"2018 HOKKAIDO JAPOW MEDIA TRIP” POWERED BY SNOWLOCALS.COM
Welcome to the Hokkaido Media trip hosted by Snowlocals.com, and thank you for accepting our invitation to experience skiing in Japan as only we can do it. This will serve as an itinerary for the trip (that can be accessed online), as well as a place to detail the options we will have for various activities in Japan besides skiing/riding neck-deep powder. We also want to start with a huge THANK YOU to our generous sponsors: Nordica, ALLIED Feather & Down, Spyder and Popticals!
Before we delve into the details of the trip, we want to quickly -- and quite entertainingly -- answer the key question to this whole event: “Why would your readers use Snowlocals instead of another company or booking themselves?” Rather than lecture about how well they know the area (they are indeed “locals” on Hokkaido), or what great skiers and guides they are, or any of the other great qualities that make them such an outstanding agency, we’ll let you learn that for yourselves on the trip – this will all become quite clear very quickly!
But perhaps these true tales of their first disastrous trips – long before they became the experts they are today – will sum up best just how WRONG things can go when you DON’T use Snowlocals.com:
WHO ARE SNOWLOCALS?
Jake Cohn has fought the odds to succeed at the highest level in Sport as a professional Freeskier and in business with Snowlocals and Adventurelocals a travel business that he and his brother Charlie formed three years ago.
It didn’t start out all smelling of roses. As a child Jake was diagnosed with chronic asthma this meant Jake spent the first years of his life in hospital on a respirator 24/7. Jake and his family heard about the Asthma specialist at National Jewish Health who knew that through the right treatment jakes asthma could hopefully be managed.
Asthma is on the rise and in cases like Jake’s if not treated correctly can end up in death. With media attention on Cancer you don’t hear about the Asthma success stories or the condition itself. As with any possible fatal illness it is important to report that in a lot of cases these conditions can be treated and people can leave normal and in Jake’s case successful lives and careers.
Jake has learnt to deal with his Asthma and gone on to become a successful professional skier competing all around the world. As a skier, you need high altitude for the snow, and as we know the higher you go the thinner the air and the harder it is to breath. Imagine doing that with Asthma a condition that makes your airways close up and become hard to breath. No imagine your Jake it’s doubly hard but he has persisted and found way to make it work. Enough to become a pro skier a job that I am sure many of his first doctors would have said was not realistic or even possible.
Charlie Cohn is Jake's younger brother. His travel and outdoor experiences have culminated in the creation of Snowlocals and Adventurelocals. Charlie competed on the big mountain skiing circuit as a junior, played competitive ice hockey throughout college, and excelled as a whitewater river guide for the better part of a decade. All-the-while, Charlie earned a degree with honors in Environmental Studies, traveled to over 50 countries, and returns to ski in Japan every winter.
Charlie has lived all over the world and currently calls Germany home. His travel experiences provided confidence and competence to build custom trips to Japan and now elsewhere around the globe. His lifetime on skis and years as a head guide on multi-day trips has rounded out a skill set that is unique to this company that he and his brother have built.
Now Jake and his brother Charlie work together with their travel companies Snowlocals.com and Adventurelocals.com. These businesses where set up to help people experience the places that both Jake and Charlie have been to and want to share. Their trips are based around skiing in Japan one of the ski industries best kept secrets and activities like hiking in Nepal, Surfing in El Salvador. All their locations are maybe less well known than other companies go to, because they want their guests to experience the locations as if you were a local and not a tourist. If you’re looking for something a little different check out their sites. They have just put together a women’s Ski and Yoga trip that is in Japan this January too.
Jake Cohn video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GojGav630ys
Jake and Charlie skiing in Rusutsu - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aDcZmsj57Y
Asthma – “take a deep breath you can conquer it”
Pro athlete – dealing with illness and competing at the highest level and altitude
Travel – What you do when you retire from being a professional athlete?
