Aymeric Tonin – Niigata. Photo: Perly
Even though snowboarding is limited to places that are cold enough to have snow, our horizons are still seemingly endless. Destination is a collection of photo galleries focusing on one area of the world at a time, with advice from our chief snapper Matt Georges, as well as snippets of what went in to some of the shots from a few of the photographers involved. This time: Japan.
If Alaska is snowboarding’s answer to the North Shore of Hawaii, then Japan is its Bali. Pure mechanical perfection. For four months a year, cold air billows relentlessly across the sea from Siberia, sucking up moisture and chucking it back down on the mountainous island of Hokkaido. Rooftops become marshmallows; bamboo forests bend and crack beneath pillows of powder; the sun is extinguished – replaced by a shifting galaxy of snowflakes.
This is computer game snowboarding, a winter playground offering fantasy tree runs and limitless reboots. For the hardcore jibbers, its frozen streets have even seen it become a rail mecca to rival Salt Lake City and Helsinki. Like Bali though, Japan’s true appeal is its welcome: broad smiles, fascinating culture and tantalising Asian cuisine that will make you think twice about ever ordering tartiflette from a surly French waiter again. By all means stick AK on the bucket list, but file it under “catching a tube at Pipeline.” If you want to make dreams a reality, book yourself a flight to Sapporo.
“Japan is cold fingers. It’s shooting black and white when you haven’t seen the sun for weeks, or searching for your photo bag under a foot of fresh snow. It’s the daily trip to 7-eleven and packing fresh sushi beside your snowshoes. It’s warming your hands around a can of hot coffee delivered from a vending machine.”
“Elias is such a sick rider and so unbelievably amped about snowboarding – it ́s truly inspiring. When he first made an impact on the scene, he was still super young and turning heads in the park. He was on the rise and getting a lot of media attention, when out of the blue he got severely ill and had to stop snowboarding for almost two seasons. He told me once how this drastically changed his view of things: “When you realise first hand how fragile your health can be, and how much it hurts to sit there and not be able to ride, you really start to cherish the good times.” When he got back on a board he had a crystal-clear view of what snowboarding would be for him from now on: fun. He started concentrating on riding deep powder, and we all know where that got him. Since then, he rides out of every line the same way he does in this shot: with a smile on his face.”