Tokachi has been on every back country skier’s hit list for a while now, and for good reasons. The range sits across the valley from Furano and you can see the Tokachi mountain range on a clear day in all its glory from across the valley. The popular routes under Furanodake, Sandan Yama are well trodden, with the former a little more challenging and the latter a great place to embark on your first back country tour. There is one main road to access the area and thus the immediate areas adjacent to the road are well explored. Parking can be limited and general courtesy should be observed.
One of the major attraction of skiing in active volcanic area is the apres ski onsens. There are a few to choose from and they all have their own distinctive flavour. My personal favourite is the outdoor onsen by the side of the mountain. Onsen traditions are implied and should be observed in all the onsens, although some patrons are seen to adopt their own preference. In any case, nothing feels better than a hot soak after a hard day on the slopes. That warm glow after an onsen is unbeatable.
Other than a limited supply in the vending machines there are nothing else on offer except a full restaurant lunch menu at one of the onsen. So back country picnic wherever you fancy is ideal. You will see large concrete dam walls dotted around the mountain to stem lava flow into the populated valley below. A large-scale avalanche on a popular aspect occurred after a snow storm which was preceded by a rain event in February 2016 with no fatality.
The mountain is mainly wind facing so picking the favourable aspect to ski on the day is important for weather exposure, and for wind loading/scouring. There are plenty of tree skiing and some above tree line skiing. The access point to Furanodake is via a picturesque river crossing, and navigation back to this point is critical. Sandan Yama on the other hand is a wide boulevard and relatively easier to navigate. Adjacent peaks offer some fantastic alpine like conditions on a good day and frankly horrendous on a windy day without any protection from the elements.
For all the hidden gems in the area speak to John from Alpine Back Country Guides who has been skiing this area for the last few decades, and hop on a tour and explore this remarkable back country playground.