SnowLocals founders Jake and Charlie grew up in Telluride, CO learning to ski with the best of them. Both grew up on the mogul and big mountain skiing competition circuits. Jake went on to make a name for himself in park skiing and then in the world of freeride skiing. Jake and Charlie are well-traveled and have skied all over the globe, occasionally calling places like Steamboat Springs CO, Park City UT, Whistler BC, and Innsbruck, Austria home.
In 2011 we first skied in Japan. We went there to make promotional videos for Japanese ski resorts that would then be posted on a popular action sports website. We have returned to Japan to ski every year since and our filming has progressed into professional quality productions that showcase everything these Japanese resorts have to offer. Our videos prove that we don’t exaggerate when we tell you that the skiing is amazing and the snow is deep at a particular place. (See our videos on our Vimeo page)
Our seasons in Japan have led to relationships with popular resorts and unknown destinations alike. We have skied at dozens of places throughout the country and have traveled by plane, train, bus, subway, taxi, rental car, ferry, and camper van between ski destinations. We have hiked, toured, explored and been very lost in the search for the best lines and deepest pockets of snow. We’ve found ourselves at the majority of Sapporo’s downtown hotels and even more of the city’s karaoke bars.
When you find yourself wondering what makes SnowLocals different from others who advertise to set you up with the best powder vacation to Japan, remember that we are life-long skiers who have a lot of first-hand experience skiing in Japan.
We have worked hard to seek out the best zones on each mountain. We have traveled throughout the country via every mode of transportation and seen all styles of lodging. As a result, we can recommend options for the experience you are looking for. SnowLocals is a small company and every question you send our way will be answered directly by either Jake or Charlie. We know skiing, we know Japan, and we would be happy to share our knowledge with you.
Orientation and travel info
Japan consists of multiple islands. The main island is Honshu (where Tokyo is), and the northernmost island is Hokkaido. We will be spending a week on Hokkaido in 3 different locations -- Sapporo, Rusutsu Resort, and Yubari Resort. Sapporo is the major city on Hokkaido and the airport you will fly into is the New Chitose airport (CTS). First, you will make a brief stop in Tokyo's Haneda airport (HND), clear Japanese customs and change planes. The flight from Tokyo to Sapporo is 1.5 hours.
The New Chitose airport is not really in the city of Sapporo, instead it is about 45 minutes away by train. Snowlocals.com founders Jake and Charlie will meet the group at the arrivals hall in the CTS airport and we will all take the train to Sapporo's main station. From here we will take a subway 2 stops to our hotel in Sapporo for the first night.
Day 1 - February 12
You land on Hokkaido at 8:35 am on Feb. 12th. We will likely need to store our luggage at the hotel before the rooms are ready for check-in.
- Feb. 12th is the last day of the 69th Sapporo Snow Festival. From the hotel we can walk 10 minutes to the giant snow sculptures in the downtown Susukino and Odori districts of Sapporo. There are building-sized snow sculptures in Odori Park and ice sculptures in Susukino.
- The afternoon is a perfect time for a bowl of Sapporo's famous miso ramen in any number of small local restaurants before returning to the hotel to check in and rest a bit.
- This evening, we can again see the snow sculptures complete with light shows and performances before the ice and snow artwork is promptly bulldozed that evening and into the next day.
- A welcome dinner is yet to be finalized.
- Return to the hotel for a relaxing onsen (Japanese hot bath/spa) or a jet-lag-induced coma.
Day 2 - February 13
- Breakfast is included at the hotel. It is Buffet style.
- Early morning! We have an 8:00am bus to catch from Sapporo Station, meaning we take the subway 2 stops and then board a bus to Rusutsu Resort.
- This is a 90 minute bus ride.
- When we arrive at Rusutsu Resort we will be staying in a stand-alone log-cabin that is located on the ski area and just next to the main resort and steps to the lifts.
- Ski in the afternoon. There are 3 skiable peaks and hopefully there is a fresh layer of powder for us to wake up the legs and get used to any new gear.
- Night skiing
- Explore the sprawling and constantly entertaining resort complex
- Dinner at one of a few recommended restaurants within the resort.
- night-time onsen in the adjacent Westin Rusutsu Tower indoor/outdoor pools.
