Submitted by thermalben on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 14:28
Seems to have been a slow start to the Japan snow season but it's finally kicking into gear now, with the last week producing some good accumulation totals.
Zen - which area do you usually hit up? Despite the small geographical size, there seems to be quite a broad range of resorts across Japan and they all seem to get differeing amounts of snow depending on the kind of weather system (I've only been to Japan once, to Nozowa Onsen in 2010 - massive base but no fresh pow for the nine days we were there).
Canada looks mixed as well - only 83cm at Whislter (153cm cumulative) but Fernie's doing much better - 158cm cumulative base with 301cm cumulative! Much better than when I was there in about 00/01 - the mountain didn't open until just before Xmas due to the tiny base (about 50cm) and we never had a single snowfall greater than 15cm. Totally skunked.
Anyone else hitting up the NH resorts this year? Would love to tour through France/Italy/Austria/Switzerland at some point.. so many places on my bucket list!
57 hours on a 4 hour trip, that is insane!
Here's some shots from my trip, but I have plenty more from the slopes to come: www.swellnet.com/photos/swellnet-sessions/japanese-peaks
Cheers Craig. Looks unreal.
Check this clip a mate got me onto:
"Dude check the BC lines in hukuba at the 4min mark of videohttp://vimeo.com/m/40188370"
Know the first few runs at Cortina. Saw the first two areas at Happa One once the clouds lifted - fark its seriously heliboarding-type terrain accessible from the resorts. You just need to know where the different entrance points dropping in actually lead to. If you go in blind, and without proper avalanche gear and a partner, you could end up with a massive walk out or dead. Really difficult to work out where a ridge or valley will lead out when you are up the top. Too steep and big to see much below at distance.
Next year keen to go back get a guide for a specific spot on the first day and learn the exit strategy then extrapolate other lines based on similar entrance and exit.
Sweet Vid mundies.
Another place to check out is Madarao not so far away. There's some pretty insane tree skiing to be had.
Happo One is really nice and I too would love to get into some of that back country stuff.
Just to let the guy in the vid know, it's not 'Happo 1' it's pronounced 'Hah-po Oh-ne'. Rookie mistake, ha ha!
After seeing Craigs stuff, I'll endeavour to take more pics in the future. Considering the amount of time I spend in the mountains, I have sweet FA to document it.
Awesome video Mundies, that backcountry is stupid!!
Cool video Mundies, I hope that wasn't you @ 4mins 11secs talking about some lovely lines to access out the back.
They dropped into some pretty mellow stuff, which before hand were talking about the goods.. can't really figure that one out..?
Those lines in the back ground looked pretty good ;) oooh yeah
Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .
I had a bit of an ordeal on the mountain this weekend. I wrote about it for the Snow Japan forum but I thought I would post it here too. It is not as Gnarly as Wellymon's disaster story but was pretty scary for me.
With some embarrassment I am sharing how my own stupidity led me to two close calls in one day in the hope that the rest of the community here will learn from my mistakes or to at least bring safety to the front of minds as everyone tries to get a few more sessions in before the season ends.
Yesterday, I was at Ninox in Shibata city, Niigata. It was about the 7th or 8th time I have been there this season and I was using the second of the two tickets I was kindly given by SnowJapan. I wrote a review of the place recently if you are interested.
Basically, Ninox has two courses up top separated by a valley. I have long been interested in trying to find a line down through that valley, but as it is not really visible from the lift, I haven't been game to go in blind. Then when taking some small detours through the trees to the side of one of the pistes, I saw a single snow board track heading down into the valley. I am moving away from the area soon and I thought, well, this might be my last chance so I decided to follow the track, assuming that it would lead out.
It was a fun run indeed, steep, deep and trees. There were a lot more contours and small valleys than I thought so I was going pretty conservatively, keeping the snow board track in sight. Then I came to a (for me) really technical section, a drop through tight trees into a gully that ended in a small stream with about 3 metres of snow walled up on either side. No man's land. The snowboard had taken a gnarly line weaving through the tight trees half way down the gully, then cutting across, up and over the ridge. I tried to emulate the gnarliness of my trailblazer but lost too much speed in the trees and couldn't make it up over the ridge. I took my skis off and tried to kind of climb up it.
