Snow, Sushi, and Hot Springs: A Backcountry Journey through Japan

Hokkaido | Japan
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to go skiing in Japan

  • Trip Highlight

    Sample the slopes with the biggest snowfall on the planet

  • Trip Highlight

    Shred mellow lines under leafless birch trees

  • Trip Highlight

    Ski your share of Ja-Pow with little to no wind, in deep snow light as clouds

If you’ve been dreaming of shredding the deepest snow imaginable, Japan will satisfy all your cravings. Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands and it has gained an international reputation for incredibly deep and light powder, with over 15 m / 600’’ of snowfall each winter. Your guides will lead you through some of Hokkaido’s most scenic ski destinations, like Otaru, Asahikawa, and Furano. The slopes aren’t very steep compared to the Alps or the Rockies, but the champagne powder and plenty of tree skiing among the white birch trees, Shirakaba, is pure bliss—especially on bluebird days. Combine this with Japanese culture, cuisine, and bustling party scene, and you’ve got yourself a bucket-list trip for travel lovers and powder hounds alike.

Season

January through February

Nearest city

This tour starts in Sapporo, Japan

Duration

7 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Itineraries

Book this adventure

7-Day Backcountry Skiing Tour in Japan

7 days

A ski trip to Japan is strikingly different from what you’ll experience anywhere else in the world. Get a taste of Ja-Pow over 7 powdery days on mellower terrain (30 to 45 degrees) and deep stashes. Join a Western, English-speaking guide who knows all the best pow stashes in Hokkaido and head right into the backcountry, where you’re virtually guaranteed to find a blank canvas of the lightest, deepest snow on the planet. End each day by exploring Japan’s vibrant culture, restaurant scene, bars, and unique nightlife.

Trip Highlights

Itinerary

Day 0: Konichiwa, welcome to Japan!

Fly into Japan a day before your trip, and meet your guide at the New Chitose Airport near Sapporo. After a 2,5 hour ride, you’ll be at your hotel in Otaru. Get to know the group, make yourself comfortable and get ready for an adventure!

Skiers after a big meal in a Hokkaido restaurant

Day 1: Otaru

Start your ski trip off with a bang in Otaru! You’ll find fantastic terrain for all ski levels here, with easy sidecountry access, tons of secret pow stashes, and some of the best snow on Hokkaido. The soaring views of the sea and the city will serve as an epic backdrop.

Spend your evening admiring Otaru’s traditional architecture, sampling the excellent local sushi (Otaru is a port city, after all), or hanging out at one of the local whiskey or sake bars. If you’re visiting in February, make sure to stop by the colorful Otaru Snow Light Path festival!

A skier in front of a panorama in Hokkaido, Japan

Day 2: Niseko

Your journey continues in Niseko, with graduated terrain perfect for leveling up your backcountry skills. Choose between mellow groomers, tougher non-groomed runs, or even 1,500-ft vertical lines in avalanche control areas!

Once you’re off the slopes, why not pay a visit to a traditional hot spring, a.k.a. Onsen? The hot water is perfect for resting your ski muscles and recuperating for the days ahead!

Days 3-4: Asahikawa

The next stop on your adventure is Asahikawa, the access point to Hokkaido’s tallest mountain and the finest advanced ski runs in Hokkaido. You’ll shred perfectly light, dry powder here, with everything from wide-open slopes to fantastic treeline tracks. Ready to ski in the eroded crater of a Volcano?

Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city and the closest thing to Tokyo outside of Tokyo itself — there’s plenty to do in your free time. Visit the Onsens, stop by the Snow Museum, do some souvenir shopping, or try a regional delicacy, the soy-based noodle soup.

Skiers happy after enjoying a delicious meal in a Hokkaido restaurant.

Days 5-7: Furano

Spend the final three days of your tour in Furano, renowned for its long runs, panoramic views of Hokkaido’s central ranges, and 8 meters of snowfall per season. The runs are steep and fast — you’ll really end your ski trip with a bang!

Spend your final few evenings in Japan exploring Furano’s parks, gardens, and ancient stone houses! If you’re looking to taste some local specialties, pay a visit to the Furano Winery or the town’s famous Cheese Factory.

a skier speeding downhill on a slope in Japan.

Departure

Say “sayonara” to Japan and head back home with a JaPow addiction and plenty of good memories. See you soon!

A view of a volcano in Hokkaido, Japan
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Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in Japan

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Hokkaido, please visit Japan Travel

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified English-speaking ski guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • Six days of backcountry ski touring
    • Hotel accommodations for the duration of the tour
    • Car transportation for the duration of the tour
    • Breakfasts during the tour

What’s not included:

    • Transportation to Japan
    • Accommodation before and after the adventure
    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment (can be rented)
    • Lunches and dinners during the tour
    • Lift tickets at resorts

How fit do I need to be?

