Nitro Snowboards x Mint Tours x Hotham Goodtimes Weekend 2016

Nitro Snowboards method at Hotham

What a wang! Triple methods from Torgeir Bergrem, Marcus Kleveland and Sven Thorgren.

Run to the hills! Last year in late August Nitro Snowboards Australia-NZ called me up to join them and shoot their Goodtimes weekend at Mt Hotham. The Nitro International Team was in Oz, and were shooting their 2017 catalog at Hotham, and so I went along to document it all.

It was a ripping weekend with the crew, and some insane riding from the uber-pros on the features built by Hotham park crew and the inventive Rusty Toothbrush boys.

2017 Issue 1 of Australia-NZ Snowboarder published a five-page feature article using my words and photos from the weekend … but as always, there’s a lot of extra shots. So take a look at the gallery below.

And if you’re interested in joining in on this sort of action, Nitro has once again joined with Mint Tours for “Run To The Hills” weekend at Falls Creek from 4-6 August 2017. Scope the deets here. See you up there!

Click on the photos to open up the gallery…

Snowboarding and Skiing In Japan – Jetstar Asia Magazine October 2016

Jetstar Asia Magazine – Snowboarding and Skiing in Japan: Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.

jetstar-asia-oct-ski-feature

After my two trips to Japan in early 2016 I was briefed by Jetstar Asia Magazine to produce a travel article about  snowboarding and skiing in Japan. My words and photos ran as a four-page feature article in the October 2016 issue of the inflight magazine for the Singapore-based airline, which is seen by 350,000 passengers each month. As a bonus, I was pleased to be able to sneak in a photo of myself and Mary G, and also of my brother into print. Please take a read of the text from the article, and I hope it inspires you to travel to Japan too…

POWDER PERFECT

Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.

The Land of the Rising Sun is every snow-lover’s dream: think consistent dumps of light, dry powder, terrain that ranges from the easy to the epic, as well as world-class backcountry riding and ski runs through the trees. And with easy bullet-train access from Tokyo or Osaka to some of the best skiing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, the only decision you’ll make is: how long is your snow holiday going to be?

SUPER-EXPRESS DAY TRIP: GALA Yuzawa

El Rad enjoying the view.
El Rad enjoying the view.

If you’ve only got a weekend in Tokyo, you can still fit in a quick day trip. GALA Yuzawa is located roughly 200km north of Tokyo and is famous for having its own bullet train station at the base of the mountain. In fact, Japan Rail can transport you in high-speed style from Tokyo station to the resort in just 75 minutes. Step off the train to rent some gear next to the platform, collect your packagedeal lift pass and then walk straight onto the gondola without leaving the building. How’s that for instant gratification?

Once you’re set up, you’re sure to love what’s on offer: Yuzawa has beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs across its 17 pistes that can all be accessed by 11 lifts. You can also buy a combined lift pass to access two connected resorts – Ishiuchi Maruyama and Yuzawa Kogen – for even more variety. The top of the resort is 823m higher than the base, giving you a plethora of vertical metres to ride. Plus, Yuzawa receives almost 12m of snow on average each winter.

So next time you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, grab a bento box breakfast on the early shinkansen (bullet train), hit the slopes at GALA Yuzawa by 8am, then celebrate back in Tokyo with yakitori and Asahi beer in the alleys next to Shinjuku station (after changing trains at Tokyo station). And for ski novices, GALA Yuzawa has a snow sports school with English-speaking instructors.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan's most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.
Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan’s most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

SHORT SNOW TRIP: Nozawa Onsen

If a day isn’t enough to satisfy your snow craving, Nozawa Onsen provides the ultimate Japanese snow experience over a few days. It’s about two hours from Tokyo by bullet train and bus and is the quintessential Japanese ski town. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the country – an all-in one resort where the runs funnel back to a quaint, historic village. A maze of laneways hides more than 100 traditional restaurants, as well as bars and Western eateries. It was the famed 13 historic soto-yu public hot-spring bathhouses that attracted visitors to Nozawa before Austrians introduced skiing to the locals in 1912. Now, it’s the snowboarding and skiing that keep the town buzzing in winter.

Beyond the historic temples and shrines, tucked among the towering cypress trees on the edge of town lie almost 300ha of skiable terrain and 50km of runs with a huge kilometre of vertical drop.