About Rusutsu Resort:
Rusutsu Resort is a large ski resort complex on Hokkaido that is made up of 2 hotels and 3 lift-serviced peaks. The Rusutsu Resort North and South Wing hotel is where we will be staying and across the street (connected by a monorail) is the Westin Rusutsu Tower hotel. Both hotels were originally owned by Kamori Kanko until the Westin purchased the all-suite tower hotel in 2015.
Rusutsu itself is located an easy 90 minute bus ride from Sapporo, the population hub of Hokkaido and scene of the 1972 Winter Olympics. Rusutsu is easy to get to and it's large and modern, but it lacks the international reputation of neighboring Niseko. This keeps the crowds manageable and the snow pristine. In traditional Japanese style, no detail is overlooked at this resort. From a luxury 24-story all-suite tower to the adjacent hotel complex, and all of the amenities and activities in between, it's tough to feel bored here.
Days 3 and 4 - February 14 & 15
- Chances are it will have Pow'd so we will wake up around 7:00am
- Breakfast is included at the hotel.
- The lifts open at 9:00am so we'll try to be on the mountain early, especially if it has snowed. There aren't really lift lines in Japan, so don't worry about getting first chair.
Afternoon / evening
- Ski -- you can ski till 8:00pm everyday if you want.
- If not see 'Activity Options' below and enjoy.
Activity Options - The Rusutsu campus is filled with activities and if you have any energy leftover following your day skiing, or for some weird reason it didn't snow 30cms overnight then you can have your pick from: dog-sledding, snow rafting, snowshoeing, sledding or exploring the snow-covered amusement park. If you prefer an indoor activity, you can tour the bars, restaurants, shops, sensory overload arcade, merry-go-round (within an indoor village), onsen (Japanese hot bath), pool, water slide, wavepool, gym, more restaurants, another onsen, singing wax tree, and whatever else you happen to find inside this sprawling complex. Then retreat to your room and wait for the snow to fall again because it's never long between storms.
- We can arrange a trip to the fish market (in a coastal village) one morning if a few people would like to accompany the sushi chef and document this part of his job.
Morning Fish Market with the Sushi Chef
Videos From Rusutsu
Day 5 - February 16
- This is our final morning at Rusutsu Resort. We will eat breakfast as usual and then catch a private bus to Yubari Resort.
- The bus from Rusutsu to Yubari is 2.5 hours.
- Arrive at Yubari Resort and check in to the Mt. Racey Hotel.
- Dinner is also included and is also buffet style in the hotel.
- Relax in the open air onsen and hopefully watch it snow.
About Yubari Resort:
Yubari is the closest ski area to the Hokkaido's main New Chitose Airport (CTS). It is still an hour away, but this undiscovered little mountain has some Japanese charm and is in a town with a story to tell. Yubari was once Japan's coal capital and a city of 120,000. Today, Yubari has a population of 8,000 mostly senior residents, and the uncrowded ski area hopes to bring some life back to the region during this foreigner-driven ski boom.
There is no resort in Japan better suited to begin or end a larger Japan Trip.
Yubari Resort is one of those places that you just happen across while traveling and then keep returning to every year. It is easy to get to and just plain relaxing. The train quite literally drops you off in the parking lot. The hotel is then connected to the gondola via a covered bridge, and you will never feel the pressure to get first chair and first tracks because well... all of your tracks will be first tracks. Once you have had your fill of playful and powdery tree skiing, then spend a few runs ripping the GS course, the mogul zipper line, or the surprisingly well-maintained terrain park. Don't forget to hone your turning skills on a smooth groomer run in true Japanese fashion and then snack on some famous Yubari Melon bread. Eat some dinner, marvel at the amazing assortment of melon bear (the Yubari mascot) merchandise, ski a few laps under the lights at night and then finish the day in an open air onsen.
Day 6 - February 17
- Wake up, eat buffet breakfast and go skiing.
- Eat lunch at the cafe at the base of the ski area, try some Yubari melon bread, and other melon-flavored snacks.
- Continue skiing.
- Yubari Resort doesn't have the plethora of activities that were offered at Rusutsu. instead this is a place where you ski until you are content and then relax.
