Interview01 Akira Sasaki

PROFILE

AKIRA SASAKI

Occupation: Pro skier/entrepreneur
Accomplishments: Former skier on the Japanese Olympic Team for Slalom and Giant Slalom

Akira Sasaki competed in the FIS Ski World Cup Alpine Ski Slalom from 2001 to 2014, taking second place three times beginning in Wengen, Switzerland in 2003. In addition, he was ranked in the first-seed (Top 15) for three seasons since 2004.
After retiring from racing, he made the switch to backcountry skiing, touring back countries ranging from all over Japan to all over the world, making him the number one expert on what makes Japow so amazing.

Location: Katashina village, Gunma, Japan
[Interview] Fujii-So
[On-Snow Photo] White World Oze Iwakura

How would you describe the quality of snow in Japan ?

Japanese snow is so light that it seems to avoid your body as it just drifts by, never sticking to anything.
Hokkaido has absolutely the best snow quality. Of course, there are differences even within Hokkaido. The snow in the north, the Asahikawa area, is especially light. Like I just wanna say, "Whoa! Thank you!" When I go skiing with my friends from abroad, or when somebody asks me for a good place to ski in Japan, I usually go with the Asahikawa area. It's a can't-miss.

Which ski slopes in Japan would you recommend ?

There are a lot of lesser-known ski resorts in Japan. The snow is good and you'll generally find a bunch of spots focused in one area so you can enjoy many kinds of skiing. Yeah, I recommend you keep local. Check out the smaller skiing spots.
I recommend the Gunma area. A lot of people overlook Gunma and go for the heavy snow areas, like Nagano and Niigata, but Gunma is good too. Not too many people and great terrain.

What’s the best way to experience backcountry skiing in Japan ?

Each ski spot has its own backcountry rules, varying from area to area. When you're going backcountry skiing, you want to prepare the right tools and make an official report that you'll be going into the mountain. You need to follow the rules so that everyone can enjoy themselves safely. Japan's mountains are small, but you have avalanches, you have tree wells, you have rivers running around them. It's a very common accident to be skiing by a stream and fall into a river. I hope that people choose to go with a local guide to help them get around and stay safe. It's not a good idea to go alone.

Your message to people who come to Japan for skiing.

From the north to the south, Japan has a lot of smaller, local skiing spots, and it's safe to say that nearly all of them have an onsen. You can have fun trying all the different onsen out.
Snow quality differs from place to place, but you get powder just about everywhere. So you can enjoy that, but no matter where you want to go, it's easy to get there. Japan has airports in every major city, and if there's someplace you can't fly to, you can take a shinkansen. All considered you can hit ski resorts from the north to the south all in one trip, all thanks to the fact that Japan is a small island country that just happens to be blessed with fantastic snow!

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