For the second half of this winter, I was riding new skis. Thanks to a random meeting in a ski bum bar in Sapporo on New Year’s Eve, I got talking with the owner of Riot Skis. I was wearing an Ezopow hoody and as he’d seen our Instagram and site, he wanted to know about us. In talking, we decided to work together with a view to launching Riot Skis in North America and Europe over the coming years.
Riot Skis are a Japanese company based here in Hokkaido. They make really unique skis which are aimed predominantly at freeride and freestyle. Their main pro rider, Tsubasa ‘TBS’ Tanimura is a style ninja with a unique flow to his skiing that I really haven’t seen in many other skiers. He’s the main influence on the design of the skis, which are super fun to ride.
I’ve been riding the IMK which is the widest ski in the lineup and suited to my preferred playground, the powder and trees of Hokkaido. Currently the models have been designed with the Japanese body shape in mind, so mostly in shorter lengths. We’ve been working on the range, to include longer lengths in all models, and wider designs too. Big things to come.
The biggest thing happening for Riot recently has been signing Canadian pro skier Corey Vanular to the team. This is super exciting and will bring awareness of the brand and the skis to a huge audience. I’ve been a huge fan of Corey’s style ever since he was in the early Level 1 movies from winning the Superunknown contest. His segment in Long Story Short has to go down as one of the most stylish 90 seconds of skiing ever recorded.
As of now, the Riot website is still under construction, but a full launch is imminent. Keep an eye out for Riot Skis in the coming years.
April 27th 2015. Mt Yotei (1,898m)
I’ve hiked to the summit of Mt Yotei three times over the past few years, but never during the ski season. With the opportunity of hiking and skiing it rapidly melting away for this season, I wasn’t going to miss out on a clear weather day and a day off work. Original Hokkaido Cartel member Peter Im was also keen for the hike so we arranged to meet at the Hirafu trailhead at 5:30, soon after sunrise.
Surprisingly, given how warm April had been, we were able to get our skis on and skin straight from the carpark which made the initial stage of the climb a lot easier. The lower slopes were very slushy, even early in the day, and covered with a lot of tree branches and the odd patch of sasa.
Once we were onto the main face, it was just a long slog to the top. We were able to skin to about halfway before the snow got too firm and we strapped our skis to our packs and decided bootpack. The wind was howling, so we took a 30 minute pause waiting for it to die down a little before continuing to the crater rim on foot.
After a very long grind up the upper slopes, we reached the crater rim and were treated to great views over the Niseko range and beyond to the sea of Japan, just about visible in the haze. A celebratory kampai was in order!
Peter was tired after the climb, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to ski into the crater. Getting my skis on again, I skinned around the rim to drop one of the steeper lines on the opposite side. It was a short steep line, but a lot of fun. Totally worth the extra effort and the hike out.
Short clip skiing into the crater. Thanks Peter for the video!
After climbing back out to where Peter was waiting (patiently!) for me, I had a moment to get my breath back and then we set off on the long ski down the main face. This was the longest unbroken ski run I’ve done in many a year, and a real thigh burner. The snow definitely wasn’t Hokkaido powder, but really nice spring corn and one of the funnest lines of the year. After a long climb up, the decent was over so quickly, but totally, totally worth the effort.
After reaching the bottom and a quick pole through the trees, we were back at the cars sweating, sunburnt, but stoked! Ski gear was stripped off and I changed into shorts and flip flops for the drive home on the hottest day of the year. (29 degrees C recorded in Sapporo!)
A long day, 3am start from home with a 2.5 hour drive either way, but such a good day skiing. Probably the last of the season, number 104.
We haven’t really been riding much recently. We’ve had a couple of visitors, and some weekends of rainy weather. I did have one really good day down at Nakayama Touge last Monday. The park down there is in good shape and due to stay open for the spring period and into May.
I also bagged my 100th day of the season. It’s the second time I’ve managed a 100 day season here in Hokkaido. The last time was in 2011/12 when I got 102 days. I’m hoping to comfortably break that record by the end of the month!
We missed a weekend skiing when we headed out to Eastern Hokkaido with my brother who was visiting earlier in April. We were lucky with the weather and saw some really spectacular scenery. A few photos:
After some crap weather last week, the forecast is looking more promising for the coming weekend. Hoping to get a final lift access day at Teine, and then a park session at Nakayama Touge. After that, we’ll be hiking for turns.
Here’s the edit from the past few weeks. March in Hokkaido is always good as you still get decent dumps of snow but also more sunny days. And all the tourists have gone home!
Shot at Sapporo Teine, Rusutsu and Yubari Mount Racey
March 22nd, 2015
With the season coming to an end and temperatures creeping up, it’s pond skim time! Rusutsu was hosting the ‘Splash Cup’ so we headed on down on a beautiful bluebird day to join the party.
The ‘pond’ was more like a paddling pool, so didn’t present too much of a challenge. The water looked really icy though, so none of us fancied taking an unwanted dip. Everyone only got one judged run, so we had to lay it all down on our first try.
More by luck than any real skill, I managed a 180 out of the pond and that was enough to score me 2nd place! I was stoked, and quickly eyed up the prize table, looking at six packs of Sapporo Classic, tshirts, vouchers and all kinds of swag. My prize – a second hand snowboard, with LED lights in the base. Kind of cool, but not much use to me. Luckily I was able to explain this to the judges who were happy to exchange the snowboard for the aforementioned sixers of biru.
The day continued with a few slushy runs through the trees, and lots of grilled meat in the yakiniku area set up next to the pond skim. An excellent spring day.
Is what I said to my friends Sam and James when they were planning a trip to visit us in Hokkaido. I should’ve known though. The last time all three of us were on a mountain together was 10 years ago in Whistler. That year, the Pineapple Express hit, giving us rain, wind, and generally crap snow for the majority of our 2 months in BC.
This time would be different though, wouldn’t it? It’s Hokkaido after all. Well, we had a bit of snow, but generally nothing like you’d usually expect for February. Pretty disappointing for Sam and James to have travelled from Hong Kong and the UK respectively for not amazing snow, but we had a good couple of weeks and made the best of a bad snow situation.
Straight from the airport we headed to Mount Racey. Not much powder but we gravitated towards the park like the park-rats we used to be! We were treated to a classic Yubari sunset to welcome the boys to Hokkaido.
We had a good couple of days down in Rusutsu. A little bit of fresh snow to keep the trees interesting and an amazing bluebird day with views of Yotei, Lake Toya and the Pacific Ocean. Plus a sweet night park session, with confidence boosted by the addition of chairlift cans of Sapporo Classic!
We were able to scope out some decent stuff at Teine too. The less obvious lines in the trees and out in the bowls were still fun, even without recent snow. And the park was also always an option!
We had a random half day at the unheard of Bibai Kokusai Ski Hill. (Kokusai means international in Japanese. Interesting choice of name for a one lift ski hill in a dying former mining town!) It actually turned out to be a great time though. We found lots of short but fun lines through the trees, some powder and even a park! And other than a few army dudes in leather boots, we were the only ones there.
Sam headed back to Hong Kong slightly earlier than James, leaving us to have a sweet final park session at Mount Racey. A sunny day, with no crowds had us lapping the park with the essential Go Pro on a pole.
Thanks for coming out to visit boys. Now Sambo, you’ve got all the footage, get working on that edit!!