- However, there is a coal mining museum if anyone is interested in the coal mining history of Yubari that has left the town deserted.
- Dinner is again in the hotel.
- There is an Izakaya stye pub across the street if anyone is interested
- This would be a good evening to talk with hotel employees and residents who can speak to the town's history and the current hopes for the ski area and ski industry.
- As always, an onsen before bed.
Day 7 - February 18
- Breakfast is included at the hotel. It is Buffet style.
- Pack your gear and bring bags to the lobby to store while skiing. The same man has been guarding the luggage storage room for what seems like a long time. So, your bags are safe.
- Catch a 1 hour bus back to CTS airport for flights home. Bus will leave around 4:00pm
- Your flight departs CTS airport at 7:30pm on Feb. 18th.
- You will arrive at LAX at 3:50pm that same day.
HERE IS WHAT “LOCALS” BRING TO JAPAN
FIRST: Here’s what our incredibly generous sponsors will be providing, so you won’t need to pack these items, unless you want backup. BUT REMEMBER TO LEAVE SOME ROOM IN YOUR BAG to bring home your goodies like telescoping poles, helmet, goggles etc.
** PLEASE bring Spyder kit and plan to ski in this all/most of the time. If you need backup, go ahead and pack some.
** Skis and poles will be provided by Nordica, but if you want to bring your own as well, that’s ok … weird, but ok!
** Bring your new Popticals sunnies for those rare moments when the sun peeks through between pow storms! Plus you’ll want to look cool hangin around the resorts.
** We just received final word that SHRED Optics will provide HELMETS and GOGGLES, which will be shipped to Japan, so you won’t need to pack these.
OTHER ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES:
- ATM card/credit card (some way to extract/spend money)
- Ski boots/snowboard boots
- Warm gloves
- Mid-layer such as a down sweater or vest: preferably something with ALLIED down of course!
- Waterproof shell or outer layer
- Socks you prefer to ski/ride in (Nordica may provide some as well)
- A warm base layer (Ex: long johns and a fleece: NOT cotton… DUH!!)
- At least one set of 'street clothes' (pants, t-shirt, and shoes to wear while not choking on powder)
EXTRA BUT USEFUL
- Spare lenses for goggles
- spare gloves
- More than one pair of ski/snowboard socks
- More than one pair of any kind of socks
- More than one pair of underwear … PLEASE!!!
- A few shirts/ pairs of pants
- Face-mask/gator - it gets COLD
- Bathing suit: While the onsens are customarily nude, you may not be comfortable. Plus the wave pool at Rusutsu is not.
- Snow boots for trudging through snow around town
- Phone/internet device
- Camera (with selfie-stick just to fit in)
- Power adapter (depending on where you are from). Same outlet as North America and sometimes with the 3rd grounding pin.
IF YOU STILL HAVE ROOM
- Boot dryer
- Japan guide book/phrase book
ACQUIRED TRICKS & TIPS
- Carry ski boots with you on the plane. If your bags are lost it is best to have your own boots because rentals are never as good
- If you need to buy a ski bag for this trip, look for one with wheels. You might be dragging your stuff through sprawling subway stations
- Seven-Eleven convenience stores in Japan seem to have the only ATMs that regularly accept foreign cards. If the ATMs aren't working, try a Seven-Eleven
- For international travel to many countries, a 4-digit PIN number is required to get money from an ATM. Be on the safe side and change your PIN to a 4-digit number before you leave
- Tell your bank you will be traveling. Where to and for how long. This way they are less likely to assume your transaction in Japan is fraud and automatically cancel your card.
- Inside temperatures in Japan are often uncomfortably warm, while it can be very cold outside. Do not dress to ski based on how warm you are in your room. Be ready to sweat it out until you get outside.
- Even in the dry Japanese powder, when you ski/ride deep snow for long enough, you get wet and soggy. This is where extra glove, socks, and goggles/lenses come in handy.
- Leave extra room in your bags for this trip because you will return home with more stuff than you left with.
If you are interested in travel insurance for your trip click HERE