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Nothing Special at All in Japan for Advanced Skiers/Boarders

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I just got back from Xmas/New Year's in Michigan, USA.


For those who don't know, that state gets tons of dry powder (thanks to the "lake effect" off the Great Lakes), but the terrain is mostly FLAT.


I went to a new resort called Mt. Bohemia that is purpose-built for advanced skiers/boarders only. Located at the tip of Michigan's upper peninsula, it gets more snow that Vail, Colorado and the quality of the powder was terriffic - dry, fluffy, light...well, you can check out their website at http://www.mtbohemia.com/ if you're interested.


The thing about it is, there are no beginner runs and everything there is pretty steep, top to bottom. I am not talking about an intermediate hill that has a sudden drop 50m long known as "The Wall" or "The Elevator" or something like that.


I am talking about runs that are, from top to bottom, steep and challenging...the kind of run where your screams of excitement drown out the screaming muscles in your thighs...I've seen plenty of runs like that in Utah, in Colorado, in California, in Washington, in Alberta and British Columbia... I lived in Switzerland as a boy and lord knows I saw plenty of horrifically fantastically scary runs over there too.


The only reason I bring this up is, at the end of my 3 days at Mt. Bohemia in lowly, flat Michigan, I concluded that their runs were more fun for me than almost any runs I've ridden in Japan.


In Japan, there are small patches of "advanced" terrain. Like that 45-degree slope on the front part of Kandatsu in Niigata. I once rode a pretty steep part of one hill at Furano. At Niseko you can find a few short but steep spots, and can even hike a little to a medium-length one, but then you have problems with the runout and depending on the line you take you may have to walk or skate back to the lift. I guess there are a couple of good things at Hakuba 47 too but as usual it ends too soon and there you are on the intermediate groomer again.


I've been to plenty of other resorts here in Japan too, but there is just nothing of great interest to an advanced skier/rider, outside of moguls and parks. People will tell you that this or that resort has some hard runs, but then you go there and it is a disappointment.


Frankly speaking, if you leave out the special Japan flavor of these places (Japanese food, onsens, the girls if you like 'em), these resorts are generally beginners' mountains that I would never patronize in the US, Canada or Europe. In fact, they would be something of a joke.


It's not a terrain problem, as you can see steep slopes and areas and mountains in Japan. But they are not part of the ski resorts...wherever I've been, lift-accessed "advanced" terrain seems to have purposely been left out of the program.


Can anyone recommend a resort in Japan that has some decent advanced runs that are not just blips in the middle of some intermediate hill?


I'm no expert or pro...just your garden variety advanced boarder...I am not talking about Alaskan first descents here. I m just looking for something to keep me interested. I am looking for something that will make me fall down. I want to be thrilled again, even scared. I am looking for a resort where I can escape my girlfriend for the weekend on the grounds that she cannot handle the level of difficulty. Slopes around 35-45 degrees, with some bumps and natural hits for playing around would probably achieve that goal.


Any ideas?



badmigraine in Tokyo.

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The states may get lots of dry powder aswell, but the airflight from Australia is a killer. I went to Canada - Whistler, Big White and Grouse Mt in `98/`99. Sure there was good powder there but compared to Australia almost anywhere north of there is better. Australian powder turns to slush within hours of hitting the ground. The Canada snow was good sometimes, not always. Too much temperature variation during a 24hr period can turn powpow into slush too quickly and I don`t need to travel half way round the globe to find that.

