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…
Jared Elston, Sven Thorgren and Torgeir Bergrem.
Jared and Sven doubling up.
Darragh Walsh into the mist…
Run to the Hills! The pros and Mint campers bombing The Canyon
Silje styling 1
Torgeir, Sven and Marcus.
TM Darragh Walsh still boosting with style.
Triple treat. Jared Elston, Sven Thorgren and Torgeir Bergrem.
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Earlier this month I made the big financial leap to invest in another portable flash system from the Swiss masters at Elinchrom. I sourced two Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX powerpacks with Standard (S) flash heads from a US retailer, and the brand new Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS transmitter from an Aussie store. I will be shooting primarily snowboarding with this killer kit, but wanted to give the high-speed flash-sync capabilities a test drive before I head off overseas.
The big advantages of this system are:
Lightweight lithium-ion batteries and flash heads: each unit weights just 2kg, much less than the high-powered, lead-battery Elinchrom Ranger RX pack and head I already own – ie super portable in a backpack;
Built in wireless receivers in the Quadra Hybrid, which pair with Elinchrom’s transmitters – so no more fliddling with Pocketwizards, their batteries and all sorts of cords;
400ws of power, which should be enough for most applications; but most importantly,
The EL-Skyport Plus HS has a new “Hi-Sync” feature that works with either Canon or Nikon cameras (you buy a specific transmitter) to allow flash synchronisation up to 1/8000th of a second! Previously I was flash-syncing at just 1/250th of a second with Pocketwizards. And with this Hi-Sync feature, it now means that I can easily increase the shutter speed to freeze the action, as well as underexpose (and therefore, darken) the background to make the subject “pop” off the screen. This means that you can get much more usable light out of the 400ws of flash power.
So to test, I dragged my brother to the local primary school basketball court in the afternoon. It was a pretty rushed shoot, but really I wanted to get a quick idea of how well this Elinchrom system can capture the action, darken the background, and what the range of the wireless transmitter was. And the result of the test? I love it! Easy to use, great range, quick flash refresh times. It’s going to make all my future photo shoots so much easier to set up.
So for those that are interested, I’ve included the settings by which the photos were taken. All shots were under bright, but cloudy daylight settings, with post-production editing in Lightroom. Click on the photos to see them larger.
Yep, the flash works. First photo, making it look more like dark twilight than the bright, cloudy afternoon that it was. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 800.
Moody. Testing the range of the transmitter. This was taken about 100m away, through a cyclone-wire fence, and around a brick wall and wooden fence. A few more metres away and the flash didn’t fire. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
Turning the tables, handing the camera to my brother and becoming the subject. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
Trying to make it rain. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
Like Mike? Doing my best to emulate Jordan’s Playground. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.
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.
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…
Kyle Mack spinning over Perisher’s last jump for The Mile High.
View of The Mile High slopestyle course.
Freeskier double nose grab – The Mile High, Perisher
Billy Morgan at The Mile High.
The Mile High action avoided the worst of the weather coming in…
Allie Coates, Stylewars 2014
Kyle Mack styling. Stylewars 2014.
Ryan Linnert, Stylewars 2014
Jeremy Page says that Carlton Dry gives you wings…
Will Mayo front board.
Darcy Sharpe high in the sky.
Aussie Tim Laidlaw. Steezy!
Asher Humphreys launches the gap.
Kyle Mack’s Stylewars Grandmaster-winning run. Super stylish frontside 720 off the toes.
Mats Kulisek in front of a moody sky.
Kyle Mack launching.
Black and white gap…
Logan Short wowed by the appearance of double rainbows.
Kyle Mack frontside 720 on day one of Stylewars on World Snowboard Tour’s website. Photo and press release text by Sean Radich.