Posted on Feb 21, 2019
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Posted on Feb 21, 2019

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Reading time: 6 min
4km

Distance

2.5 hours

Time

260m

Ascent

820m

Highest point

3/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Mar

Best season

Matashita-yama (股下山, 820m) is an unassuming peak sitting in the shadow of Shirai-dake's (白井岳, 1302m) bulk. There is a mellow open area on the way up to Matashita-yama though, so it makes for a not too challenging summit, easily completed in a morning, and with a few turns to be had on the way down. The quaint and historical Helvetia Hütte is at the foot of the mountain, so makes for a fun overnight for a small group. The route's proximity to the Sapporo Kokusai ski area allows access via public transport.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Matashita-yama is a low-lying peak about 1km south of the Sapporo Kokusai Ski Area. In this route guide, we start from the Hokkaido University Helvetia Hutte (here). However, if doing this as a daytrip, most people park at the Okuteine trailhead carpark (here) and go from there.

General notes

This route is often overlooked, as it doesn’t feature very widely in guidebooks of the hills west of Sapporo. It is well loved though, with backcountry skiers there most weekends, wanting a quick run in the hills. The final 600m or so from the 730m mark to the summit is quite flat, with some ups and downs and plenty of large, wind-blown drifts. If it is purely lapping the slopes you’re after, then it may be worth just to get to the 730m mark and lap the slope on the northeastern side of the ridge (around here).

Hut

Helvetia Hütte (full details here)

Helvetia Hütte (ヘルベチアヒュッテ) is a small but very well built hut located about 200m from the main road heading to Sapporo Kokusai ski area. It is maintained by the Hokkaido University Academic Alpine Club, and is available year round on the weekends for the general public. It is steeped in history – while the current hut is a 1985 rebuild, the hut was originally built in 1927 by a Swiss architect as one of the important links in the chain of huts in the Sapporo hills.

Route markers

The route from the 583m point (see the TOPOMAP+) was marked with frequent colorful ribbons when we were there in February 2019. Like most routes in Hokkaido, it is best not to assume route markers though – be prepared to navigate on your own. The route from the hut to the 583m point is certainly not marked.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

Bank on about 1.5 hours from hut to summit, and another 1 hour back. Make sure to allow plenty of time for lapping the slope below the spot where the ridge flattens out at around 730m (around here). If coming from the ski area, allow about 20 minutes from the ski area to the hut. It is downhill from the ski area to the hut, but it is very mellow – you’ll need your skins on from the beginning, particularly in mid-winter with plenty of fresh snow. If coming from the Okuteine-yama car park, you’ll also want to allow about 20 minutes of skinning to the hut.

Transport

Public transport:

As of February 2019, there were around 6 buses in the morning going from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal No. 17 to Sapporo Ski Field (see details in English here). NOTE: Ski boots cannot be worn in the bus due to safety (slipping) concerns. Either bring a change of shoes, or just wear your boot liners onto the bus.

By car: 

There is a large carpark area at the start of the Okuteine-yama trail (location).

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yoichi-dake (余市岳) – map no. NK-54-14-14-4

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

Take care when crossing the stream east of the hut. Also, despite this route’s relative close proximity to the Sapporo Kokusai ski area, it is very much the backcountry. Check snow conditions before skiing the gully to the northeast of the 730m mark – this is a classic terrain trap.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Matashita-yama
Onsen nearby

Jozankei Onsen area has a huge number of onsen to choose from. If traveling by car, consider either Hoheikyo Onsen (1,000yen per person, and they have Indian curry), Hotel Milione (500yen per person), or Matsu-no-yu closer to Sapporo City (about 650yen per person).

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 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.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Helvetia Hut had long been on my list of huts to visit here in Hokkaido. It was always pushed down the list though, because nowadays, there really isn’t much point staying there. It is close to a main road, and there isn’t really much skiing to be had in the immediate vicinity. The history and charm of the hut is a big draw card though, so I finally made the trek into Hokkaido University to book and pick up the key. In the process of researching about the hut, I also discovered that Matashita-yama (股下山, 820m) is a relatively popular mountain for snowshoers and budding backcountry skiers. I figured this might make for a nice overnight trip (albeit not at all necessary to overnight).

