Japan Powder Adventure 2023
Phil Smith, Director of Snoworks Ski Courses, describes his experience of skiing in Japan.
SKIING IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN
Japan has up to 15 metres of annual snowfall! That’s three times the annual snowfall of top European ski resorts. It’s a shorter season than Europe so on average you’re looking at 1.5 metres of snow per week, 20-30cm of new snow every single day. Anyone for powder?
I first headed to Japan on a trip with the British Association of Snowsports Instructors for the Interski Congress. I had been selected as part of the British Demonstration Team. Interski is a 4 yearly meeting of all the ski nations of the worlds. Each nations sends a team of instructors to demonstrate their national techniques, discuss, lecture and run workshops. It’s a gathering which not only is informative but also great fun. It’s amazing meeting other instructors from every part of the globe. The 1995 Interski congress was in Nosowa Onsen on the South Island. Skiing was changing and it was our chance to make a statement to the world. “Hey skiing is about freedom. It’s about expressing yourself, following your own path”. Our ground breaking demo can be seen on youtube by following the link below. Go direct to 48 seconds and you’ll see the run. You’ll probably think “What was that”. But believe you me at the time it was “Wow, what was that”. Skiing was stuck. Instructors were still skiing like they had done for 30 years. We needed something new. Skiing needed an injection of something and this was our chance and we grabbed it. At the time carving skis were only just being introduced and the Swedish Team arrived with what were called Elan Ergos. It was groundbreaking stuff. Oh my word I had never seen skiers ski like this. Hitting big edge angles, body into the turn, inside hand on the deck. The Swedes rocked and they took it to the world. It was the Interski Congress that changed the world of skiing. F
Nosowa Onsen was a typical Japanese village in the South Island. Full of hot springs known as Onsens and many Ryokans. Typical Japanese guesthouses where you wear kimono’s, leave your shoes at the front door, don slippers, sleep on a futon and sit on the floor when eating. Wow, it was an experience I will never forget.
So when it came to organise our first ever Snoworks Japanese Adventure It had to be the South Island for culture but the North Island was legendary. The Japanese were cautious about off-piste skiing and in many of the South Island resorts off-piste skiing was forbidden. Can you imagine that, no off-piste skiing on a Snoworks Adventure? The north Island however was more used to it. They had many skiers coming from Australia and these skiers wanted powder. Tourism was big and the North Island resort of Niseko had to adapt or lose the market. The resort of Niseko was leading the way for off-piste skiing in Japan and the powder snow was legendary. So Niseko it was and a 2 Island trip on the cards.
For the first years we threw everything at Japan. Stop overs in Tokyo, a ride on the Bullet train to get to the resorts, internal flights, Ryokans, meals out, North and South Islands and of course Instructors and Guides. Boy did we have fun and this is where I first met Powder Pete and Natalie in the North Island resort of Niseko. We had organised the first trip with a British company and were met by their representative in the North Island, Natalie, along with a local Aussie ski guide Pete. Pete spent his winters in Niseko. He loved it and knew every nock and cranny in the whole area. He could sniff out the best powder. Both Natalie and Pete have become lifelong friends. Pete now guides all our Japan Adventures under the umbrella of Hanazono Powder Guides along with one of our Snoworks instructors and Natalie set up her own travel agency based in Australia, Natalies Travel, and organises all our ground arrangements in Japan. So we have every angle covered. This coming trip in 2023 Snoworks instructor Euan will join Pete to host the trip. If numbers deem we’ll have other team members going. We don’t want anyone to miss out as skiing in Japan is a trip of a lifetime.
As the years went by and costs rose, it became more apparent that we slim down the trip and focus on skiing powder. Skiers can always bolt on any extras to the trip. Stop overs, sight seeing etc. But for Snoworks it became “let’s go ski the best powder in the world”. So these days we just focus on Niseko and powder skiing.
Niseko has embraced tourism and off-piste skiing. Click the below link for a more in-depth look at the resort. My first trip here I was blown away by the skiing and the powder. And the night skiing, wow! It has to be the best in the world. It’s not often you can ski waist deep powder in the evening under floodlights.
You think I’m joking about the powder? Check this video out from one of our trips.
Snoworks Japan Adventure
The most pleasing thing about skiing powder in Japan is so it’s so light. Unlike European resorts where the powder lies around and gets heavy after a few days. Japan powder is light light light. Why? Because it snows most days, so it’s always fresh. You may think that’s a problem with visibility, but it’s not. The low altitude and trees makes skiing when it’s snowing an absolute pleasure.
Should you go to Japan to ski powder? Absolutely. Don’t hesitate. Just do it. As Warren Miller the great ski film maker once said. “If you don’t do it this year you’ll be one year older when you do”
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Snoworks Japan Adventure
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