Submitted by thermalben on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 14:28
Seems to have been a slow start to the Japan snow season but it's finally kicking into gear now, with the last week producing some good accumulation totals.
Zen - which area do you usually hit up? Despite the small geographical size, there seems to be quite a broad range of resorts across Japan and they all seem to get differeing amounts of snow depending on the kind of weather system (I've only been to Japan once, to Nozowa Onsen in 2010 - massive base but no fresh pow for the nine days we were there).
Canada looks mixed as well - only 83cm at Whislter (153cm cumulative) but Fernie's doing much better - 158cm cumulative base with 301cm cumulative! Much better than when I was there in about 00/01 - the mountain didn't open until just before Xmas due to the tiny base (about 50cm) and we never had a single snowfall greater than 15cm. Totally skunked.
Anyone else hitting up the NH resorts this year? Would love to tour through France/Italy/Austria/Switzerland at some point.. so many places on my bucket list!
Oh, and Stu's got a nifty 'Ski Iraq' t-shirt he sometimes wears to work. Also on the bucket list (to ski in the Middle East that is, not to wear Stu's shirt).
Japan, last 2 weeks of Jan 2014. Here's hoping the recent falls continue well into January!!!
Same here Don, there from the 30th Jan to 12th Feb. Bring it on!
Cool Ben, I know Craig is hitting up Rusutsu in Hokkaido this season. Hokkaido rocks and the obvious spot is Niseko which is chock full of Aussies and Kiwis. Lots of cashed up Ruski's and Chinese too. Lots of Koreans in Nagano. Niseko is about a bit under an hour away from Rusutsu I think. Agreed, has been a bit of slow start but we had a pretty decent dump earlier this week and more forecast for tonight so that should get things up and running.
I board every weekend in the Tohoku area (where the big earthquake was) and my 'local' is a mountain called Bandai-san. It's a very pretty mountain and gets a lot of snow. Anywhere between 8-12 metres on any given year. My favourite resort is place called Urabandai Nekoma in Fukushima (their base is currently at 160cm so not too bad for early season). I like it because it's north facing so gets nice fluffy powder, is very steep in places, has nice long groomers for cruising and some good tree runs and the ski patrol don't seem to mind too much. Also, they do a great Ramen lunch for $8. And they open at 6:00am where most resorts usually open at 8:30.
Unlike Niseko, Hakuba or Myoko there are very few foreigners. Very little English is spoken and there's few signs in English. Very few foreigners come to the central resort areas with the exception of Zao due to the difficulty of getting here from Tokyo. But that's changing slowly and more and more people are clueing into it. I'm thinking of opening my own place to tap into this growing market. If you want the real Japan, come to Fukushima/Iwate/Yamagata.
I'm wondering if the slow start to the season has anything to do with the ocean temp? We had a pretty so-so typhoon season with the exception of a couple that actually made landfall, but we didn't really get the nice typhoons that sit out in the middle of the Pacific sending long period head high swell everyday for a week. It just seemed to be Bang! Huge, then drop off within two days to be flat again. And terrible winds, no Autumn offshores, constant onshores for days on end. But the ocean has stayed warm and in my area you can still surf without gloves and a hood even now and that's rare. Only over the last couple of weeks have we been getting hard offshores and that's given us a prolonged flat spell. In fairness, it is 6ft here today but the winds are crappy. Looks like it might snow this evening too here.
Anyway, looking forward to my first hit out this Sunday. Japan is awesome for skiing/boarding and so cheap. If you weigh up the costs, it's at least 50% cheaper than Oz and waaaay better. Unless it's all expenses paid, I will never use my own money to board in Australia again.
If you have any snow related questions regarding Japan, I'll be happy to answer to the best of my ability. It has been a lot of trial and error for me, but I've got it pretty sorted now.
Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.
Same here Don, there from the 30th Jan to 12th Feb. Bring it on!
I had my first day on the slopes at Kagura resort in the Yuzawa area of Niigata last weekend (December 14th).
