Untracked Deep Powder For A Week.

Appi Kogen is a self-contained resort in northern Honshu.

Casting aside the duvet and, with a flourish, we spread the curtains wide to greet a new day, a new location, a place of considerable legend.

Here the tall Japanese Black Pines punctuate the landscape between the tall buildings of our hotel in this place almost three quarters of the way up the island of Honshu.

Appi Kogen is one of Japan’s best ski resorts. The resort’s tagline: “Be Happy in Appi”, of course.

We have arrived by road to Appi Kogen, almost taking a whole day to do so. This road trip was tedious, attributed to a slow traffic jam and, paradoxically, the most exciting bus trip we could ever conceive.  Our bus driver, growing weary and ever more frustrated by the constant traffic jam, decided a different route was needed. The existence of a little used forest track was discovered—a forest track at times covered in deep virgin powder snow.

Our driver revealed quite a level of skill when required to navigate slippery and often poorly delineated tracks through the forest. Our driver and his co-driver were engaged in constant discussion as to how to proceed when fast acceleration was required. It was best alpine driving we are ever likely to witness. Although I well remember being in a taxi going up a hill from St. Anton to Lech in Austria where our driver exclaimed in strong language his scorn for the slippery steep slope and the driver of a Mercedes that halted his progress. Then, sliding backwards down a considerable slope completely at ease with his dilemma, he just reversed to a lower slope where he could gain some traction and move forward back up the steep narrow slope.

Back to Japan. Our trip, a long, long ten-hour drive by bus, one we hired  at Lodge Scolé at Zao Onsen Ski Resort to take us to Appi Kogen. Zao was a place of big tree runs and Snow Monsters. Traveling plans were adjusted for what we thought would be just a four-hour trip up the main island of Honshu.

A huge snowstorm of cold air from across the Sea of Japan unloaded across the north.  Our movement down the road now so slow at one point we left the bus to obey a nature call at a rest stop. We visited said rest stop and purchased takeaway lunch before returning to find the bus only 80 meters further down the road.

Appi Kogen is not far from the East Coast where those winter winds suck up the moisture from Sea of Japan and dump when they hit the land mass around Appi. Indeed this is often the case along the whole coastline particularly in the North where we are now.

It is another skiing day, a day not quite like we have experienced before above the snow line. Although I recall a day in Lech where we skied in snow so deep the only reveal of me deep in this fine dry powder is the top of my ski helmet.

Appi Kogen is very similar to this as is much of Japan in winter where it will often snow down to the beach and cover the sand.

Light fog at the top of the gondola leads to fields of deep powder.

After a couple of runs down medium steep slopes on the front side, we decide to venture as far out as we can to the most outer edge of the ski resort. We are at the topmost point on a black run now with powder so deep and almost un-skied, the day still early. We set an easy pace to get some rhythm in to our legs and balance in the fine powder. The visibility is ok but a little foggy. Japan is like this in winter because the cold is only -2 C (28 F) or at most -8 C (18 F), this knowledge gathered over many previous visits.

As we proceed down the slope, it is obvious the area has not been skied today or even possibly this last week. The slope is lined with trees mostly beech, so definition of the journey down is easy in the slight fog. As we near the end of this trail, the skiing gets flatter and, after 900 meters, we arrive at the gondola. It will surprise you to discover we skied all day down that one slope in fresh powder. Would you be further surprised to learn we skied that same slope for a whole week with no change to the perfect powder? Well, it amazed us to discover that many Japanese don’t like ungroomed snow. When you learn to ski in Australia. the quality of snow is mostly hard pack ice. There, the day temperature around -1C  (30 F) to 1C (34 F) and then freezing overnight: result, ice. So we are very lucky in Oz if we ever experience powder. At Appi Kogen, we have never experienced such perfect conditions for skiing for one whole week .

Be adventurous if you dare. Take a trip soon you will find the country very rewarding in so many ways.

Appi K: 70 percent of runs are intermediate or “easy”.

For a more extensive report in Appi Kogen, click here.

2 Comments

  1. Here in the US we have a govt body named the CDC which has recommended “no unnecessary travel”. Some in the states have taken this to heart and others act as if nothing is a going on and seam to think that since they have lots of money they can do as they please. Well, they can do as they please. but we who think more holistically, respect science, and are team players in the nation and world have decided to ski locally, if possible, and not at all if not possible.

    I have heard many times this winter (year) from friends who say they have that feeling they had in high school when they performed a group project, did all the work on the project, and others in the group got the grade for doing little to nothing on the project. I think the term they used is “freeloader”.

  2. Patti Farkas says:

    Oh, was this trip to Japan made this year when everyone is supposed to be at home hiding under the bed? I didn’t see any date on the article.

    From a Freeloader

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