Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Japow Dreaming

With Dave Hanscomb, Hakuba Valley, Japan, February 1998
For much of my life I have been studying lake-effect and orographic (i.e., mountain) snowfall in some way shape or form.  This includes scientific investigations as well as personal adventures involving face shots, chin ticklers, and bottomless powder.

I was first introduced to the incredible snow climate of Japan in 1998 when I visited the Hakuba Valley during the Nagano Winter Olympics.  I was there for only four days, however, and much of my time was spent conversing with meteorologists involved in weather support for the Games.  I had time for only a brief taste of Japanese powder skiing when the Men's Super-G was cancelled, allowing for a couple of hours of storm skiing at Happo Ono resort.  

Storm skiing, Happo Ono, February 1998.  Just me and a few security guards near the top of the Men's Super-G.
This winter I will finally be traveling back to Japan and hopefully getting another taste of Japow.  I plan to travel to Nagaoka to begin a collaboration with scientists at the Snow and Ice Research Center of Japan's National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention to better understand orographic enhancement of lake-effect precipitation through study of storms across a wide range of geographic and topographic environments.  

I am hoping to tack on a few days of skiing in the Hakuba, Myoko, and/or Tenjin areas.  If you can share any beta on tours or guides, add a comment or send me an e-mail directly (jim.steenburgh at  


  1. I have had a number of friends have wonderful experiences with CASA tours. While they mostly do longer trips, they are great people (HQ in Bozeman) and would likely be willing to talk with you or recommend other day guides.

  2. Though my wife and I did not do any backcountry touring, we skied at Nozawa Onsen, about 95km from Hakuba. It is a beautiful area with a great town at the base and from talking to those on the chairs, it has one of the best backcountry areas right outside the ropes. For what it's worth, we shared a chair with a guy from New Zealand who runs backcountry tours in the Nozawa Onsen area but did not catch a name. I think this may be the guy and his company.
    He seemed to know the area pretty well based on our chair lift convo. Also, the night before we arrived, early February of this year, Nozawa got a nice dumping of Japow, definitely worth the flight. Enjoy.