As many skiers and riders have come to know over the past 5 years or so, Japan is the place of bottomless deep powder, great terrain, and big mountains that rival almost any mountain range in the world. Speaking with any long time locals it becomes obvious that the place has really blown up for skiing over the past 5 years. This is due to the combination of, like anything the fast spreading word due to social media, and other forms of media, the focus of the ski industry in the area in A list films, and record snow falls. To a certain degree this can be seen as a double edge sword.
After confidently skiing everything that North America has to offer and a little bit of South America, I decided early in this season that Japan was a must for me. We at Snowbrains have had a presence in Japan for a few years now and have given reports to our followers. Our information details were so abundant that we dedicated an entire sub link homepage for Japan on our website. These great reports from our Chief Editor and Co-founder Miles Clark only intrigued me more to explore the great country.
The planning began back in July and with this I reached out to all my ski buddies to join me on this trip. Last year when the whole ski industry was in Japan for a record year I was finishing my last semester of school and thus my dedication was to that. This year my crew of die hards all seem to have other plans and/or other things going on in life and no one could really commit to Japan with me. With that said I started my plans solo. During my planning we at Snowbrains started to worked with the great folks at evo. The evo trips team also are well experience in all that makes Japan so great for skiing and riding. It seemed like it would make the most sense to tag up with the evo crew for the Japan trip due to my crew’s situation this year.
The team at evo does an amazing job of working out some key details for skiing in Japan. This makes it so that you can book a flight, show up in Japan, and focus on the skiing and riding. They are great people, super friendly and knowledgeable, and know the ins and out of Japan skiing well. Thus if you are looking to ride Japan this a great option for your first trip.
Hakuba was the place I felt was the best bet for great terrain and deep snow. I was right. The terrain here both at the resorts and in the backcountry is big, the snow is deep, and the people and culture are amazing. Furthermore it feels like a true ski town. I spent 6 days riding here both at the resorts and in the back country and each day was vastly different but amazing. Cortina resort was my first experience and my timing was great as I arrived the night before after a 30in dump.
I timed the openings right and scored third chair on lift 2 and dropped in to near overhead powder and steep terrain. Throughout the day I lapped powder stashes and trees and truly understood why Japan was so hyped the past few years for skiing.
The next days I linked up with the Evergreen crew and guide Robby Chmelyk to explore the amazing back country terrain. If you’re looking to check out some backcountry in Hakuba and new to the area Robbie and the Evergreen crew will safety show you how to find some deep snow and epic terrain.
Robbie’s dedication to safety and commitment to the best experience really impressed me and thus I hope to be back in the near future to find and ride more big lines in Japan with him. The next two days I spent riding a combination of resort, side country, and backcountry terrain in and around Hapo one and Hapo 47 resorts. In this I found a few Americans going out the sidecountry gate and linked up with them and was exposed to some great lines, big terrain, and deep pow.
On my second to last day I was at Hapo 47 making resort to sidecountry laps with my crew in the morning, after 5 big laps they called it quits. I decided to make one more lap. Fate and destiny was on my side, on the chair lift I recognized a familiar character but couldn’t quite figure out where I knew the person from. Just so happen to be a fellow Squaw Valley California skier . The famous Avi gates in Japan are super fun to air over. I am half way across the world, in a big ski town, riding a lift on a storm day and I run into friend from Squaw. I followed him through a cool side country line with pillows, powder, and a sketchy but adventuresome river crossing. The best options for lodging are with Wadano Lodge that is walking distance to the Hapo One tram. The lodge manger AJ and Lou are super friendly and locals thus their knowledge of the area was super useful. This was a trip of a life time for me and truly impacted my perspective and outlook as skier and mountain person. With that said I hope to make this an annual trip for years to come.