For authorised tree riding (skiing through wooded areas), head to the top of the resort where a large section of forest is accessed by two lifts. Being that high means the powder stays light and dry and the trees are powder-coated a shimmering white.

If fresh, groomed runs are more your thing, Nozawa has wide leg-burners, steeper high-speed runs and winding forest trails for all abilities. You’ll find one of the better terrain parks in Japan, with small to large jumps, rollers, some rails and a fun half pipe. If you don’t ski, explore the labyrinth of shops and eateries in town and the picturesque shrines and temples nestled in the forests nearby. Then, don a yukata (traditional dressing gown) and geta or zori (clogs or sandals) and stroll through town to take a steaming dip in one of the famous Nozawa onsen.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.
Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

A WINTRY WEEK: Hakuba Valley

A world-class ski destination, the Hakuba Valley, three hours from Tokyo, has been attracting serious snow lovers from all over the globe for at least 70 years. With more than 200 runs, including some of Japan’s steepest, and 140km of pistes accessed by 135 lifts across 11 separate resorts, it’s easy to see why some consider it the jewel of the Japan Alps – and then there’s the huge 14m of annual snowfall.

Happo-One Ski Resort is the main resort in Hakuba, and it provides all levels of skiing and snowboarding, as well as abovethe- tree-line alpine terrain and The Happo Banks Snow Park. Head to the top of Happo: a 30-minute hike up the ridgeline gives you backcountry options for kilometres down to the valley.

The view atop the Alps is mesmerising, and the endless powder turns on offer are hypnotic. Book yourself a mountain guide with all the backcountry avalanche gear and you’ll be in for a day you will never forget. Afterwards you can kanpai those powder grins and goggle tans with an icy cold beer from one of the traditional pubs, or izakaya, in Happo Village.

For some of Japan’s best tree riding, trek to the Hakuba Valley’s northernmost resort, Cortina. It’s a bit more out of the way, but that generally means fewer crowds – except for when fresh flakes have fallen. Cortina has a full-access tree-riding policy.

If you’re not a skier, you can still imagine you’re Eddie ‘The Eagle’ by taking in the dizzying view from the top of the 90m and 120m ski jumps at the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Take the easy option of a chairlift up to the museum at the giant structure that was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Or, take the hundreds of stairs up and down, and afterwards a steaming bowl of ramen cooked in the natural hot spring water at Happo Bijin will taste even better.

CULTURAL EXCURSION: Matsumoto

If your legs need a break, take the local train from Hakuba station one hour south to the 16th-century castle town of Matsumoto.

From the station, cross the bridge to Nawate-dori, a picturesque laneway of traditional wooden stalls along the riverbank, and try some of the local delicacies and treats. Soon, you’ll spy the towering black-and-white wooden tiers of Matsumoto-jo in the distance.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.
A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

Construction of the Matsumoto Castle began in 1592, and it was saved from destruction during the late-19th-century Meiji period when Japan went through modernisation. There are only 12 Japanese castles that survive today, and as well as being the oldest, Matsumoto is also one of only two with five visible floors from the outside with a secret sixth level hidden inside.

Look for colourful koi fish as you cross the shimmering defensive moat to enter through the wooden Black Gate and into the fortified bailey. Don’t be too startled if a costumed samurai greets you with a flick of his gunsen war fan and presentation of his jumonji yari spear. Even if you want to give your legs a rest, be prepared to scale the steep and narrow wooden stairways to climb through each lowceilinged floor inside the tower. You’ll glimpse the surrounding snow-capped mountains from one of the 115 archer’s and marksman’s slits – but to feel like a real lord, climb to the highest level and imagine life as a conquering clan. Reality will likely set in as you head back to ground level but by then you’ll be ready to conquer the pistes again.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.
El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

GETTING THERE: Bullet trains (shinkansen) and express trains depart from Tokyo Station in the centre of the city, as well as the nearby Ueno Station, to all destinations in Honshu. Express trains run from Tokyo Narita Airport to both Tokyo and Ueno, and you can purchase all train tickets at the station counters as well as at the airport station counter.

To find train timetables and plan the quickest trip, visit hyperdia.com

The fastest way to get to the Hakuba Valley is a 90-minute bullet train to Nagano, then a one-hour bus to Happo Village. You can also take express and local trains to Hakuba train station.

