Season 2021/22 has begun. After a slower than normal start, snowfall amounts have been getting closer to the typical averages, especially around the Sea of Japan and western coastal ranges.
I was joined by Richard and we did an easy backcountry ski tour with a goal to check the early season snow conditions in some of our terrain. On our first outing of the season, we are most interested in the snowpack depth and general coverage. It was good to see no real bamboo grass poking out, which was a good sign.
Bamboo grass makes up the general undergrowth in Hokkaido and blankets the landscape. It is a big contrast between the white-snow of Hokkaido winters and the green bamboo grass of the summers. It is an irrepressible plant that gets laid flat by meters of snow, lays in hibernation, only to then spring out during the post winter season thaw. It can grow up to 2 meters in height and is related to its larger bamboo cousins.
We did a full snow-profile to the ground and found a snow depth of nearly 2.5 meters. The process involves distinguishing all the different layers that have built up since the start of the season, the snow crystals and densities which define the layers and then finally a compression snow stability test.
We found a well consolidated snowpack with increasing hardness to the ground which is ideal. Sometimes we refer to this as a ‘right side’ up snowpack, as opposed to a snowpack which is ‘upside down’ and has softer layers under harder ones.
What is a day out in the backcountry without getting some good skiing. After standing in a cold snow pit for an hour or so and then eating a frozen rice ball, it was time to go down. 30 cm of low density fluff greeted us on our descent and some face-shots soon followed.
Looking forward to the season ahead.
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