Hokkaido 2012

Greg and Cathy in Niseko and Furano

Snowy farewell

Our comfy apartment in Furano

Furano gave us a typical Hokkaido send off today as the blizzard continued. Over 76cm of snow has fallen so far in this system. We have never seen snow so light and dry – apparently due to Furano being so far inland. Visibility was limited at times but we really appreciated the lack of crowds and the continuous topping up of the snow cover. The groomers left parts of the runs ungroomed so the depth of the snow there was amazing. Cathy handled the conditions really well and started looking for deeper powder. We hope the secret doesn’t get out and this place does not change.

Going out for a farewell Japanese dinner tonight at a tempura restaurant close to our accommodation. This has been a special holiday and we leave with some great memories.

The crook shoulder has made it through unscathed and should be good for a few more trips like this one.

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The powder continues

Deep powder on the groomed runs at Furano

Another sensational day of skiing. The relentless snow just continues falling. Our legs are now completely burnt out – they only have to last one more day as we are unfortunately leaving on Saturday. It still amazes us to stop half way down a 100m wide run and look around and not see another person. This place truly is a hidden treasure.

To get a better idea of the ridiculous depth of the powder in Hokkaido, take a look at Adam’s video below. He is wearing a green and black parka and a white beanie, Angus is in the blue and Dan is in white.

Siberian blizzard

Enjoying a coffee break at the Prince Hotel bakery

Mother nature belted us today with a typical Hokkaido blizzard – direct from Siberia. It was puking (technical term for heavy snow) throughout the night and all day. Not many people ventured outside today so we had the mountain to ourselves. What a day! The snow was light and dry – typical of the interior of Hokkaido. Groomed runs started with knee deep powder and it got deeper throughout the day. Our tracks were being filled in and every run was in smooth virgin snow up to thigh deep. We love this place.

We had to change rooms today and our new room has a fireplace and spa bath. The bath was just the thing for aching muscles after a huge day. I haven’t mentioned the Japanese toilets yet but the one in our room has 11 buttons and auto flush. With a bit of trial and error operation I think we have mastered the process – we want one for home.

Still puking down outside at the moment … yahoo!!!!!!

Sapporo snow festival

This amazing 10m high snow sculpture was titled "Snow Aquarium - Treasures from the sea"

We travelled to Sapporo today to check out the famous snow festival. The train trip was a real adventure. Started from Furano in a single car train (a bit like a bus) and changed at Takikawa to a Super Kamui train which was really comfy and super fast. There was a young couple on the Super Kamui who had 3 large teddy bears sitting on their tray tables looking out the window of the train. We are learning new things about Japanese culture each day.

The snow and ice sculptures were just incredible and there were lots of people about to enjoy the creations. Negotiating the icy walkways was challenging and probably more dangerous than any skiing we have done. We sought shelter from the freezing weather in a huge underground shopping centre. We had a meal and waited for nightfall so we could see the snow and ice sculptures under lights. It was worth the wait … check out the photos.

The ice sculptures looked even better at night

Furano ski festival

High energy drumming as the snow fell

Groundhog day on the slopes today – skiing doesn’t get any better than this. Very sad to say goodbye to Adam but he had to get back to work.

The annual Furano ski festival is on this weekend. A heavy dump of snow added atmosphere to the festivities. It started with people skiing down the mountain carrying fire torches. They made a neat “50” in the snow to signify the 50th anniversary of the Furano ski resort. The traditional Japanese drummers put on a spectacular performance in freezing, snowy conditions. A very funny sight was the Japanese Self Defence Force band performing in heavy snow. They are truly dedicated musicians and battled on regardless. The guitar player must have gotten frostbitten fingers and the tuba filled up with snow.

Not many Aussies about here and we are enjoying the more Japanese cultural experiences.

Very hardy army musicians performing at the Furano ski festival

Cruising the groomers in Furano

Father and son in sync on the perfectly groomed Furano snow

Fantastic day of skiing today. Some fresh snow fell last night and was groomed into perfect corduroy. The temps have stayed very low which is great for the snow quality but not so good for the frozen fingers. The photo above was taken around 10 am – notice anything missing? … other skiers. It is so good to ski on deserted runs and not have to queue for lifts.

It is snowing quite heavily outside at the moment so we should be in for another great day tomorrow. Adam is leaving us in the morning and returning to Niseko. It has been terrific to spend some time with him and to share the snow experience. He has another 2 months in Japan and I think he calls it work.

Furano

Adam and Cathy at the start of the world cup downhill course in Furano

Six hours in a bus to get here and there was snow all around us for the entire trip. I think the whole island of Hokkaido is blanketed in snow at this time of year. It was -20 when we left Niseko and it has now warmed up to a balmy -18.

Furano is quite a big town and is situated very close to the ski hill. Our host, Tim, took us into town last night to stock up on the usual groceries and grog. Our accommodation here is great – only 50m to the gondola. The best feature is a really deep Japanese style soaking bath … great to relax in after a day’s skiing.

The runs here are longer and steeper than Niseko. They hold world cup skiing events here. We skied over to the Prince hotel for coffee this morning. There is a 100 person cable car that gets you from the Prince to the top of the mountain in 5 minutes. The mountain is deserted except for a few groups of school kids … much quieter than Niseko.

100 person cable car with the town of Furano in the background

Last day in Niseko

Father and son enjoying a day on the mountain

We have been so lucky this trip with days of heavy snow and a couple of fine days. Once again an early start and some great skiing. The place is almost deserted now the Chinese New Year crowds have returned to work. Met up with Adam and had a ball exploring the mountain with him.

It’s going to be a bit sad leaving tomorrow after such a great week. We have a 6 hour bus trip to Furano – hopefully the weather will be kind and we can enjoy the scenery on the trip. Looking forward to visiting a part of Japan we have never been to before.

Yotei at dusk

Great views

Cathy on "parrot perch" chair with Yotei in background

Another great day in Niseko. We were lucky enough to get a few hours of blue sky and the views from mountain were stunning. We could see the ocean on both sides of us and Mt Yotei was the star of the day. After an early start, we cruised the mountain, taking lots of photos. The temperature was pretty low on the higher parts but the views made the trip worthwhile.

Skied a couple of top to bottom runs today so we are totally stuffed. A beer, a hot bath and a nana nap (in that order) are all that’s required to end a perfect day. Hopefully we’ll find the energy to go out for dinner tonight.

The view from the bottom of a run named "Yotei sunset" this morning

 

It’s back

Adam showing how it's done

After a brief respite from the continuous snowfall, we are back to normal once again. It started snowing yesterday afternoon and hasn’t stopped since. We skied with Adam today and he gave us a few tips to improve our skiing. I think all we really need is younger legs. I was tempted to try and keep up with him until Cathy slapped me around and reminded me of the pain I went through last year – lucky one of us has some common sense.

We had a long lunch in Hanazono 308  and it was great to just sit and listen to live music while watching the snow fall outside.

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