The powder in Japan is notorious for being light, dry, and deep. This is the perfect recipe for a killer ski trip, and when you combine it with the unique and intriguing Japanese culture, it just gets better. The skilled Powder Guides back country ski guides provides just the guidance you need to navigate both the outstanding terrain and the fascinating Asian traditions.
The Japanese Alps offer an incredible backcountry ski experience that’s different from the more well-known European Alps. The mountains are less jagged and severe but still offer plenty of challenging chutes, spines, and cliffs. Smoother mountain profiles and wide-open faces means there are more options for ski touring without getting into any technical climbing. High alpine style terrain is placed above the big gullies, rock features, and well-spaced forests lower down. One of the most obvious features of Japanese skiing is the glades of deciduous trees. The forests look so much different and appear to take on a completely different mood as the long, thin branches reach out to collect the fat snowflakes.
With an average of over 30 feet of snow each season, there’s plenty of powder to stack up on any tree limb, even if they aren’t the usual pine and fir boughs. The Hakuba valley is one of the best locales to base from for backcountry touring. This is in the same general area of te Nagano Olympics, and is located about 3-4 hours from Tokyo. It’s about 20 miles inland from the Sea of Japan, which is where all the moisture comes from to produce the legendary powder.
When skiing the Hakuba backcountry there are nearly endless options to link routes together by strategically using the lift systems between the 10 resorts in the valley. This is more than just riding chairs and skiing from one resort to another like in Europe. Using these lifts lets you ski further into the backcountry and still get back to civilization before nightfall. It’s a perfect combination of “earn-your-turn” powder stashes while fitting more runs into your ski day.
High Comfort Backcountry Touring
The Hakuba layout is ideal for day trips of pristine powder skiing that return each evening to the modern comforts of the Morino Lodge. Its large, Japanese style lounge help it seem exotic, and the many windows tempt you to stare out at the hardwood forests so similar to what you spend the rest of the day skiing in. A full menu of sushi and sake’ are available, plus many other options to keep you well fueled. Save the rustic accommodations of hut to hut skiing for another trip. In Hakuba the evenings are for relaxing and enjoying the good life. If the lodge doesn’t spoil you enough, you can head to one of the many “onsen”, or hot springs that are spread throughout the area. With centuries worth of practice, the Japanese have developed a five-step process to help you get the most out of your onsen experience. If you choose to take a day off skiing there are plenty of tourist activities to take advantage of, ranging from ancient castles, to present day wasabi farms. Whether skiing or sightseeing, there are ample opportunities to make your trip memorable.
Skiing backcountry powder in Japan is a treat that can’t be matched anywhere else. Remarkable snow, traditional culture, ease of access to untracked lines in stark hardwood forests, and the comforts of civilization to recover in at the end of each day. All of these combine to make ski touring in Japan one of the best trips that you can ever put on your calendar.