The northernmost of Japan's four major islands, Hokkaido catches an average of 500 inches of snow a year. "It gets the best powder in the world. It's very light and dry," says Daisuke Sasaki, a 30-year-old professional freeskier from Sapporo. Storms from the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Pacific Ocean gather over the island's 6,000-foot-plus Hidaka Range. The best runs can be found three hours from Sapporo, in Daisetsuzan National Park, where locals skin to higher elevations and swerve down through hoar-caked juhyo ("snow monster trees"). Then it's off to the rustic Lodge Nutapu-Kaushipe (www.welcome-higashikawa.jp/asahidake/nutapu.htm) for a soak in natural hot springs and a cold bottle of Asahi.
OUTFITTER: Nomad; $156 for two-day backcountry trips into Daisetsuzan National Park; hokkaido-nomad.co.jp