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


The Kyota Miyake tribute video has been posted in an article on the homepage here


Here’s a little vid from Happo One a couple of weeks ago. Low visibility but full on powder!


Last weekend was the Gentemstick demo weekend at Happo Banks park at Happo One.  Like usual, there were hordes of Gentem afficionados on hand to try out next year’s offerings by Japan’s premiere boutique snowboard maker.
Patagonia was on hand too with a selection of their outerwear and fleeces.

The kids lineup has expanded with a new model: the Jalka 125

The snowsurf line has some sick looking models

I got there a little late and there weren’t many boards leftover.

A board from the snowsurf line coming back from a test run. Quick grab it while it’s there!

Excellent binding and board colour matching!

The Patagonia staff weren’t too chatty

The lifty was all ready for the rave later that night

On the left side of this year’s Happo Banks there are some big floaty rollers. Toyama pro, Taro Furukawa gets a little airy.

Before laying a trench on this wall

Check out his handcut ‘mid’ backs! LOL

Andrew test rode the Mads Johnsson model, the Flyfisk and he’ll be round shortly with some feedback.



As Marc said, there was a Gentemstick demo at Happo Banks. It was full on, with a massive selection of boards. To be honest, I have never had that much interest in riding Gentemstick boards. I mean, they look like nice powder boards but I never really felt they were relevant to me. I think I saw them more as ‘learning aids’ for people who couldn’t ride powder without a big nosed powder stick, or too specialised to be an allround ride. I don’t know if that bias was more from how people ride them than the boards themselves. I was curious, and it was a nothing kind of day weather-wise, so I took the chance to jump on one and see for myself.

I picked out a Fly Fisk, Mads Jonnson’s pro model. It’s based off the Big Fish (second board back, behind the Fly Fisk closest), but with a solid, slightly pointed tail instead of a swallowtail to allow for switch landings. The bonus point is that the stance goes up to 62cm, which means you can run a more aggressive stance than most other Gentems.

Preconceptions: Would it have pop? For the typical Gentem customer, it’s all soul carves. I swear I’ve never seen one airborne. Is that the boards…  or just the typical user? Would the super wide waist make it a dog edge-to-edge? Would it be heavy?

So how was it?
First, it was crappy conditions for an uber-wide powder board, but it was still fun. It’s a 164 but looking down at your feet it felt smaller than my usual 159s. All the nose doesn’t really affect the ride, so the effective edge is relatively short (113cm) making it feel much shorter than a 164. Fun.

Best point: flex and pop. This was a surprise, as I’ve never seen anyone pop an ollie on a Gentem. The flex felt solid and consistent, with a slightly softer nose and a solid flexing tail. The nose wasn’t that soft though; it wouldn’t flex enough to let me tripod on it. The tail was perfect for tail blocks though! Popping ollies off rollers was responsive and fun too. I did a bit of switch powder and it rode fine. It’s clearly no twin, and you are super-weighting that big nose as your tail, but it’s doable. Switch pow laybacks: Check.

“You know Mads won’t be keeping it on the ground. Jump off something!”
Throwing a back 3 off a cat track, it popped nicely and the short tail felt really easy to spin round underneath you. The tail is stiff enough to land on and support you, and has enough kick to land fakie too. At least for a short while before buttering round to forwards again, anyway.

It carved okay… “not bad” for a board with a 28.7 waist and 9m sidecut. The taper probably helps the turning once on edge, but you have to initiate hard to rock over onto the edge with the big wide nose. In the heavy powder that felt true too. In real deep snow this thing would fly though. I think you would have trouble sinking it and that’s when it will really come into it’s own in the conditions it was designed for. They are not cheap, but if you want to invest in the sensations you’ll get riding pow, while still being able to have a bit of freestyle fun on natural features, this would probably keep you happy for years.

Got nose? It feels strange looking down at a regular board nose after getting used to seeing this:

The rest of the board… a very functional tail shape:


Nice review!


Awesome! Great reviews, guys. Thanks for the update.


Mikihisa Kondo at Happo Banks

Run, skier, run!

