“Windy.com was right again,” I mused as I looked outside from the warm confines of the hut. It was snowing hard and we could hear the wind roaring through the trees high up on the ridges. Around the hut there didn’t seem to be much wind.
Being this our first time to Teshiodake Hut, we didn’t have too much beta on where to ski in the immediate vicinity. We had a few screenshots from a couple of friends, of map app screens showing some “OK lines”, but that was about it. Chris and Andy spent some time looking at the Japan government official topomaps, loaded onto Andy’s phone on the Gaia app (see other options on our overview post here).
The first slope we checked out was a southerly aspect slope that looked promising, dropping down to the reservoir above the hut, here. After an hour or so of climbing, we made it to the top of the ridge, ripped skins, and headed down the ridge to find a good spot to drop down.
We’d gone about 150m downhill when Chris uttered an expletive. “I left my gloves up the hill!” Exasperated, he stopped, put skins back on his skis, and made the trek back up the slope. Andy had already dropped down the other side of the ridge, so we radioed him to hold up for a bit. Katie and I dug in for the wait.
Chris arrived back in about 20 minutes, and we got under way again.
The slope looked OK on Google satellite. It looked OK on the topomap. The reality wasn’t what we’d been hoping for though. The trees were tight. The snow was crusty in places. Even in clearings, there was brush sticking up from the surface of the snow. This was not ideal.
We slunked back to the hut for lunch. The weather was getting more blustery, so it was hardly perfect for more laps.
Andy and Katie were keen to get back out after lunch to check out another prospective slope, this time a northerly aspect slope further up the valley that a friend of mine had pointed out from his last time in the area. “Enjoy the blizzard,” quipped Chris, as he settled in for a quiet afternoon off in the hut.
So Andy, Katie and I headed out once again after lunch into a strengthening storm.
At the top of the slope, we gazed down at a mess of exposed brush and twiggy trees. On a normal snow year, this slope probably would have been fantastic. But with at least 2 meters or so less snow this year, things were looking much more twiggy. We hurled ourselves down the slope anyway, this time at least enjoying crust-free skiing. Albeit a weave through the brush.
This was not enough to wipe the smiles off Andy and Katie’s faces though. We patted each other on the back for trying to make the most of an otherwise blustery afternoon. The next day was forecast for perfect weather, so we’d get out elevation tomorrow.
That night, we all spent a relaxing night in the hut. Blue cheese and crackers. Nice Japanese sake. Nabe hotpot for dinner. Cards. An early night. Tough life 😉
The next day, we made it to the summit of Teshio-dake. This was a full day affair – here’s the report and route.
Day four at the hut was the day we were slated to ski back out to the car. Chris had a flight out of Asahikawa in the late afternoon. The plan was for me to catch a train back to Sapporo. Andy and Katie would continue their Hokkaido ski trip for another week. We figured we had time in the morning for one last reconnaissance mission southeast of the hut, to check out a slope we’d had our eyes on a for a while. It was south facing, which didn’t fill us with confidence. South-facing slopes the last few days had been sun baked, with breakable crust. But we’d had snow the previous day, so we hoped we’d be OK. Certainly, the slope looked very skiable, with nicely spaced trees. So off we went for one last blat.
We opted to access the slope from the ridge which started from the trail. Here, the young trees were dense.
As we climbed, however, we caught glimpses here and there of good-looking lines through the trees below. We resisted the urge to drop down too soon, climbing until we were sure we were above the large clearing we’d seen multiple times from the summer trail the last few days.
We ripped skins at around 1000m, and went for it. The snow was good. The slope was good. The trees were good. We’d finally hit gold.
“Let’s go for another lap!” insisted Katie. It was definitely good enough for another lap. But time was getting on. The skin up to the hut three days ago was long, slow, and flat. We weren’t expecting any sort of free-lunch glide back to the car.
We wrenched ourselves away from the temptation of doing another lap, and headed back to the hut.
Back at the hut we set about cleaning up and putting the hut back to winter order.
We were all done by just after lunch. Now all that remained was the ski and sled back to the car. This was a skins-on affair. There was certainly not enough gradient on the road for a free-ride back to the car. Our skin track (and sled-track) had been well snowed in during the four days we spent at the hut, so we were mostly breaking train, with only a very slight firm surface underfoot in the places we could see where we’d previously skied.
We made OK time, arriving back to the car in just over 2 hours. We packed up, and headed straight for the closest onsen – Kyowa Onsen (協和温泉) just out of Aibetsu Town. It was a retro affair, but the soothing waters were bliss after four days of no washing. Following the onsen it was straight to the bustling metropolis of Asahikawa City. Andy and Katie dropped me off at the train station, where I headed back to Sapporo City. They later dropped Chris off at the airport to head back to Singapore. Katie and Andy would continue their Hokkaido skiing adventure, spending their time mostly in the northern Daisetsuzan Range.
An excellent hut trip, with an excellent crew.