Hokkaido to Hakuba

Greg Young and myself decided to have a week long sojourn to Honshu and the cheapest and most practical method of getting to the big mountains of Honshu from Hokkaido, with a lot of baggage, is the Otaru to Niigata ferry.

Niigata – Otaru Ferry

So we set off on Tuesday morning on a 19 hour adventure on an almost empty boat bound for Honshu.

Greg and Joel on Otaru – Niigata Ferry

We arrived at 6:00am in Niigata city and collected our Toyota rent-a-car, once the rental office opened, and made our way to Hakuba. Arriving about midday, we bought a one-ride ticket and made our way up for a short hike above the ski area and out onto the famed northern faces of Happo-one.

Happo One Ski Area

Braving the winds, which defied the forecasts and were very strong at ridge top, we made our way to about 2300metres above sea level and away from any tracks.

Greg hiking Happo Ridge

Amazingly, despite no significant snow in the last couple of days, there has been very little traffic on the upper northern faces of the ridge and most skier activity is constrained to the bowls directly out of the backcountry gate. Northern aspects skied great with boot to knee deep powder. Greg and I both commented on the quality compared to the recent conditions in Hokkaido and settled in for a long descent into the valley.

Greg & Happy One Kita
Joel skiing Happo One Kita
Greg & Happy One Kita
Joel Skiing Happo One Kita

The ski out of the north side of the Happo ridge is very scenic but also ominous experience as you are exposed to very large avalanche paths and masses of debris. This is not 100% terrain.

Greg & Happo Kita Exit

Down at the road, we had a quick onsen at the lovely little onsen, Obinata-no-Yu, and then grabbed a taxi to take us back to Happo. The weather won’t be as good tomorrow, but some big objectives to be had once some nice sunshine abounds.

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