When I first went to Japan in `00, it was uncompareable to anywhere else. A temperature variation of only 3 or 4 degress in a 24hr period ensured that the pow would remain pow all day into the next dump, and when it decided to dump 20 - 50 cms every night pow was alway at the next turn. And since the first tour `00 , I`ve come back for three weeks every year of powpow since. In Japan , the months of January / Febuary, snow seems to dump every day and night. Last year `01 Feb`, in three weeks I saw the sun for about 6 hrs, the rest of the time snow was falling. I like those types of days, snowboarding the tree runs at Harifu - Strawberry fields and Mirohashi is the best. It may not be 35 - 45 degrees slope,but who cares when the pow is waist deep. I don`t find snow riding for the steepest slopes but the better qulity snow and Japan has some of the best. 35 -45 degress slope would have to be avalanch territory anyway and who needs that. If you need a bigger rush try snowboarding off a 3000ft cliff with parachute in Alaska. Japan powpow does enough me.

eek.gif eek.gif eek.gif eek.gif

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Just out of interest, what is Strawberries actually like? I went to Niseko but only went down to the bottom of Hanazono once because of the lack of vert from the top of Hana 2 onwards. From that virtual Niseko thing, I get the impression the run is down there somewhere (no I'm not looking for you to tell me where it is), so I'm intrigued that such a famous run could be in a place that looks so innocuous to the uninitiated. We went off to the top of the Hana side and Miharashi instead, and yeah we did have a really good time. I didn't grow up in Switzerland though.


Yo Migraine

Thanks for the heads up on those other places. If I ever get good enuff, I'll try and check them out. That Bohemian one looks mental. "Mama Mia" indeed !


As for the point you're making, many of the foreign teams were less than impressed with Nagano during the last Olympics. Happo may be Japan's fourth (I think) largest ski resort, but "a joke" would seem to sum up what a lot of people thought about the downhill event there. The ski world cup tour hasn't been inspired into setting up an event there either, in spite of the obvious financial potential. For environmental reasons, I'm pleased the runs weren't extended as demanded, but at the same time it puts the size and degree of difficulty of Japanese resorts into perspective. A lack of snow also had everyone at panic stations in Hakuba in the weeks running up to the Olympics, so while it may have fallen like mad last season and especially this past week, it's not exactly etched in stone.

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Yo badmigraine! I lived in Switzerland too as a kid (about 12 years ago)! What school were you at? I also lived in the US for a year later on, but I can't agree with you that there is nothing special for advanced skiers/boarders in Japan.


Every area's boarding (or skiing) is different and has it's advantages and disadvantages. The European Alps, particularly Switzerland and France offer truly huge ski-areas and fantastic verticals, pretty villages (well Switzerland and Austria!) and seemingly endless sunny days. However, snowfalls are much smaller and less frequent and all the easily accessed powder is rapidly tracked out. North America offers smaller resorts but with bigger snowfalls. The towns may lack some of the alpine charm, but the snow and service makes up for it. Easy to reach powder goes quickly and the vert is usually comparible with Japanese resorts (although Mt Bohemia's web site claimed only 300m!). I too haven't found any great in-bounds steeps like those in Verbier or Chamonix, but the powder stays untracked longer, there is no (or less) attitude like the west and an onsen and ramen are better than a shower and a 'burger!


If you want serious challenge, perhaps give hiking and telemarking a go. Personally, I'll be bombing through the trees, fleeing the ski-patrol and lapping up the deep and fluffy.


Although I still look up at the North Alps and wonder why there aren't any cable cars going right to the top! If they did that too and opened up some serious terrain, Japan would rule!


Today's snowdepths (reported at the lower lifts):

Chamonix: 30cm

Vail: 81cm


I know where I'd rather be...

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hey badmigrane...


I completely agree...

I've been to 5 different resorts now,

and I always have the feeling that they

are underdeveloped...I look around and

see tons of rideable steeps and other

terrain, but 0 access...add to that

slow single/double chair lifts, and you

do not have the greatest resorts around...

high speed detachable quads have not caught

on here yet (it seems)...


but... the snow is good...and if you are willing to hike, you can ski freshies all

day...definetly a bonus...



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Yes, it's true. The quality and volume of snow in Japan are terrific! And I will be surfing the powder at Niseko in about 5 weeks. Meanwhile, there are more local fixes to be had, every weekend...


But I do wish I could play on the advanced terrain that one finds at resorts in the US such as Kirkwood, Snowbird, Brighton, Mt. Baker, Big Sky, Jackson Hole...


