Overall Rating

Frontier Explorer

Frontier Explorer5/529
Frontier Explorer5 out of 5 based on 29 reviews
  • Recommend
    97%
  • Would Revisit
    97%
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Frontier Explorer - Reviews

Frontier Explorer - Reviews

Best Japan Tour We've Been On

18/03/2020

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    36-50
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Best Japan Tour We've Been On

18/03/2020
Our tail guide Taro pouring a sake in a Hachimantai onsen
Hakkoda on a rare fine day in January
One of the amazing dinners
A phenomenal onsen experience in Aomori Prefecture
Our guide finding plenty of pow stashes
It was rather sad when this incredible trip in northern Tohoku came to an end!! We’ve done quite a few ski tours in Japan with different companies, and whilst it wasn’t the best or deepest snow we’ve experienced (as it wasn’t the greatest season), overall it was the best tour we’ve been on. It was the combination of unique experiences, having fun guides that understood the culture and spoke fluent Japanese so they could easily navigate some great dining and onsen options, and our luck in being grouped with solid skiers who were all on the same page, entertaining, and lovely, considerate people. Staying in cities was also a highlight, rather than getting a “resort-ified” experience by staying at a ski resort.

The tour was fabulous and we’d highly recommend it.

Skiing:
Whilst Japan generally had been experiencing a low snow year, northern Tohoku was faring slightly better than other parts of Japan, and JST managed to find us great untracked powder each day of the tour, even if we had to work a little harder than usual to get to the goods.

There was plenty of variety with respect to the skiing which included some backcountry touring, lift-accessed off-piste and sidecountry, road pick-ups, and a few snowcat runs.

We had 4 different JST guides during the trip, and they were all were pretty relaxed & had a sense of fun whilst also having a good focus on safety considerations. One of the guides at times needed to pre-empt guests’ many questions, whilst the others made it very clear what the plans were. It was pretty impressive that we always had a tail guide (or 2) & Taro filled us in on fascinating insights into Japan. At Hakkoda there are all sorts of interesting guiding politics that go on, so we had to have a local Hakkoda lead guide who wasn’t particularly impressive compared to the JST guides, but thankfully we also had 2 JST guides with us to fill in the blanks.

The Shizukuishi cat skiing was a fantastically fun morning. See our Shizukuishi cat skiing review for more information, but essentially if you go on the Shizukuishi cat without JST guiding, you won’t be allowed to play in the trees.

Eating:
Staying in the cities of Morioka and Aomori gave the guides plenty of dining options to choose from, and their choice of restaurants each night was nothing less than extraordinary! The week started off simply with a yakiniku restaurant (grilled meats), tonkatsu restaurant, and noodles. And then it was full Japanese cultural immersion with a sushi restaurant, kaiseki (multi-course) dinner with a sedate shamisen player, and then another amazing multi-course dinner with a funky upbeat shamisen show.

The breakfasts at the hotels were also very good and provided a lovely balance between Japanese fare and western items.

Morioka in particular had a huge array of bars. The nightlife tended to only really come alive on the weekends but there was a cool bar near the hotel that attracted the only gaijin in town.

Onsen:
The onsen the guides chose for our 2nd daily soaks were really unique. Instead of shiny modern onsen, they chose old traditional onsen, many of which had the option of mixed gender bathing or ladies-only bathing. There was also variety with respect to indoor and outdoor baths, and the pièce de résistance was an ocean side rotenburo where we watched the waves crashing in front of us.

Organisation:
The administration of JST was highly organised. The registration process ensured that we had our expectations appropriately set, the pre-trip documentation was comprehensive, and the arrival day information was great.

One of the huge pros of JST is that it’s run by bilingual guides who grew up in Japan and live in Japan year-round. They have a mix of Japanese, Japanese/western and western guides, and are really well connected in with the locals at the destinations visited.

JAPOW off the beaten path

05/03/2020

Katy

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Katy

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    36-50
  • Ability
    Advanced
  • Rider Type
    Snow Boarder
  • Country
    United States
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    5

JAPOW off the beaten path

05/03/2020
Background: This was our third snow trip to Japan. Having already done Hakuba/Nagano and both central and southern Hokkaido (twice) we were ready to check out a new region - enter Japan Ski Tours "Frontier Explorer" itinerary.

Initially I had hoped to do what I usually do on snow chasing trips - gather our own group of friends, hire a private guide for our ski/snowboard days, and mimic a solid itinerary but book all my lodging, etc on our own. This was the solid itinerary. As it turned out I couldn't rally any friends this year so my husband and I went out on a limb and joined this set group tour...fingers crossed we would get a solid group of skiers/snowboarders and would like the pace of the more set itinerary.