Hot tip: Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass from japanrailpass.net to save money if you’re going to be catching lots of trains.

 

And below is how the printed article looked. Click on the images to see them larger…

jetstar-asia-oct-ski-feature-1

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To see more of Japan, see my blog posts here.

The Mile High 2015: Snowboard Photography

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All eyes, and lenses, on 15 year-old Aussie up-and-coming ripper, Josh Vagne during the foggy Mile High 2015.

The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry has become a highlight of the Australian winter, and it draws the best snowboarders in the world to Perisher’s terrain park. It’s not just the World Snowboard Tour International points rating of the contest that brings the best shred boys and girls to Jindabyne, but Perisher’s epic and inventive park built by master shaper, and good mate, Charles Beckinsale.

So many of the international pros I spoke to said how much they enjoyed the freestyle set-up at Perisher – easy access to the mountain, fast laps of the park on the T-bar or 8-seater chair, a fun halfpipe also in front valley and a fun park around the corner on the Leichardt T-bar. They all said that they enjoy their summers in Oz much more than New Zealand, and that Perisher has become “the new Snowpark”. High praise, indeed!

This year I was fortunate to spend two and a half weeks in Jindabyne, to compete in the Transfers Banked Slalom at Thredbo, have a bunch of days riding the resorts, and then working for The Mile High writing the press releases, running the website and taking photos. Unfortunately the weather rolled in for the four days that the contest was scheduled, literally putting a real dampener on proceedings. The competition finally ran on the Wednesday, but due to the misty fog, the last two jumps were excluded. It was a shame, as in the clear days earlier on in my stay, the riders were displaying some seriously mind-blowing riding and uber-inventive lines. But, a result was obtained, photos were sent out and video edits posted … and the all-important WST points were awarded to help set up a bunch of riders for the forthcoming northern comp season. Congrats to Jess Rich, who I shot with back in Tahoe a few years ago, for winning the women’s.

Click the link to read the write up from The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry 2015.

Click the images to open a gallery of some of my photos from my time in Perisher.

And scroll down for a wrap-up video edit of the event. 

ESPN put together a great little edit about the whole competition. Take a look here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13525680

And here is the official video:

I can’t wait for next year…

Snowboard Photography From 2014 Australian Slopestyle Tour

Stylewars 2014 - Falls Creek

A few weeks ago the director of The Australian Slopestyle Tour called me up asking if I could help out with some media services for both The Mile High by Carlton Dry at Perisher and Stylewars at Falls Creek. He had me at hello …. beer!

It was great being back in the epicentre of the snow scene, with the best snowboarders and skiers in the world congregating on Jindabyne for their off-season, and our winter. Charles Beckinsale, had helped fashion an epic and inventive slopestyle course in Perisher’s Front Valley, and with all the big dawgs in town, the level of snowboarding (and skiing) was way beyond what has ever been witnessed in this land. I was primarily employed by Rich Hegarty to help write the press releases and add to social media, but of course I couldn’t be surrounded by all this snow-shredding awesomeness without giving my new-ish Canon EOS 1D Mk IV a work out.

Perisher’s slopestyle course is always a bit tricky to shoot, and I certainly took my best photos at the ol’ stomping ground of Falls Creek’s Ruined Castle terrain park during Stylewars. But it was a nice change to be able to act as a second shooter, alongside ANZ Snowboarding Magazine’s Alex Roberts, in order to cover all the action across the park. And it was a pleasant surprise to see The World Snowboard Tour use my shot of winner Kyle Mack for their news article.

A great two weeks filled with fun and friends … and quite a bit of that free Carlton Dry. It was so good to be back!

For a closer look, click on the photos to open them up in a gallery…

Czech it out: The extra photos…

If you picked up Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder Magazine’s Travel Issue that came out a couple of weeks ago you would have seen my story about snowboarding in The Czech Republic. Here are some extra bits for you…

When I was a young boy, my only knowledge of Czechoslovakia came from cheesy spy movies, and from the Eastern Bloc’s number one 80’s tennis export, Martina Navratilova. A framed black and white photo of Martina and my uncle still sits on my grandparents’ mantelpiece showing them holding the 1985 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles trophy they won together…but while you would think a photo of my uncle holding a Wimbledon trophy would be memorable enough, the scary thing that always struck me about that photo is that Martina’s forearm is about twice as muscly and huge as my uncle’s! And with other famous tennis players like Ivan Lendl, Jana Novotna and Petr Korda bringing their Terminator-like styles of play to the world stage through the 80’s and 90’s, I couldn’t help but grow up thinking that Czechoslovakians were either humourless, Ivan Drago-like superhuman tennis robots, or angry but stupid AK-47-toting communist bad-guys from the movies and novels.