The snow was not too shabby at all for early season although it was super crowded as no one else was fully open then. Every early season desperado was there including lots of people who had done the mission up from Tokyo, Yokohama, Saitama etc. A full 45 minute wait to get on the ropeway from the carpark. The people should spread out over the coming weeks though as all the other resorts in the area open.
I think the Yuzawa area is pretty consistant in terms of quality snow but can be crowded due to the accessibility from Tokyo by train and car. It seems the resorts around my area in northern Niigata will open this week and next week.
Thermalben, If you are a into back country, powder trees etc. I have heard good things about Tenjindaira/tanigawadake near Minakami in Gunma prefecture. I have also heard it can be a bit hairy if you are not super experienced/know the mountain/have a guide. A lot of snowboarders also seem rate Okutadami very highly but I have never been. It is pretty isolated and has a weird schedule. They open early, then close for the main season then open again in Spring. I am not sure why. I have heard various things about too much snow, not being able to keep the roads clear enough etc. I have also heard it is purely a business strategy.
Zenagain, my mate and I are thinking of doing a mission over to Fukushima, about 2 hours from here in a week or so. We were planning on hitting Alts Bandai. A bit far out for snow forecasts, but what do you think regarding crowds and the mountain in general?
You mentioned Urabandai Nekoma. I had never heard of it. Just looked it up on a map and its a bit further from us than Alts coming across from the west coast on the expressway, do you reckon its worth the extra drive time?
Also, in case anyone doesn't already know. http://www.snowjapan.com/ is a great site. They are similar to swellnet in a way, lively forums and daily reports from people on the ground all over the country.
Oh, and Stu's got a nifty 'Ski Iraq' t-shirt he sometimes wears to work. Also on the bucket list (to ski in the Middle East that is, not to wear Stu's shirt).
Do you ski Ben...?
When you see the Middle East as a snow destination, most people would think of just wearing a shirt !
Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .
Thanks for the link Away, heading up to Rusutsu, roomates grandma is from Sapporo so close to launch from.
And will try catch up with you Zen if you're not too far from Tokyo, got about 2-3 days to launch and see some more of the country from about the 10-11th.
Ben was just reading the Philippines thread, of course you don't use 2 planks on the snow !
Zen good to hear you ride fast and not in the park,
I'm pretty sure all you guys will get good snow on your Japan journey. It puks over there for sure.
One bit of advise don't be temped to ride backcountry with other numpty's who you don't know, take heed of the conditions and take professional advice from experienced back country riders. Please wear an avalanche transceiver.
Happy face shots :)
Away san, if you're coming to Alts, try this link and fill in your details and get it emailed to your keitai. It will get you free parking on weekends and holidays (1000yen saving) and a few hundred yen off your tickets. You can only get the discount one per day per rider but if your mates sign up, they'll get the discount too. Save to your bookmarks and show the parking guy on arrival and also to the ticket chick to get your lift ticket discount. The ticket price gets progressively cheaper every time.
You may need to get a native Japanese speaker to help you through it, my wife signed me up.
Alts shares the same mountain (Bandaisan) with Nekoma but Nekoma is in the shady side of the mountain hence the season opens earlier and sometimes you can board up until May. Alts is really cool and I tend to alternate between the both. Alts is much bigger than Nekoma with better facilities. It can get crowded too especially weekends and holidays. Also, the earthquake put one of the quads out of action effectively closing down the left side of the mountain for the last few seasons. This year they're trying a new snow-cat service but I think it's 1500 yen for one trip so probably a little steep (no pun intended). I might give it ago but when at Alts I usually warm up with a run down the Gondola run and then up quad number 4, break off to the left when to the top and head into an area called the Nekoma bowl. That's also where the park is situated if you like jibs and jumps. It's always less crowded over there and you can sneak into the trees if you like. There's a couple of black runs too that can keep you on your toes. Crowd wise, it will be pumping but as the day goes on the crowds spread out and you very rarely wait for longer than 5 minutes. Come mid-January, if you're lucky to go mid-week it's eerily quiet and sometimes flying down a long, totally deserted run can be a little freaky. A few times at Nekoma I've hopped on to the chair while the lifty is snoozing in the little hut, it's that quiet.
