Twin Island Epic (Honshu & Hokkaido)
NB Tour not available for 2016-17.
This is the ultimate smorgasbord of Japanese ski resorts. Join ESA on a journey where you will experience the best of both worlds with the taste of powder on two islands. Much more than the usual ski holiday, the Twin Islands Epic combines adventure, culture and personalities to give you the complete Japanese experience. It is important to note that this tour focuses on finding powder where there are few westerners, so if you like skiing pristine powder ALL day and not having to fight with the masses then read on.
Your guide/instructors will introduce you to a double adventure on the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido
that will have those powder legs drooling for more. This tour caters for two ability levels; the advanced/expert skiers who wish to experience as much powder as possible and explore the “slack country”
of each of the resorts, and the intermediate skiers and boarders who want to have a taste of powder and improve their technique.
Your Japanese ski adventure is not complete without being immersed in a culture
that has to be experienced to be appreciated outside your ski time.
On the Nagano part of your tour visit the world famous snow monkeys
up close, be entertained by a traditional Geisha performance, enjoy the Taiko Drum, Shamisen guitar and lion dance, participate in a Karate performance, spend an optional recovery day exploring one of Japan’s oldest castles and temples in Matsumoto and Nagano. Also soak in the rejuvenating onsens, taste the local sake and beer recipes and visit historic Shibu Town
. On the island of Hokkaido experience the Sapporo snow and ice festival
, explore historic Otaru, learn about the history of Sapporo beer at the museum, enjoy some action at Round 1 sports and entertainment complex and be amazed at the range of restaurants in Sapporo and Asahikawa.
Where other companies may place the cultural experience in Japan as an option, ESA include them so you get to experience the real Japan
, and the list doesn’t include the hidden gems we have up our sleeve that will amaze you and surprise you along the way. This is a trip not to be missed so enquire now as limited spaces are available.
Ski Areas Visited
This tour has the ability to visit a large number of resorts in Honshu and Hokkaido. We do not guarantee we will visit every resort we have access to as the main focus is snow quality and each area has its own individual micro climate so don’t be surprised if you visit the same resort a number of times. The resorts we can access include: Oku Shiga Kogen
, Yakebitaiyama, Ichinose and Giant (all part Asia’s largest ski resort Shiga Kogen
), Ryuo Ski Park
, Nozawa Onsen
and Seki Onsen
. Drive times to these resorts vary from 25 minutes to 50 minutes in good road conditions. The resorts we can access on the island of Hokkaido include: Furano
. Drive times to these resorts from our bases in Sapporo and Asahikawa
vary from 20 minutes to 80 minutes.
Skier/Boarder Ability & Equipment Requirements
Both tours dates offer an option for:
- Advanced/Expert - Skiers only
- For those wanting to ski the deep powder on and off-piste (including the "slackcountry")
- Avalanche safety gear (min. beacon, shovel, probe & backpack) is compulsory for these tours
- You should have wide powder skis as you will be skiing some very deep powder
- Roller bags and backpacks for equipment and clothing are highly recommended as you will be moving around on this tour
- You should have a high degree of fitness as some short hiking may be required to get to the goods
- Maximum group size is 7 skiers to 1 guide
- See the terrain and safety section for more information about skiing the "slackcountry"
- Advanced Intermediate - Skiers & Snowboarders combined
- For those wanting to improve their on-piste powder riding skills whilst checking out many of Japan's great ski areas
- As a minimum, you should have all-terrain skis to ride the powder on-piste
- A standard snowboard will be sufficient for this tour
- Roller bags and backpacks for equipment and clothing are highly recommended as you will be moving around on this tour
- Maximum group is 7 skiers/boarders to 1 instructor/guide
In all cases people should be light-hearted and have a good sense of humour, as even the best laid-out plans can vary due to uncontrollable circumstances!
Please do not over-state your ability as the advanced/expert groups are for those who already have a good grasp of riding powder and off-piste in all conditions.
Neck deep at Madarao Kogen
Accommodation & Meals
Honshu Accommodation and Meals (8 nights)
Ryokan Biyu no Yado
is a lovely 3.5 star Ryokan
Rooms all come with private ensuite/bathroom
and are Japanese-style with woven tatami floors
and futon beds
. All rooms have a flat screen TV, small fridge & kettle. Your room also has a traditional Japanese wardrobe (yukata) which is not mandatory to wear at this Ryokan, although it is definitely comfortable attire after a day on the slopes.