The snow gave way under me and I was sliding down the gully on my stomach, feet first. I managed to flip over so I was sliding on my butt and could at least see where I was going and grab a tree. Luckily no more snow was coming down on top of me. I was between two pistes but completely out of sight and felt very alone. It took me about 30-45 minutes to climb up and out of that gully hauling myself up on trees and digging foot holes. Luckily I didn't fall down into that stream which would have been very hard to climb out of. I got my skis on again and the run opened up a bit after that, nice fresh snow and not as technical but I was a little too shaken up to enjoy it much. After all it wasn't the most dangerous situation but I decided to play it safe for the rest of the day. The real danger would come after.
I was sticking pretty close to the pistes, taking a few safe and familiar tree detours and enjoying some wall rides etc. I was taking a line that I have taken countless times over the last three winters on skiers left and kind of hugging the left side of the piste where it had been left ungroomed and there were still some fresh patches even though it was about 3 in the afternoon and kind of crowded by local standards. I went around the outside of a small tree and suddenly the ground fell out from under me. The whole section of snow I was on was overhang and my turn around the tree had caused it too collapse. So, I was falling down a steep incline with a lot of snow coming with me.
If any of you surf, I would describe the feeling as like when you mess up a bottom turn or straighten out on a close-out and the lip lands right behind you and the explosion of whitewater kind of pushes you up and forward before you penetrate the water... like that except while rolling down a hill.
I hit a tree and stopped. I guess I must have fallen about 15 metres. Below was a deep gully with another small stream in it, nasty looking rocks etc. I wasn't injured. One of my skis had come off but was stuck in bush not so far away. I edged over to it and grabbed it before trying to climb back up to the piste. I made it up until about 5 metres from the piste before I couldn't move any further. The wall was vertical and the snow above looked very unstable, hanging out over me. I could go no further.. I stopped with my boots dug into holes in the side of the face, holding the snapped trunk of a small tree that I guess had been broken by the little avalanche I had caused. The snow above me looked sketchy and the wind was blowing hard. I was worried and considered my options. I wasn't far from the piste, so I tried calling for help. I shouted for about 20 minutes but no one heard probably because of the wind. I was out of sight and everyone was in helmets, hats etc. With one hand I took off my backpack and got out my phone. I didn't know the Ninox number. I considered calling my wife but decided against it because of the inevitable life-time ski ban that would be imposed if she found out. I thought about calling a friend but didn't want to cause any worry or panic and ruin someone's Saturday afternoon. So, I tried calling the police, it is their job after all. After I had rehearsed in my head how I would describe my predicament and location in Japanese, I dialled the number. No reception. Damn Softbank.
I again considered my options, up or down. I could try to climb up through the overhang but the snow seemed so unstable. I would almost certainly fall, and have no control over my route down to the bottom of the valley. The other option was down, try to slide back down to the tree that had stopped me before and kind of use it to put my skis on and try to ski down and across the face, avoiding rocks and falling into the stream, hope that I don't cause another avalanche and try to find a safe route to walk out. I decided on the latter but first decided to try calling out for another ten minutes. It was getting late and the resort would be closing soon.
After about 8 more minutes of full on screaming, a head appeared over the edge. Then another. Two young snowboarders had finally heard me. I told them I had fallen and I couldn't move. Their first instinct was to try to push the snow out of the way so I could climb up. I shouted at them to stop, that the snow was unstable and that it might all fall and take me with it. I told them to get the ski patrol. One of them went off and the other stayed there to mark the spot. I waited another 20 minutes but it felt much longer than that. I was tired of hanging on and getting cold. Finally the ski patrol showed up with a rope. First they lifted my skis out then threw it down again. I tied it around my shoulders and they hauled me up. I was all thank yous and apologies and the ski patrol guy told me to stay way from the edge in the future. He was surprisingly good natured about it all. I looked back down at the tree that had stopped me. It was the only tree that looked solid enough to break my fall in the area. A metre or so forward or back and I would have been at the bottom of the valley for sure.
I skied down to the bottom with shaking legs and had the best tasting can of crappy coffee of my life. It was a humbling and scary experience. A little confidence and lack of knowledge is a dangerous combination.
Don't be and idiot like me. Have fun but be careful especially as rising temps bring less predictable snow conditions. I was lucky this time. Also, for the purposes of education please share any other close calls you have had.
On a brighter note, today I enjoyed a much more mellow ski at my local favourite, Budoh. They are closed for the season now but if you are up this way (kaetsu/northern Niigata) definitely check it out for fun courses, great views, good food, friendly atmosphere and zero crowds.
