Feature: Just Enjoy
By Ian MacKenzie
This season, I skied more powder than I knew what to do with. I choked on great wads of the stuff. I leapt off mushies into great pillows of it. I felt the press of powder on my chest through the tree runs. Powder skiing is hard to do. I don’t mean tiring, I mean the technique is hard to master. I watch my snowboarding friend glide over bottomless powder on his second day, green with envy. Powder skiing is effortless, but it takes time to perfect the technique, to be able to glide rather than turn between the trees, to let the set of your skis do the work for you. After two full powder seasons, I may have got it. Not perfectly, not fantastic, but intermittently graceful.
Fat skis have revolutionized powder skiing. The ski that kept the old fart on the powder slope has evolved into the main weapon in the armoury of the all mountain powder skier.
It used to be you could see the difference between a skiers line and a boarders line, but the distinction has become blurred, two huge arcs swaying down a powder face. Fat skis have enabled skiers to carve in powder, huge turns, high speed, Jeremy Nobis in Alaska.
To me, the pursuit of powder turns is what wakes me up at seven thirty with a hangover and makes me get up. It is what brings me home with a smile on my face, and what made me quit my job, and make it my life. For others, there is another holy grail. It may be touring, searching for corn snow when everyone else is dusting off motorcycles. For some it is racing, speed through the gates chasing that hundredth of a second. Others like to jump, spin and grab in the park and the pipe.
He stayed in Niseko at the 343 ski shop, and spent his mornings at the park, quietly setting the standard, throwing down trick after trick. Skiing with my friend Daisuke, we took the Kogen Number one lift that services the park. “That’s him, “ he whispered in awe, as JP’s grey clad figure spun by. His afternoons were spent waxing skis and helping at Lodge Ronde, adjacent to the ski shop, famous for it’s connection with the Japanese Mogul Team.
He is honest, refreshingly honest. I ask him what he thinks of the Kogen resort Park, and he is quite clear that he is not going to just say what people want to hear. He makes it clear that it is terrible. “Niseko has relied on its powder reputation for so long that it doesn’t feel the need to attract the freeskier crowd, however, resort management are missing the point. Young freeskiers can inject vitality into the resort, and attract a younger element. With younger people coming to Niseko, the village and the resort will expand.” He goes on, “the park is not well balanced. The angles change everyday, there is no consistency, and more importantly, no park culture. With greater variety, better rails and jumps, kickers and tabletops, better skiers and boarders will come.”
JP lives and skis for the park, for switch take offs, for the “ahhs” of the crowd as the stomps another landing. He feels the stares of recognition as he gets off the lift, people whispering into face warmers. He enjoyed Niseko, the powder, the park, the 343 ski shop. His philosophy is “Just Enjoy”, a mantra to anyone, not just the aspiring pro. Japanese ski magazines are full of tips and techniques, thoughtful prose from the professional “senpai”, speaking down the masses, lecturing. English ski magazines have thoughtful articles about what skiing means to real people, real skiers and boarding magazines offer the same.
Photos: Skiers are Ian, and Luke; boarders are Fatty and Matt