Cody Townsend, a professional skier who travels the globe in search of the best skiing experiences, visited Mt. Hakkoda in central Aomori Prefecture. Even today, Mt. Hakkoda is home to pristine natural beauty and is famed for its frost and snow-covered trees that have become known as “snow monsters.” What did Cody think of his skiing experiences in such unique scenery?
-What were the best things about skiing in Aomori?
Cody: By far the coolest thing was being able to choose your own way down and go wherever you want. The Hakkoda Ropeway ski area in Aomori has two permanent courses in the managed area-the direct course (3.5 km) and the forest course (5 km)- and these are amazing for intermediate to advanced skiers. There’s a particularly great range of advanced-level options, plus there is hardly anyone there, giving you a sense of having the entire mountain to yourself.
I don’t know why Hakkoda is not more well-known, because it has some of the best runs, snow quality and scenery I’ve found in Japan.
-What is unique to Aomori (Mt. Hakkoda) in terms of skiing style and ways to have a good time?
Cody: My top pick would be the backcountry skiing. You can enjoy pristine natural surroundings and ski down open slopes with no trees and unbelievable powder. Getting away from the crowded pistes and walking through forests in search of untouched slopes is one of the best feelings.
For all skiers thinking about exploring the backcountry, I would recommend hiring a guide, who knows about danger spots like snow overhangs and crevices.
-Other than the skiing, what else about Aomori made an impression on you?
Cody: Hachinohe Yokocho in Hachinohe city in southeastern Aomori was amazing. There was one bar, called Prince, that was the coolest bar I’d ever been in by far. The bartender was devoted to his craft and it was really cool to experience that-it felt very real. The izakaya bar specializing in seafood Shiosai was the same. The owner was totally dedicated to barbequing fish well. It was their single-minded devotion that I found really inspiring.
Also, you could tell when people walked into the bars that the bartender knew them. I got the impression that, despite being small, there is a strong sense of community. You don’t feel they are serving you as a tourist, and you don’t feel any divide between the locals and visitors-you are just another person there. It felt warm and welcoming. At Okage-san, the izakaya bar serving local specialties, the owners were so friendly. We had a great time sitting under the kotatsu blanket, enjoying senbei-jiru soup, which is a specialty of Hachinohe.
-What were the most appealing aspects of your Aomori trip that you want to tell your fans about?
Cody: One of the best things for a traveler is to find a secret part of the world. I think Aomori is the best kept secret for a skier in Japan. I’ve never heard of other skiers I know going to Aomori, but now I know about it. So, I have a little secret (laughs). With runs that will appeal to even the best skiers and its mesmerizing “snow monster” landscapes, I have no doubt that Aomori is one of the best places to go for skiing.
Also, in Mt. Hakkoda there are fewer skiers than in Niseko (Hokkaido) and Hakuba (Nagano) and your guide can take you to many amazing places to enjoy backcountry skiing suited to your skiing skills. It felt so real, like an authentic old-style ski resort.