Skiing Japan Powder – Snow That You’d Find On Mars

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You’ve seen the movies. The impossibly deep snow flowing round professional skiers. Slicing by the New England-style timber with lanes as vast as a semi-truck. Is it actually that deep? Or maybe you’ve questioned if Japan is just like North American ski resorts the place you typically hear individuals saying, “We must always have been right here final week.” As a born skeptic, I couldn’t fairly imagine that a spot like this existed, a spot so constantly and profoundly deep in snow. Nevertheless, final winter, we had the chance to expertise snowboarding Japan powder. The reply we discovered? All these unimaginable tales are completely true!

Why It’s So Mysterious

Snowboarder: John LaConte – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

Anybody that has tried to analysis snowboarding Japan and experiencing it should rapidly discover one thing distinctive. The annual numbers don’t match the precise snowfall. Talking to the long-time residents, these numbers aren’t that necessary for Japan ski areas. All is that if it’s snowing and a tough estimate of how far more snow is anticipated. If something, they UNDER REPORT how a lot it snowed in a single day or any data on how MUCH it snowed interval. It’s refreshing. It emphasizes the significance of dwelling within the second and never getting caught up in whether or not it snowed six inches or sixty. In any case, you’re right here to ski, so why not relish each minute of it?

What I Think about A Powder Day

Residing in Tahoe, surrounded by the Sierra Snow Hype prepare, it takes quite a bit to impress me and declare it a legit “powder day.” Over practically three a long time, I can pinpoint my high 10 days on snow, and apparently, just one is in Tahoe. Like Goldilocks, it needs to be good. First off, it might’t be a powder frenzy. A crowded scene ruins the expertise. Secondly, no Sierra cement or Cascade concrete. It needs to be tender and dry. Third, it must be bottomless or near it. I wish to surf the mountain, not carve it. Lastly, and undoubtedly essentially the most difficult criterion, it must final bell to bell, or at the very least till the afternoon. This isn’t only a powder run. It’s a powder day!

Aomori Spring – My First Style Of The “Good Stuff”

Snowboarder enjoying powder Skiing Japan at Aomori Spring Resort
Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

I’ve had nice days, however proper off the bullet prepare on our first day on skis, it was at one other degree. It wasn’t nearly snowboarding Japan powder, affectionately nicknamed “Japow”, however the anticipation the evening earlier than. As we arrived, the snow began falling straight out of the heavens and didn’t let up. Massive, thick flakes descended from the sky, making a mesmerizing scene that continued into the following morning.

Snow That Would Be On Mars

Skier: Yasuyuki Shimanuki – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

I’ve sampled the Powder Freeway goodness. Imbibed on the traditional Champagne snow in Colorado. Feasted on the “Biggest Snow on Earth.” However what I encountered on this specific day was really otherworldly. The kind of snow I rode was in contrast to something I’d ever skilled. With every flip, a large plume of snow erupted behind me, harking back to a howitzer shell narrowly lacking its mark. The snow hung within the air, floating for seconds earlier than delicately twinkling again right down to the bottom, nearly like a scene from Mars somewhat than Earth. It was deep powder—bottomless, but in case you maintained your velocity, the snow had sufficient buoyancy to allow you to effortlessly float on its floor.

The Wonderful Birch Timber

Snowboarder enjoying powder Skiing Japan at Aomori Spring Resort
Snowboarder John LaConte having fun with the JaPow at Aomori Spring – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

One other distinguishing issue of Japan’s ski resorts is the tree snowboarding. Slicing by the timber feels much less like snowboarding and extra like a non secular journey. The twisted branches and lichen-covered bark, set towards the backdrop of a chilly, foggy snowfall, create an eerie environment that appears extra like a dream than actuality. In lots of mountainous areas worldwide, glade snowboarding includes navigating by completely different species of evergreens. Even within the Northeast, deciduous timber are both tightly spaced or managed by the ski space. Nevertheless, in Japan the birch timber are naturally, completely spaced. In line with locals, this distinctive association is because of the presence of bamboo glades in between the timber, that are flattened to the bottom from the snowfall.

Our Personal Non-public Ski Space

Empty chairlift at Aomori Spring
Not a soul round to feast on all this powder – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

Lap after lap, our crew devoured the snow like Pac-Man, but the snow confirmed no indicators of give up. It effortlessly stuffed in our tracks as rapidly as we carved them. Regardless of being inside bounds, the feeling was akin to having our personal personal ski space. The chairs on the lifts each behind and in entrance of us sat empty, and the one faces we encountered on the mountain had been these of our close-knit group of associates.

Was It The Greatest Or Simply Shedding Our Virginity to Japow?

All through our journey, we loved unimaginable days of Japan powder snowboarding, however none fairly matched the awe of our first day. Remarkably, out of the ten days we skied, just one was snow-free. Was it really the perfect day of the journey? Maybe. Or perhaps it was the novelty of our first encounter with the legendary Japanese powder snow.

Japan’s Magic Sauce To Create Its Magical Snow

Snowboarder looking at next wave of snow at Aomori Spring Resort
Snowboarder Josh Laskin wanting in the direction of the Sea of Japan – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

Having skilled it firsthand, I used to be decided to uncover the WHY behind this phenomenon. As a self-proclaimed chinophile, I wanted solutions. The magical potion, it seems, is a mixture of a number of elements. To begin, the Sea of Japan to the west is a WARM ocean, with temperatures typically exceeding 70 levels in the summertime. As fall shifts to winter, the chilly arctic air descends into Russia, significantly Siberia to the northwest of Japan. When this chilly wind blows from Siberia over the nice and cozy Sea of Japan waters, it picks up moisture from the ocean and collides with the mountains alongside the west coast of Japan. The outcome is an ideal storm of a few of the coldest air on the planet, heat moisture from the Sea of Japan, and raise created when the wind meets Japan’s mountains. And voila, JAPOW! The closest comparability I’ve skilled could be lake impact within the Higher Peninsula, however right here it’s a novel “Sea Impact.”

