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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    AK
    Posts
    720

    TR: Japanuary in Japowder

    Skiers have a dream of floating through empty trees while huge snowflakes fall around us. It’s seemingly silent as the new snow drowns all sounds. Stopping to look up, individual flakes materialize and drift down from an infinite mass above.

    The beginning.

    That dream was my image of Japan. With the sun barely 7 degrees above the horizon at noon, I wasn’t going to spend all of January in Alaska.

    The first lift ride.

    The planning began back in July with an email to Miles Clark. The response: I’m in Indo surfing, getting over dengue fever, call me.

    Free refills on day one.

    Halfway around the world, the call to Miles would be from my desk. I minimized my work, dialed his number, and started taking notes. 15 minutes later, Miles finally paused: Any questions? Nope. The trip Miles’ outlined would have taken months to plan.

    Cody in the Cortina sidecountry.

    We’d fly into Tokyo, grab a bus to Hakuba, then make our way to the Hakuba Powder Lodge. Located at the same latitude as Fresno, January would be the time to go.

    First day, last run.

    Next up was to assemble a team. Equipped with a gas tank big enough to power a cruise ship, Alex Geilich was obvious:


    Cody Niggemyer added a smile reaching all the way to the twinkle in his eyes:


    Growing up in the stacked zones of Colorado’s San Juans, Alan Butler would be the perfect:


    Spread from the oil fields of the Arctic Ocean to the Front Range of Colorado, the team was on different work schedules and would each travel separately to Hakuba.

    Day 2, run 1. Photo: Cody Niggemyer.

    After an uncomfortable night in the Tokyo airport, punctuated by discovering that my skis had continued on to Singapore, I got off the bus in Hakuba.

    Heading into the backcountry as the storm cleared.

    When I staggered into the Powder Lodge, the crew was waiting on the couch. They'd been busy getting settled, collecting beta, and buying mysterious items from mysterious vending machines.

    Johannes introducing us to the Norikura Ridge backcountry.

    The next morning brought a promising forecast and new snowfall, so we skied across town to the train and headed for Cortina.

    Another lap on Norikura.

    Waiting at the ticket window seemed to take several lifetimes, but unloading the lift and skiing into the trees, all worries disappeared. With snow falling at 5 inches an hour, lift rides were spent wiping the new snow off, and runs spent piling it back on.

    Bluebird arrives in Hakuba. Photo: Cody Niggemyer

    I couldn't decide if the last run of the first day or the first run on the next day was deeper.

    So many options. Photo: Cody Niggemyer

    After two stormy days spent plowing through the Cortina sidecountry, the storm passed and the mountains appeared.


    The options were endless: mountains, mountains on mountains, couloirs, flutes, trees, spines:

    Photo: Cody Niggemyer

    Getting to know the way around, and building an understanding of the snowpack, we explored further and further.

    Photo: Alex Geilich

    We spent two days riding the never ending ridges and spines of Goryu.


    Cody:


    The top of each ridge started with pillows and spines and transitioned to open glades. Alex:


    Rinse and repeat.


    After two days of stability and sun, the next storm moved in.


    Alex and I hiked up for one more lap above Goryu.


    Ripping skins and stuffing them in our backpacks, it was already deep again.


    Spring runoff is so severe in Hakuba that dams are built across the valleys to allow sediment to settle before reaching the municipal water intakes.


    After negotiating one such dam, we skied back home through town.


    As the days passed a rhythm developed: start each storm cycle with the train to Cortina...


    Jump off everything in sight...


    Recover...


    Eat weird food...
    Last edited by Mike_Records; 03-04-2015 at 05:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    AK
    Posts
    720
    Channel our inner geisha...


    And work into the backcountry as confidence in the stability grew.


    One day roof avalanches were our alarm clocks; it looked promising:


    Yep, just as deep as the chairlift snow-stake predicted.

    Photo: Cody Niggemyer

    The lift didn't go where we wanted to. Fortunately, Cody and Alex found the midway unload station.


    High avy days were spent window shopping and making the to-do list for Japanuary 2016.


    Before I knew it we were standing on top of Norikura Ridge at 4 PM of our last day. Just like in the dream we floated through the perfectly spaced trees. But, one thing was different: it wasn't silent, instead it was filled with the laughter of four dear friends.

    Photo: Cody Niggemyer

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Missoula, MT
    Posts
    18,019
    Om nom nom. Nice.
    No longer stuck.

    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post
    Just an uneducated guess.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    561
    Hoollllllyyyy shit, beauty.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    seatown
    Posts
    2,830
    full mast!
    heart of a lion, hungry as hippo

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Driving2VT
    Posts
    2,230
    Full on.. Appreciated.
    Uno mas

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    4,532
    meh



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    .

    That was excellent!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    NWCT
    Posts
    1,621
    Shwing!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Posts
    1,032
    Wow... That was totally wicked!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    X=Z-BO
    Posts
    3,147
    Damn that is awesome
    god created man. winchester and baseball bats made them equal - evel kenievel

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    On your tic list
    Posts
    271
    Excellent! Thanks for sharing.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    972
    Nice work. Japanuary was pretty awesome this year.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    tourin BC
    Posts
    2,756
    soooo ... that like the entire season's worth of snow around here ...

    We, the RATBAGGERS, formally axcept our duty is to trigger avalaches on all skiers ...

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    base of the Bush
    Posts
    7,280
    Thanks Mike, Great Japan report.
    www.apriliaforum.com

    "If the road You followed brought you to this,of what use was the road"?

    "I have no idea what I am talking about but would be happy to share my biased opinions as fact on the matter. "
    Ottime

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    2,137
    TR of the month.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    earth
    Posts
    5,222
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike_Records View Post

    Jump off everything in sight...

    Hell yeah!! Awesome TR!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Paper St. Soap Co.
    Posts
    1,801
    Awesome. I would love to go to Japan.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    40°39'32.94"N 111°35'45.68"W
    Posts
    527
    Awesome TR. Thanks for the Ja-stoke! This currently sits atop the bucket list. One question though, how can you sure the horse tongue is food and not a sex toy to be used in unison with the geisha mask? I hear the Japanese are kinky MFers.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Carbondale
    Posts
    9,458
    Banger TR...

    I wanna see some of that video!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    grapes and grapes
    Posts
    3,156
    How do you write "Fantasy Boner Palace Town" in Japanese? This thread is just that. Boioioioioioioioioioioioing.
    "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms, their energy. Your cares and tensions will drop away like the leaves of Autumn." --John Muir

    "welcome to the hacienda, asshole." --s.p.c.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Banana Belt, VT
    Posts
    2,422
    THIS. Is the stuff. Thanks so much for posting.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    the gach
    Posts
    5,381
    Thanks for not inviting me Mike. Not that I could have gone anyways. Looks amazing, I've gotta go.
    But Ellen kicks ass - if she had a beard it would be much more haggard. -Jer

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    587
    Mike! Amazing pics, looks like it was one hell of a trip! Crazy jealous.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    below the Broads Fork Twins
    Posts
    5,814
    Japantastic
    Success has many fathers, while failure remains an orphan // Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after - HDT

  25. #25
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    pdx
    Posts
    7,665
    Quote Originally Posted by Edgnar View Post
    TR of the month.
    seconded

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