Tokachidake, Hokkaido - Alpine and Couloirs in Japan
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Into alpine and out of the trees. That's where our 8hr (should've been 4) drive in our supped up 4x4 micro van took us. We arrived late at night at the end of the road at the Tokachidake Onsen. A lodge built for elderly hot spring soakers rather than young backcountry skiers. That said, they say it is the "Rogers Pass" of Japan. While it was my first trip to Japan I coudn't claim to have skied or seen enough of the mountains to give it that title, as I wouldnt want downplay other ranges like those you'd find in Hakuba or others. It was an amazing location to base out of for a weak of ski touring. Second to none really. To start your lodge is based there because it's about a kilometre to an active volcanic crater which means obviously it's an Onsen (hot spring). So a hot bath at least every day, Mr sayers of course was a twice a day kinda on on-sender. There was also another beauty outdoor onsen reaching temps of 47c and another pay per use Onsen which also sold hot food out of vending machines. Chad Manley claims the hot octopus balls are deep and delicious as any you'd find in a Vancouver.
As yes the skiing. To start with the lodge is based at 1000m just nestled below tree line. The alpine peaks rise up to just above two grand of fantastic rimed up peaks with generally good skinning access. There's all sorts of great alpine, sub alpine and tree skiing. The alpine has couloirs, spines and gentle bowls all within a days tour from the lodge. The tree skiing is great for storm days and just fun laps. The real gem I wasn't expecting is a series of sick steep couloirs that descend from an alpine ridge through cliff bands, tight trees and on the edge some nice looking spines. All these of course can be scoped from your breakfast table where you obviously enjoy fish, seaweed and a variety of raw egg dishes.
We enjoyed several days of bluebird skies with stable snow and although we weren't alone, it was far from over run. I must say it was nice from time to time to have a skin track to follow especially when crossing creeks and navigating out of ravines and onto ridges. There is no doubt a solid and growing back country scene in Japan which is great to see. One fellow we ran into at the parking lot had in true Japanese style the most organized van lined with several pairs of touring skis and at least all the backcountry gear I own neatly stowed. Jordan showed a copy of POWDER mag to explain what he did and capture beautiful and inspiring photo. In true Doglotion dirtbag style I snuck in behind and captured my polaroid-esque for web only shot.
I just can't stress enough how amazing it is to finish every day with a soak in an onsen. Especially after freezing your toes off in Hokkaido all day.
Although it's all in Japanese here's a link to where we stayed: http://www.ryounkaku.com/
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