People's Choice Powder: Hakkoda

snow action team 26.01.2015

Our People’s Choice Powder Reports are open to traveling skiers/riders to submit their opinions of somewhere with great snow. Greg Cansdale just hit awesome Hakkoda in Honshu’s northernmost Aomori Prefecture.

Pictures of Hakkoda don’t lie. The place has more snow than it knows what to do with and the weather to match. It gets real cold in Hakkoda which means some of the best snow you will get anywhere in the world. This is not a resort where you can have a cruising day riding. There is a small chair lift from the base and a gondola that the locals call the Ropeway. The terrain is spectacular with plenty of hiking, snow shoeing and skinning to get to the best pow. If the weather is bad and the Ropeway shut there is plenty of tree riding accessible from the chair lift.
I’ve only been here three days and have had different weather each day. Day one was a storm with 30cm fresh dumped and very windy so the Ropeway was shut. The tree skiing was knee deep and untracked.

I probably forgot to mention the crowds. I counted at least twenty people skiing on day one Outrageous.

My guide knew all the best spots and was having too much fun laughing at my excellent attempt to speak Japanese.

Day two started with an influx of people, at least one hundred lined up for the first Ropeway car. Mainly locals from Aomori who were here for what they called the best day of the season so far. Blue skies, no wind, 30-40cm of fresh pow. I hooked onto a back country group from the ski school, mainly locals with a Chinese couple and the token Aussie. Communicating was a lot of fun but I can tell you a holler and a hoot sound the same in every language.

You need a guide in this place. It might sound like a hidden paradise but it is downright dangerous to ride here without a guide. Just ask the 199 soldiers of the Japanese Fifth Infantry Regiment who perished in a storm on this mountain in 1902. This mountain and area are revered.

The ski school take small groups back country every morning and afternoon, provide what ever equipment you need and they speak enough English to keep you safe. Takuma and Matsu keep things simple, safe and very funny. Their knowledge of the area is unprecedented. Needless to say the pow was unbelievable providing a most memorable day riding.

Day three started out with blue skies but soon became overcast. On with the skins and off we went into the wilderness. Unbelievable. Trekking around snow monsters and riding untracked pow two days after the last fall (the cold keeps the snow condition ideal) while following really experienced guides who make you feel safe the whole time and constantly deliver up untracked slopes just seems to good to be true but it is!

© Greg Cansdale

© Greg Cansdale

At the end of each day it’s back to the Hakkoda Resort Hotel which is at least 20 meters from the chairlift and probably 200 meters for the Ropeway. Pretty convenient really. The place is only a third full and is warm, comfortable and the hospitality unparalleled. The Onsen at the end of the day soothes my weary old legs and having a couple of quiet ones while watching the Sumo wrestling on TV is the perfect end to the day, except it isn’t over yet. Dinner is a sumptuous affair enjoyed every night by the small international clientele.

Hakkoda hospitality is traditional, friendly and warm (not talking about the weather) and if you are up for a challenge, don’t get put off by some cold weather, aren’t looking for the night life then a visit to Aomori prefecture in the northern most part of Honshu Island is well worth considering.

Hakkoda ski school/guiding programs –
BC group tour: 1 day 5,000 yen
Private BC tour: 1 day 30,000 yen (Up to 3 people)
Mountain school (for the beginner of BC ski): 3 hours 3,200 yen
BC gear rental available
Best to book in conjunction with accommodation via Japanese speaking local specialists like JapanSnowAccommodation.com

Hiroaki Seino from Aomori Prefecture Tourist Office had this recommendation:
“We worry about mountain accident. Weather of Hakkoda can change easily, it becomes no-visible and skiers can’t hike back easily because of high snow base. Skiers who don’t know Hakkoda well shouldn’t go into Mountain alone. I strongly recommend skiers to join a BC tour, not only English friendly guide, but also Japanese tour guide. They can take skiers to the best area of the day where personal skiers can’t go.”

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© Greg Cansdale

© Greg Cansdale