Posted on Dec 26, 2019
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Posted on Dec 26, 2019

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Reading time: 4 min
6.5km

Distance

3.5 hours

Time

470m

Ascent

1071m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-May

Best season

Bihinai-yama (美比内山, 1071m) is a very laid-back hill in the popular Toyoha Mine area above Jozankei in Sapporo City. The final upper slopes are great lap-able deep-powder havens, and there's some mellow downhill potential on the lower quarter too. The middle 30% of the route is a more or less flat ridge, so the return may require some enthusiastic poling - snowboarders will likely regret their life decisions. This route joins others in the area as a quick, accessible route from central Sapporo.

We visited this route on Dec 22, 2019

Haidee Thomson contributed photos to this post.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Bihinai-yama sits in the middle of the long ridge stretching between Yoichi-dake (余市岳, 1488m) and Muine-yama (無意根山, 1464m), in the hills directly west of central Sapporo City. It’s accessed via the Toyoha Mine (豊羽鉱山), which is accessed via a road coming off the main road to Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area.

General notes

It’s difficult to describe this route as anything other than a very nice walk on skis – punctuated with one or two short but sweet deep-powder downhill slopes. The middle section has some gorgeous large old pines and white birch, but it’s very flat. So if you’re looking for an easy, almost danger-free route, and one you can smell the roses along the way, this is your route. This mountain is not as popular as the nearby Onuma-yama or Senjaku Plateau on Muine-yama, so you’ll most certainly have the place to yourself. Worth noting is that while the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guidebook positions this route as suitable from mid-December, our experience on this route in a very snow-lean mid-December 2019 suggests in most years this route may be best left alone till well into January.

Hut

None

Route details

This route is not marked. The Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guidebook positions Bihinai-yama as ski-able from mid-December. So, despite it being a relatively low-snowfall December this year (2019), we decided to check it out. As promised, the first scramble up onto the main ridge from the carpark was just that – a side-stepping scramble through tight trees. With another 1.5m of snow (likely within another couple of weeks), this first scramble up to the ridge would have been much more straight forward. Once on the ridge proper, however, it was a pleasant – albeit all rather flat – skin up to the final steep slope beneath the summit.

The middle section of this route is, as mentioned, quite flat. Therefore, skiers may find themselves in two minds as to whether they should put the skins back on for the middle-section descent or not. We managed without skins, but there was some vigorous poling required.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

Skiers should allow about 1.5 hours from the carpark to the start of the flat ridge section (at 890m). From there, it is another 1 hour or so to the summit. Despite the flat sections on the descent, there’s still enough downhill to allow skiers to complete the full descent in about 1 hour.

Transport

Public transport:

There are no public transport options for this route.

By car: 

There is a widened parking area just before the gate to the Toyoha Mine, here. Park well to the left of this parking area. Avoid parking in front of obvious snow-clearer snow piles. NOTE: This parking area is, officially, a privately managed parking area. Make extra efforts to park out of the way of mine operations.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Muine-yama (無意根山) – map no. NK-54-14-15-3

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

Snow and route safety

Beware of large cornices to the climber’s left of the summit. Also note that the face below the summit (the eastern side) is prime avalanche territory – take extra time to check stability of the snowpack if attempting to ski this slope.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Bihinai-yama
Onsen nearby

If you are headed back towards Sapporo City, you’ll be passing through Jozankei Onsen area. A favourite of ours is the down-to-earth Matsu-no-yu Onsen on the Sapporo City side of Jozankei Onsen. There’s another onsen right next door (Kogane-yu Onsen), but Matsu-no-Yu has a view of the river and hills. Both onsen have cheap and cheerful restaurants attached. If you have time, you might want to check out the Ainu Culture Center (location) just across the road from the onsen.

Extra Resources

See p. 136-139 of the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guidebook (北海道雪山ガイド), in Japanese.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other hills around Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those around Sapporo City, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 136 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

The name for this peak comes from the Pepenai River, which flows down towards Kyogoku Town on the other side of the mountain. Therefore, there are many people who call this mountain Pepenai-yama. This mountain sits in the middle of the 10km long ridge connecting Yoichi-dake with Munie-yama, but due to it’s gentle slopes, it’s not a peak whose shape attracts much attention. However, as a mountain suited for skiing – starting at the Toyoha Mine – it’s popular for its views, pleasant downhill skiing, and the peak’s all-round ease of access. This peak is another one of the peaks in this area whose access may become limited due to closure of the Toyoha Mine.

It was one of the drier, warmer Decembers of recent years, so we weren’t super positive about our chances of getting to the summit of Bihinai-yama. “We’ll try to get to the 890m point, and then consider our options from there,” I suggested as we geared up at the carpark. There was another group of four skiers who got ready near us, but they headed over the other side of the valley.

In the end, despite this being a rather challenging trip with it’s fair share of bush-bashing (not uncommon for December around Sapporo), it was great to get out onto the snow.

We skinned across the Toyoha Mine clearing towards the main ridge we needed to get up onto to start the climb up to the 890m flat-ridge. Very soon, we discovered what the guidebook was talking about – it mentioned “bothersome thick trees until you get to the ridge”. With this year’s lean December, it was another level of bothersome. We went on traversing climbs that led to dead-ends, and eventually got to the ridge through a couple of side-stepping scrambles. By this time, almost 45minutes had passed since we left the car, and we’d only traveled about 400m as the crow flies.

As promised in the guidebook, however, once on the ridge it was a bit more easy going. It would have been ten times easier had there been another 1.5m of snow.

The going was getting quicker though – as we climbed, the less bush-dodging we needed to do. The snow was deep and powdery. We were surrounded by giant trees. A light snow was falling. Contrary to the weather forecast, there was hardly a breath of wind.

Despite the doom and gloom shared on social media about this year’s (2019) December and lack of snow, this felt more or less on par for what skiers can expect for December. Guaranteed deep snow and a base covering all vegetation only really consistently happens from early to mid-January.

By the time we got to the base of the short, steep climb to the summit, we were all looking forward to actually climbing something. The flat ridge was a little bit monotonous, but this steep climb, through very deep powder, was engaging.

Largely unsurprising, the weather didn’t allow us any views from the summit. Theoretically we should have been able to see Yotei-zan had the weather been clearer. 

The downhill from the summit was over in a moment. If we’d not spent so much time bush-bashing at the start of the trip, we probably would have lapped the upper slope a couple of times. But the day was getting on, so we reluctantly started the flat-ish pole back down the ridge. Once again, had there been more snow, things might not have been as slow going. But as things were, we were carefully keeping speed in check when we could get speed up, to avoid any close encounters with errant twigs and sasa bamboo grass.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Bihinai-yama, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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