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  • Writer's pictureRyan Taylor

Asahidake Backcountry Skiing

Updated: Jul 23, 2019

Asahidake in March, perfect conditions for skiing the crater
Asahidake in March, perfect conditions for skiing the crater.

The summit and crater of Asahidake, viewed from the backcountry.
Asahidake on a rare, clear winter day. Windscoured up high but fantastic in the trees.

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.

sunset from the top of the Asahidake ropeway
sunset from the top of the ropeway

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.

Asahidake crater skimountaineering lines.
Epic conditions in mid-March. There are many entry points for getting into the crater.

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.

Asahidake crater fumaroles. Volcanic vents
The fumaroles in Asahidake's crater are very active!

Here are some photos from an epic day, skiing from the summit down into the trees:

Asahidake volcano skiing
Ryan en route to the ridge. We were able to tour 1/3 of the way up before bootpacking.

Asahidake summit.
Views from the summit of Asahidake! おめでとうございます!

Asahidake ski descent
Smiles all round after a successful descent of the highest peak in Hokkaido!

Asahidake ski touring.
Exploring the open landscapes of the Asahidake backcountry.

Asahidake wilderness backcountry skiing
Searching for steeper slopes in the Asahidake wilderness.

Asahidake powder skiing with a guide
We found our line, many options and all untracked, despite the ski area being busy.

ski touring at Asahidake
Such an awesome team from New Zealand. Skins on for the final tour back to the car.

Asahidake backcountry powder skiing
Even though it was busy in the ski area, the backcountry was very quiet. Thanks guys!

Get in touch if you are interested in being guided in the Asahidake backcountry.



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