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.
100 Day Season and an East Hokkaido Roadtrip
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.
Locals Only March
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
Come in mid-February. Guaranteed pow….. ?
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!!
Since the New Year vacation, the weather has been pretty mixed, and quite abnormal for Hokkaido. Warmer temperatures than average and longer gaps between snowfall has been the trend, we even had a very depressing day of rainfall a couple of weeks ago. BUT, we’ve still been able to get a good amount of riding in, and have been able to track down the best snow at the weekends. Not really much text to go with this blog post, just a load of photos, so, here you go…
It seems like the weather is back to a more normal trend for this time of year. Much colder, with regular snowfalls in the forecast. Hopefully that’ll continue. (Till April, preferably!)
Video – Christmas and New Year
Edit from Rusutsu, Sapporo Teine, Kamui Ski Links & Mount Racey
Christmas and New Year in Hokkaido
Dec 20th – Jan 4th. Rusutsu, Teine, Kamui Ski Links and Mount Racey
What an epic couple of weeks! Usually over Christmas and New Year we take a couple of weeks off to travel somewhere outside Japan. This year, we took the time off, but stayed in Hokkaido to travel around with a few friends and ski.
There’s no denying we had a slightly slow start to the season this year, and this was very apparent at Rusutsu over Christmas from the amount of sasa bamboo and tree branches still poking through the snow. But the snow started really cranking when we arrived on Christmas Eve, and just didn’t stop. It got so good that we decided to book another night in a hotel there to squeeze in an extra day skiing as the snow was so damn good.
After Christmas we had friends, James and Daphne, arriving from the UK. We’d lined up a mix of Sapporo before New Year followed by a trip up to Asahikawa for a couple of days in early January.
Initially the snow at Teine was up there with the best snow they’d ever had in Europe, although to us it was decidedly average. We still had fun picking our way through the trees to find decent powder stashes, but unfortunately it wasn’t the best Teine has to offer.
After a big night out on New Years Eve, and a mellow New Years Day, we drove up to Asahikawa. On the first day at Kamui Ski Links the snow was good and a lot lighter than Teine. We hit the backside and the lines down the spine under the gondola. Even with relatively long lines for the gondola, the trees and backside areas remained largely untracked.
By day 2, after a solid night of snowfall Kamui was even better. The snow was really deep and confidence was soaring. Some bigger drops were going down, and pillows were getting boosted with deep soft landings.
Heading back home from Iwamizawa, we caught the negative side of Hokkaido’s insane snowfall. The Expressway was closed and the main north-south road was gridlocked thanks to 1 metre of snowfall in Central Sorachi. Eventually we got home and dug ourselves back into our parking space. Looking around at all the fresh snow, we figured that the following day, the last of the holidays, would be a pretty good time to hit Mount Racey at Yubari.
It turned out to be one of the best days we’ve had in Hokkaido. The snowfall in Iwamizawa area had continued Eastwards and intensified as it hit the mountains at Yubari. The ski area got absolutely pounded and to top it off, the sun came out in the morning to give us the dream combo of snow and sun. Lap after lap on the gondola gave us chest deep blower powder in the trees and incredible faceshots in the steeper terrain in Happy Valley. A perfect day to round off James and Daphne’s trip and one for us to remember for a long time.
I took a load of video over the 2 weeks, and will try to edit it down into something watchable. Hopefully. For now, here’s a mini edit from an insane day at Mount Racey.
Back to ‘work’ and ‘reality’ as of yesterday. But we have a three day weekend coming up and another big snowstorm brewing tomorrow…….
Winter is back!
December 6th and 7th. Kiroro and Sapporo Teine
Finally! After seeing most of our snow disappear over the past week or two, winter returned and we had our first full weekend riding for the season. On Saturday, we hit Kiroro. First time we’ve been there for a couple of years despite always promising ourselves we’ll go. The Otaru area has been receiving most of the snow so far so we were hopeful of good conditions. Heading inland over the mountain pass from Otaru and down to Kiroro was like travelling forward in time to mid January – heavy snowfall and big snowbanks on the side of the road. The snow on the hill was awesome, deep and light. Still a little bit too much sasa to venture too far off of the marked trails, but it was knee deep on piste so we were more than happy!
I’ve said this too many times, but we really have to head down to Kiroro mid season when the whole mountain is open and the snow is really cranking!
