Posts Tagged ‘Travel

16
Jan
17

Snowboarding and Skiing In Japan – Jetstar Asia Magazine October 2016

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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…

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

08
Mar
16

iPhoneography: A Traveller in Tokyo

I’ve said it a few times before that my iPhone has become my favourite camera, and that had become even more so when I upgraded to to 6S and started using an app called VSCO. Visual Supply Co.’s app aims to replicate the distinctive (and undeniably hipster) looks of old film. The app is free for a dozen or so filters, and had become my go-to photo editing app in the go.

I was fortunate to travel twice to Japan in the last couple of months … and so I put my iPhone 6S and VSCO to the test, and now I’ve posted this using the WordPress app.

If you like what you see, follow me on Instagram too: @sean_radich

Jet engine

Ready for takeoff!

 

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo apartments

Typical Tokyo room with a view…

Tokyo apartment

Some unexpected colour in a city of muted tones.

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Shibuya sunset, Tokyu Plaza.

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Entrance hall of mirrors, Tokyu Plaza.

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Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

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Golden Gai, Shinjuku.

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Yakitori alley, Shinjuku, A.K.A Piss Alley.

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Ueno Station.

Ueno Station.

25
Jun
14

The Best All-Mountain Snowboard: 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing Review

Radmania Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159

If you had to ride one snowboard for the rest of your life, do you think you could choose just one board that could do it all?

There’s certainly something to be said for building up a quiver of boards – to show the sideways-riding world that you are serious shredder who has the right equipment for every conceivable condition. But after a few years of accruing all manner of boards, you can get too spoilt for choice: your powder weapon ain’t much good when you hit the park at the end of the day, and your freestyle stick (usually) won’t float much when you hit the deep fresh. And no-one wants to be that whiney guy on the chairlift who complains that he should have grabbed one of his other boards instead.

So what if one board could do it all?

After getting my hands on a pre-released Nitro 2015 Blacklight Gullwing for my 2014 overseas trip, I reckon I’ve found the board that can.

 

Rocker vs Camber … or the best of both: Gullwing Rocker

Nitro_Gullwing_Rocker

Now that some of the euphoria around reverse camber has died down a little bit, there has been a minor pushback against the banana boats in favour of good ol’ stable and secure camber, or even zero-camber for something in the middle. And yes, it is true that rocker lacks the control and edge hold of traditional camber boards at high speed … but nothing can beat it for a neutral float in powder.

Nitro’s Gullwing rocker– or to use Burton-speak, Flying V – aims for the best of both worlds: the playfulness and powder-float of rocker, and the groomer control and response of camber. It does a great job … but, having ridden my old Nitro Team Gullwing on steep and Coke-bottle-icy early season St Anton slopes a couple of years ago, I was that complaining dude on the chairlift wishing that I had brought one of my stiffer, regular camber boards. The Gullwing was just a little too playful when maximum control was required on the slippery, icy slopes. But that’s where Nitro’s new Power Pods come into play…

 

Power Pods:

Nitro_Power_Pods

See that lil’ bump on the rail? That’s a Nitro Power Pod … and it’ll make you a carving demon!

The sidecut of the 2015 Blacklight contains a short and long radius, so that just in front of your leading foot, and behind your back foot two seemingly innocuous bumps protrude a few millimetres. They’re highlighted by fluoro green sections of sidewall, in case you hadn’t noticed them when you first picked up the board. These Power Pods give outrageous edge grip, and cut through snow like a proverbial hot knife through butter, or perhaps more like a serrated blade through crusty bread.

I was amazed at the insane angulation I could achieve on wintry hardpack, whipping through high-G euro-carves and loading up the pop so that I’d actually spring out into the next turn like a PGS’ing Olympian. And in my wake I left 4cm deep perfect-arc gouges in the groomers.

If you know how to lay it out and execute proper carves, you’re gunna want these Power Pods on your rails. And although this season’s California lean snow year meant Northstar didn’t build its normal epic superpipe, I reckon the Power Pods would give amazing grip up and out of the icy walls too.

 

The Short Board Revolution:

Epic 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159 topsheet and base graphics.

Epic 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing 159 topsheet and base graphics without all the stickers.

As a 100+ kg, 196cm-tall (6’5”1/2) shredder I understand that the gear I ride is outside the normal parameters for a regular 5’10”, 75kg rider: and in the (camber) past my all-mountain board was 163-164 and I stepped up to a 167 for powder. However, riding Nitro’s Team Wide Gullwing I have been able to step down to 159cm in length for ALL forms of riding, including the deep Niseko powder. During the ultra-snowy February of 2013 I just set back my usual wide stance an inch and the 159 Team Wide Gullwing gave me a more neutral-stance float in the Hokkaido powder than my 167 camber board ever did.

And with the Blacklight, the longer nose will help even more with powder float, but with a directional setback of only 15mm, it’s easy to set the board up for a pretty neutral twin-tip feel for park riding. During pow days in Tahoe I could stand more upright, lean back less and save the back-leg burn, as well as ride a shorter, more manoeuvrable directional-twin tip board straight from the steep(ish) and deep backside of Northstar to Pinball park and pipe.

