I did a simple Google search for Backcountry ski trips in Japan recently and came across a multitude of organizations and trip options. If you have found your way here, you must have done the
same. With so many choices, how do you make a decision on a backcountry ski guiding service for Japan?
As a backcountry guide outfit which is based in Japan, you may think that this blog post is going to be heavily biased, but hear me out. I will go through 4 factors that I use when choosing
a backcountry operator when I take a Japanese group abroad. There are a number of reasons why I prefer to use a local operator who is based in that country as opposed to a guide based
elsewhere. Let me explain.
When it comes to communication, my concern isn't ordering food. On a ski touring trip, although safety is the priority, there is always the potential risk of an injury. It is imperative
in an exotic location that the guide has the ability to be able to communicate with the local rescue services. And like Russia, communicating to the rescue services in Japan will
very be difficult without any Japanese language ability.
A local operator will have a dedicated rescue plan in case of an emergency which has been formulated from years working in that area. A foreign guide should have the same, but working
alone without local support runs the risk of a compromised rescue.
Arriving on the Kamchatka Peninsula, I had only a limited picture of the snowpack after looking at the weather for a few weeks prior to departure. I had no knowledge of the nuances of the
localized mountain weather. After a discussion with Grigory on the snowpack and the weather forecast, I was filled in on the conditions that we would likely be guiding on the first day.
Our trip to Kamchatka was a huge success, which spanned three different mountain ranges, from the high alpine volcanoes, to the smaller Japanese type birch covered lower mountains. The success of
the trip can be attributed to Grigory, the local Russian guide who delivered on a fantastic trip.
So what are the take-aways? I have taken Japanese groups now to a number of different foreign locations. On each occasion, working with a local guide or organization for the safety and
support has resulted in successful trips.
If you do choose a foreign guide, do a check to see that they will have the support of a local guide or organization, for the main reason of safety. And of course for delivering you to
the best snow and terrain possible.