“Whatever degree of skill a skier may possess, they should never forget that their skis are after all only an instrument, a means through which they can enjoy the winter in all it’s glory and ruggedness, can breath clean fresh air, can meet human beings in their true character, and can forget all the petty troubles which beset our so-called civilization. These are a few reasons why skiing is not merely a sport, it is a way of life.” - Otto Schniebs 1937
We’ll begin and end this expedition visiting some lesser known sidecountry areas of Hokkaido. Expect to bookend the Rishiri mission with secret tours around Furano (and group dependent) a crack at Tokachidake. Our team’s main focus will be the remote and elusive Rishiri volcano. Working with my local partners at Stealth Backcountry allows us to hit the goods from the moment we land!
Floating the Volcano
Rishiri Island is a backcountry skiing haven with a huge variety of ski and snowboard terrain for those willing to earn their turns. Mount Rishiri is a dormant cone-shaped volcano at the center of the remote Rishiri Island. In the native Ainu language, “Rishiri” means “island with a high peak”, which pretty much sums it up! Others call Rishiri the “floating island”, possibly because you’ll gain a lot of pleasure from floating in the deep powder!
Skiing Rishiri Island is on the bucket list for many Japan backcountry skiing aficionados. Powder on Hokkaido is world renowned because of the abundant, light, fluffy, amazing cold smoke that results from the weather systems that blow down from Siberia. Compared to most Hokkaido ski areas, Rishiri Island is much further north (and closer) to Siberia so the powder there is even better than amazing!
And if devouring all that Japanese powder isn’t enough for you, there’s also an abundance of local seafood to satisfy your appetite. A Rishiri ski trip provides a delightfully unadulterated Japanese experience.
Where is Rishiri Island?
Rishiri Island (Rishiritō) is a small island in the Sea of Japan, about 20 kilometers off the northwest coast of Hokkaido. The Oshidomari Port on Rishiri Island can be accessed via ferry from Otaru or Wakkanai (Hokkaido’s northernmost town). Wakkanai is a 5.5 hour train trip from Sapporo.
Mount Rishiri has an elevation of 1,721 metres. Depending on weather conditions, the backcountry terrain we’ll access will include a combination of ATL alpine zones and NTL/BTL tree skiing. Mt Rishiri has many ridges, gullies, and bowls- some of which are super steep, and there are several peaks to tackle. BUT, there is also a reasonable amount of mellow terrain below treeline for us to explore.
We will utilize a snowmobile to cover the long and flat distances at the base of the mountain before committing to human-power. No worries if you’re not a seasoned sled-neck!
Rishiri Ski Season
In late winter and early spring there’s a greater chance for clear days, although the main, year-round weather inhibitor to summiting Mt Rishiri is the wind. Rishiri is renowned for its oft-gusty conditions! Our expedition will run from 2/22/20 to 3/1/20.