What dates are you thinking of going? I'm on holidays from the 22nd so got a lot of time on my hands. Might even see you there if you like?. Gaijins are very few and far between at Alts. I really like Alts because it's big and there's something for everybody. I'd probably be advanced-intermediate in ability so Alts is a great ski jo for me with long, wide groomers and a bit of tricky stuff. Forecast wise, can't really say but Alts has pretty extensive snowmaking and they groom their runs really nicely with the exception of a couple of the blacks which get all mogulled out from the skiers.
I think you'll enjoy Alts, not as big as say Shiga kogen or Hakuba but big enough and snow quality is pretty good. And if you get a big dump the night before, well, you'll be stoked.
Craig, I'm about 3 hrs north of Tokyo in Hitachi city. I won't lie to you, there's not much to do up here except surf and snowboard. We do have a pretty cool little zoo but that's about it. I can think of a dozen better places to visit than here. Also, a round trip will set you back about $100pp here and back to Tokyo. If you have the JR pass though, you're sorted.
You can get my personal email address from the Swellnet files and contact me that way. Also I'm happy to offer my assistance and if you need any help or have difficulties requiring native Japanese, I'm sure my wife would be willing to help out.
If you want to do a day trip, time permitting for me, we could jump in the car and do a little road trip up the coast, I can show you some of our local surf spots and give you a bit of running commentary and we can also do some Tsunami tourism if you like and I can show you a few areas washed away by the tsunami. I can pick you up from our station in the morning and drop you back in the arvo.
I'll leave it up to you.
Thanks Zen, will be in contact with you in the coming weeks! That tour up the coast sounds very interesting and workable!
@stunet, I'm sensing that thermalben secretly does want a turn of your ski Iraq shirt. Why don't you be a sport & give him a go
Not sure about Iraq, but there's some pretty tasty powder in Iran.
Zenny, my mate and I are thinking of doing a mission over to Japonica, about 12 hours from here, probly tomorrow or just as soon as me missus comes outta post-surgery for her cataracts and finds out the truth about me Facebook photo. OK, I lied - don't have a mate. I was planning on hitting and crashing at your place for a few weeks. Or months. Just til the time on the Interpol warrant runs out. Six years, isn't it? A bit far out to predict a general amnesty, but what do you think regarding besties and mountin' in general?
Hoping to hear from yous real soon,
Ps. You know I wuz only kiddin about lots of the things I called yer, don't yer? I mean, goat f****ker is a term of endearment in some cultures.
I aim to give you something that you can keep for life. A bit like herpes. My techniques are not available in any book or course; what would scientists know? I have played with model trains for 40 plus years.
Sorry Gates, only got a two man tent and the goat has to sleep outside on account of a little weight problem I'm trying to work through.
No worries about the name calling too, in some cultures it's actually a compliment to the goat.
Zennies Snowboarding Hostel and Tours,
Free tent site, lots of goat stew, free Japanese speaking lessons and many a deep powder runs.
Just don't get too drunk at night finding your way back to the tent site and falling over whilst its dumping a meter or two of pow. Few sad outcomes there in the past.
Actually Welly, you're not that far off the mark. Been thinking about something along those lines for quite some time now.
Zen, thanks for the info.
While we are only getting rain over here at the moment it seems to be dumping down the good stuff over Bandai way. Check the webcamhttp://opsv1.a-road.info/camv2/camViewA.php?CID=331
Not sure about the date yet. I am at work until next Tuesday unfortunately.
If you see me there please say hello. I ride red and white kind of shortish skis and a grey helmet with green lining.
Zenny, I'm the big, handsome, raw boned (whatever that means) fella in the red suit with white trim. And when you see me, don't walk quickly away like yous usually do.