On Sunday, on our way to Sapporo Teine, we got the word that the lifts were shut because of the strong winds. This is the biggest drawback for Teine, as it’s so close to the sea, it often gets really strong winds. Waiting in the lodge with a big crew, a decision had to be made between heading out to do something, or staying inside for morning beers. Mike, Cory and I decided on hiking a small way up the hill and building a kicker. We found a nice little windlip, built a takeoff and set up a pole jam type feature. We were soon joined by our buddy from Mount Racey, Shinya. Even though the landing only had sketchy snow cover, some decent tricks were going down.
Eventually the lifts opened up, so everyone got out for the afternoon. We had nice little patches of powder in the trees and under the lifts. The sun came out too at points, so the mood was good. Especially for those that got stuck into the birus at 10:00am!
Video from the weekend:
A false start….
December 4th 2014
We’re back to the waiting game. After my last post and the excitement of early powder turns, we had a week of waiting, expecting more snow. By the following Saturday the lifts did open at Teine as expected. What wasn’t expected was that we were riding the first chair of the season with the hood down, protecting us from the rain. Not exactly the most stoked we’ve ever been on opening day.
Opening day was ok. Skiing is skiing and is always fun. But with soggy outerwear and snow slow, we didn’t last more than a couple of hours before retreating to the lodge to pore over weather forecasts on our phones and promise ourselves that tomorrow would be better.
However, as we were consoling ourselves over a beer that evening, the news came in. Lifts closed until more snow falls. More snow didn’t fall. For another 10 days. A few ski areas in Hokkaido (Kiroro, Kokusai and Kurodake) had enough snow to stay open for that period, albeit with only one or two trails open, but everywhere else – closed.
Which brings us where we are today. Snow is falling, and has been for the past 48 hours or so. Hopefully bases are being rebuilt in the hills and we’ll have enough to get skiing this Saturday. The waiting game sucks.
Kicking off the 2014/15 Season
November 16th. Sapporo Teine
After a disappointing trip out to our local ski hill to find not enough snow to build a kicker or even make turns, I was browsing Instagram on Saturday evening. I knew it had been snowing a bit at Teine, but the pictures I saw showed people scoring deep snow and powder turns. A few texts were exchanged and we quickly decided to head down to Teine for a hike the next morning!
There were quite a few tracks on the hill by Sunday morning, but we still got our fair share of fresh lines after hiking to the summit. Hiking for an hour is definitely worth it when you can get powder and faceshots in mid-November!
Hopefully this’ll bode well for opening day next Saturday. There is about 40-50cm of snow currently, and a bit more is expected to fall in the week. There is the dreaded rain cloud appearing in the forecast for Friday, but that should turn to snow by Saturday morning. So fingers crossed we should have a fun opening weekend!
With the season just around the corner, the snow is starting to fall and accumulate on most of the taller mountains around Hokkaido. The past couple of weekends we’ve been hiking in the hills, getting some good training for our legs and enjoying great views of snowy peaks and autumn colours.
October 19th. Mt Teine (1,023m)
Last weekend we hiked Mt Teine. Instead of going up the frontside where the ski area is, we took the hiking trail around the back of the mountain. The trail follows a beautiful valley past a load of waterfalls and then takes a steep course through a boulder field between the cliffs on the backside of Teine. From the summit we had the classic Teine view of the city and Sea of Japan. Further to the north, we could see the snow capped Daisetsuzan range in the distance.
To the south we saw the peak of Mt Yotei rising above the hills around Jozankei. I took a very similar photo to this back in April when we had a spring day skiing at Teine. There was a fair bit more snow on the hills then!
We climbed one of the large aerials at the summit, which gave us an awesome birds eye view of the ski area and down into the bowls which we’ll be shredding in a couple of months time.
October 25th. Sandanyama (1,748m)
This weekend we were up in Asahikawa and I went for an early mission down to Tokachidake with original Team Daiso member, Ross Nixon. We only had a few hours, so decided to hike Sandanyama, one of the smaller peaks in the range.
Although the hike was short, the surrounding terrain is spectacular. From the top of Sandanyama, Tokachidake and Furanodake towered above us. We had overcast skies and flat light on the way up, but soon after reaching the top, we had a break in the clouds and were treated to views of real alpine gnarly mountains in every direction. A plan has already been hatched to get back here in the early spring for some touring.
Not long to wait now before the season gets going. We’re expecting snow down to lower levels this week. Last year our first turns were November 13th, lets hope for similar this season……
Hokkaido Season Edit
This isn’t all skiing, but a general Hokkaido winter edit, by Dan Andrews. Nice work Dan, great edit. Shame about the Coldplay soundtrack.
