We've seen tall snowbanks before. We reference piles of snow that line the likes of Highway 542 en route to Mount Baker. But these ones make you feel like you're in a white tunnel. Not even the vantage from a two-story tour bus affords a view. We pass people walking alongside the road, the snowbank quadruple their head high.
You've seen the photos, watched the footage, and read accounts. It does exist. A place where the snow—somehow, someway—does not cease to fall from the morning, afternoon, or night sky.
Japan. Hokkaido. Niseko. And the small family-feel ski area of Moiwa.
We've all skied powder. But it doesn't always have the same coastal density as it does in Japan, where you can feel the water content. Yet, somehow, it remains light and elastic. And we've skied powder that have provoked more dreams, but not amid birch and maple trees that create celestial halos that illuminate the reality below your tips. To boot, the terrain comprising the 2,191 skiable acres of Niseko United Resorts is not scary steep, but rather comfortable in its sustained pitch. Meanwhile, despite over 600 inches of annual snowfall, the avie danger is significantly mitigated since you're not skiing wide-open bowls with copious terrain traps. What this means is that you can fly off gigantic strawberry pillows with little regard for worry about anything. You weave your way through the white stalks of birch, meditating and curating your way in a Zen-like state of mind and body.
Most of us have channeled our inner child and night skied. But not under stadium lights that are partially blurred from the onslaught of a relentless snowfall.
In four days, it snowed over four feet. Locals shrugged. We'd ask them how many centimeters accumulate overnight. "A few cms," they'd respond in easy tones. The little, 5,000-person town of Niseko, with its onsen springs and bubble-covered chairlifts, was in full nuclear winter mode during five days in mid-January. It did not stop snowing.
A crew from Patagonia, including recent signee Pep Fujas, was there, putting the completely revamped Patagonia Snow kits through the ultimate pow elements. Whether it was submerging into the phenomenon during the day or night, our assumptions and presumptions about the mythical Japanese snowfall were blown to shreds. Fujas, who has been to Niseko nearly 10 times, led the charge through the trees, airing blind rollovers into a bottomless mattress of snow. Within one run of following Pep, it made sense as to why he never took his ski gear off after shredding the powder lanes and popping off pillows during the day. Because in Japan, nourishing the soul reigns.
Staring at the blizzard passing by the stadium lights one magical night, I mused that it's not every day you get to actually live your childhood dreams. Believe the hype. It lives.