Niseko Wrap up

Back from a three day shoot with Hiroshi, Detz, Ue, Matui, Deka-cho and more in Niseko. We got lucky with a sunny day, the first sunny day in Niseko of this new year! It didn’t snow much while we were there, but if you know where to look in Niseko there is always going to be some snow!

The full story from this trip will appear in magazine some time this season. For now here are a few random shots from the trip. Recently I have been getting it to these “off” shots. The last shot of a sequence, rider flying out of the frame, random kind of stuff. I keep reminding myself to keep pressing the shutter, heck its digital, not like it costs more to shoot a few extra frames. You never know what magic kind of shot you are going to capture.

Uemura out of focus and leaving the frame.


Random out the car window shot

Dark night riding shot of Uemura.

also night shot of Ue carving out of the frmae.

The Japanese military ski training at Chisenupuri Niseko.

Random unknown snowboarder taking a nice line.

The morning groomer at Annupuri

Ue going for  it Peter Bauer style with a super layed out toe side carve.

We ran into snowboard legend Endo-san at the Moiwa lobby!  I hadn’t seen him for a few  years.  Always good to know that the local legends are still riding!

Final shot is Pow Com rider Mako coming out of his own spray cloud!

Big thanks to Detz and Hiroshi for a great trip!


Yotei sunset and snow crystals

Drove out to Niseko for the night riding session today. You can check a report about that on my blog. Here are some pics from sunset time at Mt. Yotei and some snow shots at night. The snow was some of the best quality! Light dry yet still firm enough to carve a full speed slash! Love it!

Rough driving great riding

The driving conditions continue to get worse in certain areas of Hokkaido. The storm cycles keep pounding the northern island with more great snow fall. This season the snow fall is really concentrated in certain areas, like Niseko and Iwamizawa, and very little in other areas. Niseko got a meter of fresh in one day yesterday and Iwamizawa has been getting blasted. I drove though the small town three days ago on the way to Furano and was blown away by how much snow had fallen. It is ashame there are no mountains there… not much use for all that snow…

So I am back from the first Car Danchi trip of the season. We have started filming for Car Danchi 5 the new episode to be released in September of this year. What a great trip to start off this new movie. Special guest Nakai of the Samurai 7 joined us along with Ue, Yama, Hayato and Yuta. Everyone was having a blast. We hiked, rode powder, cruised the groomed runs at Furano, hit the side country, ate great ramen, stayed at a classic mountain cabin, drank a little Japanese sake, hiked some more and smiled the whole time!

Great trip and great way to start the filming season!

A few days in Niseko

A fantastic storm finally arrived here in Northern Japan. The last three or for days have been an amazing display of natures power. The Niseko range and the Tokachi range have been getting blasted with some of the best powder.

I was in Niseko the day after it started snowing, within one day the whole area was transformed from a hard packed resort to a powder heaven. After that it never stopped snow. I drove back and forth to Sapporo once and let me tell you it was not a pleasure. The total white out conditions were some of the worst I have ever experienced! Visibility was down to less than 10 meters most of the time and after a car passed in the other direction it was even less. With no definition at all it is impossible to know where the side of the road is, everyone naturally drifts to the center of the road… Rather dangerous driving conditions.

Funny this is the storm never made it over the Nakayama mountain pass, as soon as I crossed the peak it was sunny on the Sapporo side! Total white out to blue sky!

The riding was some of the best early season riding I have ever experienced. I say early season because the snow levels were so low before this storm that the mountain still has that early season feel. The terrain is still not filled in, so there are bumps and pillow lines every where! It is like a huge natural ungroomed park out there.

The good news is that it is still snowing and does not look like it is going to stop for at least another week! Rusutsu also lots of snow, Kiroro quite good as well and even Teine is said to be really good right now! Keep it coming!

Saying goodbye

Went to the funeral for friend and mountain lover Nishiyama this evening. A sad affair of course at age 44 it is a shocking loss for everyone. The hall was very crowded with a lot of young people and sad faces. A mix of mountain community and Sapporo club and bar community. I have many friends in both worlds so there were a lot of subdued hello’s. Nice to see old friends, but not exactly the best way to meet.

There was a lot of rumor and speculation on the exact cause and conditions of his death. I have copied and pasted the Niseko Avalanche info bulletin below. It is stated clearly that it was a slab avalanche.

It has been a strange weather pattern so far this season, and it is creating a lot of unstable layers. Please be careful when venturing out into the beautiful back country. And next time you are skiing or snowboarding, take a few extra turns for all those whom we have lost doing what we all love so much! Thanks.

ニセコなだれ情報 第19号 Niseko Avalanche Info No.19

発生地点、山頂北西尾根鉱山の沢側壁標高1250m付近と推定、雪崩の種類、浅い表層雪崩、破断面は確認できず。遭難者発見時間1月2日午前10時、発見場所、鉱山の沢標高950m地点、埋没深度60cm、雪崩発生点から停止点までの距離約500m、デブリ不鮮明。標高1100m付近に雪崩通過によるものと思われる笹の露出。捜索状況、2日の捜索は道警とニセコパトロールによる合同捜索。9時45分テールを雪面にのぞかせたスキー板1本を発見。その後遭難者をビーコン捜索で確認、掘り出し後道警ヘリで札幌へ搬送。雪崩発生原因の推察、1. 事故の時間帯までに作られた東北東25-30m/sの風による飛雪のふきだまりの滑走刺激による破壊。2. 寒冷、大陽反射の影響で標高1200m以上に広範囲に発達した霜系の再結晶(しもざらめ)雪の破壊。同行者の話、携帯電話の通話状況から事故発生時刻1日午前11時10分、雪崩発生点から埋没停止点までの標高差300m。斜面全体は向き標高を問わず雪板化し、部分的に飛雪による硬いふきだまりを形成。事故原因は強風、悪天候など気象条件を考慮せずに登山し、鉱山の沢(通称バックボウル)側壁を滑走しようとしたため。雪崩は雪の量に関係せず条件がそろえば起こる。亡くなられた方に哀悼の意をあらわしたい。


Report of the avalanche accident on January 1st.

