JAPAN GRABS - Hakuba 2014-2015 : A Season Exploring the Japanese Alps

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Hi everybody,

Welcome to a new season of Japan Grabs, the official Boardworld Hakuba area blog. As we head into our second year of bringing the shred stoke from Happo One and other ski resorts in Hakuba and neighbouring Toyama prefecture, the Japan Grabs team has doubled with the addition of Andrew, a Hakuba local and Japan powder addict.

He will be the guinea pig I call on to jump off anything that looks like it has a terrible flat landing and will surely turn in the wrong place when I’m trying to show you how epic the conditions are. He featured last year in some of my photos, so we have just made things official.

Emotions are running high as the snow gods have heard our pleas and are blessing us with lots of snow this week. Things will kick off this Saturday for us working stiffs, but Happo had a partial opening yesterday. I’m not worried though as the snow is forecast to dump hard all the way through tomorrow, ensuring the weekend is full of faceshots.

(I will come back later and flesh out this introduction a bit but I needed to get this up before our first day tomorrow. I’ve been sick all week and I can’t find half my gear! update: I just found my facemask in a jacket pocket, unwashed from last year….)

Watch this space as we will have a contest coming up in the next week to kick the season off with a bang!

-Marc

Short link for this blog: http://bit.ly/japangrabs

 
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Sick!

Everyone in whistler is crying reading this.  wah
Lend us some snow!

 
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Oh, yeah! I have been waiting for this one. I can’t wait to see this blog unfold over the course of the season. Welcome to the team, Andrew! punch

 
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Oh yes - super pumped to watch this blog unfold!  shred

 
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Nice one, Gumby!!!!! Can’t wait to froth over it yet again!!!!!

And welcome aboard, Andrew!!!!! (great name) shaka

 
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Oh this was one of my fav things last year,  glad it’s back

 
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Opening Day at Happo One, December 6th, 2014
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The way Japan changes from autumn to full blown winter in a few days never ceases to amaze me. Every year it does it. Every year I’m blown away by riding powder on first day of the season. This year was no exception. With weather reports for Hakuba showing consistent snowfall for 3 days in a row last week, it was enough for Happo One to go from grass-covered slopes to open for business.

Cue the usual running around at home the night before: Where are my gloves? Why can I find every other hat apart from the one I’m looking for? Somehow after months of waiting, it always ends up with scraping wax off boards at midnight in the freezing cold on the balcony the night before.


After limited opening on Friday, Saturday was the official ‘First Day Of The Season’ at Happo and the line up for the gondola had that special buzz. I saw two 185 Rossignol Undertaker swallowtails in as many gondolas, and powder boards almost outnumbered regular boards – an “only in Japan” moment.

I jumped in the gondola with local brand Replant rider, Keita Yamazaki, on his signature pow stick - the giant nosed powder slasher called ‘Blessing’.

Riding in the European Alps I would have scoffed at the need for such a powder surfboard, but after 8 years of relentless Japanese snowfall I now find myself eyeing it enviously. Maybe I’m just getting old. I can’t complain though - my early season rock board is a DIY cut swallowtail!

Getting to the top it’s the choice: ride immediately or wait again for the top lift to open? We opted for the latter and it proved to be a good choice. As we were on the lift, the first tracks of the year were laid down beneath us and we got box seats to some impressive crashes. It was super deep but the light was flat and it was snowing lightly, and there were plenty of booby traps around: a groomed cat track going across the powder covered piste which you couldn’t see. Trendy followers of cutting (catching?) edge Japanese fashion take note: blindly hitting ridges from the summer paths at high speed and tomahawking seemed to be main style being thrown down. wink

Strapping in for first run of the year, I always get a fleeting moment of “What if I’ve forgotten how to snowboard for no reason?” but then it’s just “Go! Go! Go!” In the flat light the scattered remains of skiers added invaluable definition to the terrain, allowing me to stay upright most of the way down. Apart from invisible the cat track throwing me into an unintentional eurocarve I managed to just about held it together and got a few face shots and that happy ‘first day leg burn’.

I did stop to check that one of the yardsale skiers was okay, as he hadn’t moved from his hot tub in the snow yet. He had a bloody lip and looked a bit shaken, but assured me he was fine. “No friends on powder days” is not the way to roll. I’ve seen a guy die from head-planting in deep opening day powder in Hakuba before, and nobody needs that to be the memory of the first day shredding.
I prefer these types of memories:

-Andrew

 
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Awesome first post on Boardworld, Andrew! Stoked to have you on board this season. Sounds like it was an epic opening day. I can’t wait to see more from you as the season rolls on. shaka

 
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This has me so keen for Feb!

 
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Awesome! Looking forward to more posts dude!

 
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Here’s a little vid from Opening Day:

 
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Shit yeh super jealous!

Where is our pow?!

 
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Great post mate!

This has me frothing for feb!!!!

 
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That did NOT look like my first run on the season! LOL

Awesome stuff, guys! punch

 
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So stoked you’re doing this again Marc!! Last years Japan Grabs was epic! And welcome aboard Andrew, looks like you have plenty to offer!  thumbsup

 
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Thanks, Unremarkable!

Up next is a video from Sunday at Happo One. It features Yasu from Lodge TabiTabi on his Undertaker swallowtail. He rips it up like usual.

So, Sunday was my first day of the year and as Andrew mentioned earlier, you just can’t beat a powder day opener. I spent the morning on a 162 Bataleon Camel Toe (in the footage above) and switched it out to a 164 Capita Charlie Slasher just before lunch. I guess I’d give the edge to the Charlie as it was amazing in the pow, on the groomers and in the moguls that were everywhere after lunch. I’m not giving up on the Camel Toe yet (snicker) as Bataleon’s triple base tech is nothing like I’ve ever ridden before. Look for a review on here after I get a lot more days on it.

-Marc