Join @Mattadvproject and me on Pugski’s first international trip, 12 days of skiing the hidden gems on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. We hope this is the first in a series of Pugski-organized trips for those of you who want to get out and and ski in some of the less-explored parts of the world with Matt and The Adventure Project (TAP). Future zones include China, Chile, India, and more!
We will be based in two places: six nights in Otaru on the central west coast of Japan, and four nights in Furano, further north in the center of the Hokkaido Powder Belt. Using private vans to chase storms, we will visit as many resorts as possible. This will be TAP's third season in Japan, and they can’t wait to show you what all the fuss is about. Japow is not to be missed!
Otaru, a port city about 45 minutes from Sapporo, is famous for a canal district that runs through the center of the city, lined by shops, restaurants, and converted warehouses; it is the perfect location for experiencing traditional Japanese culture and exploring the ski areas nearby, which include Kokusai, Kiroro, Tengu, Teine, and Asari (all within 15 min to an hour away). Here, we will stay at the Grand Park Hotel Otaru, a large hotel overlooking the beautiful Ishikari Bay.
Considered to be the capital of the Hokkaido Powder Belt, Furano is the ideal base for exploring northern Hokkaido. The resort boasts more than 3,000 ft vertical and some great terrain: plenty of bowls and trees can be accessed by a quick 25-minute hike. Furano is a nice blend of traditional Japanese culture and a Western ski resort feel. Excellent skiing is also found nearby at the resorts of Kamui Ski Links and Tomamu, not to mention some other under-the-radar resorts that we know of …. We will stay at the New Furano Prince Hotel, which offers ski-in/ski-out access and its own onsite onsen (free admission for guests).
Don't delay! TAP is offering a special $250 Pugski discount until August 15, and there are no more than nine spots available at this time.
Please check out Matt’s 2017 trip report here.
Dates and Prices
- January 13-24, 2018
- Price depends on group size: 6 = $3,785; 5 = $3,905; 4 = $4,095 (twin share; higher rates apply for doubles and/or single rooms)
- $500 deposit; final payment due by November 30, 2017
- Pugski discount! Take $250 off listed prices until August 15; $100 off after that
- Twelve days of hosting and guiding by TAP, with a maximum of six guests per guide
- Private van hire and driving from TAP
- Comprehensive avalanche safety training
- Opportunity to explore local restaurants and cultural sites after skiing
- Pickup and dropoff at the New Chitose Airport (must be at the scheduled time)
- Six nights' twin-share accommodation at the Grand Park Hotel Otaru, including buffet breakfast
- Four nights' twin-share accommodation at the New Furano Prince Hotel, including buffet breakfast and onsen
- Up to 10 guided days on the mountain exploring as many resorts as you would like
- Airfare (we will meet at Sapporo Airport in New Chitose)
- Lift tickets (not included as we don't know where we will be skiing each day; budget $35 daily)
- Accommodation in Chitose at end of trip (hotel tba; budget $50 per person twin-share)
- Lunches ($10)
- Dinners ($15)
Groups will consist of four to six guests, who must be comfortable skiing or riding in deep powder and able to link fluid turns in double black diamond terrain. We will predominantly be riding in trees and open glades, spending relatively little time on groomed runs. The terrain is generally not that steep, but some of the trees can be tight. The snow is definitely deep and light, though!
As we are riding in potential avalanche terrain, all guests must have full avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and will be put through an avalanche safety training program at the start of the program. There is only one guide per group and often they will be setting the line, so you must be able to get up by yourself in the event of a fall as there is no tail gunner to help you. You will also need uphill capability (fat skis and touring bindings and skins; splitboards or powder board/snowshoes/poles) in case we need to hike.
If these dates don’t work for you, contact [email protected] for more information.
We welcome questions and discussion in this thread. Roll call to be added soon!
Pugski Is Going to Japan!
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What a great opportunity. I'd love to go, but I currently fail the skills requirement - linking fluid turns in double black terrain.
With that said, and following up on the Pugski Worldwide suggestion early in the post, I would be keenly interested in a Chile trip in the (north american) summer of 2019 or 20. This is especially true if there were a family friendly option, which I will loosely define as some kind of resort-centered base camp or camps with ski touring/back country/guided day trips available as a package of excursions, for lack of a better term. With school-aged kids of mixed ski ability, and a spouse who adores the mountains but isn't a skier per se, some option similar to this would tick all the boxes and prevent a situation where dad (or mom - your situation may vary) disappears for a couple weeks to an exotic locale while leaving the family behind.
If something like the above is ever in the cards, or could be designed as a hybrid version of an existing or planned trip, I am 100% in. Also, I would be happy to assist with information gathering, planning, and/or logistics as necessary or desired.
Well, overall, the amount of actual hiking we do in Japan is pretty minimal overall and lot's of it is optional, especially compared to a trip like Gulmarg (where The Adventure Project started all this, 8 years ago), we hike a lot there, most days in reality. Japan is a great trip if you don't want to work too hard and get great "bang for the buck" (maximizing the going down part whilst not having to do much of the going uphill on foot part). Most of what we do is chairlift accessible with no hiking involved. We like to carry the gear and have it ready, in case we see a really nice untouched line that might require a bit of hiking to get to, or get out of.
