On January 14th, I made a quick 27 hour journey on over to Hakuba, Japan for the first stop of the Freeride World Tour. Right before I arrived, Hakuba was hit with a rain event, which quickly crushed my initial dreams of non-stop skiing the blower powder Japan is known for. However, we were treated to some incredible views of the Japanese Alps on our first day skiing
Soon after, the rain returned and we decided to make a day trip out to the nearby town of Matsumoto to visit a castle that was initially built in the 16th century.
Finally the weather cleared, but the snow conditions were still less than stellar. Nonetheless, the athletes and I still made the most of our time by sampling local cuisine and signing posters during the FWT opening ceremony. I managed to pick up a really fun case of the flu early on in the trip, so I had an excellent time constantly blowing my nose and popping all the Ibuprofen I could get my hands on. The crux of my illness occurred right as we were conducting our inspection of the initial venue for the competition, meaning I wasn't able to find a line to ski or take any meaningful pictures of the features.
After being towed to the bottom by snowmobiles in the predawn hours of the following day, we began bootpacking up the side of the venue. This, of course, coincided with a large snowstorm descending upon the Hakuba region. We waited near the top of the venue for close to two hours as temperatures dropped and winds increased. Despite everyone's best efforts, organizers decided to call off the competition and try for another day. While we were waiting, a considerable amount of snow had fallen just next to the venue, creating some truly deep turns and my first experiences with actual Japan powder.
In the days that followed, we were treated to some truly epic tree skiing as the snow continued to fall. Skiing the off-piste at some Hakuba resorts is somewhat frowned upon, and therefore I didn't get many good pictures. Despite my best efforts (okay maybe staying out late and partying didn't help), my sickness continued, but luckily didn't get any worse. Eventually, we made one more attempt at a competition on a different venue, but wind had affected the snow such that large ice chunks were hidden just below the surface. Ultimately, it was a tough call to pull the plug on the competition, but it was the safe choice and I was glad with the decision.
Finally, after two epic weeks of experiencing the Japanese culture and sampling the best/worst of Japanese snow, it was time to head home. Travelling with ski bags is always an adventure, and riding the bullet train and trampling our way through Tokyo was no different. Another quick 27 hour journey, and I was back. Till next time Japan!