Unless you’ve been living under a very big rock, you’ve heard the tales of Japan’s surreal terrain, neck deep powder on tap — day or night. The hype was buzzing extra strong this season and we were itching to go get a taste of it one way or another. When the plans finally took shape, it was May! Not exactly the prime month for free refills of pow, but if we didn’t pounce on the trip this year, it might have never happened, right? So we went with the flow and booked a ticket.
Touchdown Narita airport where the culture shock began. In a bustling world far from home, we circled through security not once but twice, but it worked out for the better. Our extra lap bumped us right into a Japanese snowboarder wearing a Canada toque, fresh off a winter in Canmore. Turns out our new friend Yuske (last name), local snowboard legend, also rode a G3 split and represented the Caravan crew we were trying to meet. Off to a good start. Yuske led us and our bulky bags through the maze of Tokyo train systems to a meet up with the Caravan crew, G3′s Japan distributors. After food, drinks, and a classic night in a ‘capsule’, we were eager to escape the bustling city for the mountains. Our bus to Hakuba pushed us upstream through nonstop currents of cities and people in constant motion before dropping us at the source…the mountains.
A world apart, we found mountains quite reminiscent of our Coast Mountains back at home, with multi-peak linkups just waiting to be skied. After a week of fun, we were ready for the bigger days. Fortunately our pension owner in Gakuei-kan was an instructor, guide and pro back in his day, with a wealth of Japanese ski touring history to share with us, shaping ideas for where to head next. The plan hatched for the Hakuba Sanzan, linking the 3 highest peaks in Hakuba in a day.
Meeting at precisely 6:00am on his orders, we hopped in the van and headed up with a vengeance. With only a brief pause before the off-road section, he pinned it and we held on for the ride. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Even the river wouldn’t have stopped him but we insisted on saving his car (and us for that matter), so we jumped out and let our feet do the rest. Most people enjoy the luxury of a 2 day trip with a mountain lodge overnight stay, but with our fine thread budget it wasn’t an option. So we slogged in the spring heat and enjoyed it for all it was worth, transition after transition – hike, skin, ski, repeat.
But even we were hardly roughing it. With a cafe 500 ft from the last summit, we couldn’t say no to a soup and coffee before bagging the last peak. Solid weather, fun skiing, and our unstoppable shuttle driver all made for a great trifecta of the three high peaks of Hakuba.
With one amazing Japan ski trip in the bag, we’re already plotting a mid-winter return for the legendary winter conditions. With any luck we’ll once again land in the hands of friendly, seasoned locals, and the powder refills will flow as constantly as the sake from our first night in Tokyo.
The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….
After winter finally showed its snowy face through most of February and March, a weather-window opened and we were eager to take advantage of it. It would be my first time up Mt. Baker in March, (although my 20th time summiting Baker and Andy’s 21st time) so I was keen to make the trip happen.
On Wednesday we watched the weather as it fell by the feet, crossing our fingers and hoping it would roll into Colorado. On Thursday, the storm blew east, dropping over a foot in 24 hours in the Colorado mountains. Powderhounds throughout the state rejoiced—us included, with reservation. We were stoked that the ski areas on I-70 were getting dumped on, but I-70 wasn’t our destination. Our sights were set southwest of Summit County, way southwest. So far southwest, in fact, that we would be closer to New Mexico than to Vail Pass.
The storm flirted with us. It was headed to Silverton, and then it wasn’t. And then it was. And then it stayed. And stormed. And stormed. And stormed.
The storm coated the roads and blocked the visibility and made us—a pack of women, of powder whores, of chicks—giddy with excitement. We threw our fattest skis and warmest coats in our cars and trucks, kissed our people goodbye, and drove into the blizzard. Read more…
The Mightiest “Festival of Freeride and Mountain Mettle” in all of North America is returning to Alpental, WA on the 15th of February. So what does that mean? Well, it means that Osprey will be joining some of the best brands in the outdoor industry, including Outdoor Research, La Sportiva, and Mammut, to bring two full days of demos, clinics, beer drinking, races, snowfall, music, more beer drinking and many other forms of fun (all type 1 of course,) back to the great state of Washington.
We encourage all residents in the greater Seattle area to come out and join us this weekend — there are some events that you do NOT want to miss.
Not thoroughly convinced? Let us elaborate on why this may be the most epic weekend of skiing you’ll have this entire season: Read more…
Ben White grew up in Massachusetts and spent his free time adventuring in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he fell in love with backcountry skiing and mountain biking. After moving to Salt Lake City, he has taken up both rock and ice climbing in addition to attending the University of Utah to study geology.
The weather looked good, the avalanche conditions looked good, the snow looked good — all in all it was a recipe for a good day in the mountains, so we decided that skiing Superior was going to be a great call. There were a few sets of tracks down Mt. Superior from the previous days, which was inspiring because we hadn’t been sure if there was enough snow to cover up all the rocks. The turns made in the days prior to our trip looked fluid enough to suggest that there was plenty of the white stuff.
A nice morning
Looking at the prize as the sun rises is nice
Riley and Jackson following the ridge
Riley on the ridge
Riley and Jackson are dots quickly after they dropped in
Here’s a resolution worth keeping in 2014: learn how to float effortlessly through powder, catch air off rocks, and shred trees and steeps. Did we mention you can win an Osprey Kode 32 pack as well? This week, World Champion Freeskier and Osprey Ambassador Alison Gannett will be giving away an Osprey Snowsports Pack to one of the lucky skiers that register for her KEEN Rippin Chix Steeps and Powder Camp. Our Kode 32 is a dedicated, technical backcountry snowplay pack that was designed specifically for the backcountry and after testing it out for their Gear Guide, Backpacker Magazine said the Kode 32 is “perfect” for both backcountry skiing or snowboarding.
Stretching the legs out, for some early season skiing, is a good way to get yourself in shape for bigger days later in the winter. JAZZERCISE also works well… but I prefer skiing even if the snow conditions are limited. Mt Baker is just the place to get the ball rolling. Let me know if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of a ski area in North America where you can park at the base, skin past the backcountry gates within 20 minutes, and have two world class mountains — Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker — in plain sight. The North Cascades offer unlimited terrain. It would take a lifetime in this zone, just to scratch the surface.
So, you’ve got the perfect pack for your next adventure in hand. But this very fact has you wondering what the crucial items you need to carry might be. Fret no more! Our Osprey athlete What’s in Your Pack? video series will give you the expert advice you need to be sure you’re dialed for that next adventure. In this month’s video, professional World Champion Extreme FreeSkier Alison Gannett unpacks her Kode 32 and shows us everything that’s inside it.
Check out the second installment of this exciting series – and never be afraid to ask What’s in Your Pack?! We’ll have a new video each month to help you see what our Osprey athletes are packing.