On our Powder Safari snowboard trip to Japan last winter we were lucky enough to have an opportunity to hike and ride Mount Asahidake, an active but dormant volcano and the highest mountain on Hokkaido.
The volcano last erupted in 1739 and the local government is pretty confident it won’t erupt any time soon, which is why they built a cable car at the base of the volcano. The Asahidake Ropeway cable car, rises from an elevation of 1100m to 1600m which leaves 600m of height gain to reach the summit of the volcano at just shy of 2300m.
This wasn’t a splitboard trip so we rented snowshoes and poles, strapped our snowboards to our backpacks and readied ourselves for the steady hike to the top. With a bluebird sky we left the cable car and started to make our way through the lower section of the volcano, we took the ‘normal’ route (right hand side in the picture) which takes you through the field of steaming fumaroles passing swirling clouds of volcanic gas. It’s hard to describe or imagine the power of these vents, insanely noisy, hot and stinking of rotten eggs, the hot gas comes belching out from deep within the belly of the earth.
After the steam vents the hike itself was fairly steady going without any real difficulty. Spirits were high as we made our way higher and higher. The volcano is quite a tourist attraction so there was a steady stream of people hiking up, but few people with skis or snowboards. From the ascent ridge we could see some cool descent lines and the crater was still reasonably untracked. Nearing the top the wind picked up and the temperature started to drop but the team were making rapid progress and soon we were at the summit.
From the top we had a stunning clear view to the horizon of the North of the island, dotted with volcanoes, mountains, trees and tons of snow, this is an outstanding area for a backcountry splitboarding trip, I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future.
At some point in its life the volcano erupted and blew out the full side of the caldera, this meant we could snowboard down into what was the bottom of the crater and right through the steam vents we passed on the way up. Photos at the top done, we went about strapping in and getting ready to drop the 1200m of descent back to our car. With the open crater and its steaming vents below us, dropping in felt pretty surreal, like something from the opening scene of a James Bond movie. Needless to say myself and the team exited the crater beaming from ear to ear. Riding the crater was definitely the highlight of the day but we still had another 600m of powder and tree riding ahead of us, the fun wasn’t over yet.
The hype about snowboarding in Japan is absolutely justified, but snowboarding an active volcano on top of the week of epic powder, tree riding, CAT boarding, amazing food, and hot spring Onsens, this adventure was without a doubt the icing on the cake for me.
We have a few spaces left for the Hokkaido Powder Safari in January 2020 so if you want to tick Japan off your snowboarding bucket list why not join us.