The Ultimate Pow Trip #1: 2014
One of my favorite parts of guiding with Black Diamond Tours is going on multi resort tours. I get the chance to visit a wide range of the best mountains that Hokkaido has to offer and it also gives me the chance to get to know the guests much better and tailor the trips to people's specific needs. The Ultimate Pow Trip would prove to be no exception. Fellow BD guide Gordon Menzies and I to experience daily dosages of pow from boot top deep to waist deep. Fellow Black Diamond guide, Gordon Menzies and I took our guests on the Ultimate Pow Trip of 8 different resorts and one day ski touring on Shiribetsu Dake. There is no better way to see the different moutnains that Hokkaido has to offer and we had a great group to do it with.
Our trip started with a drive to Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area to pick-up the Black Diamond Tours bus and then hitting the snow closed freeway to Furano. We met our guests from Europe (Denmark, Holland and Sweden), Canada and Australia at 20:00 to talk about the plans for the next ten days and share the first beer of many more to come.
Day 1: FURANO
We awoke early hoping that the the previous nights forecast of 10cm of new snow had been pessimistic and were surprised with what fealt like an early birthday present. On hill we were nearly drowning in powder and waist deep was an understatement. We were all glad that the previous nights beer drinking had been kept short, shook off as much jet lag as possible, and got down to riding as many laps as possible before the tram closed for the day.
Day 2: KAMUI SKI LINKS
Hokkaido can be a fair weather friend to say the least so, when the weather is bad up high we often head to Kamui Ski Links. A low lying resort on the outskirts of Asahikawa that has some amazing hidden gems, and some not so hidden. Somewhat widespread for a small resort, it’s ancient 3 person gondolas can’t accommodate fat skis so the lift attendants force the tips of skis out of the top vent inside. Add to that a wood fire warmed upper restaurant and some wild locals nicknamed the King Badger, and you can see why this place has so much charm.
Day 3: ASAHIDAKE
Asahidake is one of my top 3 resorts in Hokkaido. It is not so much a resort, as it is a tram to some of the best sidecountry terrain in Hokkaido. 2 groomed pistes circle from the top fo the Tram back around to the base station and it's entirely up to you where you go between the two of them. The profile of the mountain is like a steep pitched set of stairs and is one of the most snow sure places on earth with pow sessions continueing into May. The snow is cold and light, and if you know where to look, the drops are big. Don't forget the natural onsens at the bottom you will understand why Asahidake is in my top three.
Day 4: TOMAMU
The wind had not been kind to us and the previous days sun had melted quite a bit of the freshly fallen snow. With some powder cards hidden up our sleeves and some secret routes, our skis rarely touched anything other than pow right until the last chair of the day.
Day 5: SAHORO
Club Med’s attempt at Hokkaido riding is Sahoro. If I hadn’t been previously told that Sahoro was owned by Club Med, I would have never guessed it was meant for upper crust skiers. Rusty lift towers, single chairs with no safety bars and an empty restaurant that was 1970’s chic did nothing to give it a fancy atmosphere. It was this day when we ended up being down one soldier. With 4 days riding behind us and everyone feeling confidant in their skiing ability we were stoked to smash out one more day of pow. Unfortunately, Bjarke laid down one turn too many and hooked his ski on a tree, twisting his knee and injuring his MCL.
Day 6: SAPPORO TEINE
This is my home mountain. After 8 years here I feel like I am returning to the place I learned to ride, even though I obviously learned to ridein Canada. Unfortunately, there are no photos from today as Bjarke and I spent most of the day in the hopspital having his knee checked out.
Day 7: NISEKO ANNUPURI
Of all the resorts in Niseko, this is my favourite one to ride. I say to ride, as Niseko Moiwa has started to play internet 90’s hip hop radio stations on their loud speakers and getting to listen to Biggie Smalls, NWA and a tribe Called Quest prior to riding is awesome. Annupuri has a tendency to play J-Pop and that does nothing to stoke me out for a day's riding.
Despite new snow not being as deep as we had hoped for, three hikes to the peak and a few hidden spots kept us in untouched pow all day long. Then, as I love to do, we dropped off of the backside of Niseko and rode untouched pow all the way to the front door of Goshiki onsen.
Day 8: SHIRIBETSU
For the last day of our tour we finally put our climbing skins on our skis (me being the only snowboarder, I put the skins on my split board). Temps just below 0, fresh snow, and good companionship made the ascent of Shiribetsu go by in a flash for most. For some of the group it was their first time ski touring and things were understandably more difficult. Skins and touring bindings were bought for this trip, and promptly sold at the bottom of the mountain. Skiing uphill just isn't for everyone.
Throughout the ten days we had amazing snow, shared a ton of laughs and made great new friends. I'd like to thank all the guests on this trip, Ulf, Mathias, Marinj, Muriël, Niko, Drew, Bjarke, Sheldon and Rob for such a good time and Gordy and I look forward to seeing you again in next winter!
For more info and images on the trip be sure to check the hastag #ultimatepowtrip and #blackdiamondtours on instagram (look out for drew innes) and be sure to check out a great video of this trips turns made by Mathias from the trip http://vimeo.com/85532676.
If there weren't enough photos above, I hope you enjoy the gallery below of all the photos I took on the trip