Asahidake Backcountry Skiing
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Asahidake is the highest peak in Hokkaido at 2291m. An active volcano with a ropeway that provides access to the crater and surrounding wilderness. There are many hotels and onsens here. The ski area is quite flat, but it can be fun if you know how to link the short, steep pitches. Asahidake is famous for receiving around 15m of snow a year.
Although there are groomed courses here, it is important to realize that this is not a patrolled ski area. It is all technically backcountry the moment you step off the ropeway. Strong winds and epic amounts of snowfall can create dangerous avalanche conditions and there is no official avalanche forecast. The rolling terrain can be very disorientating, especially in poor visibility.
The ropeway gets you from the carpark at 1100m to above treeline at 1600m. Only with cash, you can pay for a day pass or a single ride ticket if you are going touring.
If you want to ski into the crater from the summit of Asahidake, the best time for it is late-Feb and March. During this time the warm spring snow sticks better to the exposed slopes and the weather is usually more stable. Skiing down into the crater and around the steaming vents is a fantastic experience for advanced skiers and boarders.
In the winter months, the crater is usually very firm and but conditions down in the trees can be incredible. When guiding in winter, I usually avoid the summit and hunt for the deep powder that this place is famous for. If busy, I will go touring to avoid waiting in line and the disadvantage of having only one way up.
Skiing the Asahidake Crater
From the top of the ropeway, it is a straight forward ascent past the volcanic vents and up the lookers right W ridge. The ridge is usually icy so crampons are a good idea, especially for snowboarders. Getting down can be scary if you are inexperienced and conditions are firm.
I have skied off the summit several times, preferring March. If you are super keen and want to guarantee 1st tracks into the crater, or a sunrise climb, you can tour up the groomed course before the ropeway opens. When alone, I enjoy starting from the carpark for more of a challenge and better conditions.
The fumaroles in the crater are an easy tour from the top of the ropeway and have become a popular attraction. On a clear day you might see crowds of people standing next them. It is fascinating but not necessarily safe. A ski descent of the crater will funnel you past the fumaroles and back to the ropeway.
Here are some photos from an epic day, skiing from the summit down into the trees:
Get in touch if you are interested in being guided in the Asahidake backcountry.