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


Last Saturday, after a little morning hike, we dropped by Happo One for some runs in blizzard conditions. Visibility was low and my second pair of goggles were fogging like mad (first pair fogged in the morning), so we stuck to our standby - the Panorama cat track, which is Happo’s ‘hit run’. It was snowing so hard that the riding conditions were becoming better and better, and it sort of creeped up on us - all of a sudden we realized we were riding pow! surprised

Across from the Panorama cat track is a closed area which avalanches a lot. You can tell where it is by the ropes and the skull and crossbones danger signs…. Anyways, from the Panorama chair we could see ‘punters’ coming down it and stopping in the worst spots - where they would be taken out if it slid. There was even one pair of boneheads who were hiking up the guts to gopro each other jumping off a windlip. Meanwhile, you could hear the thunder-like rumbles of big avalanches naturally setting off just one valley over. One of these days there’s going to be an accident…

To end the day we took our lives in our hands and decided to check out Happo’s new tree zone on the Skyline run. This zone is perfect for people who like really tight trees. Watch out when you pop out as you’re on a ledge above a cat track, and depending on the snow it might be a mandatory air to mini tranny.

Check out the vid. At the end you can see the amount of snow that fell on the car between 1 and 4pm!



This is bullshit! Where is our pow?!

That tree run looks super fun!


un freaking believable.


Ya, tree run looks way more fun than ones in Whis. Skinny trunks too, less consequence if you hit one vs big trunks.


It’s actually ridiculous how much powder you guys ride on a regular basis. But I’m stoked for you! punch


Japan is the biz..  18 days !! shred


wooohooo 10th feb hakuba here i come….

Marc any chance you could show us some of those lines smile


sure Lanox. Anyways, that last vid is right on Skyline. Stay high right then after the 2nd cat track duck into the trees on the left. They’re official trees so no worries about patrol.


Center-right, there’s a black diamond mark on a yellow area. Those are the trees.


Last week it stopped snowing for a few days (don’t worry, it’s snowing again now!)... long enough of a pause to realise that Happo Banks opening is almost here. The official opening is this Saturday, January 31st, and the banks park is accessed from the top of the Sakka Chair, or from cutting left on the cat tracks coming down from the Skyline piste. Happo Banks posted this video of their preparations getting underway:

If you are looking for 20 metre kickers to perfect your next double cork, or kicker features of any sort, it isn’t really the place to go. For getting creative in some unique features it offers a different take on the ‘park’ experience, closer to freeriding in natural features than the X-Games slopestyle.

Come and get your slash on at Happo from this weekend:

At first glance it doesn’t seem like there’s much to it, but you start searching for lines and finding transfers ..before you know it, you’re having a good time. Having said that, we would like to see more features and airtime possibilities built into the layout. Last year, lack of snow was said to be a factor in the mellow features so with this year’s epic amount of snow already, we’re hoping for a bit more size in the banks… maybe some over-vert!

Getting airborne in a surf-slash park is good, but maybe don’t do it like this guy from last year:



Super excited for Happo Banks, bring on the 3rd of Feb!


Happo Banks Opening Day:

Today saw the Happo Banks park opening at Happo One, although the weather had other ideas. The weather gods have clearly been following #japow and #japanuary on instagram, deciding that this is still powder season as it was storming hard today. Not exactly the ideal weather for a park opening event, even a ‘park’ as freeride-orientated as Happo Banks. 

Many resorts in Hakuba had limited operation today with the high winds stopping gondolas, high avalanche risk and poor visibility. On top of that, I arrived to find the Sakka lift (the lift accessing the Happo Banks) out of action due to an “unforeseen mechanical problem”. 

Things were not looking good, but the lift staff managed to get things moving in line with their assessment of “an hour’s wait”. Time for a coffee from inside the Sakka base (actually pretty good) and a chat with the local pro riders who had turned out for the opening.

 After a few fun powder runs while the Banks staff did their thing, I finally had a look at the features… and could see… nothing! Seriously, it was a white out. The snow eased off for one brief moment in the whole day, for me to snap this shot of the untouched banks covered in wind-blown powder:

First there was the “ceremony” part of the opening ceremony, Hayato “Bubbles” Maruyama, the guy behind it all, introducing the riders and thanking the right people (most importantly his cat driver who makes his ideas into snow reality).

Here he kindly uses his goggles to show me the assembled line up waiting to drop in:

Even though everyone was getting a bit cold and impatient to ride, the stoke was high, and the first demo riders dropped in to cheers and applause for big slash sprays. It was hard to make out the figures as they disappeared into the blizzard, so you’ll have to forgive the slightly “stormy” nature of today’s photos.

You don’t have to have snow in your beard to ride here. But obviously, it helps.

The waiting public dropped in next, and it was a testament to the flow and layout of the banks that about a hundred people could be riding it at the same time without any collisions. Riding the banks is a very different experience to a normal ‘park’. It’s a pretty good workout, as the features don’t give you ready-made pop - you have to pump and work for it. You are also always carving hard, trying to carry speed through lines in the most fluid way, so that when you find a spot to get airborne or slash hard, you still have the speed for it. Like a classic French ski instructor, it makes you bend your knees!

There were demo tents from Patagonia and Gentemstick, and in the afternoon a jam session was held where the pro riders handed out prize tickets to people they saw getting rad or having good style. Thanks have to go out to Bubbles and the Happo Banks crew, and the Happo lift staff, for actually making the opening event go ahead. In todays weather, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if it been postponed. Instead it was a fun day and successful opening shred session… in a powdery “Japanuary” way; swallow tails, slashes and all-day snowfall.

- Andrew


Damn that looks fun!


Just epic! I would absolutely love to ride through that course.


next tuesday off to HAKUBA smile  booyeah ... cant wait.