After a few fantastic days of powder skiing under sunny skies last week, the forecast for Hakuba began to look much more gloomy (rainy). Not yet ready to give up on winter snow, we made plans to head north to Hokkaido. After an early morning drive from Hakuba to the coast, we jumped on a car ferry headed for Japan’s Northern Island.
After landing on Hokkaido, we drove inland, straight for Furano and the Prince Hotel. Furano may be a small, sleepy ski hill; but the terrain offers enough to keep you interested, and the snow is top notch. The lifestyle at the Prince is on a different planet from the one I live on (Planet Dirtbag Ski Bum), with huge buffet breakfasts, incredibly comfortable beds, and a private onsen. In the local newspaper, you can find a deal that includes your room, ski pass, onsen, and free breakfast for 7500 yen (about $90 USD) per night. Japan may be an expensive country overall, but there are some things that can be found way cheaper here than in the US.
Hokkaido has earned the reputation of having some of the deepest, lightest, most consistent snow on earth. Thus far, it has not disappointed. The snow here is right on par with the lightest storm of the season anywhere in the lower 48, except it seems to happen everywhere and all the time here. It’s pretty strange to see snow that is practically unaffected by aspect and elevation – just as light after a day in the sun on a southern aspect as it was when it first fell from the sky.