Frequently Asked Questions
How much hiking up is involved?
There will be approximately 3-4 hours of hiking broken up in the day and approximately 800~1000 vertical meters of skiing.
・USAGI TOUR = 3 hrs hiking, 500~700 vertical meters of skiing/riding
・KITSUNE TOUR = 3 ~ 4 hrs hiking, 800 ~ 1000 vertical meters of skiing/riding
What kind of terrain will be skiing/riding?
It depends on the conditions and snow stability on that day. Our guides want to ski and ride in good snow conditions and can find safe and fun terrain in almost all weather. On USAGI TOURS you may be riding open powder bowls, in the trees, gladed and spaced deciduous forests. On more advanced tours we often ride gladed trees and forests, open alpine bowls and access higher ridgelines and chutes.
How fit do I need to be?
As we will be hiking up from the tops of the resorts you’ll need to able to hike with your skis/splitboard or on snowshoes for upwards of 2.5 hours. The pace is not high speed, however it is physically demanding, so some cardio fitness is required to sustain a steady hiking pace. We of course take breaks to rest and for snacks to reenergize.
Can I bring a camera / Go Pro on the tour?
Yes, snap away! There will be lots of good chances for photos…moreso on the way up though. Please don’t have your “GoPro” chest mounted as it can interfere with your beacon.
I’ve never used a touring ski or splitboard set up, is it OK?
First time on a ski touring set up? No worries, our guides will walk you through the way to “skin up” and switching from acscend to descend modes.
Do we learn about avalanche safety and beacon use?
Yes, our guides will cover basic avalanche safety, what to do in the event of an avalanche and how to search for someone using your avalanche transceiver or beacon.
What training / certifications do your guides have?
Evergreen guides have formal avalanche risk management operations courses, avalanche safety and rescue training. Our lead guides also are certified by international ski guiding associations, (such as the Canadian Ski Guides Association) and have Willderness First AId and CPR training. Operationally, we meet daily to collaborate and discuss snowpack data, weather observations and tour itineraries to make sure you are headed to the best snow in safe conditions every day.
As I have all my own gear, can I get a discount?
We have now priced all our tours to include a backpack, beacon, probe and shovel. With so many people with some, none or all the required gear, we’ve created a flat rate that covers the basic set up for everyone, so unfortunately we can’t reduce the price for those fully equipped folks. Thanks for your understanding and feel free to use our gear if you like.
Does the tour include the lift tickets to get up the resort?
You’ll need to purchase a “one-up” ticket for the gondola or chairlift(s) to just get up to where we can hike from. Some tours we don’t use any lifts. But the one up ticket price usually comes to under 2,500 yen. If you have a set number of day tickets you have to use, then for sure you can use your day ticket for your day in the backcountry or going on an Off-Piste Tour.
Do you have maps of the areas we will ski/ride?
Yes, we’ve got some big maps on the wall at the Evergreen Backcountry Office, our guides carry maps and you can purchase maps from a few mountain gear stores in Hakuba.
Can I ride my own snowboard?
It does depend on a few factors….
・A) How deep the snow is that day? Too deep and you’ll struggle and sink on your snowshoes.
・B) What the others are using in the group. If we have mostly skiers in the group then a snowshoer with their board strapped to their back will likely slow the group down over the day on the way up. Again depending on the tour area and snow on that day.
・C) If you and your friends all choose to use snowshoes and carry your snowboard on your backpack then the pace will be the same, so not a problem (snow conditions permitting). Choosing a splitboard is a wise choice on deeper powder days and long slogs across flats and up/down terrrain.
Can I use my own skis?
If you have alpine touring bindings and skins for them and they are over 90mm in the waist then they should be fine for our backcountry tours. For Off-Piste tours, if the snow is not too deep then regular all-mountain skis should be fine. You won’t need alpine touring bindings and skins for the off-piste tours. If the snow is looking really deep, our guides will recommmend a ski with a 100mm or more waist to really have fun in the powder. Carving skis are not recommended for either backcountry or off-piste tours, stick to the groomers with those.
Do I need special ski touring boots for the alpine touring bindings?
Nope, regular old ski boots will work for you as they will fit in all our AT (alpine touring) bindings. AT boots are good though if you want more fore/aft movement when hiking up and are usually a little lighter. We don’t have any pin-type AT bindings (like Dynafit) on our touring skis, but AT boots with pin-type soles will fit on our AT bindings.
Is there Cat Skiing or Heli-Skiing in Hakuba?