Spoiler alert - we loved it! I am so used to doing all the logistics for my group that it was such a treat to be able to sit back and let Japan Ski Tours and their capable team take care of everything. Of our three trips to Japan the snow was the most touch and go on this trip...something we knew before we left. I am only saying this because I see some of the previous reviews seemed to have knocked Japan Ski Tours for this. This is totally out of a guiding company's control. Japan has the most reliable snow in the world but that doesn't mean it's perfect.

Through the expertise of the JST team we managed to stretch some favorable storms just before our trip and a surprise big storm day on our first day into four epic powder days in the Tohoku region. They knew exactly where to go to find the stashes (even 3 days post storm). Upon moving up to our second base area for days 5 and 6, we were able to find a few fresh lines, despite the lack of any notable fresh snow, again, with the expertise of our JST team. We really only got skunked on our 6th and final day and Daniel...our amazing round-the-clock guide, driver, coordinator, translator, hand holder, and local expert still worked his hardest to find us anything skiable. We did have to throw in the towel a touch early on this very last day because mother nature was just not cooperating...but he made sure the rest of the day was filled with as much activity and cultural experiences as the group wanted. Speaking of the cultural aspect, the added bonus of having a built in local expert, who just so happened to also be our guide, knowing exactly which onsen to take us to each day post skiing and with awesome dinners arranged for us each night, was such an added highlight I didn't appreciate nearly enough when booking this trip. This added bonus was just off the charts, particularly for this region of japan which is very much not

Having done many, many, many international snow chasing trips as "custom itineraries," for fear of what a group tour would look and feel like, I can honestly say I don't think I could have asked for a better first experience jumping into a set group tour. And if it is this region of Japan you are looking to explore - you won't want to do it without the expertise of Brent, Daniel, Cedric and the rest of the JST team. They made this trip unforgettable.

Japan Ski Tours

Amy Cutting
29/02/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    United States
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

Japan Ski Tours

Amy Cutting
29/02/2020
We did not do the Frontier Explorer due to it being full. However, Japan Ski Tours arranged for a similar itinerary for my husband and me. Despite very disappointing ski conditions, we were very impressed with the professionalism with which Japan Ski Tours assisted us in making the most of our time in Hachimantai. They made every effort to find us the best skiing that was available and provided options for other things to do in lieu of skiing. We hope to return in the future and would absolutely use Japan Ski Tours again to plan the trip.

8 day Frontier explorer

Matt Beyer
25/02/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    Japan
  • Month:
    February
  • Admin Rating
    3

8 day Frontier explorer

Matt Beyer
25/02/2020
The experience was very good on almost every factor. There two suggestions I would have to make it perfect.
First, we had one of 8 in our group get injured and this person was one of two that were not quite at the skiing level as the rest. It would have been better primarily for this person to be grouped with a guide that skied at his ability. Overall I don't think it really impacted the runs we did, but it was beyond his ability.
Second, it was billed as an 8 day tour and the expectation was seven days of skiing. It was really not spelled out that there would be six days of skiing.
I would definitely due this tour again and suggest it to my friends and family. Main guide and other guides made it a great trip.

They say roll the dice, it's real

Sheri
09/02/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    18-35
  • Ability
    Advanced
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    USA
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    3

They say roll the dice, it's real

Sheri
09/02/2020
It's a low snow year in Japan, everybody knows it. So I'm mainly writing this review, so people know that when weather is bad, there's not much the guides can do. Majority of the trip turns into an Onsen tour.

It rained the day before I started the tour (or near-freezing-level snow, I don't remember which), and made everything below 1000m complete garbage snow. Depending on the resort choice, sometimes even above 1000m can be heavy and wet too. For example, on the day of the cat tour, only the first 200m is skiable off piste. For the rest of it, we take an icy groomer down (video linked). The last day at Hakkoda was amazing because the ropeway ran, and Hakkoda didn't get rained on like Iwate region.

The guides are super nice, and they try their best to make everybody happy. But when the weather doesn't cooperate, this is challenging. Two additional catch:
1) The resorts in the region are very small, so when the off piste isn't skiable, the guides just ask everybody to ski groomers. There aren't many groomed runs available, and there certainly isn't interesting moguls to practice on. So skiing becomes very boring.
2) The guides don't guide you into backcountry, unless it's the last two days at Hakkoda which is backcountry only. That means, if the guides bring you to a resort at a lower elevation, and you must hike up to find good snow, you're out of luck - go at your own risk.

I mainly say I don't recommend this tour, because I'm not willing to roll the dice anymore after this experience. But if you're willing to roll the dice, then I would certainly recommend this tour, because I'm sure they are amazing when snow isn't destroyed by rain (based on the past reviews anyway). Or, if your main purpose is Japanese culture, and skiing is secondary, then I also recommend the tour.

There were multiple other issues during the tour, which the group had discussed with Brent and the guides in person. Many people were frustrated. The purpose of this review isn't to point fingers; rather it's to inform people that bad weather can exist in Japan which can lead to negative experience, especially if your sole purpose is skiing.

Awesome!!!

