Toagari Onsen Backcountry

I had planned to visit Kijimadaira today, given that it was a Wednesday and the summit chair should be able to open due to yesterdays snowfall. However I had a suspicion that the summit would be closed again, and I learned my lesson from yesterday! It turns out this was a good call, as I had a great day touring at Togari, and it appears that Kijimadaira kept the summit chair closed again for some reason.

Togari Onsen were reporting -5c at the base in their morning weather report, and the lack of water coming out of my taps confirmed that it was below freezing (and that my pipe heaters were still unplugged!). Clear skies and a forecast for rapidly rising temperatures, I decided today was as good as any to head up to the ridgeline above the resort to take in the views.

Togari Onsen suffers from a common issue with Japanese resorts. The best terrain is now unavailable as the top lift has been abandoned. Kurohime Kogen is another example of this in the surrounding area. There are many rumours as to why these lifts were abandoned, most of them point to safety and avalanche risk, but I expect there is a large financial aspect as the local Japanese skiers are more than happy to play on the mellow gradients of the lower mountain.

I cut a skin track the long way up to the top of the abanoned top lift via a summer road. This route appears to be quite a bit longer than other options, but it prevents any potential confrontation with the resort staff as the short route starts directly above the active lifts. The snow on the way up was still in good condition, and quite deep. It didn’t take long though for the slopes in direct sunlight to start changing consistency and get a bit to sparkly as the snow crystals melted.

From the top of the abanoned lift I carried out out on the ridge to the north until the nearest summit at 1139m and then picked a line in the rather delicious looking back bowls, off the west side of the ridge away from the resort. There are a number of gullies in here with plenty of options for lines with little to no direct sunlight and the snow was fantastic.

I dropped down a few hundred vertical meters before the valley started to turn a bit south and the snow was getting heavier in the sun. Another 45 minutes to skin back to the ridgeline and I was exhausted, this was a big ask for my legs on their first day in the backcountry this season.

The ski back down into the resort and back to base was super sticky, and I had waxed my skis last night! It was a great day to be out in the sun and enjoying the views, but not a great day to be skiing anything with southerly aspect or low elevation. I think we will need some fresh snow at Togari before I head back up here.

The forecast is for rain tomorrow, and with the freezing level getting up to around 1800m all but the top slopes of the highest resorts in this area will be impacted. The good news is the rain is expected to be light, and we are expecting freezing levels to drop right back down on Friday. The long range forecast has some consistent snowfalls starting from early next week. We might get a few more brief temperature spikes, but in general things a looking up!