Posted on Dec 3, 2019
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Posted on Dec 3, 2019

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69 0
Reading time: 3 min
5km

Distance

2.5 hours

Time

533m

Ascent

743m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Apr

Best season

Bozu-yama in Horokanai (幌加内坊主山, 743m) is a distinctive peak, visible from the quiet central Horokanai streets. Likely to appeal to both seasoned experts and the less experienced, it offers some excellent dry powder skiing on short but infinitely lappable slopes from its mostly treeless peak. There's no long forestry road approach either, so snowboarders on snowshoes will have plenty of fun on this route too. Expect inspiring views of the plains of Horokanai below - home not only of the coldest ever recorded temperature in Japan, a frigid -41.2°C, but also the lowest population density of any town in Japan.

We visited this route on Mar 02, 2019

Last updated Mar 23, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Bozu-yama is located just north of central Horokanai, about 60km north of Asahikawa City. The most common route up the mountain in winter starts just outside the Horokanai garbage sorting facility, here.

General notes

Backcountry skiers come to this quiet town in winter seeking some of the driest, coldest powder in Hokkaido. The stats don’t lie, with the February average low hovering at -15°C. Despite these cold temperatures, on average, 1348cm of snow falls in any given year in Horokanai Town. Compare this to Kutchan’s (Niseko) February average low of -10°C. This all adds up to Horokanai and its surrounding hills being one of the most overlooked areas in Hokkaido for great powder skiing.

Most of the action happens in the one long valley, with multiple options in the hills on either side. Bozu-yama is a relatively low hill, but has some great skiing from the summit either on the western or eastern faces. There are a number of other peaks called Bozu-yama in Japan, so that’s why you’ll often see this particular peak with ‘Horokanai’ in front of it. ‘Bozu’, by the way, is a word referring to a buzz-cut haircut. Bozu-yama fits this description, with a rounded, mostly tree-less peak.

Hut

None

Route details

This route is not marked.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Expect up to 2hrs from the garbage sorting facility to the Bozu-yama peak, then just over 30 mins back down.

Transport

Public transport:

The closest you’ll get on public transport is the Kamihorokanai Bus stop (here), about 3.5km from the garbage sorting facility. This bus stop is about 1hr 30mins north of Fukagawa City on the JR Hokkaido bus bound for Nayoro City. Here’s the route information (in Japanese). It would cost about 1,250yen one way.

By car: 

There is a small area on the opposite side of the road near the entrance to the garbage sorting facility, here. Be prepared to clear more room on the side of the road with your shovels if necessary.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Horokanai (幌加内) – map no. NL-54-12-16-2

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

Dry powder is what people come here for, and that dry pow comes at a cost: cold. Make sure to come prepared for some of the coldest low-altitude temperatures in Japan.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Horokanai Bozu-yama
Onsen nearby

Just up the road is the excellent Seiwa Onsen, here, next to the michi-no-eki. At 500yen per person, there’s an attached soba restaurant, plus sauna and outdoor baths.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore areas north of 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 in northern Hokkaido, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Horokanai powder! That’s what we’d come all the way from Sapporo for. However, it just wouldn’t work out that way for us this time around. With one of the driest Februaries on record across Hokkaido, we had to make do with nicely hard-packed spring-like conditions for our trip to a classic Horokanai backcountry destination, Bozu-yama.

We started off the trek up to the peak with glorious, unseasonably warm weather. It took a little bit of wandering around the garbage sorting facility before we found the end of the section and a place to put the skis on.

Once on our way, however, it was a fairly straight forward skin up a broad spur to the main ridge. We’d get a few seasons in one day, with thoroughly spring-like conditions lower down, then squalls of snow showers on the way up, with mercifully clear skies as soon as we made it to the summit.

Along the way, the upper slopes were all but calling out to us to ski them.

At the summit, we had a quick lunch admiring the views of the valley below, with us bathed in warm sunlight. Rick’s keen eyes spotted another dark snow squall approaching from the west, which signaled our quick descent off the peak.

Like clockwork, as we popped out of the woods back to the garbage sorting facility, the skies opened to warm spring sunshine again.

We drove the 5km or so north to the Seiwa Onsen (here), and had a well-deserved soak, and a delicious soba meal at the attached restaurant. Horokanai is famous for its soba, with fields blooming white when in season.

With other plans for the next day, we drove back through Horokanai to our AirBnB to stay the night and get an early start the next morning for some more Horokanai exploring. The owner of the AirBnB was a super laidback recent migrant to Hokkaido from Osaka. “This is my second winter here in Horokanai,” he explained. We could only guess that land prices attracted him here, considering that he was not only not aware that Horokanai was known as a good backcountry skiing area, but had also managed to end up in one of Japan’s coldest locales.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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