The Ryokan also has four western rooms which are double the size of the Japanese rooms and cost an extra 6000 yen per night per person for the upgrade.
The Ryokan has an indoor Japanese bathhouse
(onsen) and outdoor hot spring
(rotenburo) and there is also a private onsen available
for rent for an additional fee.
Night-time meals (included in the package) are traditional multi-course Japanese cuisine
served by your own private waiter in the hotel dining area. Breakfast (also included) is either Japanese or Western-style
There are massage services available
, free wi-fi
in the common lounge area, a luxurious lounge bar
and common seating area
, drinks vending machines, grand piano, large screen TV, karaoke and a souvenir shop.
Although the night time meals are exquisite, we mix your evening dining between five meals on site at the Ryokan and four off-site at authentic Japanese restaurants around Yudanaka and Nakano
. Each guest will be given cash or a voucher to the value of 2,000 yen
to be used at the restaurant that the group will be visiting on the off-site dinners.
Hokkaido Accommodation and Meals (9 nights)
...deluxe Japanese-style rooms...
.....outdoor hot springs
In Hokkaido ESA use a range of hotels in Sapporo
and the property can vary due to reasons like group size, bedding arrangements requested and peak availability.
Only breakfast is provided at these properties
which is a mix of Western/Japanese buffet style
. Restaurants in Sapporo and Asahikawa are numerous and varied
so it is left up to your own sense of adventure on these evenings
Each hotel differs in layout and amenities so ESA have made a list of our preferred providers they use through the season to give you an idea of the quality. They have stayed in each of these hotels in the past with their guests.
Hotel MYSTAYS Sapporo, Hotel Emisia Sapporo, APA Hotel and Resort Sapporo, Nest Hotel Odori, Sapporo Aspen Hotel, Hotel Northgate and Hotel Route-Inn Sapporo.
JR Inn, Asahikawa Toyo Hotel, Fujita Kanko Washington Hotel, Court Hotel Asahikawa and Loisir Hotel.
Sapporo party central
Typical Room (APA Hotel Sapporo)
Asahikawa night time
NOTE: This itinerary is a guide: The tour will ultimately be dictated by the weather each day and your guide will work the tour around where the best conditions are on the day.
Make your way to Yudanaka (home of the snow monkeys) on either the amazing rail system or a shuttle from Narita or Haneda airport and be picked up at the station at Yudanaka and taken to your lodging at Ryokan Biyu no Yado (further information on how to get to Yudanaka is contained in the pre trip instructions). The area has a history of over 1,300 years as a hot spring resort and more recently was put on the map due to the 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games. A great way to unwind after a travel day is to enjoy the traditional hotel onsen (hot spring pool). You are treated like a rock star at the Ryokan with exceptional service, immaculate surroundings and food to die for. Your first nights meal is at the ryokan which is an experience in itself. Bring your camera. You will also meet the team alongside a tour briefing.
Made up of 19 resorts, Shiga Kogen is the largest ski area in Asia and has something for everyone. Because Shiga is so large and elevated, fresh lines can be found days after a snowfall. And because relatively few westerners have discovered this area the queues are almost non-existent and another bonus is that very few Japanese ski off-piste. After skiing why not try an onsen to sooth any aches and pains followed by a local beer or wine from the lounge bar. While eating a dinner that is pure art you will be entertained by a traditional Geisha performance.
After breakfast we will travel to Nozawa Onsen for some more action on the snow. Considered by some as the birthplace of skiing in Japan, its 300 hectares of terrain and 50km of slopes will not disappoint. At the end of the day we will take a walk through Nozawa Onsen township and enjoy the many shops and eating treats. After your daily onsen ritual we will drop into Nakano for the sushi train experience for dinner.
The drive to Myoko Kogen allows you the choice of either Akakura or Seki Onsen to be skied at today. Seki Onsen which has been in the same family for 93 years and is on the northern tip of the Myoko range and receives over 13 metres of snow each year and has some fantastic steeps and side country. Enjoy some socialising at the lounge bar at the ryokan followed by another traditional Japanese meal. After dinner be entertained by the Taiko, Shamisen guitar and lion dance performance.
This is one of those days where you get to choose. For those that want to stay on the snow we will visit the resort of Togakushi. You will enjoy a totally western free resort with a wide range of runs with an awesome view of the Japanese Alps. Because some of you have not used those ski muscles for a while we find that day four is the day where some guests need a rest.