Wow.. what a scary afternoon! Glad you came out OK.
Away san, don't know what to say. So glad you're ok. These things can turn out so badly so quickly. Great story though and happy you're able to write about it and reflect.
I went up yesterday but was sick as a dog. I think I had the norovirus. Did one run and then went back to the car and slept for the day while intermittently getting up to throw up and shit gallons of water.
Seasons winding down here, probably only another trip or two left and then the Southern Hemi snow season thread might start.
Thanks for the gladness thermanlben
It seems like you had a worse day than me Mr. Again. I came out with only a few scratches and some rips in my pants. That Norovirus is no joke!
I thought the season was winding down here too but looking outside I would guess that we have got about 20cm of fresh in the last 12 hours at town level. It would be more on the mountains. More on the way too as we just got an official blizzard warning on the TV.
I am probably heading up to Wakabuna tomorrow but planning to stay inbounds. Mostly.
I hope you get better and get a couple of more sessions in before the big melt Zen but at least you have waves up your way.
I am moving down to Tokyo so I will only have a skateboard to amuse/injure myself with for a while.
Stay safe mate and hope you get some freshies tomorrow.
Tokyo aint so bad. If you've got some wheels you're only a couple of hours away. Plus you'll be closer to the insanely crowded waves of Shonan and others:)
And skating? I'd rather face plant in snow than cement any day.
Away - spent a week n Hakuba a coupla weeks ago. amazingly massive back county area, even minor BC that lets you back in with a traverse to get a lift or gondola with no walking.
IMO you could spend several years only really starting to fully find all excellent and doable lines across 9 resorts and how to do so without getting lift passes confiscated.
I can see how the avalanche danger increases significantly with massive dumps and its important to pick the right area to ride
Away, just read your story, scary and lucky that you came out relatively unscathed. But for those two events to happen in one day, heavy!
Some classic quotes in there..
"I considered calling my wife but decided against it because of the inevitable life-time ski ban that would be imposed if she found out"
"had the best tasting can of crappy coffee of my life"
Thanks for sharing!
The journey of dropping into a realm. With no thought.
No 1, without any one but yourself and full of adrenalin...
No 2 what were you thinking...
No3 put your skis back on and drop it, if it hasn't gone whilst climbing around and putiing pressure on the slope it won't go.
No4 Nice experience champ, life in those situations is all a big learning curve, just don't tell mum or you wife.
No5 Next time will even be better :)
hahaha Away No6 Next time get a snowboard less things to worry about....? x2 poles, x2 skis
just a board and youself.
Only having a dig champ, lesson learned hopefully and lesson explained to others.
Take care of the snow monster.
Away san (or anybody else) looking at heading over to Gunma the weekend of the 22nd/23rd and was looking for a resort with a high elevation due to the late season.
Are you familiar with Maranuma Kogen, Kusatstu kokusai, Kawaba resorts? Or any others you can recommend? I'll be travelling with my non-boarding wife so on snow accomm. would be nice.
I know you're pretty sorted with the Nagano/Niigata area, wondering if that extends into Gunma. Looking for some steeps and off piste but not really too fussed, just looking for one last blast until the snow tyres come off the Subi for another season.
Thanking you in advance.
Had my last blast of the season at a place called Minowa on Saturday. A bit icy but some nice powder to be found in and around the trees. I doubt I'll get up the mountain again this season because, like my surfing, I'm more into quality than quantity these days.
I know Aussies love to visit Hakuba and Niseko and that's cool, I love both areas. But, I implore anybody wanting to come to Japan to put in the hard yards and look further afield. As I said before, there's white gold to be had. It helps if you can speak a little Japanese but it's not necessary, a smile and some goofy charades will take you a long way.
Now that I know how to put up a pic, I'll post a pic of a local mountain that I visit frequently. Taken mid-week at about 2pm. Plenty of side country action to be had or long groomers. Take your pick. And don't worry, it's plenty steep.
Note the two lone skiers about halfway down.
Thanks Ben and SN for this thread and good luck to those heading to NZ or the Oz ski fields this southern-hemi winter.
Looks like you've got a good thing going on in Japan Zen.
Hey Zen cheers for the info. If the average boarder were to pin it straight down here, could they make it to the bottom still standing?
I sure do mate. I really enjoy living here. Some things get me down but when I see in just another thread that Ben paid $10+ for an hour of parking? That's crazy.
