Board ABC Day 2012 is on August 18th at Thredbo

This is an ‘all female’ snowboard event to raise funds and awareness for Breast Cancer by offering female riders a chance to unite and have some snowboarding fun!
The event is in association with The National Breast Cancer Foundation and offers a chance to ride in an a non-intimidating environment, with a bunch of girls.

When: August 18th 2012

Where: Cruiser Terrain Park, Thredbo

How much: $50 (tickets and sign up at ESS Board store Jindabyne, or email boardabc@hotmail.com)

What you get:
A ‘pink gift bag’,
a pink ‘Board ABC’ basketball style singlet,
lots of prizes to be won,
a discounted lift pass for the day,
PLUS the following:-

– A coaching session where participants will be lead by Professional Qualified female snowboard Instructors and female, Sponsored/Competitive snowboarders. These respected women are all donating their time for the cause. The event is not for beginner snowboarders. It is a chance for girls to improve their riding, with a focus on freestyle.

– A ‘Rail Jam comp’ with plenty of prizes to be awarded.

– A Pink Avalanche of Awareness for Breast Cancer All participants wearing their PINK jerseys will ride as a group and hit the ‘Boob Jump’ then shred the slopes from the top of Kosciuszko chairlift to the base.

Choose your riding level group:

1. Stepping Up
You have snowboarded before and you want to be introduced to some basic terrain park features.

2. Snow Sistas
You ride through the park sometimes, and want to become more confident sliding boxes and rails plus hitting jumps with some grabs.

3. Shred Betties
You ride the park but want to increase your ‘bag of tricks’. Board slides (front & back) & presses on boxes and rails, plus air with grabs & 180’s.

4. Rippers
You ride park often and now it’s time to spin & slide on bigger features. More advanced jibbing & jumping: street styles rails and spinning on jumps.

NOTE: There are only 80 tickets available so be quick to ensure you are not disappointed. HELMETS are ESSENTIAL to be WORN at the event.

For more information go to: http://www.facebook.com/boardabc.day or email boardabc@hotmail.com.

Chicks with Stix

Chicks with Stix have already started their freestyle ski and board sessions on the Aussie slopes for 2012. If you don’t already know these ladies, they are an awesome and experienced group who aim to encourage and give opportunities to Aussie girls on the slopes for free. The Chicks with Stix coaching sessions help girls improve their skills in bumps, freeride, slopestyle and big mountain whilst having fun and riding with other girls. Take a look at their website for more details and then send them and email to book in.

WEBSITE: http://www.chickswithstix.com.au

CONTACT: chickswithstix.skiing@gmail.com

How to save pennies on an Aussie snow holiday

I remember my first trip to the snow. I was eight years old. Mum was a single mother of four children and we were on the pension living in the Adelaide Hills.  Falls Creek was more than 12 hours away by car and a skiing holiday in Australia was far from affordable. Still, Mum was determined to take her children to the snow and she saved every penny she could for months prior to the trip. We drove our family Mitsubishi van to Bright, about an hour from Falls Creek and stayed in a family cabin at the local caravan park.

The fun of ski holidays can be dependent entirely on mother nature and my first day on the snow was a blizzard. You could barely see 10 metres in front of you. I was in a group ski lesson and the wind was so strong that I could barely hear my instructor talk. It was horrible trying to learn in a white out. My goggles were fogged up and my hair left outside of my beanie was frozen. My poor little chin was red and cold. To make things even worse, on the way down the hill our van broke down. My poor mother had tried so hard to make this little holiday work.

I’m pretty sure I wanted to cry after my first day on the snow. Luckily it got better. The blizzard cleared, my skiing improved and who would have guessed that now, 15 years later – my sister and I are both snow lovers.

Back to the point of writing this – it’s a given that snow holidays are expensive. So how can we make our snow trips less expensive, but keep all the fun?

  • Be prepared – Take out insurance like RACV before the trip in case a problem does occur. Make sure you have your bases covered with ambulance cover.
  • Pre purchase outerwear rather than renting it on the mountain and re-sell it again if your trip is just a one off. Check out super-cheap distribution sales or stores like Aldi who sell cheap snow outerwear and accessories like gloves. If you sure of your size you can even buy them online. Be weary of buying cheap goggles because some of them do have a tendency to fog up.
  • Sign up to online daily deals like Deal of The Day and Living Social. They often have cheap lift pass offers.
  • If you’re just on holiday to ski and not party then don’t sleep on the mountain. In Australian resorts you can usually find a caravan park at the base of the mountain with affordable caravan or cabins.
  • Take advantage of student cards and all employee discounts.
  • If you’re going up the mountain alone then make the most of social networking sites like mountain Facebook Pages to hitch a ride from the city with another sole traveller. Or think outside the sqaure, catch the Vline rather than tourist bus.
  • Save even more pennies by bringing a backpack and put a water bottle in it with snacks like museli bars for munching on the chair lifts.
  • Go to the backcountry where you don’t even need a lift pass.

