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SpotCheck | Asahidake, Japan

No longer quite an insider tip, but still worthwhile

by Johanna Korte 04/13/2024
Who hasn't wanted to ski or snowboard on an active volcano, between fumaroles (steaming clouds of smoke that smell of rotten eggs)? Where else would this be possible than in the land of hills and volcanoes: Japan, more precisely Hokkaido.

To the mountain

First of all, Japanese for beginners, especially for mountain sports enthusiasts: “dake” means mountain in Japanese. So the mountain we walked up is called Asahi. :) Moving on: My quick Google research revealed that it is actually an active (strato-)volcano which last erupted 200 years ago. The whole thing is easy to believe when you stand in the huge oval crater and are surrounded by a cloud of steam every now and then. The summit of the volcano is 2291 metres, making it the highest mountain on Hokkaido. However, the fumeroles are distributed in the crater, which lies at 1724m and can be easily reached by gondola, which drops you off at 1600m. The mountain is located in the Daisetzu-san National Park, where there are also many other great mountains and volcanoes to discover ;)

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First impression

As one of the first ski tours in Japan, we thought Asahidake sounded great on the 4th of January (in the middle of winter). So we travelled about 1.5 hours by car from Furano to the gondola station at Asahidake in the Daisetzu-san National Park. One of the rare bluebird days awaits us and the gondola queue is empty. Nevertheless, we decide to buy a one-way ticket as we just want to see the fumerole and climb to the top (a bad idea, but more on that later). The ticket costs 1,400 yen per person and the large-capacity gondola moves every 20 minutes towards the summit.

After walking 150 metres to the Fumeroles and taking what felt like 200 pictures, we decide to storm the summit. We get quite far, about 20m before the summit and then decide (also for the sake of our splitboard colleague without crampons) to transition and ski down, as the wind is quite strong and I left my hardshell jacket at home. The descent from up there wasn't worth it anyway, as everything was pretty windblown and it was probably more like "I just did it to have done it". However, once we were out of the wind and travelling slowly towards the Fumeroles, the experience was a unique one. The clouds of vapour with the wide, flat valley in the background are unique, even if it smells of rotten eggs.

But the real highlight of the mountain, and of Japan, is the incredibly fluffy and light powder that awaits you on the descent into the valley. Every turn was an unintentional face shot and the ride down to the valley went by far too quickly, so we definitely had to come back.

Further impressions

The following times we didn't just go up once, but bought a day ticket so that we could enjoy the powder to the full. With short bootpacks or short skins, you can reach couloirs, natural halfpipes, a few nice drops or even pillow lines. As the mountain is so high, the snow is always good and we never came close to the summit again. We only climbed the Fumeroles again during our friend’s visit.

Navigation is relatively easy thanks to the Fatmap app. There is a piste that leads from the gondola into the valley, but it doesn't always follow the same route. All the terrain around it is unsecured. There are no nasty surprises and even if most people on the mountain are on guided tours, this is not really necessary with a lot of experience and safe tour planning in the Alps. Avalanche equipment and first aid knowledge are of course a prerequisite for travelling in any backcountry terrain.

Unfortunately, as the winter progressed, it became more and more crowded and the queue at the gondola was getting too long, so we switched to other areas in the national park.


Definitely a must-see in Japan. The combination of great powder and skiing on an active, still smoking volcano is breathtaking. If you want to reach the summit, as is almost always the case in Japan, you need a good jacket and the will to walk and ski on icy terrain. Mid-January was the best time for us, as nobody was there yet and the snow was incredibly good. Even if it gets too crowded during the season to get enough runs in a day for a successful powder day, the view and the feeling alone are worth it. And you have at least one descent.

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Photo gallery

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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