Crossing the International Date Line and into the powder vortex known as ‘Japanuary’.
I arrived on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido where I picked up my bad ass 10 person Toyota Grand Cabin HIACE AWD van, a road tripping machine and cause of serious van envy. Needing to condition myself immediately to having the steering wheel on the right, driving on the left, looking right for traffic, having the wipers and turn signals reversed (Now home I continue squirting my windshield when I turn) and decrypting Japanese characters directing me toward the correct cash toll lanes I set off for Niseko with my new BFF…aka… GPS
For the next 30 days we would chase legendary Japanese sake powder….
feast at izakayas…
and sushi dens.
7 CASA guests: Eric McAvoy, Blair Banker, Evan Marto, Tim Chabot, Brad Andres, Josh Gilko and Cat Hulford would embark on the inaugural Sake Pow Hokkaido Japan Snow Adventure
In addition I would give it my best to learn more Japanese or at least a few words that would make people smile. This is not my first adventure being an adult with the linguistics of a toddler. I’ve spent years perfecting my blend of Spanglish so adding Japanese to ‘Gomish’ would be fun. Below are some phrases I found very useful in my travels.
January 24 – 28, 2014 “ii kanji” – good vibes Before I left home I asked my friend Yuki to translate “Buena onda”, the Chilean localism meaning good vibes or positive energy. Yuki, which means snow in Japanese, quickly replied ‘ii kanji’. With these 2 vital words I returned to the mountains of Hokkaido for my 2nd winter in Japan. Here with Tetsuya Horinouchi, kenji master, artist and prophet at Gentemstick Yurt.
As “ii kanji” would have I arrived in Niseko and met up with Mike & Claire Taylor, former CASA guides and now owners of Canadian Powder Adventures, along with fellow Canadians Jocelyn St. Amour and Adriann Legatte Like old times in Las Trancas, Chile Mike busted out the guitar and sang to Ullr. We spent the next 4 days mixing touring, resort hot laps, onsening and skiing under the lights with lots of storm riding at Shiribetsu, Mt Yotei, Rusutsu, Hirafu and Moiwa.
January 29 – 31, 2014 “Kono Yuki”– Powder snow We got a lot of kono yuki when Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Aaron Carlson and Joe Vandal ditched their trip to Canada at the last minute and hopped a plane to Hokkaido. We toured Shiribetsu, Moiwa and the forests of Mt. Yotei in addition to night tree skiing at Hirafu!
February 1 – 4, 2014 “Biru hitotsu kudasai” – 1 beer please Possibly the most important phrase to learn in any language. Good times for sure exploring Moiwa, Rusutsu and Kiroro with lodge mates Thomas Johansson, William Jacobsen, Johan Rasmussen, Troy McNeil and Andy Filer. I even had a few breakfast birus watching Superbowl Monday.
February 5, 2014 ‘Niwatori no hane”- Chicken Feathers Chicken Feathers, actually is a slang term taken from Australian Andy Filer, which perfectly described the size of the snowflakes coming down the first week of February. I met up with fellow Montanans and Moonlight Basin locals Roy Taylor and Matt Paris on the 5th for a trifecta day skiing Moiwa in the morning, touring Niimi Puri in the afternoon, and capping it off under the lights ripping powder laps on Miharashi at Hirafu.
February 6, 2014 “Arigato gozimashi” – Thank you very much Thank you very much no helicopters please!!! Boycott the Hokkaido Backcountry Club!!!!A soul-o mission up Shiribetsu days before the Hokkaido Backcountry Club brought in helicopters. I will forever be grateful for this day. 4 laps of some of the deepest, driest, over the head snow I’ve ever skied. Shiribetsu Mountain is a local’s backcountry favorite and subject of much contention between local soul riders and the HBC.
February 8 Otsu Kare – “What’s Up” “Job well done” Today was the first day since I arrived where the weather let up enough to see & ski from the 1898 meter summit of Mt Yotei. I joined Aussie legend Ned Buckley, Kiwi Stephen Puletaha, and Scotsman Ruairidh Squair for my first summit of Yotei in 4 attempts. Ski crampons made the last 500 meters of rhime more managable. A classic Hokkaido descent where you begin by skiing into a calderda, then wrap around onto a 1000 meter volcanic face, and finish off with hundreds of meters through a magical forest playground.
February 9 – 19, 2014 CASA Tours inaugural Sake Pow Tour. 11 days touring 8 different Hokkaido snow centers. Here is a recap of where we went each day and a good word to learn.
February 9, 2014 Sapporo Snowfest “Kawai”-pretty
February 10, 2014 Hirafu Night Skiing “Kubawa” – Good Night
Febraury 11, 2014 An’nupuri “Kon’nichiwa” – Hello
February 12, 2014 Rusutsu “Saiko” – Awesome
February 13, 2014 Hirafu & Hanazono “Kudasai” – Please
February 14, 2014 Moiwa “iine”– I like it
Febraury 15, 2014 Moiwa travel to Furano “Kanpai” – Cheers
February 16, 2014 Kamui Ski Links “Oishi” – Delicious
Febraury 17, 2014 Tomamu “Sugoi” – The Best
February 18, 2014 Kamui Ski Links “Matane” – See you later
February 19, 2014 Sapporo “Mondai Nai” – No problems
After completing the first CASA Tours Sake Pow adventure there were a couple remaining days to tour Tienne and Daisetsuzan National Park.
February 20, 2014 Sapporo Tienne was host to the 1972Winter Olympics and is a short drive from downtown. In addition to steep faces and long pitches its views of Japan’s coastline are impressive. One of the best ski to surf destinations on the planet
February 21 – 24, 2014 Daisetsuzan National Park – Daisetsuzan means “Great Snowy Mountains” I’ve also heard it referred to as Playground of the Gods. I experienced both!!!!
A huge “Arigato gozimashi” to Sugawara Hidetaka aka “Gutz” for being my teacher and serving me après and late night beers at my lodge in Niseko. Our late evening talks gave me great insight into the very soulful Hokkaido outdoor and kardanchi culture. Gutz is a surfer, snowboarder, skater, farmer, chef, and is featured in the film Niseko Downchill.
And “Otsu Kare” Andy Filer. It was a pleasure guiding and exploring the island of Hokkaido with you this Japanuary. Best of luck mate setting up shop in Melbourne. Job well done!!!