For more info on cheap skiing in Australia check out this article.

Looking for a good read this season?

Layne Beachley’s ‘Beneath The Waves’, Tina Basich’s ‘Pretty Good for a Girl’ and Chris Nelson’s ‘Cold Water Souls’ are all recommended by NOW RIP THIS.

Benazir – short film

Benazir is just 6-years old and learning to snowboard. Have a look at how beautiful she is.

A pre-winter report for Coronet Peak, New Zealand

There’s just a month to go before Coronet Peak opens so it’s time to ask the question: have you booked your flights to Queenstown yet?

 

Finding your wonderland

It is April in the midst of autumn in Melbourne. Yellow leaves have fallen and they are visible blowing across the grass. The pavement is still wet from the previous night’s rain and the early morning sun glares off the Yarra River. Southerly winds are beginning to pinch. Melbourne is a beautiful city and for now it is what I call home, yet I still need to escape.

A two-hour drive from home is my coastal wonderland. Even on the coldest days I feel warm here and even on the darkest nights my soul is cleansed. It is a place of rolling hills, flowing waterfalls and sprays of sea salt.

Autumn, in all it’s gold is a great time for surfers here. Year round, the beach is not crowded. The summer is warm, but the ocean is still chilly and most of the year surfers are cloaked in neoprene.

As with any location it is not just the geography that can make a place special. It is the friendliness in the people. On my first visit here I was barely a rooky surfer, but I brought my pink foam surfboard to give the waves a crack. Clearly I stood out as a beginner and I was alone. A local dread locked beach bum who filled in his time as a gardener at a caravan park let the weeds grow for a day and offered to take me surfing. He showed me all the best local breaks and those I continue to ride.

Today I grinned at a local fisherman and said “I like your office.” He replied, “Me too – no view here is ever the same.” We finished the second part of the sentence together, “Because the colours are always changing.”

I love to travel and discover new coastlines, but this one just keeps me returning. If you know me, well, then you will know the place that I am talking about. For others reading this, of course I am not going to disclose it to you. Australia has over 35,000 kilometers of coastline. You too should find your wonderland.

I smile as I drive away looking behind at the glorious view in the rear view mirror. That is why I come, despite the cold sand and the freezing water, that is why I come. Now I am heading back to the rules and back to the city. Melbourne is my home, yet it is not my place.

Images by Tamie Wexler and Claire Hanrahan

Gulmarg 2012

I’m from Australia where my friends and I get excited about a 5cm snow storm. That was until I started to snowboard overseas. Now I’m in Gulmarg where it’s common for a snow storm to dump three metres.

Gulmarg is a village in Kashmir, the state between India and Pakistan. Most Kashmiris are Muslim, but despite their religion most Kashmiris have a better relationship with Hindu Indians than with Pakistan.

Gulmarg sits five kilometres from the militarized Line of Control. It’s one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world. There are 700,000 Indian army troops that are in this state and I would imagine there is a similar number of troops over the Pakistan border. Gulmarg isn’t a very commercial ski resort, more a backcountry paradise for those who are willing to work hard for their lines or who don’t mind playing a game of cheat with mother nature.

The Aussie government currently have a travel warning out not to travel here. Yet since I’ve been in Gulmarg the only violence I’ve witnessed has been between the Australian and the Russian tourists. Most Russian tourists only stay for a short period and itching to get the freshest lines, they rudely make every effort to push and shove in the gondola line. Many Australians I’m embarrassed to say are obnoxious.

I’m not denying the fact that there are thousands of weapons in the area, nor that it’s a dangerous territory. There is an Indian army base on the mountain that we ski past and they stay there in case Pakistan decides to invade the precious land. I wouldn’t dare try to see what is on the other side of the Line of Control, which is where they call Pakistani Kashmir. Many Kashmiri people tell me there are small villages there and they have relatives who live there.

So far most Indian solders with guns in Gulmarg that I have come across have either, A, minded their own business or B, smiled at me and asked to have a photo. I believe the real danger for tourists is in the stupidity of the people that come here. People who come without any real knowledge of the backcountry or without the right equipment. Myself included.

