Video: Kevin Westenbarger
Words: Jacob Levine
For the fourth year in a row, Team Utah assembled a group of riders for a two-week trip to film and freeride the epic pow of Japan.
Each time we make this trip we tweak our plans based on what we've learned from prior trips. We also seek out new destinations to explore. Japan has over 500 ski resorts currently in operation, so there is plenty more exploring still to be done.
Two new areas we checked out this year were Appi-Kogen and Geto-Kogen, both located in the Iwate Prefecture, and are easily accessed from Tokyo. Their snow and terrain proved once again that you can really score in Japan without necessarily having to travel to the North Island. Both resorts have terrain parks, great food, and very reasonably priced lodging options. The service we experienced at both places was un-matched. A hotel manager at Appi-Kogen saved our trip by rescuing a key piece of luggage that was left on the train, driving 4 hours round trip to retrieve it, and then refused any kind of tip. Geto-Kogen provided mountain staff to guide us around, and even helped us build features to film on. During our time at these spots we only scratched the surface of the terrain potential.
Traveling tip: If you plan to drive in Japan you need to get an International Driving Permit before you go. They are required to rent cars there and cannot be easily acquired while visiting Japan. We also learned that in Japan, New Year's is a holiday that lasts several days and shuts down much of the country, making travel more difficult. The best time to go and score pow is mid-late January through early February.
The secret may be out for Japan as a powder destination, but there is still plenty of untapped and undiscovered zones. Shredding pow in Japan should still be on every snowboarder's bucket list. If you're considering it, DO IT! KANPAI!