Backcountry Skiing in Japan - Daisetsuzan Mountains


9 days


18+ yrs



See Dates

Japan’s Hokkaido island is home to one of the world's deepest snowpacks. Combined with steep terrain common on volcanic islands, Hokkaido is a playground that is becoming legendary among backcountry winter enthusiasts worldwide. Join NOLS alumni, friends and family on this incredible trip to the Daisetsuzan Mountains on Hokkaido for world class powder, unspoiled backcountry, and to enjoy some of Japan’s best cultural traditions.

Photo Credit: Johnathan Mowlavi

This trip is not for beginners. Skiers/Boarders who are advanced, proficient in powder, and have avalanche training will likely enjoy this trip the most. While we might use lifts on a couple of days to gain access to the mountains, participants will need to be in good shape to spend many hours skinning up hills and skiing/boarding in deep powder. The reward of a downhill run is well worth the effort and days often end with a Japanese onsen (hot thermal bath).

Photo Credit: Sophie Hartshorn

The trip begins in Furano. We will meet up for an orientation, avalanche review day, and spend our first couple days on the exceptional slopes that rise above this quaint town.

Photo Credit: Johnathan Mowlavi

Next, we will continue north into the Daisetsuzan Mountain range that clusters around the Ohachi-Daira caldera in the center of Hokkaido. Our first stop is Tokachidake.

Photo Credit: Dylan Hatch

Traveling around Hokkaido presents ample opportunities to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture. Over the centuries Hokkaido has had a relatively low population density compared to the rest of Japan. The island is more rural, farming and fishing are Hokkaido’s biggest economies. We will have the chance to dine on fresh, local seafood, specialty ramen and soba noodle dishes, different types of crab, and local dairy products.

Photo Credit: Zeno Wicks

Staying in ryokans and onsens (traditional Japanese inns) will also immerse us in Japanese culture. At ryokans, we will enjoy fantastic meals prepared in house while dining in the traditional style. Be warned, these accommodations are comfortable by Japanese standards but rooms are small and simple tatami mats are common.

Onsens are inns that include geothermal baths that are said to have healing properties. A relaxing soak at the end of a long day and plenty of rest will aid our recovery and keep us going over this 7 day adventure.

Photo Credit: Melissa Kohl 

From Tokachidake we will make our way to Kurodake. On average, we can expect daytime temps ranging between 5 and 15 degrees fahrenheit. In winter, central Hokkaido is the coldest region in Japan, but we will warm up fairly quickly moving uphill. Most days we will spend about 6 hours on the snow, skinning up and carving down.

After Kurodake we will round out the trip by heading back to Furano for one more night together, a dinner to celebrate, and maybe even some karaoke.

Photo Credit: Deane Malott

Accessing the backcountry on this trip allows us to avoid the crowds at resorts and explore exceptional snow. Days will be spent working hard before enjoying the unmatched thrill of first tracks in deep powder. Evenings will be relaxed and restful. For those looking for physical challenge, cultural immersion, and great group atmosphere this is a trip to put on your radar.

Photo Credit: Dylan Hatch 

Overall Difficulty*:

*You will be spending lots of time skiing uphill and then downhill in deep powder, top physical shape is a must!

Course Dates

1 course

Jan 31 - Feb 8, 2025