This is a rest from skiing, not the rich culture that is available in this area. After breakfast we will visit Matsumoto Castle which is the oldest 5 story, 6 layer castle tower in Japan. Get a photo with the Samurai, Ninja and Geisha who roam the castle garden area. Roam around Nakamachi-dori street and Nawate-dori street to soak up the old time Matsumoto atmosphere. No visit to Nagano is complete without visiting the Zenkoji Temple with over 1400 years of history. Unique in the fact that the city of Nagano was built around the temple thus know as a temple city and that it houses the oldest Buddhist image in Japan. You can walk through the pitch-black corridors under the main hall and tradition has it that if you touch the key below the principle image, your entry into paradise is secured (apparently they have lots of powder snow there). After a full day of Japanese culture we will dine in Suzaka at a Japanese buffet that has a staggering range of different food options to feast on.
Now that you were able to rest those tired muscles you are now more conditioned to enjoy the next four days of skiing. Ryuo Ski Park offers some great tree skiing or open wide courses which are accessed with the areas only ropeway. Tonight you will enjoy a meal at one of the many traditional Japanese restaurants in Yudanaka.
Madarao is another of the Japanese ski fields that does not attract the hoards of gaijins (foreigners). This field seems to have its own micro climate and when it snows here it can be very light and deep. If you are looking for a change from the Japanese fare there is a restaurant on the mountain that makes the best burgers and pizzas. We will visit the local sake museum and taste up to 10 different sakes that are made on site followed by a step back in time with a walk through 1300 year old Shibu Town. Tonight we will enjoy a meal at one of the many traditional Japanese restaurants in Yudanaka.
Finish your last day on the snow as a powder day. Using the many resorts you have already skied the group will choose the one with the best snow and go there. After dinner you will learn the art of karate from a Grand Master of Japan. Afterwards enjoy your last night at the ryokan socialising at the lounge bar which overlooks the township of Yudanaka and those that are keen try out your vocal chords in the karaoke bar.
It is time to bid farewell to our fabulous hosts at the Ryokan Biyu no Yado. No visit is complete to Yudanaka without some interaction with the famous “Snow Monkeys”. This is the only place in the world you can see the snow monkeys soaking in natural hot pools up close and personal. The group will then transit back to Narita for the flight to Sapporo, and a van ride to Asahikawa.
Day 10, 11 & 12
Your 300kph chariot awaits
A daily onsen to relax the muscles
Incredible Japanese food
The resorts on offer during the stay in Asahikawa are Furano, Asahidake, Kamui Links and Pippu. Furano boast some fantastic side country like the dam run and link run, Asahidake provides some of the driest and lightest snow, Kamui Links has a reputation of quietness with great powder and Pippu is a little resort which is acts as your own private playground on a fresh snow day. Don’t expect to see many westerners at your stay at Asahikawa and the restaurants and hospitality are exceptional.
After an early breakfast the group will head south again to Hokkaido’s largest city Sapporo. Today is the final day of the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival and if time permits you will visit the Sapporo Beer Museum. Transfer back to our hotel and descend on Sapporo that has an array of restaurants and bars that will amaze and delight you.
Home to the 1972 Winter Olympics, Sapporo Teine is on the menu today and is a great resort close to Sapporo which caters for the powder hounds who want powder lines that are steep and deep, and the views over Sapporo and the Sea of Japan are spectacular. Transfer back to our hotel and descend on Sapporo that has an array of restaurants and bars.
Travelling east we will drive through 14 different tunnels to get to Tomamu ski resort. Built in the 80s before the bubble burst, it is like the Disney Land of ski resorts in Japan. The gigantic towers with interconnecting passage ways almost like you would see on a moon base, the country’s largest wave pool, an ice village and some great skiing to match.
Sapporo Kokusai will definitely not disappoint the avid powder hounds. This mountain has its own micro climate of snowfall and some avid powder chasers claim they receive more snow than the famed Niseko which is further south. Either way you will not have to fight for the fresh lines at this resorts. Visit historic Otaru which boast an amazing shopping street, awesome architecture and great eateries.
