Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

August 15, 2016

Ski Plan Japan

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — admin @ 6:05 am

Hokkaido Skiing Itinerary

I had to plan an itinerary for my mate Andy, so I thought I may as well share it with everyone because it would be helpful for others.


Rusutsu is sick. Wide-open powder and plenty of trees. There is no cheap dirt-bag accommodation so you have to stay at the ultra-expensive hotel or some mid-range pensions. Here are a few recommendations.

1. Pension Sky Be

2. Ohisama House

3. Pension Lilla Huset

4. Pension Clydesdale

More Options for hotels

To get there, take the bus from Sapporo Airport , Niseko, or Sapporo.


Kiroro has got some great powder runs. But there are only expensive hotels there. So unless you are a super-rich yuppy, then the only option is to stay at Otaru and catch the bus up the hill each day.

Smile Hotel Otaru, Dormitory L, and Otaru Guesthouse Harvest are close to the station and reasonably priced.


You can stay at Sapporo and ski a couple of resorts close to the city such as Kokusai and Teine.

Hotels near station – APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae , Nest Hotel Sapporo Odori. Toyoko Inn Hokkaido Sapporo-eki Minami-guchi, Richmond Hotel Sapporo Odori.


Niseko can get crowded and tracked-out early. But if you know what you are doing and get out of bed early then there is some of the best skiing in the world. Here is my secret tip. Stay at Annupuri and ski that side before all the maggotts do the traverse over from Hirafu. If you want you can buy an all-mountain pass and ski hirafu and hanazono as well.

Alex gate 9
Annupuri Gate 9

For a room, have a look at the Niseko Annupuri Youth Hostel

Also, have a look at Moiwa. Some great powder skiing there, and there is a reasonable lodge right at the bottom of the lifts.


There are two parts to Furano, Kitanomine and Furano. It is a nice place because it still has the feel of a Japanese town, not a resort.

Place to stay include: Furano Alpine Backpackers, Furanui.

Kitanomine ski resort


Close to Asahikawa, this resort has some fantastic powder skiing. Although, it may be hard to find a room at the resort, you may have to stay in Asahikawa.

Best Plan for a month

Fly into Shin-Chitose. bus to Niseko. Stay in either Annupuri or Moiwa.
Bus to Rusutsu, stay at pension near lifts.
Furano, with day trips to Kamui and/or Tomamu.
Sapporo, ski at Kokusai/Teine.

January 30, 2015

Yurtz Rail Jam

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — admin @ 12:22 pm

Hirafu Niseko.

Tonight I went down the road to the Rail Jam, which was skiing and snowboarding on a rail. Park tricks.

Rail Jam Yurtz
Big Crash.

Rail Jam Yurtz 2

Rail Jam Yurtz 3
Snowboarding park trick

Rail Jam Yurtz 4
skier park trick

Rail Jam Yurtz 5
Riding the rail

Rail Jam Yurtz 6

January 17, 2015

Niseko Sunny Day

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 6:19 am


Yesterday the sun came out again. No new snow.

super ridge
Super Ridge


Looking towards Kutchan from up the top of Hirafu.

niseko peak
The peak at Hirafu

niseko peak 2
Hirafu Peak

March 21, 2012

Japan Retrospective

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — admin @ 1:15 am

2010 – 2011 Season Highlights.

I thought I had better do a 2011-2012 Japan trip highlights and retrospective just to look back on my recent trip to Japan. This is only a brief taste of the travel and skiing that I did in this trip. It started off in Osaka, where I had a great outing to the Kuromon markets, where there was a fantastic array of food displayed, mainly sea-food and tempura. The fugu were the highlight for me, I reckon.

Puffer Fish
Fugu at Kuromon Markets, Osaka

I love to photograph the fugu, but no way am I going to eat some. I got early to Furano, arriving on the twentieth of December and get some early snow falls. From around Christmas Day, the snow got really light and fluffy. I think I got my arrival spot on. My estimate is that the prime time for Hokkaido is from just before Christmas to around the middle of March. Before and after that, the snow gets a bet wet and heavy.

Dai-san Telemark
Telemark Skiers, Dai-san lifto

I loved taking photos of the extreme carvers on their snowboards. This guy has popped out his rail and then just popped it back again and made the turn. Aweseome!

Extreme Carving
Extreme Carving

I only went to a couple of the Cultural nights at the Kitanomine ski-jo. The first one was great with the belly paintings.

