In early 2016 I was fortunate enough to tag along on a media snowboard trip with Olliepop films to Japan. I had been to Japan on holiday just a few weeks previously, and we experienced mostly low-tide and marginal conditions at the start of what was to be the worst snow season in Japan for many, many years. But luckily when I returned with Jeremy and the guys on the Olliepop Snorkel Squad trip, we well and truly scored some epic days: typical blower Japan pow and epic tree riding.
Yes, there were also some marginal days in there too – even with some rain – but from the photos I managed to take, it goes to show that with some luck, and making the most of conditions on offer, you can get some really nice shots.
Jeremy Richardson did a great job of hooking up the trip with the assistance of Liquid Snow Tours, and the “action-models/good mates” in Jeremy Burns, Tim Nelson and Liam Peter Ryan worked super hard to get the shots. Thanks, guys.
Below are the action photos I tookin the Hakuba valley, from the high-alpine above Happo-One and over the back at Cortina, and off piste at Nozawa Onsen. Enjoy … and I hope it inspires you to get some turns this summer/winter.
Click the photos to enlarge them in all their pixelly goodness!
Above: I’d never shot with fellow Falls Creek alumnus James “Singo” Singleton before, but he certainly knows how to shred!
Above: Mat Galina always knows where to find the goods and works harder than anyone else I know to get the shots … including the epic photo at the top of this post from the back bowl above Happo-One.
Above: Jeremy Burns surfing the white waves of Happo-One on our way down to the carpark (and bus stop) at Hakuba 47.
Above: Liam Peter Ryan (“LPR”) finding some launching pads as we descended from Happo-One to Hakuba 47.
Above: Tim Nelson stylin’…
Above: Jeremy Burns and LPR found a side hit out the front of our hotel, and with a van tow-in, the boys gave me an opportunity to use my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and Skyport flash set-up for the first time. To see more about the flash system, click here.
Above: We scored the first epic couple of days of the year at Cortina. Tim Nelson (red jacket) and Jeremy Burns (maroon jacket) got the goods.
Above: Nozawa Onsen is a pretty magical place, especially when fresh snow turns the trees all-white, and Tim Nelson made a mere 10-15 of fresh dust-on-crust look pretty epic.
Above: Another opportunity to use the Elincrhom Quadra and Skyport at a Bhuddist temple on the edge of Nozawa Onsen. Jeremy Richardson shifty.
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.
Our medium-to-slow speed internet has been out and running even slower for about 10 days now (and only just got changed over to super fast ADSL2+ with a different provider) so I haven’t had time to check out the video of our June Mountain trip. You’ve probably already seen it in your Facebook Newsfeed or on snowboardermag.com.au or transfermag.com. But if not, (and if you have fast internet) take a look…
Fellow Falls Creeker, Jeremy Richardson of Ollipop Films has put together a pretty rad edit of our day and a half riding there. He certainly got a lot of content filmed! And if you check it out, you’ll see me in the back and fore grounds snaking photos, and also getting a little riding cameo in the park. Yeeewwww!! haha.
And one funny thing I noticed about the vid is the angry, pissed-off look on Darragh’s face when he stomps his (final) switch frontside boardslide. Normally a rider is stoked, and pretty much “claims” with a joyous fist-pump when they stomp a tech trick, but because of the general annoying crowd, overall disorganisation, early painful slams and problems “getting the shot” on earlier stomps, by this stage Darragh had well and truly had enough. He just wanted to get it done and get the hell out of there. And I think he was taking some of his anger out on me. It’s all good though – we kissed and made up. And got a great photo to boot.