Most local Kashmiris now understand that tourism can build up their economy and give a positive future to their war torn past. Currently a Kashmiri waiter in a hotel who works a 12 hour days gets paid approximately 3,700 Indian Rupees for a fortnights work. Approximately 70 Aussie dollars. While during the ski season a local guide here can earn up to 4,000 rupees per day. Approx 80 Aussie dollars. Every young Kashmiri man wants to be a ski guide. Though there are few on the mountain who are educated enough and who I would trust to save my life in the backcountry.

Coming to Gulmarg you need to leave all your expectations at home. I left mine next to my hair straighter. While it can be pretty rough, there’s heaps of fun and exciting things to do here too. Whether you’re street skiing behind a taxi, taking a fresh line, talking with locals, visiting the doctors, watching cars without chains slide over the road, shopping at the market or trying to find your way home after a big night out. There’s always something new to experience here.

From my knowledge, at present Gulmarg is the cheapest snow resort in the world. Currently a ride to the top of the gondola, 4,000 metres, will cost a tourist 350 Indian rupees (about six Aussie dollars). The runs are so exhausting that you are lucky to make more than four in a day. Beer in Kashmir, purchased from a bar is a few Aussie dollars and food is pretty cheap too. Hotels by the Gondola is far more expensive than by the Gulmarg market, which is about one and a half kilometres down the mountain.

What to pack

Patience and a sense of humour because you do a lot of waiting around in Gulmarg. You can be waiting for the hot water to come on, waiting for the electricity to work, waiting for the gondola to start turning or waiting for your friends to dig their way out of the snow.

A small set of binoculars. After a powder storm Gulmarg Snow Safety operations will bomb the inbounds area of the mountain. During peak season about 300 skiers and snowboarders wait in line for the Gondola to open. Phase 2 only opens after the explosives are set off and Kashmiri Ski Patrol announces something in Kashmiri over a loud speaker, which usually means the area is safe to ski in. If you have a set of binoculars at least you can watch the snow slides after the bombs goes off. Sometimes you can wait until mid day to get in the gondolla, but it’s totally worth it.

Head torch. There are no lights in the village and it gets quite dark and hairy at night. Often times the electricity at the hotels will go out. If you’re lucky your hotel will have a back up generator.

A very thorough first aid kit including cold and flu tablets, Imodium and electrolyte tablets.

Vitamins – good quality fresh food and vegetables are hard to come by in Gulmarg. Most of the vegetables served in restaurants have been frozen. At the market you can buy raw vegetables and fruit, but it’s far from fresh.

At the least a shovel, probe and beacon. Beacons can be rented for about ten Aussie dollars per day, but they are not digital. It’s best to bring a newer one that you can trust. Make sure to test them at home before you arrive to Gulmarg. Batteries can also be purchased from Jaan’s shop, although they’re not the best quality.

Spare snowboard screws and any other parts for your bindings. P tex and wax and a wax iron. This stuff is like diamonds in Kashmir.

What you can buy here.

At the local Gulmarg markets you purchase woollen gloves, scarves, beanies as well as any tailor made garments.

Tanmarg, the village at the bottom of the mountain has a pharmacy and hospital. Although most times getting a taxi down the mountain can be difficult.

Everyone sells or has hash, (it comes across from Afghanistan) but green weed is hard to come by. If you want alcohol you should pick it up in Srinagar. Gulmarg is predominately a Muslim village so many shop and hotel owners refuse to sell it here.

What it’s like to snowboard in Gulmarg

I took the day off from filming to go snowboarding, but Cassie followed me with the camera.

MINT CHICKS SNOWBOARDING PROGRESSION CAMP?

Want to come to NZ for a female snowboarding progression camp?

What’s involved?

One full day of Heliboarding. A little warning – this will probably be the best day of your life! 

Three days of snowboard instructor coaching at Snow Park, NZ. All females lessons. 

Two days of riding the mountains of your choice in Queenstown and showing off all the sweet tricks you’ve learnt through out the week.

Dates: Sun Aug 26th – Sun 2nd Sept 2012.

All girls over 18 who want to improve their riding and have fun are welcome to come along. Don’t worry if your friends don’t want to come because you’ll make more on the trip.

Cost $1,800 icl accom, 5X lift passes, snowboard coaching, heli (first run only), bus transfers. Basically everything except food, booze and flights.

