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I really don’t know where to start….I guess I’ll skip over the first day in Tokyo because all we care about here is glorious snow right? I’d like to note my best mate and his little brother were unable to attend the trip because of a serious injury 2 days before we were scheduled to leave – it would have been mental if they were with us! I must also point this was my first time snowboarding so I won’t be able to give you a detailed report of how ‘sick’ the ‘pow’ was and what-not. It’ll be kind of basic sorry.


We arrived by bus at the Wind Jacket Lodge at approximately 3am on the morning of Sunday the 22nd of February. I have never seen snow let alone touched it so queue surprise when I stepped in some on the way out of the bus and promptly sunk knee deep in the stuff. What followed was a struggle to drag my 20kg bag up the icy road in skate shoes. I’m sure I would have laughed if I could have seen myself.


As I have stated we stayed at the Wind Jacket lodge. Despite some earlier reservations about the place it was as expected - a share dorm style accommodation with a very friendly atmosphere. It’s also a place that focuses on the sole reason you are there; to get out onto the snow and have fun! I had to hire a board and a pair of boots and they sorted me out before the first lifts opened the Sunday. The gear was in excellent condition as well. The lodge itself is situated only 100m from the Happo lift to the top of the Cascade Park, and literally 10m from a bus stop for the free shuttles to take you all over Hakuba. Almost as importantly it was only a 5mintue walk up the road from the local pub which was a very cool place.




I won’t run through every day we spent out on the snow as we snowboarded 12 days straight, so I’ll just go through the notable events. We spent the bulk of our time at Happo, Goryu, 47 and Tsugaike. We also did a spot of night boarding at Yanaba…I think that’s what it was called. On advice from others we avoided Iwatake.


We spent the first day at Happo learning how to ride. It was pretty frustrating but by lunch I could leaf easily enough to make my way down pretty much any slope. We went to the top of the gondola for lunch and got stuck in some very strong winds. After about 90mins of trying to wait it out we were told it was not going to let up that day and that we should try and make our way down as soon as possible. None of us thought to just catch the gondola back down so we ventured out and spent the next half an hour struggling down the mountain on what was by now just ice. The wind had blown anything loose away and because of this visibility was down to about 10m. It was pretty harrowing riding back down but I made it and lived to fight another day.


The High Cascade Park at Happo provided us with a good deal of enjoyment over our trip. On my first time to the Park a girl went over the first beginner jump badly and broke her shoulder. We also had a guy staying at the Wind Jacket with us that was back and front flipping a number of jumps…pretty impressive to watch. He showed us a video of him attempting a double back flip on a powder day and landing clean on his head. He’s lucky he didn’t break his neck! We also saw him do a back flip off a small jump some guys had built beside our lodge.


Speaking of powder days – it snowed heavily from midday on Tuesday the 3rd of March right through to the next morning. Excitement was pretty high in the Lodge the night before and the following day did not disappoint. Powder is amazing. I’m sure you all know, although I found falling in deep powder is an exercise in frustration if you want to ride back out. The whole day was an absolute blast to say the least. Two of my mates got their lift passes confiscated for the day as a result of an off piste adventure, but given the conditions we were in they said it was worth it and they’d do it again.




I loved Goryu and 47. As a beginner the green runs were by far the most enjoyable of all the resorts. I liked just cruising along the edges and relaxing, though by the end of the trip I was timing myself and going so fast I nearly went over the edge a few times…once I was good enough to carve the more advanced slopes I felt Goryu and 47 where overall the best resorts in the valley. 90% of the runs were enjoyable and the views were generally very good.


The terrain park at 47 was also the best of the lot. Lots of jumps – I managed to work my way up to the largest table jump they had before they started having a gap between the ramp and lander. I wasn’t really game to do them lol. I did wipe out very badly however. I wasn’t thinking properly on one run and had my weight too far forward as I hit the lip. I went straight over and fell about 3m to the side of the jump – so I didn’t even get the relative comfort of a gradual slope. I was down for about 5minutes but managed to walk it off. I kept riding that day but at night sitting and standing was a big issue. Thankfully after 2 days I was 100% again. Was also the 2nd last day of the trip so I timed it well :-D


It was at 47 that I also learnt a lesson in snowboarding 101 – never put your board down on the snow and let go, even if you thinking you can grab it if it starts to slide away. Not only did I fall flat on my face chasing after it (much to the amusement of the watching Japanese riders) but I went about 100m down the hill, over the edge and ended up in a creek halfway down the mountain. It took me nearly an hour to get the damn thing!!!!


