Mount Yotei and Japow
I attended a short conference in Japan and afterward Ben agreed to meet me to do some ski touring. Ben basically planned the whole trip because I am a certifiable bum and he is an organized, well informed, key player. After the conference I met Ben at the train station in Sapporo. We spent the night in my hotel, and headed to the rental car agency to get a car. Ben had learned about a hut called the Ginreiso hut which is a backcountry ski hut with a year round hut keeper. We spent 2 days skiing powder out of that hut and then drove to lake Shikotsu to Ski Mount Eniwa which was a heinous adventure and then drove over to the famous ski area of Niseko to stay in an Onsen a little out of town.
The goal of our trip was mount Yotei which is a broad stratovolcano with a 5000 ft ski descent. You can also ski a lap down into the crater on the summit. It’s all petty rad. We had an iffy weather window with light snow predicted before a massive storm, and we didn’t want to miss the delicious Onsen breakfast at 8am so we didn’t rush to the trailhead and it was 9:20 before we were moving. But as the mountain came in sight, instead of snow it was a completely clear day. That got us pretty stoked and we were moving fast. We quickly passed a party and got to tree line. We had moved 2500 vertical feet in an hour and a half and we decided to stop at tree line to dig a pit to get an idea of the snowpack. Nothing was too concerning so we moved on. Just as we entered the next gully we saw that there were two parties in front of us. The top party had stopped 1500 feet from the summit and were transitioning to ski down. We watched the skiers make beautiful deep powder turns and then we carried on.
We quickly passed the last party in front of us which was a couple splitboarders with no crampons, poles, or ice axes. The snow was starting to get icy so we transitioned to booting. The folks that we had just passed were making us nervous as they were not prepared to handle a slip.
We moved fast to the lower crater and stopped for lunch keeping one eye on the folks behind us. Just as we were about to start moving I spotted something moving above us. We waited for it to come to us and it was a beautiful red fox. It was amazingly friendly, I have no idea what it was doing at the summit, but it felt really amazing.
It was still clear skies when we got to the upper crater rim so we decided to walk around to the true summit on the other side of the crater. From the summit we skied down into the crater, the snow wasn’t superb but it was really cool to ski into a crater. When we got to the bottom, the clouds were thickening so we moved fast back to the rim. We found our tracks and the fox tracks. From there we took turns heading down until we got to where the first party skied down. From there, the visibility was better and we took longer pitches. The skiing was the best skiing I had ever done. Effortless turns and jumping off pillows into fluff. We past several parties on the way back to our car. The skiing was perfect. We headed back to the Onsen for dinner and hot springs and several more days or powder skiing.