To Meathead Films’ diehard fans it may sound blasphemous that the venerable east coast film company would abandon the slopes of the northeast in favor of the impossibly deep, un-crowded, and picturesque mountains of Japan. In reality, why wouldn’t they? After eight feature films showcasing the east’s undiscovered and underrated, Meathead Films has finally branched out with a recent trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Powder caught up with Meathead Dan Marion, who shows us that Japan has more in common with the east than you might expect.
“Ski The East, who Meathead Films is partners with, had done some stuff in Japan last year, and they had such a good experience that they wanted to go back this year and film some stuff. The whole “Far East” thing was kind of a creative way to still stay east without actually being in the east. It was an innocent way to add some new terrain and a new flavor to the movie.
We were there for two weeks at the end of February and the first week was amazing. It snowed pretty much every day. It didn’t seem like we got a lot of big storms but it would snow really hard for an hour and we’d get like, 4 inches. And every once in a while during the day it would stop and almost clear up and then it would snow another 4 inches later in the day. It just kept stacking up.
After the first week we were actually plagued with some bad weather. It rained on the whole north island of Hokkaido, which we were on. So, we had about three down days. Then it got cold again so we had to deal with that wet snow freezing. And then a couple of other storm cycles came in and the last few days of the trip were really good again— kind of similar to conditions you get on the east coast. But overall it was really good. We were so productive that first week. And even with those down days we did really well because those last three days were really productive as well.
The terrain on Hokkaido is similar to the east coast in the sense that you’re not looking at huge Colorado or Utah peaks. It’s not really big, steep terrain on Hokkaido. It’s more low elevation and rolling, but the fact that they get so much more snow than we get in the east and the trees are spaced so far apart are the main differences.
They get way more snow than the east. They get like a thousand inches annually. The storms are huge— they literally come from Siberia and hit the Sea of Japan and pick up moisture. The mountains on Hokkaido are the first things those storms hit and they just drop all that precipitation right there. So much snow it’s unbelievable. It’s the lightest snow I’ve ever skied. It’s the definition of cold smoke. For example, after we got that rain and the bottom layer had firmed up, it took at least a foot and a half before we could really ski again because you sink right down to the bottom. Even though there was a foot of snow we were still chattering on that bottom layer. We had to let it blow in and get really deep before we could ski it because it’s so light.
The first part of the trip we skied at a resort. A lot of the good terrain is right off the road, so if we were driving up to the resort and saw something really cool we could stop and check it out. We would call them roadside attractions that we were finding off the road, like little pillow lines and just little features to hit along the way.
Skiing the resort was really easy because—I don’t know the exact reasoning behind it, but the local people don’t like to ski off the trails. We skied this one local resort and skied right off the lift there. The people who live there don’t ski in the trees at all or any of the out of bounds stuff. So we literally had untracked powder to ourselves right from the resort pretty much the whole time.
There is definitely some more potential for travel segments in the future. Our fans don’t need to worry though; we’ll still be doing rail sessions in the rain and skiing bumps and keeping it true to the east coast. That’s not going change any time soon.”