“This is the best snow I’ve ever skied,” beamed Gavin.
“It’s definitely up there for me,” agreed Tim.
“It’s the best I’ve skied too,” I added.
For a zone so low in altitude, we’d not expected such incredible snow. We were hovering around the 450m mark, and surface conditions were deep. Everywhere. We didn’t even attempt climbing the final 100m along the long, flat ridge to the summit. Everything off the ridge was just so good.
This was my first time to ski Urausu-yama, but it had been on my radar for some time. Tim had skied it before, so had some beta on skiing options. We met up at the snow clearing near the trailhead, and set off. There was a party in front of us, so we had a free ride – no breaking trail for us at least for the flatland approach.
Lost in conversation on the skin track, we missed our planned access to the ridge that would take us straight to the summit ridge. We backtracked a little and forged our own way up the ridge. We could have followed the existing skin track, but it wasn’t clear where it was going.
The snow flurries came and went, punctuated by short periods of clear sky and warm sun.
We made short work of the climb to where the summit ridge flattens off somewhat and started having a look at our options for skiing. The weather was off-and-on, so the thought of summiting appealed much less than lapping the very appealing looking slopes on either side of the ridge – mostly southeast and northeast aspects.
The southeast bowl directly below the summit was just visible through the murk, and it was clearly heavily cracked. Had there been more reliable visibility, we would have been more keen to look at it more closely, but for now, we set our sights on the slopes lower down.
The southeast slopes directly below us at around 550m were also cracked, but only at the very top. We decided if we skirt around the side of the upper section, we’d get some very good skiing for the rest of the fall line.
I dropped in first, hugging the skier’s left of the slope, to set up for some photos. The snow was sublime. Deep. Steep. Perfection.
We ended up lapping that southeast slope twice. It was just so good.
Actually armpit deep.
After the second lap, we skied one of the northeast bowls, down into a gully that linked up with the snowed-in forestry road. This too was deep. Not as steep as the southeast aspect, but even deeper.
Pretty sure this ranks as neck-deep?
The run-out via the gully had already been skied, which was handy. The party before us had made all the calls regarding snow bridges and hole-dodging – of which there was plenty. I’m not really a ‘ski the gully’ guy, but Tim, who lives with the Yubari Range in his back yard, was in his element.
Once at the forestry road, we had to make the call to put on skins or pole our way out. Gavin opted to pole out. Tim and I opted for skins. Gavin beat us back to the van by a large margin. It was one of those should-I-shouldn’t-I sort of exits, when it came to skins or no skins.
All together it was an amazing day out. For the elevation and access, just incredible.