The perfect example of this would be last season in Kamui. We were skiing the back bowls, the snow was awesome (this will come much later in the trip report, but I can show you a quick teaser photo to give you a taste of what it was like.....) and we were having a ball. There is a well used traverse line to get out, but the traverse line gives you about 3/4 of the total vertical of most of the bowls. As the line started to get tracks on it, no one was skiing down low past the traverse out, so there was still the potential for another 10 to 15 untouched turns. Towards the end of the day, the group decided they wanted that extra fresh and as everyone had the gear and was open to it, we were able to continue on down the line and get more untouched snow, right at the end of the day. Then it was a pretty easy skin up (10 minutes) to get back up to the traverse out.
Most of the resorts we don't do any hiking and it's all right there, from the lift. The most work you often have to do in Hokkaido, is typically the traverse out. Some are longer than others and most are a lot easier with skis on. Probably the most we hiked was in Furano, the 20 minutes up a bootpack to get to the top of the premium zone. The elevation is low, probably around 3,200ft (to the top of the Premium Zone, so if you are used to higher elevation skiing and hiking, it's pretty easy going, especially if we keep the pace mellow. That's probably our most consistent hike out of any of the resorts we go to. If there is a group that wants to hike more, then we can have pure touring days. The trip to the Daisetsuzan park with the active volcanoes, well if the weather is good, then that is not to be missed (coming up very soon in our blog). That is a pure touring day so definitely need to be keen to hike to do that one.
We also like our groups to have uphill capability as a safety precaution. We are trying to develop safer backcountry habits in our guests and one of those is to have uphill capability in case you need to get uphill in deep powder to be able to help someone. Let's say you were skiing thigh deep powder in the backcountry or even a quieter resort (especially somewhere like Japan) and you skied down first, then your partner drops in after you. Halfway down the run your buddy hits a tree, gets hurt and needs your attention. You need to get back up the hill to go help them out, but the snow is deep and you are sinking down to your waist and to try and bootpack up to them is going to take a long time, even to cover a relatively short distance. Without touring gear, you might not even be able to get back to them. So, we see it as a safety precaution and again, part of our program is education and being prepared for any adverse situations. Better to be over prepared, than under prepared. I'm not trying to scare anyone, but even in a sidecountry situation (personally I still consider that to be the backcountry, even if it is right next to the resort), you still need to be responsible for self-rescue, so all our groups that are going to be going off-piste, need to be prepared.
Now, having said all of that, then I'm still open to having groups that would prefer to stay inbounds (maybe ski the powder at the side of the groomed runs or go into the trees within the resort), but they wouldn't go out of any gates. There would be no hiking involved. I still think it is prudent to be wearing beacons (plus carry shovels, probes) and know how to use them (we will put you through our 1/2 day avi safety training, again, just as a precaution), but this group would just be about the down, with no hiking (touring gear not necessary then, if you want to do a bootpack or two, then that would also be optional). We are starting to carry Japanese radios with us now for in-group communication, so if people do want to sit out or go ski a different run to the group or split off, then as long as they are responsible for themselves, then that is not a problem either, we can be more flexible in that regard too.
We have room for 2 more groups for this timeslot in Japan. Susan's group, the first group that has people in it with money down (4 slots available in that particular group I believe), is going to be an expert group. That will be for people who have the gear or will rent it (touring gear) and are open to hiking should the need arise. They should be really strong skiers (or boarders) that are experienced in deeper snow and in tighter trees. That will be the stronger group potentially then. That doesn't have to be the case for a second group though; we could also have a group for skiers or boarders that don't want to hike (maybe a bootpack as I said before, but that would be optional) and won't have uphill touring capability (no need for touring bindings or skins then). We need a minimum of 4 people for a group like that (max 6 people in the group).
The most important thing we need to have, ultimately is cohesive groups. As long as the people are a similar level, have the same motivation and the same gear, then we can work with that. We also have fully-certified ski and snowboard instructors on staff, so if people want to receive feedback on their skiing or riding and get better in powder, we can definitely do that too. Japan would be a great place to run a program like that. We wouldn't be able to mix in skiers and boarders into a group like that, it would need to be either a skier or a snowboarder group for that to work.
So, my intent is to show that we can be flexible with the structure of the 2 groups. We will definitely have an experienced group, one with the uphill capability and potential to use it and another group that could be the same or it could be mellower, with no touring gear and no or relatively little, uphill. I hope that clears things up and gives you some more ideas. I'd like this program to be as accessible as possible as Japan is an amazing place, not just in terms of the skiing and riding, but also the culture and the whole adventure of it all. Please feel free to comment on this latest response and please ask any questions, more than happy to help.
Pretty sure this was a shot from Kamui on that last run where we hiked back up to the traverse line. I think it was worth it!
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