In thousands of places across Japan, rivers heated by volcanic activity spill into beautiful rock-lined hot springs, known as onsen.
Hakuginso Onsen is one of many located along the edges of Daisetsuzan National Park and the Tokachi mountain range, among the tallest peaks in Hokkaido. The picturesque lodge, built to house the onsen, also provides access to some of the best backcountry skiing on the island—literally right out the front door.
Four days in Furano have treated us well. Though the skiing was lacking in comparison to Rusutsu, it was well made up for in food. Days centered around sushi, pastries, and hot drinks proved quite enjoyable. And we did manage a trip up nearby Asahidake, thanks to a chain of emails and two American expats, for the deepest turns of the trip so far.
Tomorrow we are bound for six days of backcountry skiing and soaking at an onsen (hot-spring) on Tokachidake, an active volcano across the valley.
If we had to describe Rusutsu in one word it would most definitely be “snowy.” It seemed to fall almost constantly here—big fat flakes, tiny wind-driven needles, fluffy swirling snow. In fact, there were probably only a few hours in each day when it didn’t snow.
Skiing in Japan is everything we expected it to be, and then some. Unbelievably deep snow, perfectly spaced birch trees, pillows, and no one here to ski it. This is a quick one teaser from our first day at Rusutsu…taken at 2pm.
After more than a year of planning, endless last-minute errands, and a few midnight meltdowns, we arrived in Japan this morning.
Our first impression after stepping off the plane in Tokyo: Japan is incredibly clean and welcoming, the people are super friendly, and the signage is awesome. We were able to find our way through customs and onto a shuttle bus to catch a tight connection with no problem. Imagine trying to navigate New York’s LaGuardia (worst airport ever?) as a foreign tourist! We could barely figure it out ourselves during our layover there.
Between Vermont and Japan, we stopped in Seattle for five days, seeing some good friends and taking an avalanche course through Mountain Madness. We spent two full days at Steven’s Pass, learning to use our avalanche gear, choose terrain wisely and look for instability in the snowpack. I wouldn’t say we feel totally confident in our abilities to determine whether or not a slope is safe, but I think we learned to be a lot more cautious and deliberate in our decisions.
The flight from Seattle to L.A. to Tokyo made for the longest night we’ve ever seen, since we were running away from the sun the entire time. It finally rose as we were leaving Tokyo, ending our 20 hours of darkness in the Land of the Rising Sun.