A couple of weeks ago I was doing park laps at Happo Banks on a beautiful bluebird Saturday when I spied a guy ripping around getting rad all over the place. It turns out his name is Mikihisa Kondo, and he’s a uni student on his winter break. It was his first day in the park but he rode it like he owned it. I did a couple followcam runs with him and ended up with some good footage. Check it out.

Miki, riding it like a pro!

Slashing himself a whiteroom

Here he shows that it IS possible to get air at Happo Banks

Layback 1


Put your hands in the air and slash it like you just don’t care

Funky carving is all the rage nowadays

Mandatory method

Stale fish over a roller

Elbow drag slash

Next weekend is the ladies’ event, Lady, Shreddy, Go! at Happo Banks. Make sure you stop by to check it out.



Here’s the poster for the Lady, Shreddy, Go! event this weekend:

It just appears to be a private camp for ten ladies and the park will be open to the public as usual, so drop on by anyways!

More info in Japanese on the camp here


Mid-March and bottomless powder?
Just when you thought all the ‘Japow’ madness of endless ridiculous powder had ended, and it was all sunny spring fun now… and it was safe to come out from behind the computer monitor…  last week gave us a little ‘March Miracle’ at Hakuba Cortina!
I’m not the most into riding around with a pole cam, so this faceshot fest (I lost count of how many in there) was just from my first 2 runs of of the day.

I was riding my 161 Ursa Major, from small handmade-in-Revelstoke company, Trapper… and it was so good. More on that, in the form of an in-depth review, coming soon…


Awesome photos and an epic video. Looks like winter is still in full force in Japan!

Thanks for the update! thumbsup


This weekend at Hakuba Norikura resort is the ‘Dream Session’ bowl shred event put on by local ripper and boss of Replant Snowboards, Goro Komatsu. Goro is someone with a lot of history behind him, from massive Whistler backcountry drops back in the day, to still ruling backcountry freestyle lines in Japan late in his 30’s. The bowl type terrain features that are all the rage now have been going for around 10 years in Japan, and he has been a part of that too. I was only family duties today, but I wanted to see it first hand so decided that next to the event was the best place for sledging with my kids ...and snuck off to snap some shots for about 20 minutes too! Please enjoy the fruits of my neglect wink

Nice tweaked indy while uber-ripper Yoko Nakamura films on her phone for her “Yoko-tube” webisodes:

The course is all hand shaped, with both slash and air-time possibilites in there.  Air…

...or slash

...hike up again…



or slash!

There’s also a yuki ita and snowskate snake run, with jump lines too. You can test out some hand made yuki-ita boards and slam your way down the run… or at least that’s what I did. One of the Yuki-ita shredders and with some of the new ‘Prana Punks’ brand snowboards on demo too:

This Japanese girl was rocking a full “Christmas sweater”... has she been biting the style of our reader and man-of-mystery “Jon”? 2016 will be knitwear in the park. You saw it here first wink

The event is on tomorrow (Sunday 22nd) so if you are in town, come on down and get your shred on. Event entry is 4500yen including Hakuba Norikura lift pass for the day

- Andrew


Board Review: Trapper Ursa Major 161

I had heard about this small company making powder-orientated freeride boards in Revelstoke, B.C. and their Ursa Major 161 was on my wish list. I was lucky enough to get hold of one and have been riding it since February.  While I’ve been stoked on the flex and pop of my Smokin boards for the last 5 seasons, I found myself looking for a more big mountain and super deep day solution. Hearing about Trapper making their boards locally, right from selecting the local Douglas Fir for the cores onwards ticked a lot of the right boxes for me.  As it’s not a board you might be able to see in person before ordering, here’s my review for anyone interested in one of these lumberjack-made shredders…

I spotted this girl wearing “lumberjack-chic” and so we just had to get her to model the Ursa for Marc’s camera:

*matching Japanese girl not included with purchase of every board wink

My first impressions were: “It’s light… and it looks nice!”

It’s not as extreme a shape as I was expecting from the pictures online - it’s more subtle and functional looking. It’s light in the hand and very good looking. Graphics are subjective, I know, but the quality of finish, oak sidewalls and core showing through the topsheet artwork is sick.