Riding powder on Nitro’s Gullwing rocker boards feels more like the sort of float you feel when pumping through the face of a fat wave, or across the flats on a wakeboard: it’s playful and forgiving, light and loose, and the reverse camber allows you to really lean into pow turns much more without fear of the camber catching and the nose diving. And I have a sneaky feeling that the reverse camber shape of the base actually helps you spray more snow on those turns, flying radially off the rocker … or maybe it’s just that it’s easier to imagine yourself as Jordy Smith laying over a rail to bury the nose and spray your mates, allowing the rocker to pop you up as you prepare for your next turns with a huge grin on your face.

 

2015 Blacklight Specifications:

Nitro Oz’s Darragh Walsh hooked me up with the Blacklight as the up-spec version of the Team Wide that I was used to riding, and the Blacklight does share a lot of similarities with it as a freestyle-focussed all-mountain board. However, the Blacklight is listed at a higher price point, and it’s a little bit stiffer, it’s a mid-wide, a little more directional in profile, and it is equipped with a faster base and the Power Pods … and of course it comes with typically Nitro epic ghost-Viking, Game Of Thrones-esque graphics.

Scroll down for all the board’s specs from the 2015 Nitro catalog.

 

So, should you buy one?

If your next overseas trip is to Minnesota or Montreal, or you wanna get jibby wit it on Sundays In The Park, the Blacklight might not be the sort of freestyle noodle that you’re looking for. But if you like to ride the whole mountain, charge steep lines and deep powder, lay out high-G carves on wide groomers, hit big jumps and freestyle features in the park, and launch out the top of a superpipe, the 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing is the one board for you. You too can have a one-board quiver.

 

Want more information? Check out Nitro’s 2015 Blacklight Gullwing here and take a look at Nitro Snowboard’s full 2015 catalog here.

Wanna buy a 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing? Ask at your local Nitro Dealer, or online in Australia at Twelve Boardstore.

2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing from the brochure.

2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing features listed in the brochure.

Click to expand. 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing specifications and measurements.

Click to expand. 2015 Nitro Blacklight Gullwing specifications and measurements.

24
Jun
14

Iphoneography: USA iPhone Travel Photography

Radich NY-Times Square iPhone Panorama

Someone much wiser once said something like ‘the best camera you have is the one you have on you’ … and as my iPhone 5 is nearly always always in my pocket, it has become my go-to image creator. The quality of the images you can capture are quite amazing for something that also does a pretty good job of acting like a phone … and a computer. And with the outstanding Photoshop Express app, the level of post-production and editing you can do all in the palm of your hand rivals what many amateur photographers do on their desktops.

On my latest overseas trip to the USA my iPhone well and truly got a workout on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Reno. Around NYC I often carried my Canon EOS 1D MkIV, but with the ability to edit on the fly, then directly upload to Instagram and Facebook, I found that I have enjoyed the shots I took with my Apple phone much more. And sometimes having the limitations of a non-optical zoom, 8-megapixel mini-lens makes you think just a little bit more creatively to make the most of those limitations. So take a look at some of my shots, and if you like what you see, follow me on Instagram for more of my iPhoneography.

Click on the photos below to see larger versions…

19
Feb
13

An iPhone Tourist In Tokyo

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As I said back in this post, iPhones make it easy nowadays. I downloaded the WordPress app, so we’ll see how this goes posting directly from my phone.

Here’s some iPhone-only photos for my three days in Tokyo. (Well, it looks like it’s a little hard to insert a gallery so this selection below will have to do.)

See more of my iPhone-ography by following me on Instagram @sean_radich.

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22
Jan
13

East Coast Surf Road Trip With Just An iPhone

Crescent Head beach panorama

Panorama taken with iPhone.

iPhones make it all too easy! In fact nowadays I hardly bother taking my pocket Canon digital camera with me, let alone my new Canon EOS 1D mark IV. So I thought I’d try posting a blog directly from my iPhone with photos from a recent roadtrip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and edited using just the phone’s auto-enhance & panorama function as well as Instagram, Luminance and Pic Jointer apps.

And the result. Well, WordPress ain’t the easiest beast to tame on a 3 inch touch screen – I couldn’t work out how to change the order of the gallery photos, or caption them. So I think I’ll stick to computer blogging from now on…

27
Jan
10

Roadtrippin’ through the middle…

After the Oz winter, a literal seachange was in order. My brother, El Rad, had moved down from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and had a spare bedroom…so it would have been remiss of me to not take up his offer of a place to stay 150 metres from the beach and within 15 drive minutes of four world-famous surf breaks! If i could handle the heat, it would be a great time to learn to surf better and generally just enjoy the good life the Goldy has to offer.

So back in early November i packed up the orange beast and headed north up the Hume, Via the Newell Hwy through the middle of NSW and into Qld. It was two days, 1800km and 18.5 hours of driving time according to my dashboard. I had my serious camera gear with me, but i always like the flexibility of small, pocket-sized point-and-shoot cameras. I have a little Sony Cybershot 8.5 megapixel camera, as well as a couple of Minolta film instamatics that i often load with slide (transparency) film and cross-process for interesting and unexpected results. It keeps photography fun!

Here are some of the photos i took of all the weird things along the way… Click the photos to see them larger: