Legendary Powder

Japow

Ski the Land of the Rising Sun

Now Booking 2025

2025 // Jan 8-18 (Niigata/Myoko/Hakuba – JP25-1) 8 SPOTS LEFT / Jan 19-29 (Hokkaido: Niseka/Furano – JP25-2) SOLD OUT

Japan has formed a legendary reputation for deep powder skiing in early winter. The saying “Don’t Leave Powder to Find Powder” is common in western Canada – why leave Canada when we have the best skiing in the world? Well, Japan is a strong contender, and when you add the incredible cultural experience to the mix it rises to the top of any serious skier’s bucket list.

In 2025 we are offering two Japan ski trips: JP25-1 starts in Yuzawa, a short train ride north of Tokyo, and finishes in Hakuba town. JP25-2 starts and finishes at New Chitose airport and explores the iconic Niseko zone and finishes in Furano.  Take your pick! Or, if you can’t decide between the two, join us for both!

One of the side-effects of the strong popularity of skiing in Japan has been the erosion of the cultural experience. Hearing complaints of “I was skiing tracks with a bunch of Australians” I decided to seek the advice of Japan-born Whistler-based Jun Yanagisawa. I met Jun heli-skiing in northern BC and immediately admired his gracious Japanese manners, sense of humour, and powerful elegant ski technique. Born and raised in Tokyo, Jun was an avid skier from childhood.  In search of wilderness, Jun eventually immigrated to Whistler, British Columbia where he has worked for close to 30 years in the ski and tourism industry, moving between his native Japan and western Canada’s heli- and ski-touring.

A couple of years ago I said to Jun, “Let’s do a Japan trip together, but let’s see some weird funky Japanese culture!” Jun said, “Leave it to me Tom-san!”

video by Zev Heuer 2018
blank

In January of 2020 I ran a trip along with Jun in the Land of the Rising Sun. With a group of 15, including my wife and two kids, and a bunch of my favourite long-time clients, we based out of the town of Echigo-Yuzawa. Yuzawa did not disappoint. The Minshuku (hostel with onsen) we stayed in, Densuke, was the real deal — sleeping on futons in a room lined with grass tatami mats, with cozy Kotatsus to warm you to the bones after a chilly day on the slopes. In fact we were the very first western / Caucasian clients the Denuske has ever hosted in over 40 years of operation! The town is filled with fantastic authentic Japanese restaurants: sushi, ramen, izakay, yakatori, tempura, tonkatsu — you name it, there’s a tiny cozy restaurant that serves it. One of the highlights was walking to the train station for a visit to the “Sake Tasting Shop”. With coin-operated sake dispensers, 500 Yen (about $5 USD) will get you 5 shots of the best sake in Japan. In fact, Yuzawa is famous for its rice and sake industries.

But we came for the skiing, didn’t we? The ski hills we visited had amazing skiing and were the epitomy of quirky. Japan actually has the most ski hills by area of any other country in the world — over 350 of them! With the lull in the Japanese economy after the 80s recession, many of them have never quite recovered and consequently are relatively empty of skiers. A bad thing for the ski business, but great for skiers as lineups are short and the powder is plentiful.

One of the quirkiest has to be Tenjindaira. You get there via the local Joetsu Line local train which stops at Doai Station. Doai station has the distinction of being one of the deepest train stations in the world, the northbound line requiring you to walk down (fortunately not up) 486 steps into the bowls of Mount Tanigawanike — a surreal experience to say the least and a highlight of our trip strangely enough. Tenjindaira is famous for its steep off-piste skiing: a kilometer-long ridge of steep trees takes you 450 m down into the valley to reconnect with a gondola station that could have been a set for The Twilight Zone. Tenjindaira is also known for the mountain that looms overhead, Mt. Tanigawanike. We climbed it only to find out later on that it has the reputation for being the “Most Dangerous Mountain in the World”! Actually, the fact that it’s claimed over 800 lives has more to do with its proximity to Tokyo and the dangerously loose rock on the opposite side of the mountain. It is, in fact, a gentle, enjoyable ski peak from the top of the chairlift on the Tenjindaira side!

In 2025 we are offering two separate itineraries — join us for one or, why not, both of them! One is based in the Niigata/Myoko/Hakuba areas of Honshu, north of Tokyo, where the skiing is steep and varied. The second is based on Hokkaido, famous for its beautiful powder skiing. You can’t go wrong witih either one!

DSC06814

2025 Proposed Itineraries

JP25-1 Jan 8-18 (11 days)

Jan 8: Konichiwa, welcome to Japan! Arrival day on the island of Honshu. The trip begins at an authentic ryokan (inn with an onsen/hot spring) in Yuzawa, which is 80-90 minutes by bullet train north of Tokyo station. Our ryokan will be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from Echigo-Yuzawa train station.

Jan 9-11: Skiing around Yuzawa, a really funky Japanese town with very minimal western influence and a lot of great restaurants and close to epic old school Niigata ski resorts with steep tree and big mountain skiing in addition to classic JaPOW.

Jan 12-14: Myoko National Park. We’ll stay and a quirky yet elegant ski lodge in this classic powder ski zone.

Jan 15-18: Hakuba Town. We’re staying at a classic backcountry ski lodge just north of town.

Jan 18: The trip ends with a shuttle to the train station!

JP25-2 Jan 19-29 (11 days)

Jan 19: Konichiwa, welcome to Japan! Arrival day on the island of Hokkaido. The trip begins at the New Chitose airport where a shuttle bus will pick you up and transport you to Niseko.

Jan 23-27: Skiing in the Furano area, we will stay in the town of Furano for a few days and finish off the trip at a high mountain ryokan (inn with onsen).

Jan 28: The trip ends with transport back to New Chitose airport.

What’s included:
10 nights of accommodations with two meals/day, except in Yuzawa (JP25-1 / Honshu) and Furano (JP25-2 / Hokkaido)
All necessary transportation from the trip start to the trip end
Guiding fees
Taxes on above items

What not included:
International and domestic flights
Lift tickets
Transport to trip start and from trip end locations (JP25-1: starts in Yuzawa, finishes in Haukba Town; JP25-2: starts and finishes at New Chitose airport)
Lunches
Beverages
Personal expenses

Getting to Japan

JP25-1: It’s an adventure but not too tricky. We recommend flying to Haneda airport since it’s more conveniently located to downtown Tokyo and access to the bullet train (Shinkansen), etc. But you can get a direct flight from your home/hub airport to Narita (e.g. San Diego) that is a great option to consider since Narita only adds 45 mins to an hour of travel time locally. We will be meeting at our hotel on the evening of Day 1 — walking distance or short taxi ride from Echigo-Yuzawa Station which is reached in about 80 minutes by Shinkansen from Tokyo Station.

To make life easy for yourself while travelling by train you can ship your baggage by courier to the hotel. We will be in touch with details on how to do this.

JP25-2: We’ll pick you up at New Chitose airport and transport you to Niseko. Easy.

Getting home

JP25-1: Trains from Hakuba town on Jan 18 brings you in about 4 hrs to Haneda station. Again, you can get your gear shipped via courier and pick it up at the airport.

JP25-2: We’ll drop you off at New Chitose airport. Easy.

JaPOW Equipment List

PACKING NOTES

You need to bring all of the following personal equipment. Please don’t bring extra equipment. If you have any questions at all about gear please do not hesitate to contact us.

CLOTHING
  • Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
  • Long underwear top – synthetic or wool
  • Light fleece or wool sweater
  • Wind shell – nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
  • Waterproof breathable jacket
  • Warm insulated jacket – down or synthetic
  • Long underwear bottoms – synthetic or wool
  • Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
  • Waterproof breathable pants
  • Warm hat – wool or synthetic
  • Brimmed cap for sun protection
  • Face warmer – scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
  • Light gloves – wool, synthetic or leather
  • Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
  • Spare gloves or mitts
  • Handkerchief for blocking the sun (optional)
SNOW SAFETY EQUIPMENT
  • Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
  • Shovel
  • Probe (2.8 m or longer preferred)
TRAVEL EQUIPMENT
  • Skis (100 to 125 mm in the waist recommended) or split board (a powder board of course!)
  • Ski strap
  • Ski or snowboard boots
  • Poles
  • Climbing skins
  • Skin wax (or a candle)
  • Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup
  • Ski helmet (optional)
PERSONAL EQUIPMENT
  • Pack (25-30 litres will work fine, but you’ll want something larger for getting to the Wada Goya mountain hut)
  • Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
  • Goggles (orange lenses)
  • Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
  • Head lamp with good batteries
  • Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
  • Lunch bag or container
  • Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed/Second Skin blister pads)
  • Pocket knife (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Prussik cord – 5m x 6mm (optional, for contributing to emergency toboggan construction)
APRES SKI, HOTEL/RYOKAN, ETC.
  • Duffle bag to contain your clothes in your room
  • A larger backpack to get to the Wada Goya mountain hut (e.g. 40-45 L)
  • Shoes
  • Comfortable clothing for travel as well as some nice clothes to wear to the restaurants
  • Personal medications and toiletries
  • Ear plugs
  • Reading material
  • Chargers & adapters for electronic devices (Japan AC power is 100V and should work to power your device chargers, see this page for details)
  • You should have some Japanese yen in cash in advance or exchange maybe 20,000 yen or so at the airport as there are still many places that a credit cards are not accepted in Japan.
NOTE THE FOLLOWING ARE PROVIDED:
  • Pillows, duvets, bed linen and towels supplied at the Ryokans and hotels
  • Slippers at the Ryokans are available
GROUP GEAR (SUPPLIED BY THE GUIDES)
  • Altimeter
  • Map and compass
  • GPS
  • Snow study kit
  • Snow and/or bush saw
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency tarp
  • Emergency toboggan
  • Group repair kit
  • Radio & satellite phone
Print it

Snowpack and Climate

Expect a LOT of snow and mild temperatures in the negative single digits Celsius.

Our JaPOW trip provides options for both Classic and Relaxed paced groups.

  • Expect mostly pure backcountry skiing, with the addition of lift-accessed touring to alpine and treed ski runs as well as inbound skiing on the deepest JaPOW days when the backcountry hazard is high
  • Tours range from near sea level (ca 200 m ASL) to 1200+ m ASL
  • Touring days are up to 8 hours and often there will be options for early return. Total vertical can really pile up if we use lifts to get bumped back up into the alpine
  • Non-glaciated terrain
  • Easy ski mountaineering (bootpacking, etc.)
  • Steep tree skiing
  • Deep powder skiing

Staff

Photos of our staff can be found on our Guides and Partners page.

Tom Wolfe (Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA) has been guiding since moving to Canmore in 1995, the place he calls home with wife, son and daughter. He guides year around, with winters being a mix of ski guiding at lodges, heli-ski operations, and remote backcountry destinations throughout western Canada.

Conrad Janzen (Mountain Guide IFMGA/ACMG) – Conrad started climbing and skiing in 1994 on a Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Semester in Canmore, Alberta. Following this he attended the University of Calgary, graduating with a Degree in Kinesiology and a Minor in Outdoor Pursuits in 1999. Conrad has been guiding climbing, skiing and paddling trips since 1997 throughout the mountain regions of Alberta and British Columbia, into the Yukon and Northwest Territories, and occasionally guiding international trips as well. In addition to setting up private guiding adventures for individuals and groups, Conrad has guided for a variety of outdoor companies including Canadian Mountain Holidays , Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, and the Alpine Club of Canada. He is also part of the Parks Canada Visitor Safety team in who create daily avalanche hazard bulletins, carry out highway avalanche control, and provide the mountain rescue services in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.

Satoshi Kawano – born and raised in the Powder Belt of Niseko, Japan, Satoshi will join us as our local fixer and driver for JP25-1

Aaron Bryant – A Canmore native, Aaron is working his way through his ACMG ski guide courses and will join us as an assistant and driver for JP25-2.

Do you have a question not answered on this page? Please contact us!

Our standard booking conditions apply. Please read our Payment & Booking Conditions fine print carefully.

DATES: 2025 // Jan 8-18 (JP25-1); Jan 19-29 (JP25-2) SOLD OUT – subject to change

PRICE: 2025 // $4950 CAD ($3850 USD)

PAYMENT SCHEDULE: 50% deposit secures your booking; 100% due October 8, 2024.