If you’re interested, just shout. (tamie@nowripthis.com or 0450 831 729) or get in touch directly with Jarred from Mint Tours

 

Beneath The Boarder – The Film teaser

This is a story about Raja Khan a 16 year old Kashmiri boy and his dream to change his future through snowboarding. Raja is coming of age and pressure to make future decisions are quickly approaching. Growing up in the remote mountain village of Gulmarg, just five kilometers from The Line of Control, a place of intense conflict where thousands of lives have been lost since partition in 1947.

Ceasefire has existed in Kashmir for the last seven years, but suppression from the Indian military still remains. For young Kashmiri men limited education and work opportunities mean that the chances of picking up arms and fighting for freedom is an extremely real option.

In 2005 Gulmarg was put on the map as the worlds most dangerous place to ski. Not only because of the tense political climate, but also because of the high risk of deadly avalanches. Only diehard expert snowboarders and skiers explore the untouched 4000 meter Himalayan peaks behind Gulmarg.

Raja watches the men surfing down the snow covered mountains from his fathers thatched hut. He had never seen snowboarding before, but as the winters went by Raja met with some of the travelers and started to learn English and snowboarding.

Raja quickly realised that the sensation of flying down the mountains on a snowboard was just a small taste of freedom and he became hooked to this dangerous and exhilarating sport. He then made the decision that he would become Kashmir’s first professional snowboarder and use snowboarding to break free from his war-ravaged life.

It is virtually impossible for Kashmiri people to obtain a passport, living under the corruption of the 700,000 Indian Army who occupy Kashmir and whose troops have killed and tortured hundreds of innocent civilians. Raja’s father, a militant freedom fighter and local hero has protected his family and taught Raja how to defend himself from the attacks and skirmishes that occur without warning.

Devastating avalanches often occur due to the high amounts of snowfall and the terrain of the jagged mountains. Snowboarding is a genuine life threat. If you are trapped in an avalanche in Gulmarg, chances of survival are minute. The closest hospital, with limited trained staff, is two hours away via snow-blocked undeveloped roads. Getting caught in an avalanche can mean certain death.

Years of conflict has stained the people of Kashmir and moving forward is virtually impossible. After three generations of unsuccessful fighting for freedom, continuous suppression and bloodshed, the people of Kashmir are depressed. Many in the village hold the faith that the youth of Kashmir will change the future. Unlike Raja, Kashmiri people do not understand the liberty the sport brings and they discourage Raja’s dream. They believe it is dangerous game, a waste of time and they worry that he needs to start thinking about a real future. Raja is still determined to fight for his freedom through snowboarding, not killing.

In 2011 Andy Turland a well-accomplished and passionate snowboarder from Australia travels to Kashmir in search of the challenging terrain. Andy meets Raja and instantly a friendship is born. Andy takes Raja under his wing and helps to improve his skills. He gives him the confidence to follow his dreams to become a professional snowboarder.

Rajas younger sister Benazir has curiously been watching her brother learn to Snowboard. Benazir, although only six, begs her brother to teach her. Twice a week, under his father’s instruction Raja takes Benazir out to learn to snowboard. She is Kashmir’s first female to ride a snowboard.

This inspiring feature length minute documentary combines the art of storytelling and cinematic qualities to create a high-concept snowboarding film.

The film follows Raga’s fight to break free from the Indian army and a gridlocked society, whilst training to become Kashmir’s first professional snowboarder in some of the world’s most dangerous mountains.

For more information visit: http://www.beneaththeboarder.com

Contact: info@beneaththeboarder.com

A September surf

It is the last Sunday in September and the last day of the snow season in Victoria. I push my snowboard jacket to the side and pull out my wettie – eff the snow, I’m heading to the coast and I’m stoked.

Leading up to the weekend the surf reports have not been on my side, but I live in Victoria, which means they hardly ever are.

I strap my board on the roof of my Swift. It’s cold outside and I know that I’m probably going to freeze off some of my bits. I’m not going on this mission solo. I cruise around the corner to pick up my friend Claire.

Both Claire and I are only learning to surf, but deep down we love it and just for the record we also think we’re pretty gnarly.

We are both a little unsure of where we will find the best barrels, so Claire makes a couple of calls to some local surf shops to see what they have to say. The conclusion – 13th beach at Barwon Heads. It’s not the best conditions, but it’s not flat as a pancake either and for us that means it’s surfable.

We hit the highway. The cruise control is on, the tunes are mellow, the sun is shining and Claire’s got a map – going well so far. After an hour and a half driving, we pull up to the ocean. The wind is howling and the surf is pretty blown out. Still, we spot a couple of surfers in the water.

“How is it out there?” Claire asks a juicy surfer as he is coming in.

