Week 4 - Spring - Sprung
There were only the two of us on my final week. Three others had gone elsewhere on Honshu whilst others had returned home.
Peter and I were wondering what was going to be front us next. A comfortable few hours of riding buses got us to our final destination in broad sunlight. It was an impressive ride from sea level to the resort from where you could look straight out to sea – a little like Mt Hutt NZ in that respect. That’s where any resemblance to NZ ended. This resort is all within tree line. Only the very tips of the highest surrounding peaks were above the tree line.
The interesting thing about “tree line” was that on the upper levels the trees are “snow ghosts” (North American term) or locally know as “snow monsters”. These pine trees encased in snow take on the most peculiar shapes and in whiteout conditions are practically impossible to see and they hurt if you hit one.
Day one was almost total whiteout but we had a guide. Simon, originally from Miami has quite a reputation in the area and, as far as I could tell, is the only non-Japanese guide on the mountain. Language was not a problem. Avalanche danger was reasonably high so caution was the name of the game.
The next 6 days were spent almost totally in sunshine, without any fresh snowfalls and this meant “back country” was the go.
The snow pack was over 4 metres deep and it was up to Simon to find the untracked and best quality powder. The skins were in use every day. The other option was snowshoes. The CamelBak was filled and emptied every day as we climbed the peaks beyond the top of the cable car and then skied and boarded up to 7 kms back to a road where we would be picked up and driven back to the resort. Sometimes this drive could take 15-20 minutes, giving you some idea of how far we had traveled over the back of the mountains.
We had fresh tracks every day, but as you would expect in so much sunshine, the quality went off as the week progressed. The views were spectacular and the expanse of the slopes enormous. Just as well, because there were a lot of other skiers and boarders doing what we were doing. There were other westerners amongst the numbers but mostly non-Australians. This place has quite a reputation in Japan and overseas for back country riding.
On my last day the weather eventually turned. It began snowing heavily and strong winds closed all lifts by lunchtime. We had one shorter run in the morning in poor conditions and even had a little wind-loaded avalanche episode to get the adrenalin pumping.
My accommodation was great. I had my own suite and bathroom. The food was fantastic food and the hosts and staff were extremely friendly and helpful. My only negative comment would be the lack of hot water pressure on the top floor but I quickly adapted from having showers to filling my private bath and having a long soak at the end of each day.
You are wondering what the skiing and boarding was like? Time to go to the next ...