Mount Yotei (1,898 m) is a dormant stratovolcano located within the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, in the Japanese northern island of Hokkaido. Dominating the skyline of the Niseko valley, this isolated and perfectly conical-shaped mountain resembles the iconic Mount Fuji and is one of the region’s most famous landmarks. Locals sometimes refer to it as ‘Ezo-Fuji’ (Ezo is an old word for Hokkaido).
During the winter season, thousands of skiers flock to Niseko to try Hokkaido’s epic powder snow. For skiers willing to venture beyond the boundaries of a ski resort, the staggering Mount Yotei appears as an irresistible option.
Attempting Mt Yotei is a highly weather dependent activity which requires a bit of planning, but ―for those who actually make it― it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
To help you plan your adventure, we’ve compiled a few tips and useful information. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to go ski touring in Mt Yotei!
Niseko is all about fresh, dry and very light powder snow and Mount Yotei is no exception for this. The area is well-known for its consistent and heavy snowfall, though the best conditions for ski touring in Mount Yotei are between April and May.
Skinning up to the top of Mount Yotei takes around 5-8 hours and can be very harsh, but the reward is amazing! If the weather conditions allow you to make it to the summit, you will get to enjoy the longest vertical ski descent in Hokkaido: a 1,500 run that won’t be so easy to forget!
Mount Yotei boasts a huge volcanic crater on its top. The crater is a white bowl about 140 meter deep and provides a unique (and quite surreal) ski descent. Inside the crater you’ll enjoy amazing weather conditions, as it is protected from the wind.
Skiing Mount Yotei is recommended for intermediate to advanced ski tourers. You need to be able to ski in full control in 30° untracked slopes in deep powder and in all types of conditions: bumpy terrain, in between trees, etc.
Besides, you need to be in excellent physical condition. The ascent is quite challenging and steep: it takes between 5 to 8 hours to make it to the top and the altitude gain is of 1,700 m.
There is risk of avalanches in Mt Yotei, so taking an avalanche safety equipment (beacon, shovel, probe) is mandatory.
Even though skiing is possible in Niseko from the end of November to April, it’s not the same thing when it comes to skiing Mount Yotei. Being an isolated mountain, Mt Yotei is easily affected by changes in weather conditions. That’s why summiting during the winter season becomes a seductive but yet elusive goal.
JMGA Ski Guide Jun Horie advises about this and says that mid-March to early May provide the best conditions for ski touring Mt Yotei. On January and February, on the contrary, the probabilities of getting to the top are very low and there’s a higher risk of avalanche.
Strong winds, snowfall, lack of visibility and cold temperatures are likely to be part of your trip to Mt Yotei, so make sure to bring the right clothes & equipment.
Going with a guide is highly recommended: not only because they can decide which is the best route to ascend and descend, but also because they can assess which are the best conditions (in terms of wind, visibility and avalanche risks) to go there. Moreover, they can decide to turn the trip back if weather conditions become dangerous.
Considering all this, it’s important to set aside a few days to stay in Niseko, while you wait for the best weather window to climb up Mt Yotei.
Niseko is located at a 2h drive from the New Chitose Airport, the largest airport in Hokkaido. There are taxis and bus services available. You can also get to Niseko by bus from Sapporo (trip length is between 2.5 and 4 hours).
From Niseko, you can drive to the base of Mt Yotei and leave the car at the parking lot. Most guides will pick you up at your hotel and take you there.
Are you up for the challenge of skiing this majestic Japanese volcano? Check out all the ski touring trips in Mount Yotei listed at Explore-Share and book a certified guide for a unique adventure full of powder!
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