The first thing you think of about skiing in Japan is DEEP POWDER, amazing culture and great food. Well, yes, Japan is all that and more, the place is simply incredible. My latest trip to Niseko, Japan I was there from the 24th of December to the 11th of January, almost 3 weeks and it snowed without fail, everyday! In fact, I tallied up the snowfall we had each day and by the 15th day we were just shy of a total of 3m of snowfall. Luckily for us, the last 2 days brought in 40cm new snow so that 3m mark was hit. 17 days and 3m of snow... that's crazy!
Its not always all fun and games though. Even after hearing all these amazing stories about Japan and how much snowfall they get and how you're guaranteed snow, sometimes not everything runs so smoothly. For 2 days straight we were shut off the slopes because winds were too strong. The whole upper mountain closed and we were forced to ski the bottom half - it's still is really good and plenty to ski but everyone is there as there is nowhere else to go. The following day even the bottom was shut. With thousands of people wanting to ski, it becomes a mess and full days can be ruined. The funny thing about it is that the winds weren't even that strong. At the bottom it was bluebird and calm and yet they refused to open anything up, everyone was baffled. I've been on chairlifts where the whole chair is on its side due to wind but they kept running. Japan, its great, but it can get frustrating at times. Not all hope is lost though. On days like these you can travel to nearby resorts that are less affected by winds or book yourself on a tour and they will take you to the goods! And there is plenty to go around!
If your lucky enough to still be around when the winds die down and the lifts open... there is snow everywhere and you can be skiing full days of untracked powder. Unlike other well known resorts when by lunchtime the slopes look like they haven't been snowed on for days!
As I said before, if the times call for it and you want to go on a tour you can easily do so and there are plenty of companies. The one we use and love is called Black Diamond Tours, many of you may have heard of them before as they play host to many, if not all the pro ski companies that roll through Japan each year. The tour we always pick is called the mushroom trip which basically is finding stuff to jump on, over, off, find avi barriers, pillows cliffs and deep pow! Its amazing! This year we only managed one trip but we skinned up into the backcountry and found this awesome pillow tree we could launch ourselves through! It was something we hadn't done before, so we all had an amazing time! Just being in the backcountry itself is something everyone should try as its a whole new ball game from a resort and the options are endless.
About halfway through the trip we were gifted with one of the deepest days skiing of our lives. We werent even expecting it either. We went to bed the night before knowing is was snowing but had no idea how much. By morning 35cm had fallen and EVERYONE knew about it. We arrived before first chair and it was rammed. Quickly we decided this was not where we wanted to be and jetted off to a nearby resort called Moiwa. Right next door and almost no people, we were right! However when we arrived the lift was closed, and they called for maintenance. It got to about 10.30am and still wasn't open. As we were waiting I brushed the snow off my skis and watched as the it built up again... it was going at a rate close to 5-10cm an hour! With the lifts still closed we were feeling that we'd made a huge mistake coming. Luckily at 11.30 the lifts finally opened and we were on chair No.1. What a feeling! As we picked our first line we could barely ski, it was so deep, at least 50cm. The whole run we were skiing was blind there was so much snow, it was pure joy! It was so deep you couldn't hike very far either to get to the next zone, so each run was fresh and people started not to bother trekking out! Deepest day of my life, all day, off a lift, sensational!
By the last 5 days, I'll be honest with you, our fuel was running low. Skiing powder everyday is a dream, but my god it's tiring. We still got up early each morning, looked at the reports and chose where we though the best place to ski was and went for first chair, but found ourselves going in far more often for hot chocolates and cookies. Along with tiredness we were also starting to feel the loss of many items we had lost or broken along the way. These included: 1 lost ski, 1 broken binding, 1 pole snapped, lost batteries, lost microphone holder, 1 broken filter and finally one Canon 5D broke down on us. Luckily we had a spare camera otherwise that would have been awful! Yes, thats a lot of stuff that went wrong, and its never happened before in one go. We must of had a string of bad luck that holiday but that bad luck wasn't really anything when considering the grand scene of things. I would do it all over if I had too.
17 days skiing powder. Thats what Japan is all about, through the good, the bad and the ugly I will always love Japan and I can't see myself ever not coming back!
Here is the video from our holiday, see for yourselves what Japan has to offer!