Kirkwood's annual snowfall is 500 inches. That's 12.7 meters for those without calculators and conversion tables. That's a LOT...


Twiki, props to you for your Swiss upbringing! I went to the Ecole St. Michel in Fribourg, a smaller town not too far from Bern. I was 10-11 years old and we used to ski at Lac Noir and some place called Col de Mosses I think, as well as some famous places like Zermatt and Verbier but I don't remember that at all.


I was just a kid and a snowplow-level skier on wooden skis with Cubco bindings.


Being there amid all that splendour and possibility at such a tender, ignorant age is like being a small boy in the Playmates' dressing room. There it all is happening around you, but you are not in a position to know what you are really in the middle of. Staggering peaks, luscious valleys, hairy chutes and fragrant glades...


We used to play hooky from school and go up into the hills around Fribourg where there were ruins of medieval watchtowers ringing the river valley, and we'd play knights and swordsmen games with sticks under the crumbling castle walls. Once we found a porno magazine up there and that was a great day indeed.


Well, I will be doing the Niigata thing for the next few weeks because it's cheap and easy on the shinkansen. Look for me in a disgusting dirty used brown 1-piece snowsuit I picked up for $19 at a surplus store in Plymouth, Michigan.


It really is the rudest, most disgusting thing you ever saw.


badmigraine in Tokyo.

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Well, Parks in Japan are not good currently but they inproved gradually. So please give them a time!



Depend on what kind of style you like but if you are interested "Backcountry" or "freestyle" maybe you will interest this story.


My crazy Japanese friends went up to TATEYAMA in the end of Oct. or beginning of November for snowboarding/climbing mountains. They told me they hiked up to near peak then ride snowboards. They said such an awesome experience they have ever had before.


I went to Tateyama before for climbing but really steep mountains and it was hard going for me for just climbing and hiking.

I don't know the story, snowboarding on Tateyama Mountains, is true or not. 'cos we were drinking in Tokyo and we drunk. But maybe you can try, if you are looking for crazy snowboarding trip.



[This message has been edited by Nat (edited 08 January 2002).]

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Yo Nat


You're right about Tateyama. It's up near me. Access from the Nagano side is via the Alpen route, a road best known for giving access to Kurobe Dam, Omachi's biggest tourist attraction. The road closed on Dec 1 and won't be open till mid-April. I was up there in late November to hike up Mt. Renge, but gave up halfway since the path was narrow and snowy and I was alone without snowshoes. I think the main backcountry season up there is April-June, but you still see people with skis at the end of the road (Ogimachi) in autumn.


Tateyama is listed in the (Japanese) Japan Ski Guide book if anyone is interested. It says there is 60% (!) advanced terrain, but "advanced" has a subjective meaning in Japan. I think access is cheaper from the Toyama side since it's closer. The North Alps at that point are crossed by a series of trolley buses and cable cars. The return cost for the entire route is around 10,000, but if you're going for a good session you'd probably have to stay up there.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

somewhat agree... I also find the runs a bit too short and not quite steep enough to hold the deep powder, so what do we do, since this is where we ARE (Honshu: Nagano, Niigata, Gifu) and likely to be for most of the season? TREES! invest in a helmet and get in the trees... gets more technical and challenging (and sometimes painful) but the thrill is there. Also, when there is usually NO powder to be easily found there is somewhere in the trees. Myoko has some really nice runs, we found a most excellent (albeit not steep) tree run that lasted for quite a while (5 or so mins non-stop/no-spills) with a bunch of jumps (road traversing back and forth thru the trees), and not a tight squeeze either (big pines). there's a lot of stuff I complain about the resorts here, but when the day is done, and I've been at the slope riding instead of inside working, the riding sure was a lot better!

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BigKahuna, that sounds like the run on the far right of the resort (looking down), near fast quad No.2 right?


