After a few days in the Niseko area by ourselves, we met up with Mako and Yuki, our guides for the rest of the trip. They met us at their hotel, and immediately went skiing at Nito, a small backcountry skiing area above a classic Japanese onsen. We stayed below the overhanging clouds all day, and skied creamy boot-top pow laps on the various slopes in the area.
We ended the day at the authentic onsen. With the huge snowpack, the outside hot pools were surrounded by overhanging 10 foot high walls of snow. I took a good long soak, and tried to sit in the 95 degree (Celsius) sauna for a bit, but couldn’t even begin to match the stoic Japanese onsen veterans, who had been in there for 20 minutes or more. Afterwards we headed to our lodge in the resort village of Niseko.
We were psyched to ski more in the area the next day, and woke up early only to hear the pitter-patter of rain on the lodge roof. Rain in Hokkaido? I guess it happens, but none too often. We discussed our options, and decided to head north, to the Asahidake area. Although we had already paid for three nights at the place, we ate the loss, and headed out in a few hours. The next few days, we skied the short laps of the tram at Asahidake. The terrain at Asahidake has some good skiing, but it’s on short pitches, so you can ski lots of laps, and consequently it get’s tracked out after a few days without snow. When we arrived the skiing was great, but a few days later, the tracked areas were expanding, so we decided to head to another area: Tokachidake.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.