While this trip does require some experience with backcountry skiing in variable conditions, the difficulty scale isn’t that high. Most of the terrain you’ll ski in Japan is mellow, the slopes aren’t that steep, and the altitudes are pretty low.

You will be skiing in the 1300-1500 m range, downing mostly intermediate runs with the occasional advanced pitch, and doing plenty of treeline skiing. You have to be comfortable with multiple hours of skinning, diving into deep powder, and navigating between trees to fully enjoy the terrain.

What if I’ve never backcountry skied before?

To participate in this tour, you need to have previous backcountry skiing experience. You will be shredding in deep Japow for 5-7 hours every day. Your guide will take care of the planning, oversee your technique, and teach you how to better manage the terrain. They also have the experience and avalanche training necessary to keep you safer on the slopes. For those looking to take their first foray into backcountry skiing, we suggest joining a guide for a day of Intro to Backcountry Skiing. Find a guide close to you on our Adventures site.

What equipment do I need to bring?

Clothing list

    • Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
    • Long underwear top — synthetic or wool
    • Light fleece or wool sweater
    • Wind shell — nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
    • Waterproof breathable jacket
    • Warm insulated jacket — down or synthetic
    • Long underwear bottoms — synthetic or wool
    • Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
    • Waterproof breathable pants
    • Warm hat — wool or synthetic
    • Brimmed cap for sun protection
    • Face warmer — scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
    • Light gloves — wool, synthetic or leather
    • Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
    • Spare gloves or mitts

Snow Safety Equipment

    • Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
    • Shovel
    • Probe (2.4m or longer preferred)

Gear

    • Ski helmet
    • Skis or split board — wider, powder skis, minimum width 108mm are recommended
    • Lightweight, touring bindings (Dynafit or ATK are best)
    • Ski strap
    • Ski or snowboard boots and ski crampons
    • Poles
    • Climbing skins
    • Skin wax (or a candle)
    • Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup

Personal Equipment

    • Durable duffel bag, preferably just one (approx. 60L)
    • Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
    • Goggles (orange lenses)
    • Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
    • Head lamp with good batteries
    • Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
    • Lunch bag or container
    • Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed/Second Skin blister pads)
    • Pocket knife — optional
    • Camera — optional

If you have any questions regarding the equipment list, feel free to contact us prior to booking.

Can I rent equipment?

All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent: 

    • Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel, and probe 
    • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots and poles can be rented from Sapporo Kokusai, Sapporo Teine, or any other rental shop
    • Splitboards can be rented from Sapporo Kokusai, Sapporo Teine, or any other rental shop.

Ski rental locations are in Sapporo and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and pricing:

    • For this adventure, the max client-to-guide ratio is 5:1.
    • If joining alone, you’ll be placed with peers that share a similar level of experience.
    • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

Ski touring in Japan can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.

If your group has skiers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Deposits and cancellation policy

A 50% non-refundable deposit secures your spot. Because your guides need to book hotels and transportation assets far in advance, they request a 50% non-refundable deposit six months (180 days) before departure. The full price is paid three months (90 days) before departure.
If you need to cancel a reservation, please do so in writing (best by e-mail). Once your booking is confirmed, you and your Guides enter into financial obligations and they cannot refund payments or release you from your contractual obligations. Therefore, it is highly recommended buying cancellation insurance.
Your Guides do reserve the right to change guides, particular lodging or the itinerary or venue should unforeseen circumstances (guide sickness, hut or route closing etc.) force them to do so or should the physical condition of the participants, weather or mountain conditions make a continuation as planned too risky. Your Guides will not be deemed to be in default for any delay or failure to perform their obligations under this agreement resulting from acts of God, the elements, war, acts of government, civil or military authorities, natural calamities, catastrophe, fire, flood, accidents, epidemics, shortage of transportation, or any other like events beyond our reasonable control.

Insurance, cancellations, and lockdowns

For this trip, we strongly recommend trip and cancellation insurance. This protects you from losing your investment in case of illness, injury, or other unforeseen events. Because booking hotels, transportation, etc. in foreign countries requires planning ahead and often has no potential for refunds, your guides cannot offer refunds on the trip.

Also, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan was subject to a long and strict lockdown period, and the borders have just recently begun to open. In case Japan closes again before your trip, your guide can postpone the trip to a later date, offer you an alternative trip (e.g. a backcountry ski tour in Chamonix, France or Georgia), or find a third option that you find satisfactory. However, this only applies if you choose to get trip and cancellation insurance.

Getting there and meeting location

To start this tour, most people fly into New Chitose Airport 45 minutes from Sapporo, Japan. Your guide will meet you at the airport and arrange your transportation to Otaru, the starting point of the tour. 

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Outdoor adventuring makes us fall in love with our planet and people, it gets our brains rewired differently and forces us to rethink our life priorities.

For years, we’ve dreamt of building a company that can make an impact on things that we deeply care about. Here are some initiatives we are grateful to be contributing to.

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