Also along for the trip were three new friends Dominika (the Hokkaido Wilds’ graphic designer), and two other fine Polish skiers Dominika had convinced to come to Hokkaido for a month’s worth of skiing (Piotr of Pure Powder Mag fame, and Antek of Black Crows fame), as well as Haidee and Rick.

This would be the three Poles’ last foray into the Hokkaido hills, as they were due to fly back to Poland on Monday. They were already parked in their campervan when we arrived at 10:30am to the parking area, keen as always to get on the trail. The parking lot was full – perhaps a large group had gone to the Okuteine Hut?

We got kitted up and headed in the opposite direction across the main road, and on to the Helvetia Hut. As expected, it was a quick 20 minute skin along the river, and there it was, in all its Swiss glory.

Inside, the hut oozed charm and functional sophistication. A carved wood kitchen sink was a gorgeous touch, and the solid steel plate wood stove looked like it would very effectively heat the hut. There were some plastic chip-packet wrappers littered around the hut, but I wasn’t took quick to judge the last human occupants of the hut…there were likely furry friends in the hut too. A quick look in the guest book suggested the main users of the hut were young members of the Hokkaido University Academic Alpine Club. Despite (or perhaps because of) the hut’s proximity to a main road, the hut seems to be well used.

We didn’t hang around too long in the hut – just long enough to drop our overnight gear and have a very quick bite to eat for lunch. We then started up towards Matashita-yama. This first required finding a spot to cross the Asaritogesawa River (朝里峠沢川). We found our crossing just in front of the gully we needed to climb up to get on to the plateau at the base of the mountain. Once up the gully, we headed straight for the 583m point marked on the topomap. From there, the route up the ridge was well marked with long, colorful ribbons tied to trees. We had no way to tell whether these were permanent fixtures of the route or temporary. But we followed them, checking our progress on our own maps along the way, and they led us faithfully along the way.

From around the 730m mark, the ridge flattened out somewhat, and we were bumbling over large, solid waves of snowdrift. It was only 600m or so in distance from this point to the summit, but a couple of false summits made the distance feel just that little bit longer. We made the decision to take the skins off at the summit, but it is somewhat questionable as to whether this was the right move. The ups and downs we’d experienced along the way to the summit involved much more ups on the way back than I recalled when getting to the summit. We were spending quite a lot of time side-stepping. Next time I’ll be keeping the skins on, I think.

Once back at the end of the ridge’s flatt-ish bit, we decided to drop down into the slope to the skiier’s left of the large gully (around here). This proved to be a great run with some good open areas. We ended up lapping this slope three times. I was expecting some open area long the route, but not to this extent. This was an unexpectedly fun icing on the cake to this short route.

At around 4pm, as the sky was starting to lose its light, we reluctantly bid our farewells to the slope and started our way back to the hut. It was relatively quick going back along our skin track. The rest of the evening was spent trying not to overheat too much next to the roaring fire at the hut. On the menu was yaki-niku inspired BBQ, cooked, of course, on the stovetop.

The next morning the fire was cold, as was the hut. I quickly got the fire going again though, and some of us enjoyed crepes (the mixture made the day before at home, and carried to the hut in a large PET bottle), again cooked on the stovetop. 

With six of us in the hut, it was just about the right size. Officially the hut can sleep 12 people, but it would feel pretty crowded if it was full.

We finally got out of the hut at around 9am, after giving the place a sweep out and closing the shutters. The hut itself was awesome, but I can’t really see myself making the effort again to get the key and stay a night there. There are more remote-feeling huts around, with better skiing. All in all though, it was worth it to experience a bit of Hokkaido ski touring history. Helvetia Hut was one of the first backcountry ski touring huts built in the 1920’s in Hokkaido.

The skin back to the cars was uneventful. It felt like a rude shock to be ingloriously waddling across the main road, but as always, I had that surge of ‘holier-than-thou’ feeling, looking at all the poor suckers driving to the ski area just up the road, to pay their dues only to wait in line with all the other punters. But perhaps I’m just biased 🙂

Thanks to Dominika, PiotrAntek, Haidee and Rick for a great night out.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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