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  • Writer's pictureRyan Taylor

Kurodake Ski Area & Backcountry

Updated: Oct 13, 2019

Kurodake translates to black peak. A large, razor-backed mountain in the north end of Daisetsuzan National Park. Like the nearby Asahidake, this peak and the surrounding area receives a huge amount of snow. It receives so much snow that the ski area is officially closed in winter due to the harsh weather. It provides the best access to steep terrain than any other ski area in Hokkaido.

Kurodake backcountry guiding with Furano Adventure Tours.
An absolute dream for the expert backcountry skier. Shhh... don't tell too many people please.

Depending on conditions, the ski field is open from November. During Jan - Feb the ski field/ chairlift closes but the ropeway may continue to run. The ropeway was closed last winter due to 'maintenance'. In the spring, the chairlift opens again once the weather improves. The Kurodake ropeway takes you from Sounkyo village, up over steep, treed terrain and tops out in the mellow mid-mountain. From here, the chairlift climbs 200 vertical meters towards the summit.

Kurodake summit backcountry guiding.
The 1984m Kurodake. A bipolar mountain with a calm, mellow side and some seriously steep terrain too!

The village of Sounkyo below has many natural onsens/ hotsprings with large hotels built around them. Sounkyo is a quiet town and there isn't a lot going on here. It is a destination that is mostly popular with summer tourists who come for the site seeing and hiking. This area also attracts climbers in both seasons for rock and ice climbing.

Kurodake river
Kurodake gorge. Hotsprings deposit colorful minerals in the riverbed.

Kurodake can be guided on request as a day trip from Furano. It is a much shorter drive from Asahikawa so this destination would fit best into a backcountry road trip based from there. Alternatively, we could actually stay in Sounkyo if you are interested in multiple days or spending more time exploring the fantastic backcountry skiing in the area. This is a great area to explore in the spring when other regions are getting too warm.

Kurodake alpine backcountry skiing.
Kamikawadake. Viewed from the ski area.

Above the chair is the summit of Kurodake, a sparsely treed face and gully that is exceptional in the right conditions. Much like Asahidake, the upper slopes can be wind scoured and firm until spring. The valleys either side of Kurodake offer amazing alpine powder skiing but it is difficult to catch it in both good weather and stable avalanche conditions. - This terrain has killed/ buried many people. Near the chair lift there is plenty of mellow tree skiing.

Kamikawadake north ridge gullies.
Kamikawadake north ridge gullies.

Below the chairlift, the terrain quickly steepens as you ski down under the ropeway. If you don't like steep tree skiing then you can ride the ropeway back down. Under the ropeway, the terrain is north facing and can hold a lot of deep snow. Be careful down here during and after big storms as it is steep enough for avalanches to run in the trees. If you go too far left or right you will find large, sudden cliffs. Having a GPS is ideal because as with most backcountry skiing in Hokkaido, it is tricky to navigate in the trees without visible landmarks.

There are steep, skiable lines through the cliffs but taking the wrong line could lead to serious problems. The entire skier's left side of the ski area drops away very sharply into the gorge and I wouldn't recommend venturing down there without a knowledgeable guide. Some of the lines look like they go from the top but cliff out half way down. At most ski areas in Hokkaido, the terrain is forgiving but at Kurodake you need to be very careful.

A steep gully typical of Kurodake, before we pulled over to let the avalanche chasing us pass us by..

Being a 2.5 hour drive from Furano, Kurodake is often very quiet. A great place to go for a high chance of finding deep conditions and few people. A location with a wild feel that refreshes my soul on every visit.

Get in touch for Kurodake guiding and ski touring in the area. I can guide the steeper terrain here if I can verify that you are competent i.e. as a part of a multi-day trip where I get to see you ski elsewhere 1st!



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