Evan White
25/01/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    Canada
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    4

Awesome!!!

Evan White
25/01/2020
This was my 3rd ski trip to Japan and arguably the best!

We signed on to the frontier explorer because the traditional Storm Chasers tour was full in Hakkaido.

I had never heard of this part of Japan and really did not even read the itinerary until we arrived.

There was no snow this year, but somehow Brent Nailed it!!! We hiked , we ‘onsen-ed’ , we skied, we ate, drank, and sang!!! We even met the famous Powderhounds

Every part of the trip was perfect and every day was a great new adventure.

A couple of points:

1) there is absolutely no down time!!! Most days you wake at 6 am, eat at 6.30, on the van chasing powder at 7.15 to 7.30, on the hill at 8.30, ski all day, onsen at 3.30, back at hotel at 6.15, and head to amazing dinners at 6.30, and fall into bed at 10!!! Awesome!!!!!!!

2) Brent’s disclaimers at the start of the booking process will frighten off most skiers so you will be guaranteed to hang out with great skiers who are awesome to hang out with!

3) the guides were awesome and are really flexible to what the group wants to do!!!

4) nobody speaks English, there are nobody on the hills, you may see 1 or 2 foreigners per day, bullet trains were awesome, food was exceptional, sumo wrestling is wild!

Thank you for everything and we are definitely coming back!!!!!!!

In search of POW in Northern Honshu

23/01/2020

Gregory Downey

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Gregory Downey

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    United States
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    4

In search of POW in Northern Honshu

23/01/2020
A group of 8 skiers participated in a Frontier Explorer 8-day ski Trip run by Japan Ski Tours in January 2020. What a great experience! The guides found us great powder off-piste accessed from lift served ski resorts as well as in the true back country. The guides (Brent, David, Toru, ) were all expert skiers and were so much fun to ski with. They steered us clear of obstacles and always got us back to the Piste or base area safely. The terrain ranged from wide open bowls or slopes on the side of mountains to tree skiing in beautiful gladed areas accessible from lift-served resort with short hikes/boot packing. They always were patient with us no matter how deeply buried in snow we managed to get ourselves! Dinners were in beautiful Japanese-style restaurants that always included some fresh sashimi/sushi or various types of noodles as well as plenty of beer and sake. The hotels were clean and comfortable and convenient to the high-speed train stations. All in all, this was a fantastic experience and one that I would highly recommend to any avid skiers wanting a unique experience.

Japan Ski Tours, Frontier Explorer

23/01/2020

Jeff Rubinstein

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Jeff Rubinstein

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    USA
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    3

Japan Ski Tours, Frontier Explorer

23/01/2020
This trip provided an excellent mix of skiing, touring and general entertainment. Planning was flawless especially for a relatively snow-meager year, taking advantage of stashes of superb terrain which I certainly could not have found on my own. Admittedly I often focus too much on the sliding aspects of my ski travels. This tour exposed me to other realms such as foreign culture and culinary adventures which greatly enhanced the total experience. I was also fortunate to have a great crew of fun people joining me on this trip.
I would sign up for a repeat trip with JST with absolutely no hesitation.

Fantastic week in Japan

Darryl Mackie
22/01/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    Canada
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Fantastic week in Japan

Darryl Mackie
22/01/2020
Hakkoda skin or snowshoe up
I have never been to Japan before and have longed to ski the fabled japow with my wife. The week before the trip I started checking the Japan forecasts for Tohoku; none of which seemed very promising. We arrived in Morioka and Brent woefully explained that this was an unusually low snow year. He was practically apologizing to us. Yet, he and our other guides Eric and Taro managed to find ski lines with fresh tracks every day. The bluebird day at Hakkoda was nothing short of back country bliss, the kind of day that reminds us all why the "great outdoors" carries its name.
What makes this trip special though is the exposure to real Japanese culture that JST provides. The onsen experience can't be matched anywhere and the selected restaurants each offered truly memorable immersion into Japanese culture. The morning stops at the Lawson "convi" for coffee, beer and snacks and the ride up to the mountains with some new best mates all made for a great trip. Can't wait to book again.

Japan Ski Tours

G Bradley Moore
21/01/2020
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Age
    51-70
  • Ability
    Expert
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Country
    Canada
  • Month:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Japan Ski Tours

G Bradley Moore
21/01/2020
Powder
Onsen with a floating sake ‘bar’
My best friend and I arrived in Japan to the least amount of snowfall Japan has experienced in 35 years!!
Amazingly JST was able to organize a week of fantastic skiing - including some epic powder and a magical day of backcountry in Hakkoda with their snow monsters... and several fantastic onsen experiences - including a pulse bath. Then in the evenings Brent showed us an unparalleled cultural experience which included live entertainment, dancing, great food, soba noodle eating contests. just to mention a few. The accommodations, transportation, logistics and guides were all first rate.
Job well done, JST.
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