Well I wouldn't run away if you stopped trying to get me to sit on your knee all the time.
For Christ's sake man, I'm 45 years old.
Away, have fun at Alts mate, I'll keep an eye out for you.
Hirafu and rustsu all of January, can't wait!
Did 3 months in euro a few years back and was that much snow around it was ridiculous. Mad
Well what a great way to start the season yesterday. Ankle to knee deep powder all day and moderate snow keeping the surface sweet all day. Hopefully a sign of the good things to come.
Away, forecast for our area looking good for tomorrow and later in the week. Good luck for Alts.
Great to hear Zen, I'm getting pumped!
Glad you managed to get some Zen. My snow plans were cancelled by strong winds and hailstorms on Sunday. Things are looking slightly better though snow-wise here over the next few days and tomorrow is my last day of work for the year.
Easterlies and sun is ruining what otherwise would be perfect snow conditions.
And the fact that it's the middle of summer in Port Lincoln.
Apart from these things, the skiing is fantastic.
S-G-2, sounds good.
NO Boarding in BC last week, no bindings the guy is 6'1" and riding a 140cm...?
Lovely BC open tree run. Enjoy
Oh man that looks so sick! How fast was he going once he cleared the forest, crazy!
That'll be yourself in a few weeks Craig. WOT, Wide Open Throttle :)
Sweet tree run Welly.
No bindings, pretty wild.
Craig, 30+ cm over the last 2 days here.
Stoked to see that. I ski cos one of the things I hated was the feeling of having your feet locked in place on the board. I dunno that I'll ever try snowboarding again, skiing is too much fun, but if I do I reckon I'd be keen to try without bindings. Saw a vid of a dude with only one binding and that looked pretty fun too.
Nice Zen, just checked the reports, looks like more to come as well!
And didn't notice the lack of bindings, Jeez that is crazy, is that akin to surfing without a legrope (no real benefit besides feeling 'freer').
Called "No Boarding", kinda like the original SnowBoard Jake Burton came up with, without the front nose rope to hang onto..?
Bit hard taking on cliffs tho :)
Feck that looks so sick. To be honest I don't get what people see in the tree runs. When he cleared the trees I just got more of a rush seeing that wide open pow!!!
I guess Jo bindings is like riding a skateboard?
Hey Zen, can you only get the JR rail pass on arrival at tokyo airport? ie can you Pre order it online before you leave aus? Do you have to wait in line long at tokyo airport to pick it up? We get in to tokyo in the evening and we've got 2 young kids in tow so the least amount of time we have to wait in queues at tokyo airport the better. Any other info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Don, you have to pre-order it through JTB, H.I.S or an affiliated agent. I think you should give at least a weeks notice to sort it out. When you get to Japan you have to go to the JR office at the airport (assuming you're flying into Narita, Haneda or Kansai?) and have your passport, copy of your temporary visa and the voucher issued by the agency you booked it with. I believe you can't get the actual pass in Australia and it's impossible to buy within Japan, no exceptions.
A tip, don't worry about paying for the more expensive 'Green car' seats, it's not that much better as all Japanese trains are pretty good, especially the Shinkansen. The snack and drink cart lady still passes through your car so you won't miss out. And one more thing, always go to the ticket office before you want to set off somewhere and get 'reserved tickets'. That way as a family you have seats reserved for you and you can sit together. If you try to get on the train without tickets and just your JR pass, you have to ride in a non-reserved car and you may not all get to sit together, or worse still- stand up for the journey. It happens, especially on weekends and peak times. This only applies to Shinkansen and Express trains, JR local trains are free seating for everyone.
Also, if you're inclined, you can drink a beer on any train at anytime (even a local train) and nobody will bat an eyelid. You can BYO from the train platform Kiosk or if you're on an express train, buy a beer from the onboard vending machine or from the snack-cart lady.
How civilised is that?!