Profile: Less is more as long as it’s in the right places.
There is a nice gradual rise rocker in the nose, and a tiny touch in the last inch of the tail, but the “camber” is minimal. It’s a barely visible 1mm rise against a flat surface. This isn’t a problem, as many of the boards I’ve been on recently have had “minimal camber” profiles and they worked very well in all conditions.

The profile works great for doing this:

First day out was in 40cm of deep, slightly heavy, powder. The very first run was down the bottom of a rolling natural half-pipe, which was hard work. I feared it was the board… until I noticed that I was keeping ahead of my riding partners on a Burton Fish and a K2 Peacekeeper, both of whom had my track to take speed from. On steeper terrain it really came into it’s own. The official blurb talks of the profile and tail shape “planing” on top of the snow, rather than sinking the tail, to float …and this exactly is how it felt. Popping off natural features was really fun and landing in deep snow I felt the nose saving me a few times. It has that rocker lift back to the surface to save you going over the front. It goes without saying that spraying powder around on this was good. Whether long drawn out carves or quick cut-back slashes, the float and smooth ride have you forgetting about your board and just thinking about the line – just how it should be.

I let Marc have an afternoon on it in some hot pow, and he took this shot of the nose planing in low-angle powder. Note how the nose stays on top and the displaces snow flows to either side, rather than over the top of the nose (oh and a little back 3 into powder turns from me):

- Andrew


Trapper Ursa Major review (part 2):

The overall feeling was one of lightness underfoot – a nimble, finesse ride, rather than a weighty crusher of terrain. It was like the ride was the opposite of the shape – the shape is so blunt, all utilitarian rectangular functionality. I was expecting it to ride this way too; solid, smashing through terrain… but it was quite the opposite, it was easy to flex and manipulate to finesse small adjustments at speed, on pillows or between tight trees. There is power too, and it’s in the tail… quite a few high speed run outs had me hanging on for dear life, but the tail simply would not give up it’s hold on the snow. No rocker board loop-outs here.

The blunt shape spotted hovering above it’s usual habitat. Note that it’s fairly centered:

But being centered on the sidecut is no handicap for more of this… brrmmmmmm:

Switch powder is do-able…  It’s not really a powder twin “Ok, let’s ride this line switch” kind of guy, but no worries if you want to land backwards and link a few switch slashes. It can handle it without tossing you, but you need to adapt your technique as with any directional shape.

Non-powder days:
Yes, even in Japan we do have days when there’s no powder… sometimes wink  So how does it handle those… nobody wants to be ‘that guy’ scraping around on the powder gun on a frozen piste jib day. At first I thought this might be the Ursa’s weak point. It felt a bit strange on hardpack as I wasn’t used to having so much edge hold behind the back foot. Once I got used to it though, I really don’t notice that I’m on a “powder board”. I always liked deep sidecut boards previously, but have found that when pushed the Ursa Major can carve tight eurocarves thanks to the flex. When you need to hold a long turn the shallower sidecut is an advantage, and makes a nice platform for spinning off too. Flex that strong tail and there is plenty of pop. On sidehits I was surprised to pop and spin as much, if not more, than usual. Things you are not supposed to do on a “powder board”!

It works great on piste… but it will try and return to its natural habitat:

One thing I did notice is the base is faaaaaast. Cruising side hits on a cat track, every time I pointed it back down the track I repeatedly breezed past guys on well-waxed good boards who were racing each other down. They all wanted to know what the board was, and why the base is so fast!

This what Trapper say about it:

I bought it as a powder board but it’s actually more an all-mountain charger with a surprisingly fun versatile character too. Powder is where it works best, and when freeriding I think it will answer the call however hard you push it. What really sets it apart is that it doesn’t have many of the compromises of a straight powder quiver board. In powder it’s a no-brainer, but the more I get used to it on hard snow, the more I find myself reaching for it even on non-powder days. It manages to pull off this Jekyll and Hyde balancing act from how the uber-functional shape, subtle profile and lively flex all interact. That’s a really tough balance to get right but Trapper have pretty much nailed it here. Maybe that’s what you get when boards are hand made from start to finish by powder hungry Canadians?

If that sounds like your thing, check out them out here:

- Andrew


Board Review: Trapper Ursa Major 161