Japanese Backcountry Skiing Guidebooks

Posted on Feb 19, 2022
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Posted on Feb 19, 2022

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Japan boasts over 100 years of skiing history. Backcountry huts in the Sapporo foothills were built to facilitate backcountry skiing as early as the 1920s (see the route notes here). It comes as no surprise then that there are a number of excellent backcountry ski specific guidebooks available in Japan. Here at HokkaidoWilds.org, we refer to and reference these guidebooks heavily when planning and writing up our own route guides. Here's a list of Japanese backcountry ski route guidebooks that we have on hand. Many of them cover not only routes in Hokkaido, but all over Japan.

Cover photo: Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide. Thanks to Haidee for the hand modelling. This post contains Amazon.co.jp affiliate links (details).

Last updated Feb 21, 2022

北海道雪山ガイド [The Hokkaido Winter Mountain Guidebook]

北海道の山メーリングリスト (2015). 『北海道雪山ガイド』. 札幌, 北海道新聞社, ISBN: 4894538040.

Hokkaido Mountains Mailing List. (2015). Hokkaido Yukiyama Gaido [The Hokkaido Winter Mountains Guidebook]. Sapporo: Hokkaido Shimbunsha

This is hands down the most comprehensive Hokkaido ski touring guidebook available. It has detailed route descriptions for over 80 ski touring routes throughout Hokkaido. A vast majority of the ski touring routes on HokkaidoWilds.org (as of Feb 2022) originally appeared in this guidebook. 

Routes, as described in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide, are arguably the most conservative route to get to the top of any given mountain. On most routes as described in the guidebook, it’s difficult to imagine an avalanche occurring. Think a lot of broad, relatively low-angle ridge-line touring with limited exposure to higher-risk avalanche terrain. The guidebook explicitly mentions that it avoids routes that need boot crampons and/or ice-axes to keep safe.

As such, the downhill portion of the routes is an icing-on-the-cake sort of affair, rather than the explicit main aim. Hence, many of the routes in the book might be described by more experienced freeriders as ‘more of a walk than a ski’. That’s not to say there aren’t any freeride oriented routes in the book – the central Hokkaido classics of Furano-dake and Sandan-yama are in there, as are all the popular Niseko Range routes including Nitonupuri, Chisenupuri, and Yotei-zan. An absolute must-have ‘bible’ for any serious Hokkaido backcountry skier.

Latest edition (2015) available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3v3cTzt (earlier editions published in 2011 and 2007)

北海道の山と谷 [Hokkaido Mountains and Valleys]

山と谷作成会議 (2017). 『北海道の山と谷』. 札幌, 富士コンテム, ISBN: 978-4893917591.

Mountains and Valleys Committee. (2017). Hokkaido no yama to tani [Hokkaido Mountains and Valleys]. Sapporo: Fuji Contem

This is a series of three volumes, each covering a different area of Hokkaido. The series documents not only winter mountaineering but also hiking routes and sawanobori. I’m including it here as an honourable mention, but the route descriptions are fairly scant. The latest 2017 editions are listed below. Originally published in 1998 with two editions (upper and lower Hokkaido).

Available on Amazon.co.jp

山スキー百山 [Backcountry Skiing 100 Mountains]

スキーアルピニズム研究会 (2015). 『山スキー百山』. 東京, 山と渓谷社
Research Society of Ski Alpinism (2015). Yamasuki hyakuzan [Backcountry Skiing 100 Mountains]. Tokyo: Yama to Keikoku
ISBN: 978-4635470063

This is a beautifully laid out large-format (softcover) guidebook, with 100 major big-line oriented freeride-oriented backcountry skiing routes from throughout Japan. They’ve only got ten routes from Hokkaido, but they’re absolute classics: Rishiri-zan, Rausu-dake, Shari-dake, Shokanbetsu-dake, Furano-dake, Ashibetsu-dake, Memuro-dake, Niseko Annupuri, Yotei-zan, and Shakotan-dake. This guidebook assumes a much higher level of experience and risk management than the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide above, so would appeal to skiers seeking bigger and more committing objectives. The maps included in the guidebook are also much more informative than the stylized maps in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook – they’re the Japan government topomaps with routes overlaid. This is a hugely inspiring guidebook, highly recommended for backcountry ski adventures throughout Japan.

Available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/33y6Ese

山スキールート212 [212 Backcountry Skiing Routes]

山とスキー編集部 (2018). 『山スキールート212』. 東京, 山と渓谷社
Yama to Ski Editorial Office (2015). Yamasuki ruuto 212 [212 Backcountry Skiing Routes]. Tokyo: Yama to Keikoku
ISBN: 978-4635470070

This guidebook – the most recent backcountry ski guidebook in Japan we know of – is reminiscent of the Backcountry Skiing 100 Mountains guidebook above, with 212 backcountry skiing routes from throughout Japan (not just Hokkaido). Beautifully laid out with decent topographical maps, it has 23 backcountry skiing routes from Hokkaido – once again all popular well-known routes. The book’s cover claims it’s full of “routes that every beginner and intermediate backcountry skier should ski.” There are some super committing routes in there though, so it’s worth taking their advice with a grain of salt! That said, for experienced backcountry skiers, this guidebook is full of huge lines, all worthy to be on anyone’s lifetime hit-list, including routes in Shiretoko and far north Hokkaido.