Furano Belly painting
Furano Belly Painting

I enjoyed taking photos of the snow clearing machinery, especially the snow munchers which chewed up the snow and dumped it into the back of trucks, and the snow ploughs.

snow plough
Snow Plough

The local shinto temple was interesting, with lots of photographic and cultural facets that I had fun with. This is a lion dog which is supposed to guard the north-east corner of the temple from the bad spirits.

Komainu, Shinto Temple, Furano

The trip to Lake Shikaribetsu to see the igloos and ice bar was fantastic and surreal.

Ice Bar Hiro
Shikaribetsu Lake Ice Bar

And back to Osaka on the return leg, I had some takoyaki at the source. Did some more street photography and had a great bike ride from near Osaka to Arashiyama.

Takoyaki Chef
Takoyaki Chef, Osaka

All in all, this season in Japan saw some great falls of snow, I had some epic powder skiing, and had some awesome photographic opportunities. I cannot wait for next year. Ganbatte!

Slideshow of my photos from the trip

February 18, 2012


Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 10:43 am

Furano, Hokkaido, Japan.

I had heard yesterday that there had been an avalanche on the Premium Zone (Kumatoshi) and this morning I saw a photo of it. So on the way up the gondola, I had the camera ready to take some photos of the avalanche from the window of the Gondola.

Kumatoshi Avalanche
Avalanche Kumatoshi

When I got close enough to see the avalanche I started snapping away, but it was difficult from the window and with my helmet on. doh! But I think I got enough to show the full extent of it.

Kumatoshi Avalanche
Kumatoshi Avalanche

I took this shot from the top of the link chair. You can see the full extent of it from this angle.

Premium Zone Avalanche.
Kumatoshi Avalanche

The Premium Zone to the right of the avalanche seemed ok.

Premium Zone up the top
Premium Zone, further to the right and above.

The Dam run or the Widowmaker had a big crack in it as well and could go off at any time.

Cracks in the Widowmaker

The face to the right above the top of Furano Ropeway has some massive cracks in it as well.
Cracks in the face
To the right of the Ropeway

The rest of the morning I just took some scenic shots.

View from top of gondola
View from the top of the Kitanomine Gondola

Above ropeway
Just above the ropeway

snow scrub
Snow Scrub

snow lip
Snow lip

furano and tokachidake
Furano has a bridge, a Pachinko Parlour, and Tokachidake mountain

Trees in the National Park

February 14, 2012

Chair Ski Ramen

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:44 am

Furano, Hokkaido.

We got the first chairlift up the mountain today. There was only about five centimeters of fresh snow on the Kitanomine side. Here is Toyo walking to the ski-jo.

Kitanomine Ski-jo
Kitanomine Ski-jo

So, up the quad chair we went and back down for a warm-up run.

Buddy on the Chair-lift

Then off up the Downhill chair, or as it is correctly called, Kitanomine Daini lifto. Here is Boris and Toyo on a couple of chairs ahead of me. I got them to wave. Aren’t they obedient?

Boris and Toyo
Boris and Toyo on the Dai-ni lifto

I managed to get a shot of a random snowboarder from the chair as he skied down the side of the run.

Random snowboarder
Random snowboarder

After that, we went over to the Furano side and skied down the Challenge run. It is becoming our favourite run this year. Here is Toyo skiing the powder on his 1980 skinny skis. Hard Kore!

Toyo Skiing
Toyo shredding the Gnar

Around half past eleven we stopped for lunch at the noodle restaurant at the bottom of the Furano Ropeway. We just managed to get our orders in before the power went off. It was lucky we stopped when we did, else we would have been stuck up the ropeway for half an hour or so freezing our butts off!

Ramen Shop
Ramen Cooking in the vats

I had a pork bun and a sandwich, plus a free glass of water.

Ramen for lunch
Ramen for lunch

February 12, 2012

Skiing and Cooking

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 10:44 am

Japanese Style.

These are some of the photos that I have taken over the past week or so. The snow has been dumping down for about five days so I have had little inclination to take any photos because I just want to ski the fresh powder.

Ropeway crowd
Crowd waiting for the ropeway at Furano ski-jo

There is no time to stop and take any photos. ha ha.


That is the skiing part taken care of. When we are back at the hostel, we rustle up some mean grub.