And for the finale let us enter the Rusutsu white room! With some of the most incredible powder and tree skiing to be found anywhere in the world you are going to love your day here. No trip to Rusutsu is complete without viewing the themed village at the main hotel. Remember not to stare into the singing trees eyes, you have been warned. On your final night in Sapporo get out and enjoy the food, nightlife and meeting the locals.
It’s time to say goodbye. Transfer to New Chitose airport with the knowledge that you are one of those that have participated in a road less travelled.
Oh and don't forget to write a review
of your tour on Powderhounds.com!
Deep in Furano
- 17 nights twin share accommodation
- Daily breakfasts throughout tour
- Eight dinners (includes 4 dinners at Ryokan Biyu and 4 dinners at a range of authentic Japanese restaurants in Yudanaka and Nakano)
- 14 days of lift passes with guiding/instruction
- Transfers from Yudanaka to Narita airport
- Flight between Narita (Tokyo) and New Chitose (Sapporo)
- Ground transport to and from New Chitose airport to Sapporo/Asahikawa
- All mountain transfers
- Visit to the Snow Monkeys
- Geisha Performance
- Taiko Drum, Shamisen guitar and lion dance performance
- Karate performance from a Grand Master champion of Japan
- Option to visit Matsumoto Castle and unique shopping experience
- Option to visit Nagano and the Zenkoji Temple
- Rejuvenating Onsens
- Walk around 1300 year old historic Shibu town
- Local sake factory sampling tour
- Visit to the Sapporo snow and ice festival
- Walk through historic Otaru
- Visit the Sapporo Beer Museum
- Enjoy an evening at Round 1
- Complimentary Epic Ski Adventures tour t-shirt
- Plus many more hidden gems....
- A bad time
- International Flights - book flights here
- Travel Insurance - purchase online here
- Lunches, snacks, alcohol, dinners (apart from the advertised dinners)
- Rental gear (although we can assist you with getting good rates)
- Avalanche safety gear (available for 1,000 yen / day
DEPOSIT & FULL PAYMENT
- Deposit is 20% of full tour price per person.
- All deposits are non-refundable.
- Final balance due: 30 days prior to departure.
- All payments are in Japanese Yen (JPY)
CANCELLATION BY YOU
- more than 30 days prior to departure, full deposit forfeited.
- Less than 30 days 100% forfeited.
- Tour operator highly recommends you take out travel insurance at time of sending your deposit.
CANCELLATION BY EPIC SKI ADVENTURES
Epic Ski Adventures reserves the right to cancel any tour prior to departure. In this case you will receive a full refund. You will not be entitled to make any further claim for compensation, damages, expenses, loss of time or inconvenience.
Other Important Information
Terrain & SafetyThe rules when skiing at resorts in Japan can be a lot different to what is experienced in Western resorts around the world. At a high percentage of the resorts in Japan, trail skiing is the norm and anything off the main marked trails is deemed "out-of-bounds". The out of bounds is not patrolled so as far as the resort is concerned; skiing there is at your own risk. The out of bounds skiing provided by ESA is deemed (what has been termed in Japan by westerners) “slack country” or “side country”. Many times these out of bounds areas are in between two marked courses so at the bottom of the run you meet up on a marked course to take you back to the lifts, hence the term “slack country”.
Some resorts are more lenient with "out-of-bounds" skiing and others very strict. Some will have signs that state "ski at your own risk" where others may not. ESA consider everything that is not on a marked trail to be out of bounds.
If you wish to experience the "out-of-bounds" (skiing off any of the marked trails) areas:
The ESA team have the following credentials:
- You must carry the essential avalanche safety equipment (beacon, shovel, probe & backpack to carry such gear)
- You must be able to ski at a sufficient ability / level to manage the conditions on the day for any out-of-bounds runs
- You will need to undertake an safety instruction session on the use of your avalanche equipment (even if you already know how to use it)
- You will be required to sign a release of liability agreement prior to undertaking any out-of-bounds skiing with ESA
Exclusion of Liability & RiskAdventure sports activities involve many risks, dangers and hazards. These risks and hazards are outlined in the ESA release of liability, waiver of claims, assumptions of risks and indemnity agreement which all participants are required to read and sign before participating in adventure sports activities. This agreement will affect your legal rights should you be involved in an accident.
- knowledge and experience at skiing the various resorts they visit in the Nagano and Niigata areas
- accreditation and different combinations of instructors, ski patrol, avalanche awareness and first aid
- ski instructors have a minimum of level 2 NZIAS certification.