Tsugaike was interesting. The first time we went there it was icy as buggery on the runs so we ended up spending the entire day in their smaller park learning to jump and do our first rails. The second time we went there (in the second week of our trip) they must have had a dump of snow the night before. The entire mountain was covered in about 30cm of powder and the first run of the day was insane. We all free rode together right from the top to the bottom, cutting in and out of the edges, snow flying everywhere and flat lining it whenever possible. I can’t remember having that much fun or feeling that in control of my riding. By the time we got back up the run had been carved to crud and was freezing up everywhere. I could almost say the entire trip was worth it for that one run.


We kept riding the smaller park (The big park was closed) at Tsugaike. I had my scariest fall here. Someone had set a barrel up on one of the jumps with the intention of jumping it, but most people were jumping to the right of it. I decided to do the same as it was the first jump of the day for me. Unfortunately for me the continued pounding of the snow on the other side had carved out a nice divot in the ground and I landed right in the middle of it. I fell backwards as my board slide right out from under me and my back landed on the ridge on the jump. I heard my neck crack and I freaked out. Thankfully I was left with just a very sore neck and took it pretty easy for the rest of the day.


After that scare I was sitting on the edge of a small snow cliff/pack doing my boots up when the whole thing gave way. It was surreal as I could see the snow crack just before the whole section in front of me fell away. I was only about 4m up and I didn’t go over with it (in fact after that I jumped into it for fun) but for some reason that memory is really vivid in my head…I guess its because it was then that I realised how unstable it could be. After all it was supporting my weight for a good few minutes before hand.


Our last snow boarding session was at Yanaba. The guy that runs the Wind Jacket drove us out there for about 3 hours of riding. I was pretty sore from my big fall during the day at 47 so I just took my camera along to film some of the boys riding. The park itself was pretty good though very icy. It would be great fun in better conditions. I managed to eat it badly while filming a mate board sliding a low rail. I was moving to fast so tried to slow myself down and some how managed to fall off onto my sore hip. It hurt like hell and that literally was the last time I stepped onto a board for the remainder of the trip. The video is funny though :-S


We didn’t ride the last day because of a combination of been incredibly sore and the rain/ice from the day before and even though our reason was very solid it felt sacrilegious not to ride. Still, we handed all our gear in and palmed off our remaining tickets to fund one more night of debauchery.


Throw in so many snow fights and general tom foolery and it was the best 2 weeks I’ve ever had. The trip has changed my future travel plans. Everything is based around the availability of snow! I’ll be hunting around for my own boots soon and hopefully a board before I travel next. It’s almost life changing.


I have to give a quick nod to Japan itself. The country blew me away and it’s safe to say society there is a level above anywhere I’ve ever been. I could live there I reckon. Although my Japanese would have to improve because even though I spent a great deal of time learning before I left it probably caused more harm than good. We also had a crazy Japanese guy lecture us on how ignorant westerners are for a good 30mins in Tokyo. He seemed to just randomly pick us out from a crowd – although the first thing he asked us was if we were American. He left me alone after I spoke some Japanese to him that seemed to satisfy him though my friends copped and earful as I watched on…


Finally thanks to all the guys and girls on these excellent forums for their help in planning my trip and helping me select my gear before I left. The information provided by Snow Japan is also top notch and I think the boss here at work will be thankful that I have no real need to check the snow depths more at least 8 months.


I'll definitely be back to Japan that's for sure!!!




- Matt




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well done Matt. Shame you never got over to Iwatake- they have some nice runs off the back of the mountain, but they are not having a terrific year at all this season.

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Sweet intro to the snow and good to hear you got a bit powder in such a bad year. I'd second Stemik on the Iwatake tip if it's a good snow year. Only been there once but the tree runs were great.

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Originally Posted By: Mattaus
I won’t run through every day we spent out on the snow as we snowboarded 12 days straight, so I’ll just go through the notable events.

12 days straight!!?? And you lived to tell about it?? lol

Thanks for sharing - this is proof that there actually was snow in Hakuba this season.
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Yeah, one of the boy is still sore lol.


The last day we desperately wanted to head out but a combination of the rain that day, the ice the night before and my extremely sore backside kind of put that to rest before I even got out of bed. It made me feel dirty for skipping my last day of snowboarding for possibly another 12 months but I just couldn't do it!!!

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