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Trip Report: Skiing Japanuary Perfection in Hokkaido (Pt. 1)

In News

Report and Vid filed by Colter Brehmer & Axel Peterson, Feb 2018.



You know that feeling of total delirious confusion when the alarm goes off in the middle of the night and you have to pull yourself together and scramble to make a super early flight? Well that was us, and technically it was now New Year’s Day, but it felt like nothing more than the continuation of the previous night’s celebration in Boise. So, you know, extra delirious. But we were about to take off for the month of Japanuary, and despite the jack hammering in our heads the stoke was high, and we managed to make our flight. Three consecutive legs would lead us to the Nikita Tokyo Airport where we boarded one last flight to Sapporo, ecstatic to be nearing our destination.

In all, 36 hours of travel. As you’d expect, the jetlag was crippling. But we climbed aboard our mobile home on wheels for the trip, the strangely named Corde Punks RV, and summoned our second (or sixth) wind to drive until we found what seemed like safe 24-hour parking ... in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. We wasted no time making local friends who showed us around their favorite spots that night, all the while, meeting dozens of other locals who all seemed so stoked to learn about our adventure. Such a cool feeling to realize that no matter where you are in the world, you end up finding people who are the same as you -- goofy, friendly, and caring -- people who are just looking to have a good time.


On our very first night, after nearly two days straight of travel, we didn’t end up making back to the RV until 4:15 in the morning. Night one was a great success and would set the stage for an epic adventure.

Waking up to fresh snow in our midtown parking lot, with the pure stoke of knowing that all we had to accomplish that day was smash pow -- and maybe smash the onsen for a soak -- became the theme of the trip. An onsen is a traditional Japanese spa built around their abundant natural hot springs. It’s an absolutely amazing experience! Really, there’s nothing quite like being boiled with your best friends and a bunch of naked strangers, right? And so our daily routine became: wake up to fresh pow, then soak-ski-soak, then ramen … then nightcaps in the RV.

They don’t do the daylight savings thing in Japan, so in January it starts getting dark before 4PM. We had to be on it early in the morning to take advantage of the short daylight hours. This first part of our trip, we concentrated on the zones around Nakayama Pass, about halfway between Sapporo and Niseko.  We dug several pits and did stability tests in this unbelievably deep snow and yielded bomber results, giving us the green light to get sendy on some of the bigger lines we’d been eyeing up, including some especially nice pillow lines we began calling the “Caterpillar Lines”.

Along with making local connections, we were also fortunate to have some good friends from our hometown -- Ketchum, ID -- in the area. We linked up with our buds Cody Barnhill, Hayden Price, and Kelly Longe in Akaigawa to tour the backcountry near Kiroro in some of the deepest conditions we’d ever skied.

Several more days of the soak-ski-soak routine, and morning after morning of waking up to a fresh delivery of new snow finally yielded the first day of sunshine we’d seen in a full week in Japan. It’s not that we were tired of the continuous dumping, but a beautiful morning of skiing deep trees under sunny skies was welcomed.

This day would mark the halfway point in our trip. After sessioning an amazing step-out jump that Axel had discovered earlier, we loaded up the RV and began making our way south to Rusutsu Resort. But not before -- of course -- one last badly needed onsen session!