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Here's my first bc experience. It's not in the bc & avalanche section as it's a bit tame for there and may have interest for people who'd like to try their hand at the bc for the first time;


I booked two nights accomodation and two days back country touring with Canyons who are based in Minakami, Gunma, on Jan 11th & 12th. The Alpine Lodge run by Canyons was comfortable and laid back (Japanese tatami rooms with and without bunks) cafe, bar, communal kichen and large male/female baths. First day we left Minakami at 8:00 am and drove to Kagura. My guide was Mike Harris (Canyons CEO) and trainee Japanese guide Haruo. We hiked from the top of the Kaguro lifts for about 30 mins. Up to this point Mike had been explaining the snow conditions, the danger signs, what he was looking for to indicate snow conditions etc. We then did approximately 30 mins beacon training. Which when timed was quite stressful and I managed a rather sedate time of 8 mins to find the beacon.





We then continued to hike. During this time Mike was continually pointing out signs to indicate the way snow had fallen recently, its implications, also looking for signs of avalanche, plus questions to me about what degree of slope I thought an avalanche could start on etc. This was great and would certainly please spud. Visibility was ok for boarding and hiking, but no great views. It snowed most of the time, so no complaints from me. We then found a spot to dig a snowpit. We used the probes to ascertains the depth of the snow and to get a feel for the different layers. What I thought was the earth/stones was in fact an ice layer which the probe passed through with pressure. I was amazed at the degree of sensitivity in the probe, in that you could get a feel for the different resisitance of the snow/ice as the the probe descended.


After digging the snowpit Mike gave a very detailed explanation of the different layers of snow, the different densities,quantifying their densities by using the scale of fist, four fingers, pen etc; Softest - you can press your fist in, harder - four fingers - you can press in four fingers extended, harder -pen - you can push a pen in. Any way he took temp readings, depth measurements of each different layer, did a burp test and a compression test on a free standing column of snow, and it was decided it was safe to ride.



Mike and Haruo in the snowpit on the second day.


After hot soup and sandwiches all home made and coutesy of Canyons we set out to ride some powder. Not only was this my first bc snowboarding experience, it was also the first time I'd ridden powder. This was about thigh deep and I proceeded to dive in headfirst, literally. I was on a beginners tour, so nothing extreme and I spent quite a while bootpacking as I tried to get my head around riding on my back foot.



Me on my arse again with guide sailing through the powder.


When we rode the slopes Mike pointed out the danger areas, safe routes to head for. Haruo would go first and show me a safe point to head for, I would follow and when I reached the first guide, the second would follow up.



A rather rare event; me upright in the powder.



Woosh, I'm in the powder, before the customary face plant. \:D


The rest of the first day was spent hiking and riding before poaching some powder in Kagura, or rather I did my best to rag doll through most of the resorts remaining powder. Back to Minakami for a hot soak in the bath.


The second day we came back to Kagura, which was perfect for my level of boarding in powder. The conditions were fantastic. We hiked to the summit of Kagura at plus 2000m and cut some beautiful lines. I let the photos speak for themselves;


Among the trees



Hiking at Kagura behind the bc guide Mike. We are heading for the highest point in the picture in the top right of the photo, where we will eventually board/ski down. You can already see (faintly) two fresh lines snaking down the mountain side

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our trail breaks above the treeline at Kagura



Kagura, up among the trees on a beautiful sunny day



Our trail up to the summit of Kagura, looking towards Gunma



My kit; board, walking poles, snow shoes, shovel, probe in sac and beacon round my neck



Lunchtime at summit of Kagura. Over 2000 m. Lunch and table courtesy of Mike @ Canyons. Two boarders piggy backed the tour. Mike proceed to explain the results of the snowpit in English to me and in Japanese to the two boarders and a snowshoe guide who also joined the party.

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Thigh deep powder and blue skies. The guides came back with smiles on their face so it must have been good.




A good time had by all. This was a great experience for me and ideal as I tend to ride alone, so the chance to ride bc is seldom if ever. Mike from Canyons is evangelical in his desire to teach bc safety and this showed he was more than willing to educate people not touring with him. If you're an experienced powder rider then Mike would take you to places more extreme. But the assesment is made upon your ability and then the course choosen.


Hope this is of interest, especially anyone else thinking about trying their hand at bc.

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cheers y'all glad you like it. Kuma; new board was great on the ice and rocks in Akita. I kid you not. I was actualy gliding across gravel at one point. I also managed to ding it on an enormous rock at the edge of a piste.It holds its edge fantastically on ice and is fast. I was lucky with the snow eventually and even got some good conditions up at Appi.


Here's another photo of me (rather flattering, I look a lot better than I actually am)


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Ger; I saw ianbc's tr. I don't think we should even discuss that level of bc here, ;\) that was extreme.


Yes SJA, even setting my bindings as far back as possible, it was a real problem getting used to riding on my back foot. Also with the extra weight of the pack and gear you sink even further. Speed's the answer, but I kept chickening out, especially in the trees. But even the snowshoeing was great. Getting out of the resort and up the mountain is the best bit. I'll definitely do it again.


Yeah go for it Thunderpants; just practice poaching powder in resort. I should've got under the lifts but I tend to be very cautious.


Go for it slow, if I can do it anyone can. The J-girl boarder we met on the second day was an awesome powder rider and was very encouraging to me. Actually all the riders were cool, helping me and generally having a great time.

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thumbsup.gif Nice one Toriharda. It's good to get out of the resort, with piece of mind that you are in good hands.


I'm a bit like you. I ride alone a lot so backcountry is not really an option. I'll always pay for an expert guide rather than get trained properly myself.

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Torihada - what board do you use? On Yahoo Auctions Japan you can pick up a brand-new 2007 Burton Fish or Malolo for ~350-400 US.


I took a new Malolo (162) out to Oze Iwakura last Sunday and I've never been so happy in powder (I hiked up from the top lift and rode through the trees on the other side of a small stream), albeit wet and sticky powder. Effortless float, and after riding an alpine board (Prior 4WD) with hard-boots and 63/60 angles, the 54/54 angles on the Malolo made the board feel telepathic; it seemed to know exaclty where I wanted to go. Turns through tight trees were no problem, either.


On piste the lightness of the board (compared with my Prior 4WD) combined with its width sent me higher up walls and off jumps than I've been before.


Carving took some getting used to, as the Malolo has much more flex than my alpine board (the same Prior) and the two of us had to work out some mutual jitters in the first few runs before I trusted the edge to hold a carve. These 'jitters' actually made me more confident by the end of the day because while the 4WD is damp enough that most of what the snow tells me through the edges gets muted, the Malolo was noisy but kept me informed as to what was going on and that gave me more confidence in carves. At the end of the day I went for a laid-out toe-side carve, and the Malolo was right there to hold an edge.


However, because the board is quite light I found that when you get off an edge on torn-up snow the big-mean bumps tend to push you around.


Anyhow, that's my two cents on the board after one day of riding on it. This weekend I'm hoping to get s'more time in up north -- hopefully Nozawa Onsen or Kagura will snow a bit before Friday...I've got some friends who run a minshuku by Niigata station whom I'd love to visit!

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Yep, the malolo is sweet thumbsup.gif Been riding one myself this season, and was stoked at the float and also the general on-piste riding of it. Still not too sure about how much pop it has on a nice kicker, but haven't really had a chance to put it through its paces on a jump yet.

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