February 2014: Power Trip 3
North America and Europe had a rough winter. Reports were coming in of weeks of no snow and temperatures soaring above 0. We were thanking our lucky stars for being in Hokkaido as the flurries continued to fly daily, but luck can only go so far. A rare sighting of the sun turned into two weeks of unadultered sunshine and the accompanying goggle tans. This being Hokkaido, the high pressure ridge that parked itself over our heads didn't mean we would be riding bulletproof snow the whole time, just that we would have to look a little farther to find some pow. A plus side to all this sunshine was the opportunity to summit mountains that were typically not ascendable until the spring. Winters are typically harsh here with immense amounts of snowfall every day and the treeless alpine mixed with cloud makes navigating a near impossibility.
After a stop at KIriro ski resort to warm our legs and get to know each other, we drove straight to Asahikawa with our eyes set on Asahidake. At 2,390m high, it is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido . We knew that the clouds were scheduled to hit the mountain in the afternoon so we began our ascent early. After constantly extolling the virtues of a splitboard the rest of the crew, all wearing snowshoes, had the last laugh. Above the tram the wind had been howlign and the sun had been repeatedly baking the snow so calling the conditions firm would have been a bit of an understatement. The crampons on the bottom of the snowshoes bit hard on the wind blow snow and made the ascent akin to going for a cold summer hike. My splitboard? Not so much.
Like the old adage says, you must go up to go down. And down we went. Right into the fumarole of Asahidake. Though the snow was near rock like in consistancey, it's wind buffed smoothness made for fairly easy riding.
After ascending Asahidake there were some tired legs so not everyone . Our crew split into two, with one group heading to Furano to ride the lifts and another heading to Tokachidake to ski tour Sandanyama in the Tokachi Range. Sandanyama translates to Three Steps Mountain which is a perfection description. From the base of the mountain there are 3 benches or flat spots, including the summit.
With solid snow underfoot we made the ascent of Sandanyama in under 2 hours, the fastest I've ever done it. It was wortht the push as all the North facing slopes were harbouring powder, and we did our best to pillage every centimeter of it. Our apologies to anyone who rode the day after us.
Like all ski tours, this trip ended with a bang. And by bang, I mean everyone from the crew getting incredibly drunk, dancing in the bar and passing out in bed at a time that no one can remember.