Monthly Archives: March 2018

Shikaribetsu Gorge (然別峡), nestled into the southeastern foothills of the Daisetsu National Park in central Hokkaido, is home to a number of natural, wild hot spring onsen. In winter, the only way to get to them is on skis or snowshoes. The furthest (and most impressive) hot spring from the trailhead is Chinika-no-yu (チニカの湯). Even still, it is only 30 minutes along a snow-bound forestry road. Good camping options abound in the area, so this makes for a unique overnight Hokkaido ski touring experience.

Shikaribetsu Gorge Hot Springs Ski Camping (central Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Nishibetsu (西別岳, 741m) is a diminutive hill famous for its alpine vegetation despite its low altitude. Not much further north is the caldera rim of Lake Mashu (摩周湖), so Mt. Nishibetsu can be a good transit point for adventures further afield. In this route guide I introduce the hopelessly beautiful Nishibetsu Hut (西別小屋, 335m), only accessible in winter on skis or snowshoes via a 5km forestry road. This free hut, unlocked and open for use, is the perfect base to explore the area's winter offerings.

Mt. Nishibetsu and Nishibetsu Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Musa (武佐岳, 1,005m) is a volcanic mountain standing as advance guard to the more famous far-east mountains of the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, Japan. As such, the summit provides panoramic views across the plains and close-by Pacific Coast to the east, and peaks such as Mt. Shari (斜里岳, 1,547m) and Mt. Rausu (羅臼岳, 1,660m) to the northeast. En-route is the extremely rustic, half-derelict Mt. Musa Sokuseiso Hut. Dense low-lying trees prohibit skiing directly from the summit, but there are some skiing options from the ridge further down.

Mt. Musa and Sokuseiso Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Sapporo (札幌岳, 1,293m) is a popular peak in the Jozankei area, not least of all for its name - the same as the city in which it stands. Half way up the route to the peak is the Hokkai Gakuen University managed Hiyamizu Hut (冷水小屋, 845m), available for overnight stays on the first and third weekends of the month. From the hut, there are a multitude of great slopes to choose from for magnificent skiing. Steep, mellow, and everything in between. Mt. Sapporo's summit offers expansive views over Sapporo City and surrounds. Enjoy as a day-trip or very comfortable overnighter.

Mt. Sapporo and Hiyamizu Hut ski tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

Mt. Sahoro (佐幌岳, 1,060m) is a prominent peak just north of the Karikachi Pass (狩勝峠, 644m) in central Hokkaido. Generally, the winter approach follows the summer trail along the ridge from the Karikachi Pass to the peak. Near the peak is the bunker-like Sahoro-sanso Hut (佐幌山荘). This will set you up for an early-morning run down the Sahoro Ski Area before climbing back up and back the way you came (or hitching a ride back) to the Karikachi Pass. Sahoro Resort is also home to one of the best brown-bear parks in Hokkaido.

Mt. Sahoro and Sahoro-Sanso Hut ski touring (Hokkaido, Japan)

Three winter seasons ago in December 2015, I attended the Whiteroom Tours Avalanche Awareness two-day course in Niseko (report here). Last week I jumped in for the four-day Avalanche NZ accredited Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance Course. This four-day course focuses on forecasting and route planning based on the four factors in avalanche assessment: snowpack, terrain, weather, and people. The lead Whiteroom Tours and NZMSC’s National Avalanche Forecaster Ronan Maguire again brought the course to life with his experience, knowledge, and passion for the winter hills.

Review of Whiteroom Tours Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance 4-day course (Hokkaido, ...

Mt. Muine (無意根山, 1,464m) is a prominent, band-like mountain within the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. It is a popular destination for Sapporo-dwelling backcountry skiers, and can be approached from two different directions. The more popular direction is via the Senjaku Plateau (route guide here). The route below, however, goes via the Hokkaido University Ski Club's Muine Hut (無意根山尻小屋, 1,020m), one of the historic huts built in the hills of Sapporo in the 1930's. It is a long, flat approach, but the hut allows access to some great skiing from Mt. Muine's ridge.

Mt. Muine and Muine Hut ski touring (Sapporo City, Japan)