Getting my wife’s tick of approval to have a week-long snowboarding sojourn with the boys in Japan was easily the toughest gig of the entire trip. Everything else seemed to effortlessly fall into place.
For starters, the boarding was a breeze on Niseko’s famous dry powder, and our digs at Hirafu Village were an ideal base, giving us a taste of Alpine-infused Japanese culture. To make things even easier, the all-mountain lift pass enabled our group to explore every square inch of terrain across Niseko’s four resorts: Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono.
My main priorities for the week were avoiding injury and creating an epic tailor-made run with the boys. However, in hindsight, my two objectives were never destined to be mutually successful.
After several days of surveying Niseko’s groomed runs, cat trails and back country, we devised the perfect run. Eventually, I found myself standing on the summit of Mt Annupuri, and with GoPros rolling and my mind racing, I knew it was time to put our strategy to the test. As fresh snow dumped in heavy falls, our run was now a case of follow the bloke in front. Luckily for me, the boarder leading the way was wearing the most garish jacket in sight.
Shooting through a steep tree-lined valley, I watched my visor mist up with every exhalation. Suddenly a sharp right onto a cat trail funnelled us all into a long, narrow half-pipe. Here, we came across the whole gamut of snowboarding skills – some impressive, some alarmingly poor. After eight minutes, the run spat us out at the foot of the mountain. We decided to repeat our route, but not before improving it by constructing a small kicker, a mini jump of snow.
Sadly, our cracking run got me in the end – a tree branch smacked me down, resulting in a trip to ‘hurt town’. Yes, I was sore, but I had to suck it up and keep going. It was a boys’ trip after all.