Top 5 Hokkaido Sidecountry Routes

07 September 2017

2017-2018 Japan Ski Season Countdown
Days to go: 70


Skilas’ Chile Trip

Skilas has just returned to Japan after a fun trip skiing in Chile; a great South American adventure!

After being used to skiing in the deep fluffy Japanese powder for so long I was very disappointed snow-wise (I haven’t skied on ice and rocks for a while!).  Having said that the Chilean experience was very interesting on many levels: great hospitality, beautiful landscapes, high altitudes, quality wines…  I also completed an invaluable AIARE Avalanche Safety and Guiding course with amazing guide and avalanche instructor Chago Rodriguez.  Always crucial to keep snowpack evaluation techniques, avalanche rescue skills and terrain knowledge up to speed in order to keep safe in the mountains.


Checking the snowpack in El Colorado, Chile

Hokkaido’s Top 5 Mini Blog Series

But now it is (at long last!!) time to focus back on my greatest passion: JAPOW!!  Why? The Japan Powder Snow Season is just over 2 months away!  Woohoo!!

The countdown to the new season has officially started, so to celebrate I am unveiling a mini blog series entitled “Hokkaido’s Top 5“.  Over the next few weeks I will unveil the best places to ski in this heavenly place, along with the tastiest things to eat, the best activities and places to visit, the best tips for a Hokkaido trip, etc.


Kiroro Hike

Hokkaido has endless epic sidecountry routes

Today I am pleased to present Hokkaido’s best sidecountry (off-piste) routes.  How to define sidecountry you may ask?  Well it is lift-accessed off-piste areas – outside resort boundaries – that can be reached with no (or minimal) hiking – so no need for specialist touring equipment.  These areas, however, must only be accessed by advanced skiers and snowboarders who have decent mountain experience and skills, and with appropriate avalanche search & rescue equipment.  I strongly recommend taking a guide with you to avoid any nasty situations.

Skilas’ Top 5 Hokkaido Sidecountry Routes

In no particular order…

  1. Kiroro River Run: It may not be a particularly steep area, and the track out is long and tricky for boarders, but its consistent sweet blower pow is something to experience at least once in your skiing lifetime. Awesome consistent pitch, super deep powder and an infinite choice of different lines ensure one of the powder rides of your life!

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    Dropping into the Teine gullies on a powder bluebird day

  2.  The Teine Gullies: The place that immediately dispels the myth that there is no challenging terrain in Hokkaido.  Home to the steepest sidecountry in Hokkaido, these North facing powder-filled gullies are immense on a quiet powder day – which is pretty much any weekday during the season.  Lap them all day with Skilas and you will still find freshies at the end of the day.  Your legs will run out of steam way before the powder runs out here!
  3. Furano Dam Run: Furano has got so much better now that you don’t have to look over your shoulder for irate ski patrollers every time you venture off-piste! This exhilarating run from top to bottom of Furano Zone, through superb trees and open bowls.  You ski an impressive (and unmatched in Hokkaido) 1000m of vertical in a single powder run – a truly unforgettable experience!

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    Last run of the day – plenty more pow tomorrow!

  4. Kokusai Creek: Hard to choose Skilas’ favourite powder spots, but this comes very high up on the list. The amount of fresh tracks that can be shredded here is simply unbelievable!  Differing pitches to suit ability, natural features to fly off, short hikes to open new untracked delights…  You need to navigate carefully here though as there are many flat spots, avalanche traps and long tracks out – so go with someone who knows the area well (like Skilas).  But this beauty is a veritable powder playground, and the snow often gets deeper and deeper all day long!
  5. Rusutsu Shiri Ridge: Unlike the four above, this epic powder stash does not require any flat tracks out (which makes it perfect for snowboarders too). It does however require a short (10 minute) hike up following a ridge. That short effort is more than worth it as you can often get glorious first tracks in one of the powder gullies; if you hit it when the conditions are right (fluffy virgin pow, good visibility) it will literally blow you away!

The stunning Rusutsu Shiri Ridge.  Powder on tap!

Note: I could also have included Asahidake’s mind-blowing routes and Kurodake’s gnarly ropeway run, but I have decided to class those as backcountry routes (serious touring, avalanche terrain!) – more on that in a later blog entry!

If you want to visit any of these epic areas – and plenty more awesome powder stashes – join Skilas on his Hokkaido powder adventures.

See the Silky Powder Adventure Tour details for more information!

Have a great day and dream of your next deep powder run!

Your Ultimate Ski Japan Adventure!


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