Come For The Snow Keep For The Tradition

Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

Throughout our journey to Japan, we made A LOT of errors that we genuinely want somebody had warned us about earlier than embarking on our journey. As a deep snow fanatic, the thought of extending our journey with out snowboarding for a couple of further days felt sacrilegious to me. In hindsight, I remorse not taking the time to decelerate and totally immerse myself in all of the unimaginable experiences Japan has to supply. That’s why we’ve compiled an article titled “10 Issues I Want I Knew Forward Of Snowboarding In Japan” to help fellow first-timers in studying from our expertise.


Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

I do know lots of of us on the market wish to chase the great things out of bounds. Nevertheless, bear in mind that sure ski areas not solely frown upon off-piste snowboarding but additionally contemplate it unlawful, and so they could cost you for crossing ropes. In case you select to enterprise out by yourself, be sure that to familiarize your self with the boundary insurance policies of the ski space. And in case you’re fascinated about attempting some backcountry snowboarding, we are able to’t stress this sufficient: rent a information. Even higher, go for a neighborhood information who calls Japan dwelling.

The place To Go

The recognition of snowboarding in Japan has dwindled considerably since its peak in 1998, witnessing a drop of over 75% within the variety of Japanese skiers. Nevertheless, the key is out, and worldwide guests at the moment are flocking to Japan to expertise its legendary snow, with the first inflow coming from Australia and New Zealand. Regardless of this surge, it’s price noting that Japan boasts practically 500 ski resorts in a rustic roughly the dimensions of California. Whereas many international guests are likely to give attention to the favored ones, there are quite a few hidden gems the place you possibly can get pleasure from your complete resort just about to your self. Right here’s what we found from our journey and conversations with the locals dwelling in Japan.


The northernmost a part of Japan, Hokkaido, stands as its personal separate island that continues to be accessible by way of the bullet prepare. It’s right here that the legend of Japow was born. Because of its extra northerly location and nearer proximity to Siberia, Hokkaido receives essentially the most and driest snow in Japan. And that is primarily why all of the worldwide guests flock to. Past the famend Niseko, there are different ski areas on Hokkaido ready to be explored, reminiscent of Furano, Kiroro, Tomamu, and Sahoro.

In line with locals, Niseko has advanced into essentially the most Westernized Mountain, making it a snug alternative for these cautious of touring in a international land the place English isn’t broadly spoken.

Alternatively, as a substitute of basing your self at a single ski space, you could have the choice to pattern a number of resorts from a central base. Sapporo, the biggest metropolis on the island, located in central Hokkaido, supplies this chance. Not like the mainland island of Honshu, the place cities have organically grown over the centuries, Sapporo is a comparatively “new” metropolis. Deliberate and developed on the finish of the nineteenth century, its streets are specified by an orderly sample.

Japan Alps

Following Niseko on the island of Hokkaido, the second hottest ski vacation spot for People is Hakuba, located within the northern part of the Japanese Alps. Accessible by way of bullet prepare, it’s solely about 1.5 hours from Tokyo. Whereas the deepest, constant snow is within the north, Hakuba gives more difficult terrain, with steeper slopes. Despite the fact that it might not obtain as a lot snow, it nonetheless will get pounded with ample quantities of powder. Hakuba stays Western-friendly however has a barely much less polished really feel than Niseko, providing a bit extra of an genuine Japanese expertise.

The Hidden Japan – Tohoku

Snowboarder enjoying powder Skiing Japan at Aomori Spring Resort
Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

We’re not simply fanatics of powder snowboarding. We crave essentially the most genuine experiences on journeys therefore our title Native Freshies®. When touring such distances, our purpose is to discover the untouched corners, the place we’re the only People in sight. We yearn for the REAL Japan, savoring delicacies untouched by Western variations. It was a no brainer to make use of our season go to hit the Indy Cross Japan ski resorts. The ski areas we ventured into spanned the Aomori, Iwate, and Akita prefectures (just like states within the US). The snow was deep, the competitors for powder was just about non-existent, and the tradition was as authentically Japanese as you possibly can think about.

When To Go

November and December are a bit too early, and by Christmas, resorts are bustling because it coincides with one of many few instances the Japanese have off work. Japan in January, nonetheless, is the stuff of legends, and we occurred to go to throughout this prime time. January tends to deliver constant heavy snowfall, with typically very chilly temperatures, leading to the perfect powder snow high quality.

One caveat is that Westernized ski resorts like Niseko and Hakuba might be significantly busy in early January on account of Australian college holidays. In case you’re searching for a much less crowded expertise, contemplate bringing your backcountry gear or exploring lesser-known ski areas, as we did. An alternative choice is to go to in mid to late February when the climate sample is just like January however sometimes attracts fewer skiers and snowboarders.

Ebook A Information

Our journey for the ten days of snowboarding in Japan – Photograph by Jaime Pirozzi – Native Freshies®

Whilst a seasoned traveler touring rural Japan is a problem particularly in elements of the nation that don’t get many Westerners if in any respect. Communication turns into significantly troublesome when you enterprise past the Westernized resorts. To sort out this, we opted for Japan Ski Excursions to information us by the intricacies of the area, the language, guaranteeing we embraced essentially the most genuine expertise doable. In a few of the ski areas we visited, lodge managers talked about they solely see a handful of People every season! The ten-day Tohoku journey proved to be an immersive journey into all issues Japan, together with the snow, and it unquestionably justified the value tag.


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