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3. Asahidake, Hokkaido

Asahidake is Hokkaido’s tallest mountain at 2,291 metres (7,516 ft) tall and is located smack dab in the middle of the island, offering radiant panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. If you think skiing in a volcano is something out of a James Bond movie where he dodges lava in his turns, it’s not quite that, but it does give off a bit of a sulphurous smell sometimes. Although it’s an active stratovolcano, it hasn’t erupted since 1739, and it doesn’t appear like there’s going to be another eruption anytime soon.

Ski touring on Asahidake, past fumaroles which emit steam and volcanic gas. Photo: Tracy Lenard Collection

The Asahidake Ropeway is the only mechanical means of getting up the mountain. It takes you up about 500 vertical meters. Here, the only appropriate way down for beginner skiers is via one of two groomed mellow trails. If you are ready for a backcountry adventure, the ropeway is the stepping off point from which you get to the rest of the area which is a backcountry jungle gym for experts.

Find dry, light powder in Asahidake

The area is notorious for white-out conditions. It is unpredictable and often means low visibility, not a lot of sunshine, and wind. But, that’s the price you pay to have consistent, perfect dry, light powder. I’d say it’s a pretty good bargain. Compared to Niseko, which is near the ocean, the powder at Asahidake is drier and lighter since it is near the center of the island. The actual terrain varies from wide open slopes on the flanks of Asahidake and the surrounding mountains to tree skiing. The village at the base of the mountain is Asahidake Onsen, and from the name, you can already tell there are great hot spring baths for an evening of relaxation.

Where to stay in Asahidake

There are a small number of hotels and lodges in the village (a favourite of mine is La Vista Hotel and Spa Resort). If you would rather be in a town with lots of accommodation, restaurant, and apres ski options, staying in Asahikawa (about an hour and half away by car), Hokkaido’s second largest city, may be the call. Regardless, Asahidake offers a unique backcountry experience with some of the lightest powder on Earth.

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