If you love snow, enjoy hiking and great views snowshoeing is something you should try! It is versatile and thus something for everyone – whether you do it as a relaxed and tranquil walk in the snow or as endurance training.
Snowshoes are put on over waterproof hiking shoes or snowboard shoes to evenly distribute the weight over a larger area and thus reduce sinking into the snow. Moreover, they usually have metal teeth (cramptons) underneath and at the front tip for a better grip. Poles can also be used for that extra push and strength, especially in deep snow.
Snowshoe Rental at Hotaka Bokujo (given in Japanese Yen [¥])
Snowshoes and poles
Complete set of boots, snowshoes and poles
Hotaka Bokujo in Katashina is a good area for snowshoeing. We took up two chair lifts to reach the top of the ski park. After a little stretch (typical Japanese) we strapped on our snowshoes and started walking with the poles in our hands. Once we got acquainted with the equipment and the relatively easy technique we headed into the deep snow. According to Hotaka Bokujo there was 180cm of snow that day!
This can be seen as an endurance training depending on how hard you go, how deep the snow is and if your are going uphill or not. It is quite tiring to fight through the thick powdery layer of snow, yet at the same time it is really fun! We walked through the tranquil terrain that is not accessible by ski or snowboard. In clear weather you have a panoramic vista and you can even spot mount Fuji from here – unfortunately it was grey and snowy in our case. To relax our legs we continued on the cross country slope, making it a lot easier to walk.
Then our guide took us down the steepest piste that was still covered in deep fresh snow. To be honest I do not recall how many times I fell but then again that slope was probably one of the funnest parts. We walked all the way down in the deep snow and ended our trip at the base of Hotaka Bokujo. Overall, a great experience and I look forward to trying some snowshoeing again some time. Our guide, Nagai-san, was telling us about an expert course here in Katashina, where you snowshoe up the mountain and then ski back down – tempting!!
Our guide, Nagai-san, is an official guide of the Japanese Mountain Guide Association. During summer he is a hiking guide in Oze and other mountain areas around Katashina, whereas in winter he shows you the way on the snowshoes. Nagai-san is very experienced and knows a lot about the nature of Katashina. While snowshoeing, he was teaching us about the changes in vegetation at altitude, reading the footprints of different animals in the snow and his bear encounters. It turns out that bears have a poor sense of sight and hearing – as a result all the little bells that are sold in Japan to apparently protect you from bears do not actually work because the bears cannot hear them! This should probably be a big surprise to many of us!
A guided tour with Nagai-san is ¥6,000 per person for either half a day or a full day. You can book this private tour through the tourism and organization office Ryokobue (also my work-place). It is strongly advised to contact them before your arrival in Katashina by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0278-25-4644.
Ryokobue also offers snowshoeing tours in March. These are 5-6 hours long in groups of approximately 10 and also take place at Hotaka Bokujo. The guided tours cost ¥2,000 including equipment, therefore it is probably the cheapest way to experience snowshoeing. Just bring sturdy waterproof shoes, your skiing/snowboarding gear and a packed lunch. Any questions or bookings can be done by contacting: email@example.com (0278-25-4644).
Get your snowshoes on an discover Katashina FUNtashina!
What else can you do at Hotaka Bokujo during winter ? – click on the image below:
And what about summer? – click on the image below: