Discovery Powder Pioneer 2015
The Discovery Powder Pioneer is designed for skiers and snowboarders who LOVE the powder - the deeper the better, and Japan is the place for that! Local Japanese riders talk about 'Pow' as being snow up to your knees, 'Chi Pow' is snow to your waist and 'ChiChi Pow' is snow to your chest – and this is what we are after, along with the smiles and challenges it brings.
In 2015 we are going to Discover an area of Japan that does not see too many Westerners and yet has some of the deepest snow in Japan. Welcome to HAKKODA, in the Aomiri prefecture on the northern tip of Japan's main island, Honshu.
Hakkoda is one of the snowiest places on earth. On an average year the total snowfall is 26 metres of snow across the season - yes, 26m! For those of you who have joined us in Myoko, it gets just 13m by comparison.
The mountain has just one chairlift (with 3 groomed runs) and one gondola with two marked trails down through the trees and the powder - choose your own path!
This mountain is really for die-hard powder pioneers, it is all about the skiing and snowboarding. There is no nearby town, no bars, no nightlife at all. There is one lodge at the base of the lifts where we will be staying that has a wonderful onsen and a ready supplier of beer, but nothing else. There is a choice of two restaurants for lunch and extremely limited ski rental.
Look at the pictures below. Who wouldn't want to ski lines like that?
"The 10 minute gondola ride just builds the excitement, and when you get to the top you are never disappointed"
Below: The view from where we are headed. The building is the top gondola station.
About the tour
The is the tour you have been waiting for. No 'off snow' days, just powder, powder, powder .... and powder. No large groups with beginners or intermediates, just advanced riders. This tour will only be open to 12 people who we know can handle the conditions and are fun to be around.
We have hired the services of an experienced back-country guide who has lived in the region for more than 25 years. The guide will take out half of the crew in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. So every day will involve both back-country (hiking with snow shoes on for about 30-45 mins, before dropping a magical line and then being driven back to the resort) and resort riding.
Hakkoda is an advanced mountain because of the ski lines, the lack of groomers and the quickly changing weather conditions. This mountain can go from bluebird to white out in the space of 30 minutes. If the sound of this makes you super excited, then you are the right person for this tour!
By the way - absolutely no lift lines in this remote location. It is not uncommon to have the mountain to yourself.
You can see the runmap (as basic as it is) here.
The tour will depart Australia on Sat 7th February, or Hong Kong early on Sun 8th February. After meeting one of the DST crew in Narita airport, you will take a train into central Tokyo and then a shinkansen (bullet train) to Aomiri-shin station - a 3.5hr ride. From the station we will have two private maxi-taxis to whisk you to the mountain around 40 mins away. You should be at the resort just after lunch on Sun 11th.
Day One - Mon 9th. This day will be spent riding the resort and getting comfortable with the powder conditions of Hakkoda.
Day Two to Day Seven - Tue 10th to Sat 14th. These days will be spent in a mixture of back-country and resort riding.
The tour will conclude with travel back to Narita and on-flights to Australia or Hong Kong. Hong Kong crew will arrive home late on Sun 15th, Australian crew will arrive home early on Mon 16th February.
Your accommodation will be at the Hakkoda Resort Hotel. Located right at the bottom of the chairlift, it is an absolute ski-in location (the gondola is a 2-3 minute walk away). The hotel has Japanese tatami and western styled rooms with a private toilet. As with most Japanese hotels, the bathrooms are shared and co-located with a generous size onsen (reportedly filled with healing minerals). The resort is never busy and the hotel feels the same way.
Breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the tour and served in the large restaurant in the hotel. Dinners are Japanese, but always with plenty of variety and loads to eat. On the right is a picture of a normal dinner - YUM!
What's included and what's not
Your tour will include trains in Japan, transport to and from the mountain, accommodation, breakfasts, dinners, lift tickets (both gondola and chairlift), back country guide and back-country gear (avi beacon, backpack, snow-shoes).
Your tour does not include airfares, travel insurance, ski or snowboard hire, lunches and drinks.
The cost for 2015 is HK$ 21,500 (AU$ 2,940) per person. This price includes dinners every night and a dedicated back-country guide for every day (weather permitting). The price excludes flights and travel insurance, you will need to organise these for yourself - or we can help.
Basically .... there are none! We go to Hakkoda for one thing and one thing only.
You could have a stopover in Tokyo or Hong Kong on your way home or your way up if you like.
What you need to know
There is little infrastructure available in Hakkoda. No ATM machines (so bring cash for lunch and drinks), little to no hire gear available (so talk to us about other options), no bars, etc.
The gondola and chairlift are run by separate companies and require separate tickets. Gondola tickets are purchased on a number-of-rides basis, however the tickets do not expire so you can carry over from one day to the next, etc. Chairlift tickets are purchased on a full day or half day basis.
While Hakkoda is challenging to ski, it is not super-steep for the most part. Solid powder riding skills, reasonable fitness and a desire to push yourself are all that is needed to have an epic holiday in this powder wonderland.
"Skiing in Hakkoda is simply amazing. From the simple chairlift runs with powder to the left and right of piste, to the amazing courses from the gondola, this place just blows my mind. And then there's the back country ....."
- Wayne Zantuck (Chief Ski Officer)
"That look of exhaustion meets exhilaration on the faces of our tour crew is what makes it all worthwhile. Riding in deep powder is like nothing they have experienced before, and I get to help do the introductions!"
- Ian Denford (Chief Snowboard Officer)