Season Summation 2018

The flight home felt extra-long this year. Maybe because there was no end of season adventure or a blow out in Tokyo before heading back to life without skis and ski boots. This season was filled with so many great memories and emotions, challenges and triumphs. We had more snowfall than last year, but also more weather systems from the less favourable south easterly direction. Lucky for me it snowed the night before my last morning on the mountain, and it was a lovely, backpack free, speedy cruise through 20cm of soft untracked snow without a single thought on my mind other than soaking up the end of an amazing era.



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Looking back to the pre-season training session, it was one of the best week of the season with a great crew and the snow condition was primo. Everyone of us managed to sustain a crash each within a week it almost incapacitated the whole team. Unbeknownst to me, my first ever visit to the Furano hospital that week was going to be the start of a chain of visits to the various clinics in Furano until my very last day of the season. I cannot describe the shock of the moment between going well to suddenly becoming catastrophically wrong. The mood swing was immense. I guess that was why we always put safety first even though some may accept more risk in return for more fun. We knew we would have to pick up the pieces.



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I was wondering what the stand out adventure of this season would be, and the answer was handed to me by our quarterback Morven and our new team member Jethro not long after the season had started. I was delighted to have the opportunity to summit Mount Yotei and ski into and climb out of the crater. The treeline skiing on Yotei was some of the longest and best of the season.  This completed the triple crown of iconic Hokkaido volcanoes I wanted to summit along with Asahidake in 2017 and Rishiri in 2016.



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We had our fair share of free skiing on off days and I love these days so much, especially with Andre, one of my first tour rider returning to Furano as our new team member. Invigorated with new enthusiasm of exploring Furano, I finally dipped into that infamous area where some would require rescue to come back out again. This year I lost my 20 something years old test pilot Todd. He was replaced by Anthony who shared the same love for skiing air. Anthony was just as kind to me as the senior citizen by checking the landing first, and he encouraged me to drop the tallest pillow line yet (unfortunately I didn’t stick it). Landing soft proved to be so infectious that I have evidence of Andy, Chris and Andre all sending it this season. I didn’t count Kei because he is under 40, so he should be sending it anyway.



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Aside from Furano, I spent a fair bit of time in Kamui and Tomamu with skiers with an exploratory mind. This translated to some amazing skiing in less travelled areas, and the opportunity to really dial in the routes and lines accumulated through the previous 2 seasons. It gave me so much pleasure and options to show case these areas with minimum effort and maximum fun, especially at times when powder hungriness drew us deeper and further.    



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The resort of the season for me was Pippu, and I finally made it there after eyeing it up last year. It was a recon trip before a tour and it took less than 3 hours to convince me this was a very worthwhile place to visit. It was a small, very chilled resort but rich in old school Japanese flavour including the cheapest ski resort meal you can get in the world! Any excuse for visiting Pippu I would go even if it was quite a distance away, and every time and everyone had a good time there.  




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We did not have the customary mid-February rain this year, but early February for a week we had a draught. Blue skies ensued after a wind event which stripped all the soft snow off Asahidake, revealing the icy skin tracks and yellow ice patches which were usually buried. This turned out to be a week of powder hunting which required some lateral thinking and a lot of driving. It brought us to the back of Canmore, a tiny 1 lift resort with a Canadian name and Kurodake on the other side of the Daisetzusan national park. We found some pow in protected areas at low elevations and a little dust layer up high. We skied a very different 1600m or so vert at both places. At Canmore we did 8 runs of 200m vert, and at Kurodake we did 1 run of over 1600m vert from summit to base which was the longest single line I have skied in Japan. All in all it was a challenging few days of searching but a fun crew of skiers and snowboarders made it memorable.


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The rain finally arrived with yet another SE weather system early March. The melt freeze cycle and the running water hardened up the snow surface to an unenjoyable corrugated ice sheet on our last day on tour. But as the Korean skiers had said it was not all about the skiing. It was about the hiking and the food as well. During this season, we managed a couple of picnics and a couple of cooked meals on the mountain which added another layer of enjoyment in the backcountry.



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Continuing on our quest to ski more new areas we had finally made it to HOA’s headquarter near Tomamu and skied an area not quite on the radar yet. We met Naomi and Kay and planned to ski Pat’s secret powder stash the next day,  but unfortunately we were too wimpy or too smart to brave the wind. We resolved to skiing somewhere more protected but apparently shouldn’t have skied. I attributed it to all the ski movies and the ski pros for giving us that idea. 



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Last year we went to Sapporo Kokusai for our end of season ski, and this place did not disappoint this year when most of central Hokkaido was still waiting for the next snow dump. It was a bit of a road trip to get there but 30cm of fresh was well worth the drive. It was a bonus to share a few lines with Alex whom I have connected with on Instagram earlier in the season. Social media was not all bad…




Greg, my high school alumni 20 years my senior was kind enough to help me tune my powder skis (in case I had to ski hard pack). He also waxed and stored them in Furano leaving me with the perfect excuse to return. With my last hospital run with Kei, and my final dinner with the Morells done, it was time to dry my boots one last time. It had been another epic season of amazing skiing, food and learning from Wanaka’s finest – Nick and Jethro. I have skied with most of the Furano villagers including Grace, Sam, Lucy and Jen (except Manami, Yukie and Ishim – they had valid excuses). A drop-in visit with the original test pilot Todd and the only night ski this season with Lisa. I did not ski with TMS this season, but his recommendations in Furano did not disappoint and the ice cave in Tokachi would have to be explored another time. Thank you everyone for sharing some great slope time and making some fun memories. I was ready to bid farewell to Hokkaido… only after another bowl of ramen and maybe a half dozen gyozas as well. 



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*Thanks to Kei Takayama, Patrick O’Keeffe, Andre Cogin & Anthony Haddock for being behind and at times in front of the camera.












2 thoughts on “Season Summation 2018

  1. Hi felix

    Thanks for the great read and watch. I am likely going to Furano next season for a few weeks in January and February do might catch up its you!


    Sent from my iPad



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