Although unconfirmed, the starting zone is seen to be the top of the Backbowl sidewall (NW ridge from the summit) around 1250m elevation. The crown could not be identified but the avalanche type would have been a shallow surface slab avalanche. The victim has been found unconscious and CPA in the bowl at 950m at 10am on the 2nd Jan, 60cm under the surface and roughly 500m from the estimated starting zone. Although there was no clear signs of debris, sasa bamboo were unnaturally thick in the potential track area at 1100m, probably due to the avalanche scraping snow blocks off the slope. A mixed team of Hokkaido Police and Niseko ski patrollers did the search and rescue operation on the 2nd. One ski was found at 9:45am, followed by beacon search and identified the victim. He has been dug out and taken to Sapporo hospital by the police helicopter. The estimated causes of the avalanche are: 1. Skiing stimulation made unstable snowdrifts (developed by strong 25-30m/s ENE wind) collapse. 2. Sliding of depth hoar layer that formed and developed above 1200m area due to sun reflection effect.
According to the companion, the accident would have happened at 11:10am on the 1st Jan. 300m of altitude difference between the start and rescued point.
The whole slope seemed to have composed a big slab with partial hard-packed snowdrifts of windblown snow.
The cause of the accident would be that this person tried to ski Backbowl’s sidewall without considering the poor weather and strong wind consequences. No matter the amount of snow, avalanches happen in the right conditions.
We would like to offer all our sincere condolences to the victim and his family.

All access gates are kept closed due to insufficient snow; do not duck ropes to seek fresh lines. Mountain base 6am: -4℃, light snowfall and no notable development of snowdrifts. The snow in the trees seems good.

Deeper with Jeremy Jones

Yesterday I reviewed the Japanese ski/snowboard film “Persona” on my blog. Today I want to review Jeremy Jones much talked about 2 year film project “Deeper”

I finally was able to buy a copy at Sapporo’s Shugakusou and watch it the other night. Basically it is everything that people have been saying! A great documentary style snowboard adventure film! It is the kind of movie that long time snowboard lovers and industry insiders can watch and enjoy while at the same time you can show it to someone who has never been in the mountains and they will love it too.

The thing I really liked about this movie is the way it is not overly cinematized. A lot of “Extreme” movies these days use the endless dolly shots/slow motion/time lapse/motion graphics etc., It can get to be a little to much sometimes. With Deeper, TGR stuck to the basics just like the riding. Simple basic editing, solid interviews and narration to lead the story and insane footage that needs no help from fancy editing or effects.

I have had the pleasure of riding and shooting with Jeremy a few times over the last 12 years or so, but after watching this movie I am not sure if I will be able to keep up the pace. Lets just say I got very inspired to get out there and start rethinking my snowboarding and just life in general.

Jeremy has put together an amazing cast of riders for this film as well. Classic legends like Johan Olfson along side today’s greats like Travis Rice and Xavier de la Rue. So get out there and pick up a copy of this movie it is destined to be a mountain film classic.

Happy New Year

My first post of 2011. Took the day off on the 1st, chilled with the family, went sledding with my daughter etc., was in bed by 8pm for a good sleep! Nice chill way to start off the new year.

On a sad note though, I must pay my respects to long time friend Nishiyama who died in an avalanche yesterday in Niseko. He was hiking and skiing with a friend when apparently he got caught in an avalanche. His body was discovered this morning. This is a guy who absolutely loved skiing and being in the mountains. He had a ton of experience and was a high level skier. He will be sadly missed this season and all seasons to come.

I knew him from way back when I first came to Japan. As a staff member at Al’s bar and then as the manager at Sapporo’s 69 diner where I did my first DJ gigs. He was always so stoked to be skiing. A regular at Asahidake on opening day, he broke trail more than once for me and my crew.

Let this be a lesson to all of us. You can never be too careful when back country riding. Avalanche awareness the proper gear and please remember the buddy system. Don’t let your friends get out of sight in back country terrain.

Note the Niseko Avalanche info #17 on the day of the accident.
It mentions that the snow pack is stabilizing, but also goes on to talk about the danger of early season avalanches.

Happy New Year! Where is the snow gone?
Mountain base 6am: -3℃. 800m: -7.4℃. No overnight snowfall. NE to N wind has remained strong, 15 – 18m/s in high altitude, which made the surface snow above 800m to blow away and form wind-rippled in many slopes. The snow-pack is stabilizing; the particles are transforming from partly decomposed to rounded grains as you go deeper.
In Niseko, many avalanches triggered by facets or depth hoar layers happen quite often especially in early season, when the snow is still relatively shallow. These slides are usually triggered by deep weak layers and are especially difficult to predict. These phenomena is usually seen in December in average snowfall seasons, however looking at the snowfall transition this year, it seems like similar conditions will continue for a while, and actually could get even worse as the longer sun exposure would influence the transformation of the snow grains. Extra attention should be taken especially in highly sun-affected south facing slopes. Whether there is a lot of snow or not, avalanches happen when the conditions are right. Stay conscious and be aware of all possible consequences.

Niseko Avalanche report can be seen daily on this web site.