If you enjoy a beer, don't drink 'Haposhu' it looks like beer, smells like beer and resembles beer in a way but it gives you a cracking hangover. Pay a little more and drink decent beer, Suntory Premium Malts, Yebisu, Asahi Super Dry or Kirin Ichiban Shibori, they're the ones to go for.
I'm back up this Thursday, Yee Hah!
Thanks Zen. Greatly appreciated. I'm actually looking at a JR East Pass as we'll only be travelling on 5 days and we'll only be going:
Narita to Tokyo
Tokyo to Disneyland Return
Tokyo to Legoland Return
Tokyo to Nagano
Nagano to Narita
Do you know any good websites to purchase the JR East passes from?
Here you go Don, JTB would probably be the safest to go through. You could probably shop around a bit but I think most travel agents would be in the same vicinity.
If you used an agency to book this holiday you may wish to enquire with them and they can bundle the voucher in with your itinerary.
Don, had a quick look. You can buy a JR East pass within Japan. You have to go to the JR East office at Tokyo station.
Depending on the length of your stay here, you may not want to activate your pass straight away.
Reporting from Niseko.
I don't have the depth of knowledge of Zen but from the perspective of a first timer in Japan it's easier than Sydney to get around - and that's with the language barrier.
We did 5 days in Tokyo (with 3 grommets) before coming here and even a synapse challenged knuckle dragger like myself found the Train / subway system remarkably easy to navigate.
We went from Shinbuku where we stayed to Shinobe, Shinbuyu (best people watching joint in fucking extreme numbers!) to Odiaba (great spot for the grommets) and all was easy as.
Brochures are easy to understand, signage is clear and bloody everywhere and if you have a problem, people are patient, friendly and helpful.
The biggest things are 1 - finding the right place to get a ticket. Watch the signs that say how far the right station is - they indicate in metres how far away they are. The right tickets are always close to the station. 2 finding the station, first thing is find the line you want to be on (the colour coding is gold) on the brochures or whole of system signs that are literally everywhere, then which stations you want to got to and from, it then tells you the yen needed (adults and grommets), put the money in the slot, get the tickets and feed em into the ticket taking machine. Typically Japanese, it thanks you and off you go.
Get it wrong (too little money)the guard bloke gets you to hand over the difference and everyone is still giggling.
Seriously it is easy as that. The crowds are the only things that are freaky, especially for ex-bushies like us.
We got the plane from Tokyo to Sapporo, then bus to Niseko so can't help you with longer range domestic trains.
Since then we have had anywhere from 10cm to35 cm of the white fluffy stuff a day. I've done Oz and Nz bro snow but this stuff is off tap. This light, fluffy stuff is so different to home and opens up the learning curve without the risk of getting hurt. I can't believe home much my grommets have improved.
In any case, i defer to Zen but that's my 2 bibs worth
Sweet palmymick, glad you and the littleuns' are enjoying. I bet you're surprised how cheap it is to ski/board compared to Australia?
Just having my coffee now and about to fire up the Subi to head up to my local. Checked the report and they got 25cm overnight.
It's going to be a pretty good day I reckon.
And for a bit of a psych up, this is my local on a not too uncommon powder day.
Not too shabby 'eh?
Oh yeah, half covered in snow nearly the whole way! Crazy stuff.
Cheers palymack. Greatly appreciated.
Geezus Zen that pow is insane. I might have to get me one of those things for my mouth to stop me swallowing the crazy deep powder snow!!!!
Getting excited now.....although with no fecking surf on the east coast it's not hard to get excited about snow.
Thats nice light fluff Zenagain
Didn't see anyone on the slopes, counted a couple of people on the chair, you lucky man.
If you're as short as those little wee tiny people riding in that pow you might need a snorkel Don.
Only a couple of cm's, a not too uncommon powder day :)
Gents. What's the easiest way to get cash whilst in Japan? Can one just use their ATM card so long as its got cirrus on it? Does Japan have a lot of cirrus compatible ATMs? Including at the ski resorts (Hakuba)?