The big pine run comes out near some snowboard playthings and continues through what seems to be an orchard. I spent a happy morning in there last time at Myoko. I found the experience in the trees like being stoned, although I had a few wake-up calls with failed landings. There's another more challenging tree run on the other side of that gelende too. Clipped my arse on trees a few times skidding through there.


As you say, a helmet is essential. Mine got a good few scratches on it after that day, scratches that would have been on my face and head without it.

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That sounds great!


I was at Lake Louise in '98 and found a tree run kind of like what BigKahuna describes...


It was a narrow, slightly concave course (about 2-3 meters across) that snaked endlessly through the pine glades on either side of a frightfully steep, bumpy pitch.


At times it split into two or more branches that connected and reconnected at various points. There were small kickers, hummockss and duck-in curls around trees or big rocks, and all of the turns were banked quite high.


The hairpin turns were banked almost as high as halfpipe walls, and if you came around there at speed, you were like James Caan as Jon-a-than in Rollerball.


This being a treed area, the snow was softer and not icy. The air was fresh and full of oxygen, and you'd see the occasional hare or bluebird or squirrel as you slid through and around and up and down and romped and played your elfin flying games until your thighs were screaming in agony but you just COULD NOT STOP because it was too much fun.


I remember thinking "this is exactly like one of those impossible courses you see in the Playstation snowboarder games..."


On a weekday at Lake Louise that hill, way back up near the top of the resort and off to one side, was practically deserted...we never saw anyone else on that mysterious noodling course, and by the afternoon we had abandoned all caution and went zooming through there at speed like pre-teens on a giant waterslide, stopping only occasionally to catch our breath and make some yellow snow.


Now that's what I call getting your money's worth.

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Making the snow that's sitting on top of a mate's board yellow always causes moments of entertaining havoc I find... Indeed it caused a rough n' tumble chase through the underbrush at Myoko the other day.


Where's Lake Louise then? Nagano? Gifu? As if...

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Only too true berg.


That convenience, and the ability to send your board bag--fat and ready to explode with wet cold gear like a beef summer sausage bursting out of its casing--home by takkyubin for 2500 yen, is a great boon indeed.


I suppose I long for the impossible...not just when reading Penthouse, but also in the matter of living in a fun city only a short commute to fantastic snow-draped mountains.


Maybe a topic for another thread, but assuming that one prefers not to live in an isolated mountain cabin all winter, just to be near the slopes, what would be the ideal city/town next to a great resort in which to pass a jolly winter, skiing/riding only on the good days, and leaving bad weather/snow and crowded weekend days to hapless frantic tourists and the less fortunately situated?


For me, I'd have to be able to find a relatively cheap rental (this rules out living in places like Park City, Whistler Village, etc.), and if there is public transport to the mountains, that means I can have too many beers in the apres ski phase, yet still make it home alright.


I suppose Tahoe and Salt Lake City might pass muster in the US.


Any thoughts?

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A little on the short side, but for skiers only, try Kanazawa Seymour for steep ungroomed slopes. Been there a few times, and laid fresh tracks all day. Steep and deep, and no snowboards. Great for powder conservation, but, yes, i'd love to board it.

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badmigraine, you really do sound like a man who needs a change.


How about Nagano city? These days even in the provinces you can buy most of the things required for civilized eating, and there's some culture to be found in any city of reasonable size. Hakkers and Nozzle, besides several other locations, are within spitting distance of Naggers (well, if you have very powerful cheek muscles and phenomenally elastic lips...) The girls sure are pretty, and very naive too - all of my foreign friends have managed to snag good ones.


It sounds as though you're ripe for 'restructuring' and already half-way out the door under your own steam, so why not try to be in the sticks in time for some spring ski and then a long season of camping (with some of Nagano's lovelies), followed by a whole season of some of Japan's best snow?


I've almost persuaded myself here...


[This message has been edited by Ocean11 (edited 14 February 2002).]

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's true, but Japan more than makes up for it don't you think with variety, ease of access, snowbunnies (Japanese ones - surely the best in the world by far), and ramen.




Well, maybe not the ramen.

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