Powder skiing in Japan is typically 8-9 hour days with a hearty breakfast and hefty dinner. The weather is typically stormy and cold. In February temperatures in the valley range from 30° to 3° (-1° to -16°). Since the snow is typically soft, sometimes with wind- or sun-crusts, we won't bother with most ski mountaineering equipment, but will carry ski crampons for the occasional wind-effected ridge.
Group Gear Provided
- Comprehensive first aid kit to stabilize bleeding and fractures
- Emergency communication - cell phone, satellite phone, or beacon device
- Emergency shelter
- Internal Frame Pack - 30L to 45L. Depending on the time of year or conditions, I've been using the Backcountry Access Stash 30L or the Blue Ice Warthog 40L (my favorite but a bit hard to get in North America).
- 1-2 Liters of water storage, in a combination of Nalgene bottles and thermos. More about my thoughts about water storage and treatment is here: LINK.
- Sun screen and lip balm
- Sunglasses - with good side protection and dark lenses. I actually carry two pairs, a brown lense for low light and a reflective lense for bright light. Native Bomber and Smith Guide's Choice
- Goggles - yes bring both! I like sunglasses for most uphill work, but goggles for the stormy days with flat light. K2 Source Z - Red Storm Goggle
- Small first aid kit with a couple of band-aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, your preferred blister repair. Also, an epi-pen if you have any critical allergies!
- Pocket knife
- Lighters - I carry 3-4 on any trip, in various places in my pack
- Headlamp - Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp. I recommend carrying a headlamp for all adventures that you could potentially find yourself in the dark.
- Food - you'll want 4-8 simple, quick snacks throughout the day.
- Any medications you normally need
- Camera, cell phone
- OPTIONAL: Avalanche airbag backpack. After +20 years of evidence, the statistics are overwhelming - when caught in an avalanche, airbag packs reduce the chance of burial by 50%. I use the Backcountry Access Float 32L.
- Avalanche Transceiver - single frequency, 457kHz, less than 10 years old required. Backcountry Access Tracker 2
- Shovel - small, compact, and metal blade. Backcountry Access B-1 Shovel
- Probe - a dedicated avalanche probe, not a ski-pole alternative model! Backcountry Access Stealth 240 Probe
- Skis - with Alpine Touring / Randonee or Telemark bindings and Ski Brakes or leashes. We're here for powder skiing, so a fatter board makes for more fun skiing. K2 Coomba 114 with Dynafit TLT Radical FT 2.0 Binding
- Ski boots - Alpine Touring / Randonee or Telemark only. No downhill boots! Scarpa Maestrale RS
- Ski poles - if you like to adjust your poles, then great, but I find them too much trouble and bring fixed length poles on 99% of my trips. Black Diamond Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles
- Climbing skins - these should be full length, wall-to-wall. I'm a huge fan of Pomoca, who just happen to produce the K2 backcountry skins. Pomoca Climb Pro Skins
- Ski Crampons - REQUIRED! Really necessary for those frozen morning starts. Get a pair wider than you ski-waist width, but less than 10mm wider. Dynafit Ski Crampons (120mm fit my skis above)
- OPTIONAL: Ski Helmet - helmet usage is becoming more and more common. While you're likely not to see me ski with a helmet except under certain circumstances, I will never tell you that you shouldn't. Make sure you have a way to secure it to your pack for uphill travel, and be aware that not all models replace the need for a climbing helmet. K2 Stash Helmet
Ski Clothing - recommending clothing can be the hardest part in the Cascades. What I wear for a tour in March is dramatically different then for June. Here is a loose suggestion that may be changed depending on actual conditions.
- On head: Knit hat, ball cap, neck gaiter. Outdoor Research Storm Beanie, Swift Cap, and Echo Ubertube
- On top: Long sleeve base layer, active insulation, soft or hard shell, belay insulation. I often climb up in my soft shell, and ski down in my belay insulation. Outdoor Research Echo L/S Zip Tee, Deviator Hoody, Iceline Jacket , and the Perch Belay Parka.
- On hands: I usually bring a pair of light, medium, and heavy insulated gloves. Outdoor Research Stormtracker Gloves, Super Vert Gloves, or Luminary Sensor Gloves
- On bottom: Base layer bottoms, softshell pants. Outdoor Research Sequence Tights, Trailbreaker Pants, Furio Pants
- On feet: I stick to typically ski socks, and try to bring a fresh pair for every day.
Street Clothing - you'll want to have a small selection of street clothes for your travel and evenings. Also, in consideration of Japanese culture, here are a few more things to have.
- A small backpack or bag. We'll be experiencing different onsens most nights, and will want a small bag to possible carry a change of clothes and your toiletry bag.
- Snow boots. I have a pair of Sorrels that I bring with me.
- Slippers or clogs. Its customary not to wear outside shoes indoors. There is a selection of slippers at the lodge, but typically smaller than most Westerner's feet.