Spring days at Teine
Sapporo Teine. April 13th
Although the season is winding down and the deep powder days of winter are long gone, a few hills in Hokkaido remain open. Sapporo Teine is open at weekends all the way until early May, and Nakayama Touge’s lift will keep turning as long as there’s snow, sometimes into June!
We had a great day at Teine at the weekend. The snow wasn’t amazing, but for this far into April, we weren’t complaining, especially as the sun was shining and the views were fantastic.
We went to check out the bowls, and although there wasn’t powder, the snow was nice spring corn which is a good second best. We weren’t hitting anything crazy, but just riding around and having fun. Once the sun hit the ‘Nature Zone’ it softened up nicely and we spend a good couple of hours lapping the Panorama lift getting some photos and working on the goggle tans.
The snowpack up in the hills is still very deep so will stick around for a long while, despite the warm spring sunshine that we’re having. We’ll still be riding for a good few weeks to come before we put our skis and boards away! An added bonus from this weekend was the bike ride we squeezed in on Saturday. It was one of those awesome Hokkaido weekends when ski season and cycling season overlap!
Gaper Day at Teine
Video from late season Gaper Day at Teine. We had been hoping for sunny weather, but mother nature didn’t cooperate. Still a fun time!
Deepest day so far at Teine
Saturday Feb 22nd
We had planned to hit Rusutsu on Saturday, but after hearing that it had been dumping all day Friday in Sapporo, we changed our plans hoping for an epic day at Teine. We weren’t disappointed. It was the deepest snow we’ve had there this season. Faceshots and no consequence drops were the order of the day. Big smiles and high fives all round.
As always, the further we went into the bowls, the better it got. We ventured out as far as 6 and 7 which gave us some great views over the bay.
We had been eyeing up a big pillow and dropping off the side of it, getting progressively bigger. On the last run of the day Flo (aka Air New Zealand) sacked up and hit it straight on carrying alot of speed and stomped the landing.
We got a little bit of video, but not much as we were too stoked on riding to get the camera out too much. Most of the decent footage was of Flo:
A few shots from Sapporo Teine
Sat Feb 8th
It was a stunning day at Teine on Saturday with incredible views over the Sea of Japan and downtown Sapporo. There wasn’t too much fresh snow, and the bowls were quickly tracked out as it was a busy day for powder hungry foreign riders. We didn’t get too many powder shots, but hit the park in the afternoon, where the bottom kicker has been set up to give an incredible backdrop for photos.
Tues Feb 11th
Tuesday was a public holiday, so we got a bonus day on the hill. It turned out to be a real bonus. Alot of Hokkaido has been hurting for snow for the past few days, so we didn’t expect great things from Teine. But we were wrong. Snow had been falling steadily overnight, so we had 30cm or more of light powder. It seemed like we were the only people lapping the bowls, so we got line after line of faceshots.
Grady and I found a nice big drop that neither of us had hit before. It’s way out beyond bowl 5, so the landing was totally untouched and deep. We went for it, and caught it on video:
Teine and Racey Again
This was more or less a repeat of last weekend. If it ain’t broke, right?! Saturday it was Teine, with a crew of mostly skiers, plus Toshi holding it down for the snowboarders. Weather was pretty decent so we had great views over the city and the bay. The snow was still nice and deep, especially further out in the bowls.
There was no new snow on Saturday night, but plenty of sunshine in the forecast for Sunday so we decided to head for Mount Racey. We mostly stayed on piste and in the park. The incredible weather more than made up for the lack of fresh snow.
Video edit from the weekend. The Africa Edit
Opening Weekend at Teine
Sapporo Teine, November 30th & December 1st
Not a bad couple of days up at Teine. Far more terrain available than last weekend at Nakayama, and no crowds. In fact, we didn’t have to wait in a liftline once.
A good crew from the Hokkaido Cartel came up, stoked to be getting the season underway.
The peer pressure got the better of me on Saturday morning, leading to a crashed front flip and injured hand, meaning I rode the rest of the weekend no poles Harlaut style!
There’s a lot of sasa (bamboo leaves) still above the snow, but we found some decent powder stashes under the chair. The real highlight of Teine is the summit ridge, below which a number of bowls and chutes give some of the best steep skiing in Hokkaido. It’ll be a couple of weeks before they’re filled in with enough snow to be rideable.