Sure it is unexpected, living in a country below sea level, being a powder addict. How else would you describe someone who has spent 6 winters in the mountains and who is known outside the office as Juulski?
Together with my ski buddy and photographer Caroline, I have been traveling the world to ski the best powder. When we met 5 years ago on a Dutch avalanche course, we quickly realized we had the same dream: skiing powder, preferably every day. At that time we put our serious corporate careers on hold and started redefining our lives by becoming 'ski journalists' a self-created title: Caroline was the photographer, and I became the writer and rider. Since then our stories have been published in over 15 different countries and our pictures have been used in international marketing campaigns in Japan, Canada and the Netherlands. Even though we don’t ski full time anymore, for five weeks per year we still travel to the most exotic and adventurous places in the world! Our last adventure was in Japan, around Hokkaido, the north island of Japan.
Skiing in Japan is so much more than just world-class powder. It is a completely unfamiliar world, a country of idiosyncrasies with, for example vending machines selling beer, accessible to anyone and located in every imaginable location. It is a society that values personal responsibility and hard work, as well as modesty and a sense of solidarity. And it is also the best place in the world to ski powder! With an average of six days of snowfall a week, fifteen meters in a season lasting just 3.5 months, Japan is no game of roulette; it’s a guaranteed jackpot!
"With an average of six days of snowfall a week, fifteen meters in a season lasting just 3.5 months, Japan is no game of roulette; it’s a guaranteed jackpot!"
The Japanese all-you-can-ski buffet of unlimited powder is accompanied by some of the best food in the world! Whet your appetite with bowls of the most delicious, steaming hot udon noodles, fresh fish, green tea ice cream and sushi. Every meal is a true feast and looks as good as it tastes. No matter what your budget is, you will eat well as the Japanese hospitality is truly unique. It is embodied by the Japanese word ‘omotenashi’ meaning hospitality from the heart or the spirit of selfless hospitality. This spirit of service embodies everything from ensuring that the guests feel relaxed and happy, to the hosts’ polite attitude, genuine smiles and attention to detail. During our trip we noticed this unmatched hospitality and extreme eye for detail in many different ways. Don’t be surprised when you go to the toilet. You will need to wear special bright colored toilet slippers, the seat will be heated and music will automatically start to play once you sit down.
Being ski journalists we often get asked where to go in Hokkaido and which guide to ski with, so we have summarized our trip for you..
The town of Higashikawa is located in the centre of the Hokkaido Powder Belt: the powder Mecca of Japan consisting of seven different ski areas. Our Japanese guide Makoto Asakawa takes us for a three day all-you-can-ski buffet near the Daisetsuzan, Japan’s biggest national park known as “the playground of the gods”; the snow there is divine!
Asahidake is smoking hot: it is an active volcano (with 22 craters!) that we climmed with our guide Yasuhito Arata who took us right up to the 2 heavily smoking craters, looking straight into the smoking volcano.
The biggest resort of Central Hokkaido is Furano and our guide Hiroshi Etori takes us to one of his favorite lines, the west face of Furano. We drop in from the top and ski our steepest line of the trip of nearly 1000 vertical meters.
The next day starts with a snowmobile ride on a closed highway through 50cm of powder! Our guides Hiroyuki Fukuda and Kiko show us their secret spot outside Minamifurano where we don’t cross another skier or track all day.
Our trip ends on a high note with an epic karaoke session joined by our new friends Shigeo and Tohru, our ice fishing guide who had the patience to teach us how to fish, Japanese style: while drink hot coco in his heated hut! For more general information on Japan, have a look on the site of the Japanese National Tourism Organisation