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What is freeriding?

Freeriding is a category of skiing and snowboarding riding on natural terrains. Though riding in nature is the most fundamental appeal of the snowsports, the number of people who can enjoy freeriding is limited to those who go off-piste backcountry, which entails some risk for most of the skiers.

Japan is one of the best known countries of powder snow. #JAPOW, Japanese Powder Snow, on instagram has more than 280k photos today.

Following the world wide trend of brands releaseing powder skis/boards and with ever easier photo sharing tools such as GoPro and Instagram, more and more Japanse snow resorts open up inbound ungroomed freeriding zones as with the snow resorts in Europe and North America.

Here are some of the examples.

Lotte Arai Resort

(C)Lotte Arai Resort
Lotte Arai Resort, Myoko, Niigata is located at one of the heviest snow areas in the mainland Japan. It has a history of freeriding by Japanese local riders before its closure in 2006 and still boasting the deep powder and playful natural terrains after the reopening in 2017 under the Lotte brand.

The resort has been trying hard to open as much “Freeriding Zone” as possible from the day one hiring avalnache profesionals to provide safe experience to the customers. Now you can see almost all the resort map shaded as the Freeriding Zone.

Appi Kogen Ski Resort, Iwate

(C)Appi Kogen
In 2019, Appi opened 5 tree run zones boasting the total of 60ha.

Hakuba Happo-one Winter Resort, Hakuba, Nagano

(C)Hakuba Happo-one Winter Resort
Hakuba, despite being one of the most well known areas for the backcountry freeriding in the world today, hadn’t been super active for opening up the new freeriding slopes inbound. But it opened Omusubi (rice ball in Japanese) powder area accomodating the requests from the customers who had long been looking forward to riding the playful terrain. Hakuba area is active on hiring avalanche professionals and educating patrols, so this move will be the first of the further expansions of the Hakuba Valley, consisting of 9 resorts, in the upcoming years.

Kiroro Ski Resort, Hokkaido

(C)Kiroro Ski Resort
Kiroro Resort, located at one of the deepest snow area in the world, has been a pioneer of opening the controled inbound off-piste terrains. You have to check its off-piste map before getting into the best powder in the world.

As each resort has different rules for the freeriding zone, don’t forget to check the resort maps before getting into the designated area.

Freeriding events to watch and join in 2020

These above mentioned resorts are going to host freeriding events. Freeride World Tour Hakuba, the opener of the 5 premier freeriding competitions, is hosted by Hakuba Valley, and total 10 events to be hosted in Japan this winter.

You can see more details about Freeride World Tour and its world wide ranking structure here on the FWT’s website.

<FWT JAPAN SERIES 2020 Schedules>

*competition will be held one safest day of the waiting periods, to be fixed 2 days before
*riders registration will start 6 weeks before each of the competition

(A)13-16th January, FWQ Freeride Hakuba 3star 2020 @ HAKUBA VALLEY
(B)18-25th January, FWT Freeride World Tour Hakuba Japan 2020 @ HAKUBA VALLEY
(C)25-26th January, FWQ Freeride Maiko 1star / FJT Freeride Maiko Juniors 1star 2020 @ Maiko Snow Resort
(D)27-28th January, FWQ Freeride Maiko 2star 2020 @ Maiko Snow Resort
(E)01-02nd February, FWQ Freeride APPI 1star / FJT Freeride APPI Juniors 1star 2020 @ APPI Kogen
(F)15-16th February, FJT Freeride Kiroro Juniors 1star 2020 @ Kiroro Ski Resort
(G)18-20th February, FWQ Freeride Kiroro 3star 2020 @ Kiroro Ski Resort
(H)11-13th March, FWQ Freeride Lotte Arai 2star 2020 @ LOTTE ARAI RESORT
(I)19-20th March, FWT Tropical Asia 1star @ Hakuba Goryu
Those who are interested in watching the freeriding competition, (A)FWQ Freeride Hakuba 3star, which will have top Japanese riders including ex-olympians, and (B)FWT Freeride World Tour Hakuba, 50 selected riders among 5600 invited, are the ones you try to do. (inqury about the spectator areas to Tourism Commission of Hakuba Village)
FWQ Freeride Hakuba 3star, spectators from Hakuba Happo-One Winter Resort (C)Freeride World Tour
Kiroro Ski Resort will welcome the best riders from Hokkaido in February in the (G)FWQ Freeride Kiroro 3star 2020, which will be TV-broadcasted in Hokkaido. The compatition face is locally called “AK”, following the name of the village, Akaigawa Village, which is in the series of mountains in the area called “Kamuy Mintar”, God’s Playground in the local native language. AK face is super accessible from the resort slope so that friendly for the spectators.
Spectator area of FWQ Freeride Kiroro (C)photo taken by author
For those who want to join the competition, choose 1star or 2star events.

The faces of 1star events will be resorts inbound freeriding terrains, so if you are able to ski/snowboard any resort slopes comfortably, you can enjoy riding together with the 90 riders coming to the starting gate.
1star events will be in Maiko Snow Resort in January, APPI Kogen in February, and Hakuba Goryu in March. 2star events will be in Maiko Snow Resort in January, and Lotte Arai Resorts in March.
Qualifiers and Juniors events held in Maiko Snow Reosrt in 2019 (C)photo taken by author
FWQ Freeride Lotte Arai 2star 2019, in the freeriding zone called Mamushi (C)FWT
There are also Junior category events, Freeride Junior Tour (FJT) for those between 10-18 years old. All of the Junior events in Japan is 1star and hosted in Maiko Snow Resort in January, APPI Kogen and Kiroro Ski Resort in Februray.