At the moment there is only the Tsugaike Kogen helicopeter skiing tour, (one ride up) which starts from usually mid-late March for the spring skiing enthusiats. The heli flies from the mid-station of the Gondola up to Tenguhara, there is a set “ski down” course which everyone follows down. There is no guide and no avalanche safety gear provided for the tour. On a bluebird day, upwards of 100 people will take the heli-ride and ski down, so not really fresh tracks experience but fun none-the-less. Currently also no cat skiing operations in Hakuba as much of the terrain is in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, so it is earn-your-turns to get into the backcountry!
How can I get to the Evergreen Backcountry Office in the morning for my tour?
If you’ve booked a Private Tour, we will come to your hotel in Hakuba and pick you up. If you are on a regular tour (non-private) then either your hotel may be able to provide a shuttle, you can call a taxi or you can walk over if you are close to our office in Wadano. Please be there on time or a little early so we can make the most of the day! See where we are in Hakuba here.
Where can I buy good backcountry skis/boards or gear in Hakuba?
Lots of places really! Right next door to Evergreen Backcountry Office is Rhythm Snowsports, there is now North Face and Patagonia stores on the main drag down to the train station. There is Kojitsu Sanso (好日山荘), FullMarks, The Boarding Co. (splitboards) and the locals favorite Rapie (which has everything for your alpine expeditions).
When is the best time to ski the Hakuba backcountry?
On average, if you are looking for the most consistent snowfalls, coldest temperatures and deepest powder you’ll want to come in January or February. That said, is also sometimes pretty snowy, has a more unstable snowpack, there are more people in town and there are more whiteout blizzard days in these months. Early and later season will be less busy and since we can usually ski unti early May, March and April are good times to hit up bigger alpine lines with more blue sky days and the days are longer too.
What are the rules for skiing out-of-bounds on the resorts?
This is a tricky question to give one answer to. It depends on which resort, where you are planning to venture out-of-bounds, if you are returning to the resort after a quick duck under the ropes, is the terrain within the resort’s area or totally off and away from any runs.
Some resorts like Cortina, Tsugaike and Hakuba 47 have designated off-piste areas that people can access (some need a “pass” or “bib” to show you are allowed to ski there). Other resorts the ski patrol will take your pass away or get really angry at you.
What does the Evergreen’s backcountry insurance cover?
Participants on Evergreen’s backcountry and off-piste tours have basic activity insurance that has limited coverage as follows: Rescue – 1,500,000 yen, Death – 3,000,000 yen.
We highly recommend that all clients have their own additional travel insurance that covers off-piste and backcountry skiing. Please check with your travel insurance company – most insurance packages do not cover those skiing in backcountry areas.
What level of skier or boarder do I need to be?
This is an important question as no one wants to be in over their head, holding up a group or spending their day standing around waiting for others to make it down the mountain. We do our very best to make sure everyone is grouped properly, however this process will only benefit you if it starts with a realistic assessment of your riding abilities.
Please beware that our tours are geared towards intermediate – advanced, advanced and expert skiers.
We will work with you through the booking process to explore in more detail your skill level so we can ensure you will get the most out of your day in the mountains.
CRITICAL SKILLS NEEDED TO COMPETENTLY RIDE IN OFF-PISTE & BACKCOUNTRY TERRAIN.
All skiers must feel confident making solid parallel turns, of varying rhythm and size, on steep blue or black angled terrain at an active pace. Being able to manage this terrain in deep snow or crud (depending on conditions) is of particular importance.
Critical skills are being able to hold a strong edge for high traverses and the ability to read terrain effectively so you can avoid the pitfalls of flat benches, miniature gullies and deep pow that will often stop snowboarders in their tracks. Literally.
Much of Hakuba’s best and most protected terrain is among the trees in areas with naturally occurring hazards, so you need to be able to navigate these and make turns where the terrain dictates. Many runs end with trails that are winding, narrow and bumpy ‘luge’ like exits where speed control is a requirement. With the assistance of your guide you can expect to cross partially open creek beds, flat cat roads and benches on which we may need to hike/walk across.
Intro to Off-Piste Tours:
This introductory program provides the first time off-piste skier/rider with coaching on how to translate the above mentioned skills into powder and variable off-piste terrain. Depending on the amount of fresh snow, you will need to make sure you have an appropriate fat powder ski or board to get the most out of your day.
Advanced Off Piste & Backcountry Tours:
In these programs it is assumed that skiers/riders already have experience in powder, at least in off-piste terrain. You don’t necessarily need to have the best style but you need to be capable of making your way down the mountain at a reasonable pace relative to your group.
For guests who have NEVER been backcountry touring, you will join the Usagi tour on your first day so you can receive instruction on how to climb and using the safety equipment.