Heli Skiing Japan
Heli skiing is the ultimate adventure for keen powder hounds and considering that Japan pretty much has the best powder in the world, it’s no great surprise that powder enthusiasts want to go heli skiing in Japan. The snow gods drop manna from heaven in abundance on the Japanese mountains and the quality of the snow is ichi-ban!
Style of Heli Skiing in Japan
You could be forgiven for thinking that Japan heli skiing is very common considering all the powder, but unfortunately there are only a few Japan heli ski operators. The Japanese demonstrate high levels of risk aversion (as evidenced by the many Japanese ski resorts that prohibit off-piste skiing and the very mellow Japan cat skiing
terrain), so helicopter skiing in the backcountry must seem like a super extreme activity to some Japanese folks.
This extreme safety approach combined with lots of political red tape also has an impact on the style of a couple of the Japan heli ski operators, whereby skiers have to just ride over everyone else’s tracks, which is ludicrous and defeats the purpose of heli skiing and scoring freshies! Thankfully there’s at least one company run by Canadians who know what heli skiing is all about!
Single day (or even single run) heli skiing is the norm in Japan where you stay in your accommodation of choice, although a Niseko heli skiing based company has introduced the option of overnight stays in a luxurious lodge in the style of heli skiing Canada
, the home of heli skiing.
Niseko Heli Skiing
in Hokkaido is renowned for its fabulous powder, both in terms of quantity and quality, which is why lots of international skiers and snowboarders flock there to revel in the powder. It can get crowded at the Niseko ski resort and freshies disappear quite quickly unless you head into the backcountry.
Thankfully there’s a new Niseko heli skiing outfit that makes the most of the amazing powder in the region, and offers real Canadian-style guided helicopter skiing. The Hokkaido Backcountry Club
is a spin-off from the very reputable Black Diamond Tours company. HBC offers heli skiing on Shiribetsu-dake next to the Rusutsu Resort
, which is about a 30 minute drive from Niseko. Shiribetsu has fabulous terrain around 360 degrees of the mountain, with long and very steep lines. Check out the 6 run Big Mountain Tours
Other Heli Skiing Hokkaido
There used to be another Hokkaido heli skiing outfit run by the Tomamu Resort
, but this is no longer in operation.
Hakuba Heli Skiing
There is a Hakuba heli skiing operation that runs from above the Tsugaike Kogen
ski resort during March and April. This should largely be considered a scenic helicopter ride, because unless you’re a beginner the heli skiing is pretty lame. Strangely they use the same landing zone over and over, and the same mellow lines down because the ski patrollers mark out a course with intermittent flags. The Tsugaike Hakuba heli skiing isn’t guided, but there is the option to hire a local guide if you want to explore further afield. It’s not particularly expensive for a single ride, so it’s probably worth it just for the spectacular helicopter flight.
There is some incredibly steep and gnarly terrain in the Hakuba region, and it may be possible to do some chartered heli skiing in Hakuba with Evergreen.
Other Honshu Heli Skiing
There is a heli ski outfit at Kagura ski resort
(next to Naeba ski resort
). Like the Tsugaike heli skiing, it’s much more a sightseeing tour than about scoring fresh pow. The major limitations are that they repeatedly ride the same course over and over so it’s not “real heli skiing”, and it only operates for a few days in mid April when the “powder” is unlikely to be “powder”.