Good waves, awesome snow, great food, nice people, safe and compared to Australia, very inexpensive.
Straightlining Mitch you'd be flying but you'd be pretty right holding your edges and doing big zig-zags. On a powder day any level of boarder would be giggling. If it was icy though that would make it a bit more treacherous. The run out from that run is great fun, point and shoot and straight down then bang right under the lift and back to the chair. Or cruise all the way to the bottom and over to the left side of the hill. There's a quad that takes you to the top of a spot where you can take your choice of a few runs or you can sneak into the trees.
Over to the far right of that shot there's some really cool sidecountry stuff and there's a kind of a chute running down deep in the trees. The powder in there is so deep. Only downer is it's a bitch of a walk out when you get to the bottom.
This is in Fukushima and the snow is just as good as anywhere in Japan minus the crowds. (as you can see)
I was fortunate to host Craig from Swellnet (nice guy, very interesting cat to talk to) in my neck of the woods for a couple of days. The first day I showed him some local waves and a bit of the destruction left behind from the earthquake and tsunami.
He bought a new snowboard in Tokyo and was keen to give it a run so that night we hot waxed it at my work and set the bindings up. The next day we scored a bluebird day up at Fukushima and unfortunately we didn't get any fresh snow and it was unseasonably warm (been a weird season this one) but we had a lot of fun and we got into the trees in addition to some super long groomers (3000m+).
I think he was pretty stoked with the place.
Nice work Zenagain, your a champion, love your positive realm.
I'm sure Craig loved the experience as well as your presence..!
Yeah you are right, its pretty cool SN can have a thread like this on here, much appreciated.
More to come.
Yep, was great checking out the 'real' Japan with Zen. A little more eye opening than just going to the main cities.
And also Zen's mountain was so much fun, even with a tiny bit of fresh snow, was great to take the new board out! And also uncrowded, besides the last run home, haha!
Still got to get that video together Zen, has been non-stop since my trip with work/friend commitments, and also scoring the most out of each swell. May settle down through April... maybe :p
Ok cool thanks Zen, building an image in my head of what kind of slopes and conditions are good, compared to where I've been in the snow.
You're welcome Mitch.
Judging by your posts and pics on Sheepdogs thread, have you done a bit of surfing down Chiba way?
Yeah Zen that was June/July 2006. No typhoon swells when I was there unfortunately, glassy conditions and/or above head high waves were kinda rare. A shit season apparently, there was a mild El Nino. Then I heard 2007 was good, ENSO was transitioning to La Nina.
I was lifeguarding in Tokyo and at the beach, teaching English and swimming. I don't really have any motivation to go back unfortunately, considering it would be a missed opportunity for Central Asia. I met Rodent there on the Kujukuri Coast actually, he's been on a couple WOTDs here and in galleries. Great bloke, unlike his name suggests!
Minowa looks like a sweet hill! Only three lifts but heaps of variety by the look of it. I definitely prefer the smaller resorts these days. Not big enough to draw big crowds from outside the area, but heaps of sneaky side pistes and stuff if you know where to look.
Zen, is that the place that opens super early? I read somewhere about some Fukushima resorts that try to open by early December every year, like Kagura in Yuzawa but minus the huge crowds.
Not even April and I am already getting hyped for the next season. I am not much of a spring-slusher either.
Minowa was great fun. Not big but for the first time having been there and the high elevation, the snow was really good for late in the season. I'd definitely go back. Pretty quiet too for a Saturday.
There's heaps of off-piste opportunities which I took but had a couple of big stacks, and one in particular that shook me up a bit, tried to negotiate between two big boulders on a steep bit and couldn't get an edge on a patch of wind blown ice and ended with a big slide and cracking my head on the side of a chairlift pole with my goggles just cm away from those big bolts that attach the pole to the plate. Happened so fast, scared me a bit and really bruised my elbow and shoulder (and ego). Thank goodness for my helmet. Like you said, a little bit of ability and confidence can be a dangerous combination.
In the arvo we got a few more runs but the weather closed in and it was a total white-out so we called it a day and went home happy. Good finish to the season.
Don't know about opening early but Minowa closes mid May. Some places could probably stay open later but around here they can't get the staff as most of the lifties are rice farmers and go back to the fields and a lot of the indoor staff work for the big chains like Prince and move off to do the warmer months at the golfing resorts or other hotels.
