Haidee and I had spent the previous night camping at the idyllic Nakadake Onsen (story here), and were almost about to give up trying to ski anything in the area. The ski up and over Asahidake, and down to the onsen was mostly over hard, icy snow, so we were expecting more of the same today. However, another camper who had been out in the morning came back gushing over the excellent corn snow on Antaroma-dake’s south-facing slopes. “It was the best I’ve ever skied,” he said.
This made sense, of course. The previous day we were mainly skiing on the northern aspects of the hills we were crossing. Despite a beautiful blue sky day yesterday, it wasn’t quite warm enough to soften the slopes in the shadows.
So today, at around 10:30am, we kitted up and headed down from the hotspring gorge to the upper Susoai-daira plateau. Once on the plateau, we put our skins on our skis. All around us were huge, inspiring, wide open spaces, with hills and slopes on all sides.
It didn’t take long, making big long climbing traverses, to gain altitude on Antaroma-dake’s southern face. Behind us was Asahidake, Hokkaido’s highest peak, standing proud in the clear skies. Far in the distance, we could actually see the top of the Asahidake Ropeway. This gave us a sense of closeness to civilization, but only briefly. This would be a very lonely place if anything went wrong.
The summit of Antaroma-dake is at the end of the long whale-back flat summit ridge. From the tippy top of the summit, there are grand views down into red-rock cliffs and deep gorges. Looking back the way we came, the southeast slope at the top of the Antaroma-dake bowl looked like it had been sliced with great precision – a perfect angled plane of snow. Two other skiers were gearing up for the descent as we arrived, and soon took off at great speed down the slope.
The snow on the upper part of the slope was still relatively hard, and the skiing didn’t get really fun until part way down. From there is was absolutely gorgeous spring corn. A pure joy to ski – and finally a consistency that agreed with our wide (105mm) powder skis – this trip has made me think one really needs skinner skis in Hokkaido for the spring months.
Back at the plateau after a very quick blat down the bowl, we started our way back to Nakadake Onsen. The snow was relatively sticky, so we were able to get most of the way back without putting skins back on the skis. It was definitely worth the extra night at the onsen, to enjoy one of the many peaks in this area.