Disorientated we walk through the Roppongi district, Tokyo. Haven’t we been here yesterday too? One day in Tokyo, more time to see the city is not left. Our flight to Sapporo, to the island Hokkaido, is later in the evening scheduled. Before we can go, a lost passport has to be found.
We went back to the sushi place in the Shibuya district, where we had some sushi yesterday. They didn’t find anything, and we got the same answer in the few bars we visited. Our last hope was the Mori tower where we watched the sunset over this fantastic metropolis. Unfortunately, we were unlucky, when we asked about a lost passport, and they looked at us if we are from another planet.
|Finally, the next morning, we arrive in Sapporo. We are tired and sore, sleeping a few hours on an airport bench. Peter-Paul throws for the third time a few hundred Yen in one of many vending machines (they are literally on every street corner). In the queue waiting for some coffee, we receive an email from Yumiko of the Furano Tourism board. Our Hokkaido Powder Belt lift passes are waiting for us, and the local authorities have approved the backcountry permission.|
We are thrilled to hear this because riding backcountry is still not allowed in many resorts unless you have permission. After reading the received email, awake we were, the coffee was not needed anymore, and took the first train to Furano.
Later that day Yumiko is waiting for us at the Alpine Backpackers Lodge, where we will stay the next days. We take place in a traditional Japanese restaurant where we shortly been informed about Furano by some locals. An average of twelve-meter snow per season, not too many tourists, and payable lift tickets.
|Between the ski resorts of the Hokkaido Powder Belt, there are many touring opportunities. From the backside of the resorts or the mountain passes. The evening flies by, walking back to the lodge, we are overwhelmed by fresh snowflakes. Again this will be a short night. Up early to take the first gondola. Waiting for the gondola opens we notice this is entirely unnecessary because the people we see during the day are countable on the one hand.|
The name of the lift Downhill Romance No. 2 comes entirely into its own as we follow the posts on our way down. The snow is so light that your goggle is covered with snow every turn you make . The birch forest opens widely, take some pillows and ending up in long turns. Cleaning our beanies and face masks from snow at the bottom, we are ready for another lap.
After two sips of our well-deserved Ramen bowl, the lights on the slope pops on. We look each other in the eye, finish quickly our Ramen, and make ourselves ready for round two.
| The next morning Takaya Maeda and Taka Nakanishi waiting for us. Takaya is a professional skier and guide. He has been part in some of Sweetgrass productions movies. He is making the skin track in knee-deep powder with a backpack twice that heavy than ours, without any drop of sweat. Until today we are still questioning if he is human or machine.|
Peter-Paul knows Taka(hiro) from last year, both they were invited for an F-stop photo contest in Hakuba. Taka is making a living out of photography, but the next days he will be our interpreter and tail guide. Quickly we fit our boards on top of Takaya his van and drive off to Tokachidake.
We scramble over some rivers, stick our skins under our splitboards and check the beacons. Two hours later, I pinch my arm to make sure what I see is not a dream. From the top of mount Tokachidake, we have a view over a valley covered with a thick snowpack we have never seen before.
|A doubtful game of rock paper scissors followed. Four white clouds racing down the mountain, the snow is even deeper than in Furano. We ascend from ridge to ridge and ride down as quick as kamikaze pilots until the sky is colored orange, it’s time to relax in one of the natural hot springs. Fukiage is an ideal base for splitboarding because it is the highest located hotel in the area.|
The weather forecast does not hold. On our way to Asahidake a storm comes in, Takaya his senses tell him to make a phone call and check if they are operating today. His feelings were right; they will not run the next few days. Takaya turns the cars around, and we are enjoying our day in Kamui links. At this point, we noticed that we were very spoiled for the last five days. Taka called some friends who are staying around Niseko. They told him they had excellent conditions at the moment. We pack our bags, make a bow to Takaya and Taka, and take the train to the west.
|Niseko, is famous from many clips out of ski- and snowboard movies, seems to be another world. The area is focussed on Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Chinese who spend their holiday here. Late afternoon there is Aprés-ski in the whole village, and in the countless restaurants, it is very standard to make your order in English. The disadvantage of this is the prizes; lift tickets are 15 % more expensive and the accommodations even more.||Snowboard Arlberg is organizing a freeride trip to Hokkaido. The goal of this trip is to make as much as possible powder turns and explore new places. The Japanese ski resorts are not too big, so we planned to visit daily different ski resorts. Click here for more information about this trip.|