Published in Onboard Magazine Issue 119, January 2011
Words: Matt Georges
Onboard Senior shooter Matt Georges took a trip to the land of the Nipple-Deep Pow with yes boys Romain de Marchi, JP Solberg and tadashi fuse, with tadashi promising to lead them to some top-secret areas of hokkaido, and in the process became a snow nerd...
No two snow crystals are exactly the same; each one is slightly different. Ok, so you’ve heard that before. Yet one snowflake couldn’t look more like another, and their shapes usually fall in several basic forms. the World Weather Organisation classifi es snowflakes into seven different categories: plates, starshaped, columns, needles, dentrites, rimed and irregular, the last of which encompasses three other forms of precipitation: graupel,
snow pellets and hail. among these categories, the forms, weights and volumes vary widely. You get the idea: it’s pretty complicated stuff.
The shape of the snowflake is determined broadly by atmospheric pressure, electric fi elds, wind, humidity and the temperature at which it is formed. It is this last factor that is crucial to the form and shape of the snow crystal. All other things being equal, temperatures between - 5°C to - 10°C will lead to the development of needle or hollow column type crystals. Between - 10°C to - 12°C, you tend to get plates, and from - 12°C to - 18°C, crystals form into stars with six branches. These branches can often form into further complex growth patterns with dendritic features. Oh, and fi nally between 5°C and 20°C it rains, which means it’s all over!
But why exactly am I going on about all this? Simply because I did a bit of research on the internet to fi nd out why the snow in Japan is apparently
lighter than anywhere else. Ever since I started snowboarding people have kept going on about the quality of the powder in Japan, and I thought is was about tim
e I went to check it out for myself. Snow analysis aside, let us focus on the main players in this story. Our crew was made up of Swiss-Canadian karaoke diva Romain de Marchi, Norwegian fi sherman JP Solberg and Japanese snowboard legend, guide, organiser, businessman, fi lm-maker Tadashi Fuse. Oh, and there was also meant to be French Canadian kicker killer David Carrier- Porcheron but unfortunately he wasn’t able to make it in the end. Tadashi was born in the Land of the Rising Sun a little over 27 years ago, in the province of Yamagata, located on the main island of Honshu, north of Tokyo. He learnt to snowboard in the surrounding mountains and various other different islands that make up the archipelago before moving to Whistler, Canada, a few years later, where he now lives with his wife and two little girls. For this trip, he wanted to unveil a few well-kept secrets on Hokkaido, the most northern island where most of the winter resorts are found, along with erupting volcanoes, huge forests and that worldrenowned fl uffy white stuff.
Hokkaido weathers constant heavy snowstorms brought in by winds from Siberia. The island is flanked by the Pacifi c Ocean (to the east) and the Sea of Japan (to the west) and Okhotsk Sea (to the north). It’s separated from Honshu by the strait of Tsugaru. What would we do without Wikipedia and the Internet! Technology is quite something. You know absolutely nothing about something and with a few clicks of a mouse you can have it all there in front of you! Hokkaido is the equivalent to Mecca for powder riding: the best you can get.
When it comes to writing a text like this, where you have to ramble on about super light powder, it’s often tempting to try to put your readers at ease with little jokes that often aren’t very funny. You could nearly take all this as just being filler. But a trip to Japan is worthy magazine content
whatever the angle.
After landing in Sapporo, the island’s capital city, Tadashi put together a little programme for us. I could give you the name of the idyllic place we stayed at for a couple of days but out of respect for the calmness of the place I will refrain from sharing any information. To tell the truth, my goldfi sh memory can’t remember the long and complicated name of the place anyway. We slept on traditional tatamis in beautiful silk dressing gowns, ate on the fl oor (on patterned tatami) enjoying the succulent local food while struggling to use our chopsticks correctly. When we weren’t eating, we
went and rode incredible spots just outside our front door, a Bed & Breakfast stranded in the middle of the mountains, at the end of a road to a closed pass, allowing us to access a number of sick spots by foot. In the evening, after our crazy sessions, we’d all go and drink beers at the Onsen thermal baths. The Japanese absolutely love a thermal bath and can spend hours bathing in these places. This reminds me of quite a funny story. I’m not sure she’ll be happy that I told it but last year we went on a trip to Japan with Anne-Flore Marxer and happened to test the famous Onsen baths. I didn’t actually get to witness the scene, seeing as the baths aren’t mixed, but from what I heard all the local Japanese women took her for a total weirdo at the sight of her blond hair, blue eyes and western bodyhair removal...
After a few days spent living in the strictest Japanese tradition, we moved onto Asahikawa. Located at a junction of two main roads, by getting up super early it was quite easy for us to organise day trips to wherever the powder happened to be, then return at nightfall for a big bowl of noodles and some good old karaoke before getting some sleep. Unfortunately Tadashi injured himself on the fi rst day by banging his knee against an ice block hidden under the snow. He spent the rest of the trip sipping green tea while Jean-Pierre and Romain unleashed turns in the bottomless powder runs.
The days were long and busy and at the end of every day we’d stop off at the first supermarket to fuel up on hot coffee (served in a can), noodles and
sushi: nothing quite beats it after a long day of riding. As all good things come to an end, our two weeks were quickly over and we had to return home. We made the quick trip to Tokyo where we spent a night in one of those peculiar capsule hotels (check them out on Google - it’s an interesting experience, that is if you’re not claustrophobic!) before flying home.
Bye bye Japan…