100 DAYS BOARDING AND ADVENTURE: JAPAN
posted: February 12, 2014
An abandoned chairlift serves a new purpose
Our office has an amazing view of the North Shore Mountains. Usually by this time of year they’re covered in snow. Instead, the season in the Pacific Northwest has been super mediocre (that’s a nice way to put it), and my commitment of getting 100 days on my board is starting to become pretty frustrating.
I didn’t anticipate this. I first called out 100 days because I’m usually stoked to be riding and precipitation here is pretty consistent. But frigid, dry temperatures, icy over-exposed faces and a 30cm base isn’t what gets me stoked.
Thankfully, despite the horrendous season, my stoke is high from my recent my trip to Japan.
Joel takes it in from the top of Furano
Japan is a magical place. It’s hard to put it into words; the landscapes, the food, the amazing people and, of course, the bottomless snow. Spend time outside of Tokyo and you start to feel like you belong there. You alter your behaviour to respect traditions; you settle into the naked luxuries of the après onsen (soaking naked in a natural outdoor hot spring with your bros and a few beers, surrounded by massive walls of snow). And you become more courteous and humble day to day just like the people of Japan. It really changes your perspective on our western culture.
My friend Tim and I left Tokyo on December 28 bound for Hokkaido. We knew things were about to get real the instant we checked in at the Haneda Airport and were informed that we’d be taking off, but might turn around mid-flight because it was dumping up north. Sounded eff’n perfect.
Making it count off piste at Rakuda in Niseko Village
We rented a small house in Sapporo and over the next three days our crew of seven arrived. Here, we set up our first home base and spent the next 18 days travelling around Hokkaido by train, taxi and on foot. We stuck to quieter areas away from the gaijin (foreign travellers), smaller resorts and stayed as close to nature as possible. We spent three days exploring one of Sapporo’s local mountains, Teine, where the fresh tracks were endless. We then moved to the Niseko area for 7 days and explored the Moiwa forests, the birthplace of the legendary GentemStick’s (handmade snowboards) and spent a couple days on the massive Niseko United family of resorts.
Dumping in Annupuri Village
Finally, we settled into one of my favourite places in the world, Furano, where we stayed in an old farmhouse outside of town for six nights and were treated like royalty by Masaki, the telemarking owner.
There, we’d wake up to an under-reported snowfall and enjoy a warm canned coffee on the mountain as we planned the day. In some of the driest snow on the planet, the face-shots were never-ending, the slack-country was out of control (with only a few run-ins with ski patrol) and the cliff and pillow drops will live on forever in my memory. Being engulfed— completely vanishing for a split second—and the pressure of under the deepest snow against your chest is mind blowing.
Images that speak a thousand words
I came home with more than the high of surfing chest deep powder for 14 days with my good buds. I came home with a renewed sense of excitement and calmness. Twenty-two days with limited technology, 15 days with no phone at all thanks to losing mine to the Moiwa powder gods—and no plans to replace it for a few weeks.
There’s finally snow in the forecast for the Pacific Northwest and I feel like the season is just starting even though it’s mid-February. To make my 100 days I have a lot of catching up to do this month due to the late start to the season, and I might actually get out on my splitboard again if it keeps dumping.
Fifty-two days left to shred and more adventures to write about. See you at Mt. Seymour.
Joel is a people solutions partner on our people potential team, working with our recruiting and onboarding systems. One thing he never travels for snowboarding without is a book, room for a bottle of booze and extra space to keep it light and leave room for any sweet pick-ups along the way.