Check out Gassan in Yamagata, that doesn't even open till April and apparently it's a real scene with people skiing in t-shirts on the glacier and people setting up BBQ's on the sides of the runs and partying and drinking beers. Only in Japan 'eh?
Yeah I'm amped already for next season and the snow has hardly melted yet. Been good sharing this forum with you and the others. Cheers.
Not over yet Zenagain, been a great thread fellas, good to know you guys are still safe and amping :)
My mate JG from Burton Vermount, ripping the trees
Next season Welly, I vow to take more pics. It's only been say the last 3 years that I've got into tree boarding. Now I can't get enough. I think I'm ready to hit it back to BC one day and take my boarding to the next level. That picture of your mate is quite reminiscent of the tree stuff we have in Fukushima- nice and tight.
Got a POV camera this year and got some good stuff but considering how much bloody time i spend, have very few shots. Got some smokin' memories though.
No, not over yet, some places here we can board up until June. But I love that light fluffy angel dust not the slushies. If I wanted slushies I'd go to Perisher. Yee hah! Roll on winter 2014/15!
Haha roll on NH spring and summers also!
Thanks to you also Welly for all the info & opinion... might take a few years, but I've definitely got some sort of Central Asia trip in the pipeline
Yeah Zenagain, it's a bit like that, not enough time for photo's some days , we just ride and the memories are just as good :)
Funny tho I have the worst memory.
IMO boarding Red Mtn BC, steep trees are the best for your riding, you have to turn and when you can wash out speed real quick it helps pull off tighter untracked lines for sure, all about the flow. Then when you get into some open terrain with no trees, well look out WOT hahahhaha
Mick Very Good....! Would've hiked straight up that spine and dropped into that lovely looking slope on the left of the spine, hows the middle slope under the seracs....... Where is that MVG ?
Stop it Welly, I'm having withdrawals already and it's only been 5 days.
Gopt a mate with a Condo at Big White- you been there? Went years ago when I was a skier. Now that I've come to my senses, so keen to get back.
When are we going.....!
Never been there, ...... BUT Red is not far away :)
Would be keen as tho
Cheers Welly. This is looking down to the upper Chapursan Valley & sth towards the the western end of the Batura Wall. Nearest village is in this map. I think it's darkened out because it's a very sensitive area, being on a trading route from what's now China to Afghanistan. So, you really need to play by the rules to keep everyone happy.
That peak is 5700m. The pass the photo is taken from is 5300, and it was a fucken struggle! I would need seriously good 'mental' guidance or encouragement from a good guide to get up there. But, it's June. So good snow in summer! I just need to learn to board first ahah!
Serious Altitude there brother.
A little out of my scope of altitude but great looking slopes for real.
Mental and well earned fitness, with time to get up there....
Actually suits my Avatar Sign In now.
The Fruit.... ? Not the fruit in the picture tho :) 70's for real.
What do I have to type those co-ordinates in.....?
Hang on Mitch Very Good, old schooled here.
Haha well not quite, because most fruit trees couldn't survive winter in the village.
Google Maps used to be way more explorer frinedly, now it's consumer oriented. Good that you could recognise the lat long, but it spits out the wrong location. Try copy and paste this entire link...
If that didn't work, below, you can see Rawalpindi in both maps.
And this is a link to the pana photo composite of the pass, it's 8mbhttp://imgur.com/MQaNPeI
It's amazing how the locals can basically just eat milk tea, bread and potatoes; but they're herding sheep up in the mtns everyday!
Zen, Welly.. crazy snowboard vid on RedBull Site, Xavier de La rue
don't watch if youre afraid of heights...holy fuck.
What did you think Welly ?
udo wrote: Zen, Welly.. crazy snowboard vid on RedBull Site, Xavier de La rue
don't watch if youre afraid of heights...holy fuck.
Yeah Xavier rips hard, has put an extreme riding style to new heights Udo. He rides real fast, real fast in steep shit which takes balls, he does some good stuff with Jeremy Jones.
Pretty cool stuff to watch eh Udo...!
Can't find the vid Udo. Just a vid on Xaviers auto drone.
(Which was incidentally quite interesting).
Try Xavier Deleru full part from nation transworld snowboarding youtube.
Found it Udo cheers.
Wicked stuff but I hate these kinds of edits, just a small grab of the full ride.
Bit like watching 10ft G-land and only seeing one turn. But still, hows the speed on those verts and those spines. Impressive stuff.