For gear lists, how-to videos, and general advice about travelling and riding in Japan, look at our blog:
Frequently asked questions
Here’s a selection of some of the most common questions we get:
I’m travelling on my own. Do you have any tours I can join?
No. Sorry. We don’t add people to groups. We only do private bookings, so we can’t add people. You can get 1-on-1 guiding (see our trips page for indicative pricing) or hit up the Lonely Hearts Club to see if there’s anyone else looking for a crew when you’re around.
What does a typical day of guiding look like?
For day guiding (only available in Hokkaido, where we just ski together for the day and you arrange your own accommodation, etc.), a typical day with us would be something like:
Meet at your accommodation at 8:00am (or earlier/later as arranged by your guide)
Drive somewhere to go skiing, stop at a convenience store to grab lunch and snacks (this isn't what it sounds like - Japanese convenience stores are amazing)
Hike and ski/board all day. Day length varies according to the location and group. A typical day is usually a bit over 1000m vertical but it can be substantially longer or shorter depending on the situation. We’re generally keen to ski as much as humanly possible, but skinning is slower in Hokkaido than elsewhere because we’re often breaking trail in deep snow across convoluted terrain.
Drive back, ideally via a good onsen or restaurant
Drop you back at your accommodation
For trip guiding, we’re staying together, so we typically:
Meet for breakfast in our hotel and finalise the plan for the day
Drive to our ski spot via a convenience store for lunch and snacks
Hike and ride all day
Head to our accommodation (relocating if necessary) via snacks or good local restaurants
Grab dinner together, head to the best local onsens, etc. and then get some sleep so we can repeat again tomorrow
Do you do resort guiding?
Yes and no. If we’re in the middle of a multi-day trip and it looks like the snow is going to be good at a resort (and it won’t be too crowded), or people want an easier day, we’ll ride lifts. But we don’t generally show people around ski areas. We’ve found that the best skiing and boarding is consistently in the backcountry, so that’s where we usually go.
In Hokkaido, Kurodake and Asahidake have lifts but no patrol, so they’re essentially backcountry areas and we guide there. We’ll use the lifts at Furano or Tomamu to access the backcountry nearby.
In New Zealand, our focus is on backcountry touring. That said, some of the small ski areas have access to amazing backcountry terrain and we’ll often catch a lift here or there to access good terrain. And again, if in the middle of a trip it dumps at a club field and no one else is there we’re not averse to lapping the tows. It’s basically heliskiing without the noise, rush or price-tag, so you’d be crazy not to.
In summary, we do guide at resorts when conditions dictate, but our default plan is to hike for turns in the backcountry. You’ve very welcome to shoot us an email and discuss your ideas, but if you’re looking for someone to show you around resorts there are probably better people to help you out.
Do we need any special equipment?
You’ll need standard backcountry touring gear. Everyone needs:
An avalanche beacon, shovel and probe
Touring gear: Skis with skins and touring bindings, a splitboard with skins, or a snowboard with snowshoes.
A pack to carry your avalanche tools (see above), some food, extra warm clothing etc.
If you’re planning to do a hut trip in NZ you’ll need more stuff - a sleeping bag, a harness, and possibly more.
We’ll send out a gear list for each trip.
For those of you familiar with backcountry skiing: In Hokkaido bring your normal stuff and be prepared for temps around -15 degrees C, snow and low light. In NZ expect generally warmer temperatures, strong sun-shine and plenty of UV protection.
If you’re not sure what you need, or you’re curious about the best systems for touring, see the equipment list on our blog.
Do you do rentals?
No. We have no rental gear.
In Hokkaido: Rental equipment (including avalanche tools and backcountry gear) is available from Furano and Niseko. There’s also a place in Higashikawa that does snowboard rentals that has a couple of splitboards. We might be able to help with drop-offs and pick-ups, so let us know if you’ll need rental gear early in your planning and we’ll see if we can fit it into your trip.
In NZ: Gnomes, near Christchurch, has a good selection of rental gear for touring (mostly new gear, low tech bindings, etc.). If you need gear for glacier travel for a hut trip we can grab that from Alpine Guides in Mt Cook Village. Again - let us know if you’re renting stuff and we can see about helping you out with logistics.
Can I use snowshoes or do I need a splitboard?
You should bring a splitboard. We’ll still guide snowshoers in Hokkaido, but splitboards are vastly more efficient and more capable in the backcountry. If you are very fit and have a high pointless suffering threshold you’ll get by on snowshoes, but why bother? Be aware that having snowshoers in your group is likely to limit the places we can go and decrease the ground we can cover in a day.
We don’t guide snowshoers in New Zealand. You’ll need a splitboard with splitboard crampons. It’s too steep to snowshoe, don’t even try.
Do I need ski crampons? Or splitboard crampons? Or any kind of crampons?
It depends on where you’re going.
We recommend having splitboard crampons - splitboards have less edge hold.
You don’t need ski crampons unless you’re specifically trying to do something special (bag a big peak, etc.) in which case talk to your guide.
You almost certainly won’t need boot crampons unless you’re trying to do something really exciting, in which case talk to your guide.
In New Zealand:
Splitboard crampons are required. Don’t leave home without them.
Ski crampons are strongly recommended and your guide might require them, depending on your trip.
Boot crampons probably won’t be required, but your guide will let you know if you need them.
If in doubt, talk to your guide.
Do I really need touring gear? Can’t we just ski endless untracked waist deep pow from a lift? Can’t I just bookpack if I have to?
We’re a backcountry guiding company. Bring touring gear.
But also, SIGH. The idea that there’s endless waist deep snow just waiting for you off a lift somewhere is ridiculous. On the right day, in the right place, sure. And on that day we’ll turn up and buy a ticket and smash out laps. But we’re in the business of delivering untracked pow day after day, year after year. To do that you need to walk. Without touring gear your access to good snow and good terrain comes down to pure weather luck. We don’t send people home with stories of the deepest snow they’ve ever skied or day after day of untracked powder lines because we’re lucky.
As for bootpacking, in deep snow it’s a colossal waste of effort and time. And you want to ride deep snow, right?
Good things come to those who walk. Bring touring gear.
What’s the best place to take my family?
Obviously that depends on the family. Let’s assume you’re talking about a family with a range of abilities, maybe some smaller people who don’t want to ski/board all day, and maybe some people who might want other, non-snow things to do. And you probably also want this to be fairly convenient, since getting everyone to put their shoes on is already close to maxing out your organisational capacity.
If you think of a spectrum with convenience and less exciting skiing/cultural experiences at one end, and inconvenience and more exciting skiing/cultural stuff at the other end, I’d say:
In Japan, for maximum convenience and OK skiing, go to Niseko. I don’t really rate the skiing but it’s the easiest holiday option with plenty of useful non-snow stuff (childcare, things to do that aren’t skiing, etc.). If you want a bit more skiing and a more authentic feel, go to Furano. If you’re adventurous and you can realistically load the family into a car to drive each day, Asahikawa or Otaru.
In New Zealand, the easiest and most convenient places are all in the Southern Lakes. Queenstown is the most touristified and thus the easiest. Wanaka has better skiing and is nicer but perhaps slightly less convenient (although it also has the best easy skiing at nearby Cardrona and would be fine for families). If your family is a bit more adventurous you could book a ski week at a club field. You’ll be staying on the mountain and they’ll cater for you so the main hassle is getting to and from the airport (rent a car or talk to Black Diamond Safaris). For families with mixed ability levels, Cheeseman is probably the best option, followed by Broken River. Pick up rental gear from Gnomes in Darfield on the way through.