Travel

Japan, Part II: Heaven is Hokkaido

After arriving in Sapporo and collecting the rest of our squad, we picked up the rental cars and started driving to Niseko. Worth mentioning: the steering wheels were on the Right side of the cars, and we were driving on the Left side of the road. But that’s normal for plenty of folks, I’ve heard, even when they’re sober.
"I think this is the GPS."

“I think this is the GPS.”

No clue, but they were great!

No clue, but they were great! (Beef jerky substitute.)

Once we learned how to drive again, we finally arrived at our condo in Niseko. We had a healthy weather forecast.
IMG_2200
We went out to the town to grab food around 7 p.m. and that’s when we realized that, during peak season (or Australian/Chinese holidays), you need a reservation in this town. So without a reservation, we starved… until we finally found a place that would seat us as a walk-in.
Japanese Pancakes!

Japanese Pancakes!

But, let’s talk about the skiing. From here, I’m just going to break this post down into sections for each ski area.

Niseko Annupuri

Niseko has four resorts on the one mountain, and plenty of interesting skiing. Some results from day one:

niseko_pano
niseko_night_ski

We even got to do some night skiing, which was exciting with dark-lens goggles on.

The next day, we were up skiing again (surprise surprise), and Scott discovered his Snowlipop.
snowlipop

I don’t really know how these things amass, but we saw them amongst the plentiful powder while we were there, and I have never seen them skiing anywhere else.

We also saw some alpenglow:
niseko_pano_alpenglow
And we got above the clouds:
above_niseko_clouds

Rusutsu

Once we arrived at Rusutsu, we were a bit surprised with the layout the resort. We parked at the “base,” which was home to a massive empty parking lot. We walked into a hotel, purchased our tickets, took an escalator and were walking on marble/tile floor. After walking past gift shops, we finally made it outside, where we loaded onto a gondola that took us across the highway, to another base lodge. The ski experience was starting to become familiar again once we took a high-speed quad for our first run. However, we were reminded that we were in a foreign country at the bottom of the run when we skied through a snow-covered amusement park. WTFs were whispered, spoken and even yelled.
Just tall enough to ride.

“Is that a ferris wheel?” … “Yup, that’s a ferris wheel.”

The amusement park sighting was a positive omen, indicating how the rest of our day was going to go. Because it went like this:
knee_deep

POWDER ALERT

At lunch, we discovered one of the most efficient ramen-making machines ever:

Kiroro

Two thumbs up for Kiroro. I think we hit it while we were in transit, on the way do Asahidake. But, despite being on a bit of a tight timetable, we still had plenty of powder to ski, and there were great views. This was a cool resort.

DCIM100GOPRO

Furano

Furano was kinda weird, but maybe it felt that way because we visited at the end of our trip. I always feel weird towards the end of a vacation. Here’s a photo of the trail map, because the skiing was average on that day, and that’s all I’ve got:
furano_map

Asahidake

At 7,517 feet, Asahidake is the tallest mountain (actually a volcano) in Hokkaido, duh. At the base of the mountain is a large hotel/resort called the Asahidake Manseikaku Hotel Bear Monte (quite the mouthful). This place comes equipped with a traditional Japanese onsen, which, was an unusual and through-provoking experience. It also had bus-loads of people dropping in to visit while we were there. The dining area was kind of a trip, since it was a buffet-cafeteria, which was unexpected at such a massive “up-scale” resort tucked away in the mountains. I will say that one of the most memorable experiences of the trip was the day spent trekking in Asahidake, where you could see plumes of smoke coming up from the surface of the volcano. The weather was pretty spectacular.
asahidake_hiking_up
asahidake_plumes

“Put that cigarette out!”

asahidake_on_the_moon
asahidake_melting

Apparently volcanoes can get hot.

asahidake_moon_crater

Traversing across the moon.

asahidake_in_trees
Despite our last ski day of the trip occurring in Furano, I decided to end this post with Asahidake because it was so spectacular. Nobody wants to end on average. Ski you later.
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2 thoughts on “Japan, Part II: Heaven is Hokkaido

  1. Pingback: Japan, Part I: Traipsing Through Tokyo | Sweet as Tandy

  2. Eric says:

    Great to see the photos, the plumes, the food, and the snowlipop, and the squad enjoying it all. I think Asahidake is in my top five most interesting days on skis (or snowshoes) ((or both)). But every day with the squad is a good day :-))

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