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#DoglotionDoesJapan Part 1 – Free Refills and Spines

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Unless you’ve been living under a boulder or hate powder, you know by now that Japan is in the midst of an absolutely mind blowing snowfall season. Meanwhile, most of western North America’s is sucking hard, except of course for the weird anomaly of Jackson Hole, or anywhere above 2000 meters. So it’s no wonder that everyone and their dog migrated to Japan this winter to suck on the sweet nectar of Japan’s bottomless pow.

After months of being visually assaulted by Japan’s pow skiing on Instagram, I challenged Doglotion #2 (Andre Charland) to an Instagram battle. #WhistlerVsJapan.

Let’s just say I quit the challenge after it rained to the top of Whistler for the third weekend in a row. Meanwhile, it was supposedly nuking snow every day in Japan, or clearing to perfect bluebird backcountry days. Could such a place really exist? With sushi and onsen baths to boot?

I jumped on a plane to go find out.

Mooching my way into a crew of 15 North Americans who were already in Japan, I joined them in Hakuba and dined and dashed on 6 days of the tastiest pow I’d ever skied in my life.

(Shot entirely on an iPhone using #Hitcase. Pardon all the spine teases, too many starts ‘n stops while exploring.)

DAY 1 – POW

Jet lagged but ready, I woke up to 80+cm of fluffy storm snow (or 48″ if you ask some people). Hell, it skied like 48″ so who knows.

This is what Chris Kelly looked like for most of the day. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Cold tasty beer, where you want it, when you want it.

Cold tasty beer, where you want it, when you want it.

DAY 2 – RIDGES

The skies parted enough to start tip toeing in the legendary spine paradise.

Window shopping some of the coolest terrain on the planet. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Window shopping some of the coolest terrain on the planet. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Chris Kelly sampling the Goryu's goods. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Chris Kelly sampling the Goryu’s goods. Photo: Jamie Bond.

DAY 3 – SPINES

Stability improved, and $^&t got real. More fun in the spines, but still not stable enough for the real gems.

Chris Kelly Photo.

Chris Kelly Photo.

The Canadians amidst another ridge assault.

The Canadians and a few Team America members amidst another ridge assault.

Author milking another ridge/spine feature for all it's worth.

Author milking another ridge/spine feature for all it’s worth. Chris Kelly photo.

Andre Charland grinding another lap out of his favourite zone in Japan. Photo: Jamie Bond

Andre Charland grinding another lap out of his favourite zone in Japan. Photo: Jamie Bond

Minutes after skiing powdery spines under clear skies, this happened. A nice hint of what's in store for day 4.

Minutes after skiing powdery spines under clear skies, this happened. A nice hint of what’s in store for day 4.

DAY 4 – BLIZZARD

Free refills! With only 8cm reported and nobody out skiing, the heavens absolutely unloaded upon Cortina resort ALL DAY LONG. There was about 40cm fresh over the day, making for an immersive surround-sound pow experience of snow in the sky, snow on the ground, and snow in your face.

Chris Kelly getting pumped for another storm lap at Cortina. Good thing there’s trees everywhere. Jamie Bond photo.

When in doubt, head for the "Expert Onry" zone. #BecauseJapan.

When in doubt, head for the “Expert Onry” zone. #BecauseJapan.

DAY 5 – POW

Powder to the people. Anyone and their dog who missed the bottomless ‘8cm’ day came out in droves for this no-brainer pow day. So many that there was actually a lift line until about 11am. Imagine that.

Chris Clarke getting more white stuff in his face. Again. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Getting the parking lot ready for another day of madness.

Getting the parking lot ready for another day of madness. Photo: Jamie Bond.

DAY 6 – MORE POW

The finisher. A welcome 50 cm encore. The kind of pow day that would be hyped for weeks back home, but over in Hakuba it was just another snowy day in which the locals complain there’s too much fresh on the groomers, and the vagabond ski-bum visitors can enjoy it at whatever pace they choose, because hey, it’s just another pow day in Japan.

Mission accomplished. Skiing in Japan was definitely ‘all that and a bag of chips’. So there is indeed a place where it never stops snowing, the saki flows like wine, and the hot springs abound. But is it real? I’m still not sure. I’ll have to go again next winter and double check.

Dave Gheriani munching some pow for lunch. It was our last day of the trip, so good thing it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Photo: Jamie Bond

Chair 5 is only open 4 hours per day. I guess they spend the other 4 hours of good daylight shovelling a path for the chair. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Just another day in Cortina's parking lot. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Just another day in Cortina’s parking lot. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Dave Gheriani blasting out of our favourite storm day pillow zone. Photo: Jamie Bond.

Dave Gheriani blasting out of our favourite storm day pillow zone. Photo: Jamie Bond.

HUGE thanks to anyone and everyone who made this trip possible! From the motivated crew who committed to the trip early, to our various hosts, ski buddies, chefs, wives, and family who let us pull this dream trip off. You all rule, and you should all come with us next year.

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