March Backcountry 2015
By Hokkaido standards, Mother Nature was fickle with snow and liberal with wind this year. The beginning of February seemed to have less snow than mid-January. I remember taking guests to one of my favourite zones mid-season only to find waist high bush that I didn't even know existed. As Hokkaido is wont to do, the snow came back full force by the end of the month and provided some amazing skiing for the March Backcountry trip of 2015. This year I was blessed with the company of Martha and Roger. Two dedicated skiers who came to Hokkaido from Spain via Miami. We spent five days exploring the best that Central Hokkaido has to offer, and it turned out to be some of the best turns all season.
Our first two days found us battling the storms of Asahidake. The wind had moved the snow around a lot and we had to choose our lines carefully. Take a wrong turn and we were on hard wind blown crust, take the right turn though, and you were thigh deep in pow.
Day two saw the winds turn from gusty to gale force. The tram was shut down but our spirits remained high. Snowforecast was calling for a sharp drop in the wind mid-morning and we weren't about tour tour to the top of Asahidake only to be greeted by an arriving tram. After 2 hours our patience wore thin, and snowforecast's prediction turned out to be the exact opposite of what happened, so we toured up. It was not long until we realised that there was no hiding from the wind and decided to pack it in for the day and head for a bit of city life in Asahikawa.
Day three found us in the Tokachi area. The weather was stabilising and the snow fell a little more verticle than the previous days horizontal snowfall. With winds still high above tree line we skied short laps through the trees avoiding twind blown crust up above. By day four the skies had cleared and we were treated with one of the best views in Hokkaido. The Tokachi Amphiteater. A ring of mountains surrounding our onsen hotel wwith touring right out the back door.
After skiing the fumaroles of Tokachi we went to the well known onsen town of Sounkyou. The ice festival was in full swing and non-skiing tourists were aplenty. There were a few other ski groups in town but we only ever saw them at the Kurodake tram and not on the mountain. With an early start and our legs feeling refreshed from the onsen the night before, we set out imediately for the summit. The only person to beat us to the top was a solo skier who was unfamiliar with Kurodake so awe led from the summit and took the first lines of the day.
Thanks to Martha and Roger for making the March Backcountry trip a success and I look forward to seeing you on the slopes again in the near future!