I spent the week before christmas and the week of Jan 4-10 exploring a few of the Hokkaido’s back-country and lift-accessed back-country in numerous regions in Hokkaido.
General Hazard / Snow and Avalanche conditions
Although locals claim there is a lower than normal snow levels we found incredible ski conditions. We still had to ski trees with care as the low density snow hides rocks / bamboo / trees. The creeks present a considerable hazard - particularly since they tend to have very steep sidewalls and are slow to freeze given the widespread onsen (hot) water.
We managed Windslab and Storm Slab avalanche problems - which tend to settle out quickly. It snowed 10-30cm nearly every day we were there. Winds come from the W/NW and load the S/SE/E quadrant and often overlay sun crusts. Wind increase rapidly with elevation.
I spent 8 days back-country skiing in the Hakuba Region Dec 27 - Jan 3. We found that in spite of the extremely low snow conditions - we were able to find good to great skiing on all days. On all days but one, we used the lifts to access back-country ski areas above the piste and then used the lifts to download.
Ski resorts in the Hakuba region have more developed policies for accessing / leaving the back-country than in Hokkaido. Similarly - each ski area has its own method for accessing the back-country and strategy. Skiing the trees off piste in bounds is not allowed in most resorts and you can lose your pass. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of each resort. I briefly include what I learned from the 3 ski areas we visited.
The best conditions report of all the regional resorts comes from the Happo-one snow report. The...
Konichiwa! To anyone who is heading to Japan I wanted to share some general information on the ski resorts and backcountry policies as I was able to interpret them. I just spent a month in Japan skiing, mastering the art of the Japanese Onsen (hot spring), sampling fine food and then skiing some more.
Avalanche ‘Control’ in ski resorts
There is little if any avalanche ‘control’ conducted at ski resorts in Japan comparable to what we are used to in Canada. Most ski hills do not open avalanche terrain and try to manage a
valanche hazard by preventing people from being exposed to the risk. If you leave the organized piste to ski trees or open bowls there will likely have been NO avalanche control.
E.g. We encountered touchy soft slab conditions where a small - otherwise low hazard avalanche - could sweep a skier into an open creek. A...
For any passionate skier the first day of the season sometimes is motivated simply by the desire to go out into the mountains and have the skis to glide on the white snow. Even if the condition are far from good, the first day out is fabulous. But sometimes…..the dreams and expectation meet.
Our “opening day” lasted one week started with an early morning rally in the house, hunting for the missing pieces of equipment missing after a summer in Italy, Afghanistan and all places in-between. Oh - and we had just gotten home the night before. And - to our delight - the Selkirk Mountains were in her full winter majesty.
Almost a meter of snow in the last two days were a good sing of great skiing but meant a lot of work for trail-break trail team. Fortunately, we had Scotty Boy on board and he is a man who not only loves to ski …but can climb forever.
Amidst crazy heightened security the HBO/Vice film crew left Afganistan this morning. We've been working with a team of 13 Afghan Girls - ages 16-22 - who have been climbing mountains to build leadership and push social barriers. This is the brainchild of Marina LeGrave with Ascend - http://ascendathletics.org. It has been a beautiful, inspiring and heartbreaking month and I have very mixed emotions upon departure.
We went to the airport at 6 am to avoid any traffic in what is one of the highest risk areas of ‘unspecified terrorist’ targets: the international airport main drive. Security started a mile away and there were 5 separate check-points. The first 3 while still in our vehicles. Everything in this city is guarded by guns (a lot of them), high concrete walls and barbed wire. Nonetheless, behind the security these measures afford, life goes on....
It is 1230am, Kabul Afganistan and we leave in a few hours - to beat traffic and get to the mountains early. Yesterday we loaded our truck with all our gear and sent it north - 50 donkey loads worth. Today was supposed to be mellow … but of course it didn’t happen. Istead it was jam packed with last-minute logistics and planning.
This included a wild variety of shopping - from visiting the german medical cliniic to get some medicines, to a more boring stop at the fancy ‘normal by western standards’ shop to buy lunch food for the car. The shopping trip culminated in a trip to the Bush market - which I was told should be renamed the Obama market. This is where you can buy all sorts of western goods - mostly stolen. Here we found cliff bars (but had to ignore the long since expired date) and toys for the kids. It was hard to find any toys for the girls - and all I...
I’ve landed in an hotel near the Istanbul airport and the journey feels like it has at last begun. The best way to visually represent the complexity of cultures in this region is to describe the outfits of women. I’ve seen the standard range western attire - including very scantily clad ladies that look like they’d better fit in on a beachside resort on the Riviera. But perhaps it is just that they stand out so profoundly against the women in dark black silk Arab Burqa - with only the narrow slits of their eyes visible. I’ve heard these are far more comfortable than the stiff light blue Afghani Burqa that I will soon see everywhere - but likely not have to wear? My favorite however are the brightly colored Persian Hijabs artistically wrapped to highlight a face’s features and accent the clothes. This is what I will wear most of the time - though likely I won't look quite so fa...
Bella Coola is a fantastic place for spring break, especially if you come from places where in spite of a fabulous long winter are starting to see tulips blooming from muddy snow filled gardens. Spring is l
ovely - but I love skiing - and I like to extend my winter as long as I can.
This said, fresh light green taking the place of brown and walking on fresh grass after snow and mud is not a bad thing. Especially when my encounter with such a lovely spring was en route to a fabulous Spring Ski Holiday! And one where I get to visit the oceans of the North.
Smells, colors, salty air and flowers were something that I had
not even realized that I had lost. The poetic poem could go on and on with the descriptions including images of the Majestic fjords and the multi blue colors of the ocean. But the reality is that I’m here for skiing. This is what I w...
It was the middle of March and I was in a beautiful lodge in the heart of the Selkirk range skiing great lines with good friends when I realized that it was spring. This is not an easy concept for your brain to accept when you are surround by white snow and you still are required to wear a big puffy jacket as you eat a kit kat before skiing.
The other concept even more difficult to accept is that soon my winter break was going to be over and it would be time to go back to drink wine and ride the bike. Now dear reader, you must understand that for me this means going back to work.
A normal person might feel happy and thank full after 5 months spent wandering around B.C. skiing as much as he possibly could. But, I am not a normal person exactly. Instead I was attacked by a sense of panic, fearing that once again I might have wasted time this winter and still left some...
I have never been a runner. Nor have I have ever wanted to be a runner.
It has never even crossed my mind that one day I might actually imagine to consider the idea to run a marathon. But we all know that life sometimes takes unusual paths. Indeed, this seems to happen more often with me.
January 1st, 2015 my long time ski partner Phil is back home to Revelstoke after one missed winter. He has a lot of skiing - or riding in his situation - to catch up on. One month might seem like a lot of time. However, it is not a lot of time when you live in a place like Revelstoke were the opportunity to wander around stunning mountains covered in snow is more or less limitless.
The conditions this year were not the best according to most locals. Listening to conversations around town … the snow was never deep or soft enough. But when you ask a Venetian skier and a Montr...