Furano, Japan, Jan.9, 2016

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Furano, Japan, Jan.9, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:33 am

We arrived at the Furano Natulux Hotel in Hokkaido at 1AM after sleeping maybe 3 hours in the past 50. We left LAX around midnight Wednesday and had a 13 hour layover in Seoul (FF mileage ticket). This was conveniently during the day so we could go into town, visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Museum and wander the Insadong area for interesting shopping and lunch.

Both flights spent an hour on the tarmac before taking off (also true for my 2 December flights to get home from NYC, I hope this is not a trend), so we arrived at Chitose airport 9:45PM, still needing to clear customs and meet MaryG (EpicSki contact) with our car rental.

After this marathon we did not get on the mountain at Furano particularly early.
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We parked on the Kitanomine side and rode the 2,300 vertical gondola. We skied a top-to-bottom warmup groomer as these were Liz’ and Mary’s first turns of the seasons, as both were on the East Coast in November/December.
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After the next gondola we stepped and traversed to the Premium Zone and got our first taste of A+ quality Hokkaido powder. It was already chopped up quite a bit, but still lots of floatation and little resistance.
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Rainbow Jenny, whom we will join in Niseko, had been to Furano midweek with thigh-deep laps in Premium Zone all day long. However, this was Saturday of a 3-day local holiday Coming of Age Weekend. Furano has a relatively low number of trails per lift, but since it was snowing all day the surfaces remained soft.

On the Premium Zone runout we spotted what Liz called the “J-Pop Girls.”
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One fell at the edge of the trail and needed assistance getting up in the deep snow.

Japan had a slow start to the season and conditions in most Honshu resorts are marginal. Hokkaido’s snow has been oddly distributed. Furano in the interior averages ~60% of Niseko’s snowfall, but through early January Furano had received Niseko average snowfall and vice versa.

We took the link lift to the Furano side, which has 3,100 vertical, most of that served by a 100 passenger tram. There’s a short chair ~700 vertical above the tram. We skied the Panorama run and I ducked into the nearby trees where snow was cut up but 3-4 feet deep. I hit a buried branch and dropped a ski. The ski was easy to find once I got up to the branch I hit, but in the deep snow that took about 10 minutes.

Liz and Mary skied to the base and took a tram to lunch. On my way to the base I looked for any promising openings and followed a few tracks. They led into a steep gully but stopped at a bridge and net under a no longer operating chairlift. I realized I had to ski on the planks (about one ski width) on the bridge or else spend the better part of an hour slogging out of the gully. Here’s the view back at the bridge after I crossed.
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I got down and had to wait an extra tram before joining Liz and Mary for lunch. After lunch we skied 3 runs on a chair serving the upper quarter of the tram terrain. Here there was adequate spacing for skiing in the trees.
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However the terrain was benchy so you needed to be in a preset track for the flat parts in the deep snow.

We took one last chair above the tram, and by traversing awhile skier’s left I was able to get a deep line in nicely spaced trees coming down to the top of the tram. By now we needed to ski back to the Kitanomine base. On the way we passed another idle lift.
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Mary on the lower part of the last run.
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Furano had amazing powder of the highest quality but a very limited amount of lift served terrain to take advantage of it. It’s clear to me now why Black Diamond Lodge tours out here are with alpine touring gear for lift assisted backcountry skiing.

We skied 16,100 vertical, about 6K of powder.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
 
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