There’s not a lot to Kamui Ski Links, a little base building with the basics of restaurant, hire and ski school, and a handful of lifts, led by the signature yellow gondola that runs top-to-bottom for the respectable 600m vertical.
Skiing under lift lines is a no-no in most of Japan, but Maeda Mitsu had no problems with us dropping straight in for out first line there, pointing his custom built concave prowed powder skis straight down under the gondolas at a very respectable pace. We weren’t first in here though, so soon he cut right into the trees and found something less travelled popping in and out across the marked runs, which are mostly left as ‘powder course’ anyway on that side of the hill.
Follow him round and it’s easy to forget he’s 71. The guy is super fit (he confessed his summer recreation, apart from surreptitious glading expeditions, is running up from the carpark to the summit three times a week), he has great pow technique, and he gets that big kid grin on as soon as he gets into the fresh stuff.
“It’s my powder and i’ll ski it when i want to!” could be Maeda San’s motto. this 71 year old has a serious case of mad pow disease, and his resort, Kamui Ski Links, is the perfect place for fellow sufferers to find relief. he was unanimous choice to be Snow Action’s Japan Ski Boss of the Year for 2012.
At Kamui he gets plenty of that – this central Hokkaido gem gets hammered with regular dumps all season, and since there’s often no one there midweek you can ski untracked tree lines all day.
Even more important, with a pow fanatic boss the emphasis here is on expanding the off-piste options, not limiting them. It’s been that way since day one 30 years ago, when the then Head Coach at the old Furano Prince ski resort designed the original Kamui layout.
He’s enjoyed skiing the trees for 50 years, starting out on 205cm skinny skis back in the day. So when it came to building his own area he started with a concept to separate the powder/tree courses from the groomed ones. The ratio he set sounds pretty right to us too — 80% powder/trees, 20% groomed! He also let boarders in from day one, and the only other crew we bumped into were a carload of Aussie riders up from Furano for the day like us.
Since it’s public land, tree clearing requires permits and approval, but he explains with a laugh in the gondola that he’s got a log cabin with a big log burning fire, where his mates like to come and drink wine while enjoying the warmth of their glading endeavours. So that’s all under control then.
In fact he proudly showed off the new tree course he’s cutting for next season. No slowing down here, though as we swapped ski notes (his custom-built concaves vs my Lib Tec wiggly edges), he confessed his powder boards took a lot of driving, so when he gets to 80 he thinks he’ll downsize.
He’s a legend, thoroughly deserving of Snow Action’s highest Japan honour. His ski hill is special too, reflecting the bosses’ priorities in life. You won’t find glitzy arcades or ‘non-ski’ entertainment, just a hearty $10 lunch, an old school logo, and as much full on powder as you can handle. – Owain Price
Kamui is part of the Hokkaido Powder Belt, check their site for more info in English
It’s a short trip out from Asahikawa City or an easy day trip from Furano with free shuttles some days – check with tourist office at mountain base in Furano for details and bookings.