowfall. Impressive snowfalls are what make backcountry skiing in Japan so exhilarating.
We expect you have a good set of legs and lungs; neither has to be iron, but the vast, rugged backcountry will test your level of aerobic fitness when we’re skinning up the ridge, climbing daunting alpine terrain and trail breaking in waist-deep powder. The rewards you reap, of course, are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Your intermediate to advanced downhill skills will be challenged and it’s our job to select ski lines and terrain that are going to give you the best and safest guided Japan backcountry ski experience possible. We keep our groups small with a ratio of six guests per guide to provide you the most personalized ski guiding service.
A Day in the Life of a Hakuba Backcountry Ski Tour
Hakuba ski touring has the potential to change your outlook on backcountry skiing; no two days are alike. With a fluid combination of skiing pristine wilderness to exploring Japanese culture, your days and nights will be extraordinary — creating memorable moments at every turn.
Home base for our backcountry adventure is central and convenient at the base of Happo-One Mountain in Wadano village. We have easy access to ample restaurants, bars and onsens from our laid-back accommodations at Morino Lodge. It’s a mix of Western style rooms and Japanese tatami mat rooms, plus a lodge room, which makes for the perfect après ski gathering place.
On the first ski day we provide a two-hour training session on avalanche rescue practices. Our guides are fully certified through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and professional members of the Canadian Avalanche Association. The training prepares you for what an overall avalanche scenario would look like and provides you with practical skills. Participants are instructed to bring their own avalanche safety gear: transceiver, probe and shovel; however, Powder Guides can provide avi gear as well.
After a continental breakfast we ski the backcountry from 8:00am to 3:30pm. At days end, our fatigued muscles cry out for a steamy soak in a local onsen, served by natural hot water from geothermal heated springs. Onsens are nestled throughout Hakuba and several are within proximity to the lodge; exploring further afield, the Jigokudani Monkey Park (an hour out of Nagano) makes for a notable excursion, where you can view close to 200 snow monkeys bathing in hot springs.
Back at the lodge room, we kick back, cold beer in hand, and reminisce over the day’s events. Our colourful accounts are peppered with layers of varying narratives from endless perfect glades, cutting through feathery crystals and open alpine bowls to terrain filled with rollers and natural half pipes. Equally captivating, the retelling of our conquests come to life through our photos — from off-piste riding, navigating challenging tree lines, classic couloirs and steep chutes to cliffs and spine lines on craggy mountain faces. The camaraderie and bonding attained over our shared experiences only reinforces our magical adventure.
Our appetites are rewarded experimenting with Japanese cuisine, all part of the cultural experience. Think fresh, healthy sushi and sashimi, steaming bowls of ramen, tempura, Kobe beef, hotate (scallops), ika (squid), kani (crab) and ikura (salmon roe) or a traditional Japanese Nabe dinner (hot pot meal cooked tableside); they’re just a sample of the styles and local fare, whether dining in the lodge, at a local restaurant or at an izakaya (Japanese pub); on alternate nights, we venture into town.
Our cultural itinerary is flexible and adaptable to the interests of the group.
Sightseeing activities like local temple visits and viewing the 400-year-old Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s premier historic castle, are optional undertakings.
Your Hakuba ski touring package includes guiding, accommodation, transportation in the Hakuba Valley, lift passes, breakfasts and dinners, and logistical support. It does not include your airfare to Japan or ground transport from Tokyo to Hakuba.
Plan now, it’s never too early to book your 2017 Hakuba Ski Tour with Powder Guides. Explore some of the best backcountry skiing Japan offers; your unique experience and untracked Hakuba powder awaits.