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How to get into backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Hokkaido

If you’re coming to Hokkaido to experience some of the best powder Japan has to offer, you'll eventually start thinking about wanting to ski off-piste. Resorts like Niseko or Furano are well known for their copious amounts of tree runs, which offer plenty of great powder given the sheer quantity of snowfall during the season. However, if you're looking to push the (resort) boundaries, sidecountry and backcountry riding is where you'll find real untouched, pristine powder runs that you see all over social media. This is what the locals chase all winter.

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How to get into backcountry

There’s generally two ways to go about experiencing backcountry riding here in Japan: search and discover fresh snow by yourself (which can be dangerous), or book a guided tour and have a professional show you the hot spots (and ways to stay safe).

If you're new to backcountry, we highly recommend booking in with a local free-riding and touring specialist, such as Summit Ski School & Guiding who focus on bridging the gap between instructing and guiding. Their services provide an unparalleled experience for skiers of all levels. Their team of professional and experienced instructors will guide you through the snowy mountains of Japan, giving you the opportunity to explore some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

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Summit Japan have a base in Fenix West

Summit's team of guides stationed at Niseko and Furano are all qualified instructors, meaning they can give an introduction to backcountry riding for those who've only ridden inside resort boundaries. If you haven’t skied in Japan before, it’s likely you haven’t experienced the sheer quantity of powder there is here. It requires a totally different approach to riding groomers and having an expert by your side is going to really help you adapt, overcome and improve.

If you want to push yourself to the next level, this is certainly the way to do it. Not only this, but their team are able to teach and share knowledge regarding the safety of yourself and others while riding in un-patrolled areas. Avalanches are always a risk when riding in these areas, so having an understanding of how to spot and mitigate potential risks, what to look for and how to properly use avalanche equipment is fundamental.

It also means they can cater to experts hunting for untouched powder with no time to waste during their stay. With years of local knowledge under the team's belt, Summit are sure to make your riding experience in Hokkaido memorable. They specialize in the Niseko and Furano ski areas and will show you the powder hot spots that you wouldn’t normally discover by yourself. You’ll be shown some of the hidden gems found in Daizetsuzan, Asahidake and other local mountain ranges that are extremely popular among backcountry enthusiasts.

Their expert team will make sure you have a memorable experience filled with untouched powder, keep you aware and safe while outside of resort boundaries and teach you a wealth of knowledge that is paramount to successfully riding backcountry.

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Rental equipment hire

If a personal guide isn’t for you, but you still want to experience some back or side country action, you can rent or purchase avalanche equipment or specialist touring gear like their OGSO range, of which they are the sole distributor in Japan.

NISADE team member Maxime had the chance to take out their OGSO Schwarztor 100 SR UL skis, which are designed specifically for deep powder that you'd normally find off-piste here in Japan. Their super lightweight design allows the rider to float above the snow due to the long, high nose meaning that weight can be moved to allow for better control and comfort.

Private ski lessons

With their head office conveniently based in Fenix West, Furano, you can also book private ski lessons out on the Kitanomine Gondola or around the Furano's other ski areas. Visit our Guest Services page or contact us to book.

With their head office conveniently based in Fenix West, Furano, you can also book private ski lessons out on the Kitanomine Gondola or around the Furano ski resort. Visit our activity page for more details.

Blaize Kelly

Blaize Kelly

Blaize is a photographer and content creator from Australia, having worked for our team during the 22/23 winter season. He has an extensive knowledge of the Niseko area, frequently visiting to enjoy the world-famous powder snow.

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