Powder in Japan – Martin
What a great experience with Epique (Michiel & Rik) in Hokkaido. Skiing on a completely different continent, landscape and culture. After a positive experience with Epique guide Sale, in 2017, it was clear, I want such an experience again. When Michiel invited me to the Epique office, we looked together at which trips match my wishes, but also especially my own abilities.
After this conversation, the Japan trip was especially lingering. Not as expensive as Helicopter skiing, a special location, and especially lift-access freeride (walk up yourself, why would you want that???). After some asking around within the group of friends unfortunately found no one with the time or resources to go along. But when it’s the middle of summer and all you can think about is; skiing in Japan. Then don’t let that stop you. In the end, I chose to go alone. Epique then brought together a nice group. Different backgrounds, ages but all with the same level and goal.
In Niseko a beautiful house was rented which was our base for the week. With two 4×4 vans we had a lot of flexibility to go where we wanted. Having your own house instead of a hotel gave the opportunity to spend the end of the day on the couch with a nice beer. Instead of being locked in your own room. From our central location we had the opportunity to go to different areas every day, wherever the conditions seemed best at the time. These plans were always discussed with the group the night before and the next morning at breakfast the decision was made and we crashed again with our 2 vans behind each other between the snow walls.
The preference was for lift-access freeride, but if necessary, the skins underneath or the skis would go on the back for a while. The days that it had snowed at night, we had a great time with the elevator. But the days that wasn’t the case, they still had to run for first tracks. In this way, the entire group gained experience with ski touring for the first time. You sweat a lot to get up, but how cool! Still a great feeling to be on top. Of course especially to be able to go down first track after that walk. Ski touring has really opened up a new world for me. Not only by getting the group touring, but also in the terrain, Michiel knows how to get you just out of your comfort zone in a very pleasant way and thereby improve yourself.
The cuisine and culture in Japan is also an experience in itself. Noodles for lunch, apres ski in the onsen (hot springs), and Nabe with king crab for dinner. Every night we visited different restaurants to try everything Japanese cuisine had to offer. My personal favorite is the teppanyaki with our own chef in a private dining room in Saporro.
Epique’s guidance before, during and after the trip was top notch. In the beginning I was a bit nervous, going skiing off the slopes with a group of strangers on the other side of the world. But the introduction & information evening beforehand gives a good feeling. That way you know better what you’re getting into, and with whom. During the trip, sufficient attention is also paid to safety and individual wishes. This made it a great week for everyone.
I will definitely go back to Japan, if only for Mount Yotei. But for now, first train well to go ski touring with Epique next winter.