Available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3gVmOiw

東北の山スキー [Selected Back-Country Ski Trails around Tohoku]

松澤節夫 (2014). 『東北の山スキー』. 東京, 白山書房
Matsuzawa, S. (2014). Tohoku no yamasuki [Selected Back-Country Ski Trails around Tohoku]. Tokyo: Shirayama Shobou
ISBN: 978-4894751781

This guidebook (and the one below) are specific to the Tohoku region of northern Honshu. A lot of the routes covered are classic traverse routes, and there’s a weight towards classic ski touring rather than downhill-oriented freeriding. Still, this book is a treasure trove of popular ski touring trailheads and nearby onsen. If you’re after more freeriding sorts of options, experienced skiers will find themselves riffing off the outlined routes, rather than following them to the letter.

Available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3I56szC

東北山スキー100コース [100 Tohoku Backcountry Routes]

奥田博、伊藤繁 (1990). 『東北山スキー100コース』. 東京, 山と渓谷社
Okuda, H., Itou, S. (1990). Tohoku yamasuki 100 koosu [100 Tohoku Backcountry Routes]. Tokyo: Yama to Keikoku
ISBN: 978-4635470025

Somewhat of a vintage item now, like the guidebook above this is a volume of popular ski touring routes in Tohoku, northern Honshu. The route descriptions are good, but the maps are lacking somewhat. Information about facilities near the routes will likely be outdated now.

Available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3gU20aP

ハイグレード山スキー [Mountain Ski Course Guide]

岳人編集部, Ed. (2007). 『ハイグレード山スキー』. 東京, 東京新聞出版局
Gakujin Henshubu (2007). Haiguredo yamasuki [Mountain Ski Course Guide]. Tokyo: Tokyo Shimbun Shuppan Kyoku
ISBN: 978-4808308629

Focussed solely on backcountry skiing in Honshu, this guidebook has a strong focus on big-line freeride routes. Maps are Japan government topomaps overlaid with route information. This guidebook has 39 detailed routes.

Available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3LMELxY

山スキールートガイド105 [105 Backcountry Ski Route Guides]

酒井 正裕 (2013). 『山スキールートガイド105』. 東京, 本の泉社
Sakai, M. (2013). Yamasuki ruto gaido [105 Backcountry Ski Route Guides]. Tokyo: Hon no Izumi
ISBN: 978-4-7807-1131-8

I’m not sure where my copy of this guidebook has got to, so pasted below are the images from Amazon.co.jp. It never saw too much action in my planning, as all of the routes are south of Hokkaido, in the Japan Alps. See the publisher’s site for a list of mountains covered (here). An earlier edition was published in 2009.

2013 edition available on Amazon.co.jp: https://amzn.to/3JEVd10

OTHER PRINTED GUIDEBOOKS

Here’s a few more honourable mentions.

  • Hokkaido no Yama Mailing List. (2014). Hokkaido suno haikingu [Hokkaido Snow Hiking]. Sapporo: Hokkaido Shimbunsha. ISBN: 978-4894537637
    • This guidebook has 31 snowshoe-oriented routes from around Hokkaido. Many of the routes are suited to cross-country skis and a lightweight ski touring setup, but are firmly in the more of a walk than a ski category. Perhaps the most hardcore route in the book might be either Monbetsu-dake or Nikoro-yama.
  • Koizumi, T., Okuda, H. (1985). Yamasuki no hon [The Ski Touring Book]. Hakusui.
    • A vintage ski touring book with 50 routes and a lot of ski touring instructional material.
  • Nishida, S. (2014). Yukiyama tozan ruuto shuu [Winter mountaineering routes]. Tokyo: Yama to Keikoku. ISBN: 978-4635180429.
    • This guidebook covers a couple of routes in Hokkaido (Rishiri and Asahidake), but the other 50 routes or so are from Honshu. A guidebook for winter mountaineering, rather than backcountry skiing/ski touring.
  • Powder Guide Editorial Team (Ed). (2014). Nihon bakkukantori ooru [All-Japan Backcountry]. Tokyo: Powder Guide. ISBN: 978-4903275345
    • I noticed this out-of-print book as I was double-checking the web for any guidebooks I might have missed. It boasts 170 routes from 50 backcountry zones around Japan, including Hokkaido. I’ll update this post once my second-hand copy arrives in the post. It appears there were a number of annual editions of this magazine-type guidebook. 
  • Sato, A. (2007). Rifuto de noboru higaeri yamasuki tokusen gaido [Special selection of lif-assisted ski tour day trips]. Tokyo, Shirayama Shobo. ISBN: 978-4894751132
    • 31 ski touring routes from Honshu.
  • Yamashita, K. (1983). Zenkoku suki tsua gaido [All-Japan Ski Touring Guide]. Tokyo: Shiroyama Shobo.
    • A vintage classic apparently. Hence the US$150 price-tag. I don’t know much about the content of this book.

ONLINE RESOURCES

I can’t wrap up this post on Japanese guidebooks without mentioning the wealth of user-generated backcountry ski route information available on Yamareco.com and Yamap.com. Route information quality varies considerably on these sites, but they can be an excellent source of recent on-the-ground BETA on what snow conditions are like.

Yamap.com has a very slick app for Android and iPhone, but I find myself using Yamareco.com more often because of its incredibly useful heatmap interface. On the desktop version of the site, you’re able to display an aggregation of all routes posted to the site. You can even filter these by activity (backcountry skiing, hiking, etc). This can make for some very enjoyable map-gazing to scope out areas popular among backcountry skiers.

Comments | Queries | Discussion

1 thought on “Japanese Backcountry Skiing Guidebooks”

  1. This is, once again, amazing info ! I wonder if those books would still be usefull for the non japanese reading public ( limited info available for Honshu in english). Maybe with the help of google translate app ?
    Thanks a lot !

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ADVANCED FILTERS

Filter by location

About Filters

REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to HokkaidoWilds.org to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at rob@hokkaidowilds.org with your suggestions.

Japanese Backcountry Skiing Guidebooks Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

25/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.