Good things come to those who walk
There’s something amazing about being in the mountains with just your crew, moving under your own power, and riding where you want. Yes, you usually get better snow. And you pretty much always get first tracks. And you can pick the ideal terrain to suit your group. But it’s more than just trading quantity for quality. There’s also something special about experiencing the mountains on their own terms, away from the sanitised, pre-packaged resort experience.
Hokkaido's best riding is in the backcountry. With deep snow, epic terrain, and whole mountains to yourself, it's one of the best backcountry skiing and snowboarding destinations on the planet. Forget what you’ve read about great snow and average terrain. It’s only mellow if you don’t know where to go.
We’ve tried to set out the basic information for a few backcountry areas so you can plan your trip. Before you scroll down to the descriptions for each area, have a look at the caveats below. This isn’t intended to be a guidebook, it’s just to help you plan the broad logistics of your trip:
This information is intended for you to use to figure out where you should stay and how your should arrange your trip to Hokkaido. Use it to compare the backcountry options near Furano and Niseko (or wherever else you’re thinking of going). Don’t use it to plan your backcountry travel - the information isn’t suitable for that purpose and you’ll need to consult proper maps, locals, guides, and all the other usual stuff.
Use this information at your own risk. Make sure you have the necessary skills, fitness and experience before you travel into the backcountry. These places are dangerous. They’ve been the site of multiple fatalities over the years and plenty of serious accidents. If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire a guide or ski somewhere else.
This is just a general guide about what kinds of backcountry options are available. It’s not supposed to be complete and exhaustive, and we aren’t pretending to be experts in every area and every line in Hokkaido. We’re trying to help you plan your trip so that you don’t end up looking for secluded backcountry lines at Hirafu or trying to ski shoulder-deep pow every day in Eastern Hokkaido.
The locals have explicitly asked us not to publish information about a bunch of areas we guide. We’re very fortunate to be a part of a small but committed community of local freeriders in the area and eternally grateful for their generosity. Our friends love their mountains and it’s important that the interests of local users are considered and respected. That means some of this information will be deliberately be a bit vague and general. We realise that’s not ideal for planning a trip, but it’s part of being a respectful guest in Japan.
There’s a lot of backcountry skiing and snowboarding to do in Hokkaido. We won’t pretend to be experts in it all. Here’s what we know about a few main locations. We specialise in guiding:
Other major areas include:
We’ve left plenty of areas off so you can do some exploring of your own, and some of the areas we know next to nothing about so we’ve either called up some friends for info or given whatever limited information we have. As we do more exploring we’ll update here, and potentially put some trip updates on the blog. The map should give you an idea of roughly what’s close to where.