Ryan chopping up a sweet potato, I think

Boris cooking dinner

This is a pretty standard lunch for me. Noodles with wakame (seaweed) and moyashi (bean sprouts). I usually chuck in dried garlic and chilli.

Lunch in Japan
My lunch

Sometimes with dinner I have a can of Chu-hai, which is Korean rot-gut vodka type drink made out of sweet potatoes and mixed with fruit juice such as lemon or grapefruit. It is delicious.

February 3, 2012

Furano Ski Hosts

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: — admin @ 10:27 am

Snow Deprivation.

There has been no snow for about four days here in Furano. I am starting to go a bit troppo. The other day I went out skiing just to keep up my fitness. The guys from the Alpine went out in their hot air balloons and we could see tham from up on the mountain. I managed to snag this shot which was lucky because they were really too far away for a decent photo.

hot air balloon
Hot Air Balloon over Furano

Someone had told me that Totoro was at the bottom of the single chair in Kitanomine and I thought it was some dude in a Totoro costume. But it was a snow sculpture that the lifties had been doing. Nearly every lift has a snow sculpture at the bottom. They must have a contest or something going on. If you do not already know, Totoro is a character out of a Studio Ghibli anime movie.

Totoro Snow Sculpture

This morning I got up early and went for a ski with Boris. While waiting I took some photos of my room-mate Gareth. I have not done a lot of portrait photography so I am just learning. Today I realised I have no idea how to process portraits of humans. I know how to do birds and animals, but not humans. I must do a tutorial and learn how.


At the ski-jo, we ran into the ladies from the child minding facility, Kojima Academy.

Kojima Academy
Kojima Academy

And the snow sculpture at the bottom of the Kitanomine Gondola. I have no idea what it is. doh!

snow sculpture
Snow sculpture

During the morning we skied with the Ski Hosts. You can book the previous day, and the nice locals will show you around the mountain for free. It is a great service and one that new visitors to Furano should take advantage of.

Furano ski hosts
With the Ski hosts at the top of the Ropeway

And, it started snowing during the day, so it looks like the drought has broken. woot!

January 17, 2012

Japan Mountain Landscapes

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 5:24 am

Snow Scenes.

We have not had any new snow for about three days now. It is getting a bit dire. I thought I might do some landscape shots today. I thought I might get the surrounding mountain sides around the ski resort at Furano. This one is looking to the right from the top of the Ropeway.

halfway between gondola and ropeway
Halfway between Ropeway and Gondola

Here is what is called the Premium Zone or Kumatoshi. There is a massive crack about half way down so it is closed.

Premium zone
Premium Zone

This slope is called the Widow-maker for obvious reasons and is Keith and Grommet’s favourite run.

The widow-maker
The Widow-maker

Above the Ropeway there is a double chair with pistes going off either side.

Above the ropeway
Above the Ropeway

And finally this is the jaws of ice hanging off the roof of the restaurant at the top of the Ropeway.

jaws of ice
Jaws of Ice

January 14, 2012

Furano Skiing 2012/01/14

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 4:47 am

A Windy Day.

This morning I was not going to go for a ski because we only got less than five centimeters of fresh snow last night and the wind was howling. So, my reasoning was that the fresh snow would be wind-packed and not very nice to ski. But later on in the morning the sun came out, so I decided to go out and take some photos.

top of the gondola.
Looking towards the top of the gondola

When I got outside the wind was still blowing a bit, but I kept going, seeing it was such a drama getting all my ski gear on. I could not find hardly anyone to take any photos of. There were hundreds of beginners on the lower slopes but hardly any good skiers around.

downhill training
Downhill Racer training

The sun had started to disappear by this time, and there were clouds rolling in a when I took my gloves off to take photos, my hands would start freezing up. It was so cold.

boy racer
Grommet downhill racer

I eventually managed to get some of the racers training on the training run. At least I got some shots this morning. The snow off-piste was horrendous. As I had forecast, the fresh snow had been packed and was all crusty and yucky.

downhill racer
One of the big boys having a dig

Most of my photos today were taken at 1/1000 shutter speed and aperture of f/8.0. I had to up the ISO to 200 because the sun had gone away. The Canon 350D seems to take pretty sharp pictures for an old camera, but the burst is pretty horrendous. You can only take about four or five photos in a burst. It must have a pretty tiny buffer. Oh well, you make do with what you got.

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