Dispatches from Hokkaido: Asahidake II Return to the playground of the gods

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After our fun stint in Furano it was time to move. The weather was beginning to show a lot of cold and snow. The way Hokkaido is meant to be enjoyed in February. It was a unanimous decisions to move to Asahidake, one of my three favorite places on Earth.


Japan is convenient and civilized. Getting from Furano to the Onsen in the middle of Daisetsuzan national park with only one Gondola, always a good sign for a powderhoud. It takes only two bus rides from Furanu. Directly from one hotel door to another. Ah Japan. If all the world would be so well organized.

Our last visit here left us with a feeling of bliss. Like gods in a endless playground, as this area is called “Playground of the gods” by the Ainu people from north Hokkaido we were on a different level of existence here. Read up on that here. After all, it did not get better then staying at an Ainu Inn with Excellent food from mama Mariko and a private Onsen. All that and powder dumping most of the time at -15 or colder was what my soul longed for.

 

Like the rest of the world, this season Asahidake also had less snow now at the end of January then it had last time at the end of February, hell even the first week of March. As we were ascending the winding road up with the local 8 EUR bus the snow started to pile up. The winter feeling of anticipation was growing. As we pulled up to our Hotel, the Bear Inn we were happy I felt like coming home again after a long time. The street lanterns were there. Everything was white, Piles of snow were next to the road and everywhere. Just like I remembered.

The hotel was epic. We opted for a huge Japanese style room. Enough for all our gear. The food was plenty in the self serving restaurant and the Onsen was excellent. As there were not that many guests, partly due to this being more of a summer vacation spot and the corona-virus keeping the Chinese winter tourists away it was really cozy. A nice place to unwind.

The forecast looked good and our plan was to stay for a few days and bask ourselves in the endless playground of the gods we enjoyed so thoroughly in the past.

DAY 1 – WIND BARRIER

The first morning we were up early. As with most of the season we had an enduring problem. With the falling temperatures and the forecast precipitation of fluffy powder came the storm wind. I had hoped that Hokkaido would not have the recent Alps problem. That being that every somewhat useful dump came with Orcan like winds. Also the Ropeway does not run when it is windy. In the morning we got the news that it was closed until maybe the afternoon. So we waited. Hoping for the wind to calm down. It did not, so we decided to go tour up the one ski slope and descent into the side woods. We knew the terrain very well having spent more then a week here on our last visit.

As we were ascending we meet a few other mostly Japanese hunters. Interestingly almost none of them were using skins. It reminded me of the old days before we all got good at touring and climbing steep stuff with all the alpinist gear. Then we came to around 350 hm, about half of the cable car and we encountered something, that will become a factor of every skiers life in the not so distant future.

A wind barrier. A point above which the wind speed becomes so strong, that you can not move further. Stubbornly we tried to fight the wind gods but they said no. The playground was closed for this day.Β  The gods were angry. Humanity had irritated them a bit too much. We descended trough the woods and decided to switch to chill mode… Food and Onsen.

In the evening I went down the road to visit our Ainu Inn from last time. I knew that it was closed because Mama Mariko was sick and hoped to meet them at least to say “Hi” and deliver a healthy Slovenian tea to our friends. Unfortunately, the house was empty. I felt a bit sad. Hopefully next time all will be well again and we can stay there and enjoy the awesome hospitality of the Inn.

And also GaΕ‘per mopping servis :P:

DAY 2 – THE AREA OPENS UP

Then on the second day, the situation was a bit better. The storm was winding down, the snowfall had shifted largely to the north but still a bit of fluff came down. The cable car was still on hold, but at least this time, the wind barrier was gone and we could hike up to the cable cars top station. In a good 45 minutes we were up. Ε½iga was especially enthusiastic and raced to the top. Arriving there we saw what we had expected. Everything above the treeline was hard wind pressed.

One can only imagine the powers that played around the volcano that night. But the snow had to be blown somewhere, and luckily our old knowledge proved of use as we descended into the area of a little lake where we knew we would find some fresh powder. And so we did. It felt good to be back in the woods of Asahidake among the Kodama spirits and the gods in the endless playground.

DAY 3 – BLUEBIRD POW

Soon our last day at the Hotel approached. I got yet another Asahidake T-Shirt for the ages πŸ˜› and it was going to be a bluebird powder day. GaΕ‘per had fallen ill to NOT the Corona Virus that we managed to somehow drag with us from home.

 

So Ε½iga and I got lift tickets and did some laps in perfect bluebird. There was just a nice dusting of fresh powder and the last few days made sure that there were no old lines that would disturb our fun. We checked out our old spots and I also did a lap to the southwest side. It was really fun. For Euro conditions you might think this were really good conditions, but for Hokkaido it was passable. The gods decided that the playground would not get more then 20 cm of Japow for our visit.

Still after the last run I felt kinda nostalgic. I will defiantly be back again. Asahidake, even thou the secret of its perfection is out of the bag, is still one of the gems of Hokkaido for fluffy powderhounds.

 

THE SIGINS OF ASAHIDAKE ROPEWAY STATION

As we were leaving our next adventure stop was not sure. Our first week was slowly coming to an end. The forcast was showing a lot of new snow but all over the island. From here on out we were going to have to be more mobile.

It was time for my plan B. Base + car :). We also wanted to be a bit more in the Japanese daily life so we got a really cheap and cool hotel in the middle of the entertainment district of Asahikawa. Ramen city :). We also got a weird box of a car. More on that in the next Dispatch…

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