But well after the ’89 Velvet Revolution and fall of European Communism I finally managed a summertime visit to Prague and the new(ish) Czech Republic, following the well-worn backtracker trail and enjoying all the cheap local beer. Even then, twelve years after their first democratic elections, the crumbling pall of Communism and problems integrating into a new capitalist way of life were visible all over the country. But you could see that the Czech Republic was finding its feet in the “New Europe”, and so this year, I wanted to go back with a bunch of snowboarders and see how things had changed…and to see if we could score some epic shredding along the way….but first we had to survive Prague!

We arrived in the capital of the Czech Republic at night, staying in a swanky Novotel next to Price Waterhouse Coopers, and if it wasn’t for a few funny looking street signs and lots of graffiti, we could have been in any bustling western European city. So it wasn’t until the new day dawned that we could see why Prague has become such a tourist hot-spot over the last decade. It really is a magnificent city: skinny communist-era trams rattling along ancient cobbled streets, magnificent multicoloured Art Nouveau apartment buildings lining the boulevards of the city centre, towering gothic church spires and winding narrow medieval lanes in the Old Town, and of course, the famous ancient Charles Bridge leading across the river to the largest castle in the world perched on the hilltop overlooking the city.

Most visitors to Prague come during the warmer months, but with a light covering of snow on the high points of the city, the whole complexion of the place changes, and as we were there to not just sight-see, we hit the streets trying to find features to ride. We searched high and low throughout the inner city of Prague, exploring into the ugly communist apartment block suburbs with their crumbling concrete facades and graffiti-covered shopfronts. There was a light covering of snow on the hill overlooking the city, but the rest of the city was dry, as it hadn’t snowed heavily since before Christmas. All the spots that looked promising needed just too much snow to be moved from somewhere else, so a day and a half of exploring yielded no real results, but we made up for our lack of luck with rails an urban jibbery the best way we know how: partying!

It’s not just for the picturesque tourist photos that visitors flock to Prague, it’s also the cheap beer and alcohol…and insane party scene. Martina and Jana were doing a bad job of representing the typical Czech woman in the 80’s. Instead, think of Eva Herzigova or Karolina Kurkova in warm black coats, tight jeans and high leather boots and you are getting a better impression of the typical Czech girl on the streets of Prague (check the foreground of photo to the right to see what I’m talking about.) I seriously considered giving up snowboard photography to become a Czech fashion photographer! And even in the depths of a cold winter all the pretty girls head out for a night on the town, and a serious dance to some seriously crappy euro-dance music. But the prices of drinks help dull the sound of thumping techno: if you pay more than $2.50 for half a litre of tasty local beer in a restaurant, bar or club, you are getting ripped off.

Check this previous post here to see some of the photos from the wild night out we had in Prague.

On the way to the snow we visited the spooky, famed ossuary (chapel) at Kutna Hora filled with skulls and skeletons. Supposedly the earth has been sacred there since an abbot sprinkled dirt from the Holy Land in the 13th century, and with between 40,000 to 70,000 skeletons overflowing from the cemetery, 140 years ago a local woodcarver was given the task of arranging the bones into a giant chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a regal coat of arms on the wall. Creepy!

We snowboarded for three days at Spindlruv Mlyn, Czech Republic’s biggest and most developed resort, and then we had a couple of days near the German border at Bozi Dar trying to find some unique things to shoot. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Click on the thumbnails below to take a closer look at the photo, and pick up a copy of ANZ Snowboarder Magazine to read the story!

Here is a video by Jeremy Richardson of Ollie Pop Films who accompanied us on the trip…take a look and you might spot me dancing like an idiot to shoo away some bothersome pigeons.

And for all her assistance, I’d like to to thank Jana Soukalová  from Czech Tourism– it was a great trip made all the easier by her.