Freeskier Olle Regnér shreds powder in Japan
When it comes to powder skiing there are few places as zeitgeist as Japan. The current trend of heading east for total immersion in that lingering cloud of snow is at the top of everyone’s list. Japan is home to the likes of such snow-clad mountains as Mount Yotei, Hakuba and Sapporo. Speedy trains make for easy access and the allure of a combined city weekend and ski trip is just one of many reasons people are flocking here between December and April. And for good reason – we’re taking Olle Regnér’s word for it.
- Four years in a row I’ve travelled to Japan in search for the famous January Japanese powder. When people think of powder skiing in Japan I believe they first of all think of the skiing shown on the northern island of Japan, Hokkaido. I´ve been there once, but I’ve spent more time in a resort much closer to Tokyo, Hakuba. After you get tired of shredding powder you have to stop by Tokyo before you fly back home.
Where should I ski?
- Hakuba is divided into 6 different ski resorts, with Happo-one as the biggest with a more genuine village. It´s a good place to stay for accommodations and to get around to the other resorts depending on the weather forecast. Happo-one is the resort which allows you to reach the high alpine terrain, but have more restrictions when it come to skiing in forests in the area. A good option on sunny days when you want to ski big lines above the tree lines.
- Monkeys, Onsens, the ocean – an hour drive away- and Fire festival! And of course the Zenjoki temple in Happo-One which dates back to the 7th century. When its dumping and visibility is low, you should go to either Hakuba 47 or Hakuba Cortina, these resorts let you ski the forest inbounds.
One of the things you should carry with you is a hiking GPS – Globo Surf, just in case you get lost.
Olle’s top 3 Japan hacks
- For hiking the high alpine terrain in Happo-one, go to the highest point to which the lifts takes you. From there you are allowed to exit the ski area through a gate for the hike or skin tracks that takes you to the bigger runs on the backside of the ski area. If it’s your first time there, ski with a guide or a local skier that knows the area, there’s a high avalanche risk and it’s good to know how to get back to the ski resorts…Easiest way to get back is to call a cab when you reach the valley again. If you take the bowl which runs from the top of the hike, you will end up on a road next to a bridge. Make sure not to miss the outside Onsen located at the end of the run.
- At the top of the Cortina resort there’s also a gate in which you are allowed to enter the backside of the resort. From there you’ll reach long and open forest runs without having to traverse or hike from the lift, and you´ll get right back to the ski area at the bottom of the runs. This makes Cortina crowded at powder days. Set the alarm early and get in line before the lift opens!
- The biggest life hack I’ve found here is that some accommodations offers a baggage delivery service where you can send your ski bag and big trunk to the airport, ready to be picked up at your departure terminal after you spent a few nights in Tokyo with your weekend bag.
Located in the region of Nagano, it’s only a four hour drive north west from central Tokyo. Majestic mountains, not too different from the peaks in the alps, makes the terrain here a lot steeper and playful compared to the more flat terrain you will get in the resorts on Hokkaido. Direct flights from Copenhagen with SAS are trafficked regularly to Narita airport, 1 hour by train outside of Tokyo. Finnair and Japan Airlines are also recommended. From Narita Airport the easiest way to get straight to the powder is to book a transfer bus, taking you directly from Terminal 2 to Hakuba village, from there you´ll get smaller shuttles to your accommodation in just 6 hours. To get from Hakuba to Tokyo the fastest way you want to take the 1 hour bus ride to Nagano city, and then the fast train bullet, Shinkansen, straight to the heart of Tokyo.
What do you think about Happo One?