The surf is not pumpin’, crankin’, or going off. There’s onshore winds (which makes the sea chaotic) and it’s difficult to ride. We’re told there’s a spot up the road by the surf life saving club, perhaps we could try there.

That sounds a bit better to us. (Although Claire’s reluctant to leave until the surfer removes his wetsuit and drops his towel from his waist, but of course that’s not why we came.)

We head up the road.

It’s on. We wax up, slop on and battle with the wind to carry our boards out to the water. It’s one of those days.

Though the conditions are not perfect, there are definitely waves to be caught and there are also a few smashing wipe outs. Most importantly we are getting more water time.

I truly believe one day Claire and I will progress to be excellent surfers, but on days like this one, we just enjoy the adventure and soothe our souls in the surf.

Photos by Claire Hanrahan and Byron Heath. Written by Tamie Wexler.

Riding Dick in New Zealand

I had heard insane stories of heliboarding in New Zealand: rock drops from cliffs, runs for two kilometres, 360 degree views of mountains and people being buried in avalanches. Understandably, I had to experience all the hype too.

11 adults piled into the van with excitement and a few nerves. “So where are we going?” one of the ladies asked. “It’s a place called Mount Dick,” our Alpine Heli guide Mike said. “We’ll be riding dick?” she replied. He looked in the rear vision mirror at the blokes in the back of the van, “That’s right boys, you’ll be riding dick all day.” The banter began and so too had our priceless day.

Heliboarding is all about having fun, but there is a serious side to being in the back country. If you are inexperienced you are more vulnerable to being swallowed by the mountain. But it can happen to the most experienced too and often with out any warning. You need to be prepared. “Every year we dig someone out of an avalanche on our trips,” says Tim, the Alpine Heliski boss.

It is a blue bird day and the last snowfall was nearly a week ago. There are about 50 of us ready to ride the mountain.

We are all equipped with transceivers and shown how to use them. At least 10 of us are carrying shovels and the guides have the rest of the safety equipment. If anything turns sour we need to get help from our guides as soon as possible. “Avalanche risk is low so we should be in for a sweet day,” Tim says.

Mount Dick sits at about 40 kilometres outside of Queenstown. It’s approximately two kilometres wide and two kilometres in length – it’s a big dick.

Tim and his crew have marked out the safest area for us to shred using orange flags. If we go beyond the orange flags, we are heading into avalanche terrain. There are always a couple of guys that go beyond the flags. They end up hiking through waist deep powder for one kilometre back to base, it basically ends their day, Tim says.

The two million dollar chopper fits six passengers at a time. Everyone is eager to pile into the chopper, but Mike gives us the hot tip, “There’s no rush to hitting the runs first. It’s been a few days since it’s snowed, so it’s best to wait till the sun softens the snow.” After we hear this, my group sits back eagerly taking in the early morning sunshine.

The chopper arrives. It is our turn to jump in. Our snowboards are strapped together and we are all crouched low on the gravel so we are not blown over. I am one of the smaller passengers and I get to sit in the front next to our pilot. “If you’re over 80 kilograms you have to sit in the back seat.” Tim says. This leaves me in the perfect position take a better look at our cute pilot; I mean to take in the glorious views as we climb up the mountain range.

We weave our way through the valleys and gullies. Within a few minutes, we are hovering over the ridgeline of the mountain and below us is a beautiful view of Lake Wakatipu. Everywhere I look there is virgin powder.

We stumble out of the heli. We are grinning from the inside out, ear-to-ear. We crouch low and watch as the heli takes off again.

The first ride down is about getting to know the mountain. I really get to feel Dick beneath me and I am floating on its powder. I learn just how many epic powder turns I can carve and I try to make the run last as long as possible using all the terrain.

On the second run down, I am quick to learn that shovels aren’t only for safety. We start building jumps on a cliff. There is nothing but a three-metre drop and soft glorious powder on the landing. We start building small kickers at three foot and increase them to six foot. “I’m going to try a back flip next,” one of the boys calls out.

This is where the progression session begins because we have such a forgiving landing. If the soft landing gets destroyed, as ours did, you can build another jump a metre away – no drama. We are free to climb up as many times as we like, trying different tricks or just landing in the pow. “Ahhh,” one of the ladies yells as she lands in a puff of powder. If you get tired of hiking up, no worries – ride to the bottom and a helicopter will be there to take you back to the top.

Just when I didn’t think the day could get any better – the alpine guides serve us a first class lunch. We indulge in soup, sandwiches and even chocolate brownies.

We are re-fuelled, both myself and the helicopter. So it’s back up the mountain for a few more runs to freedom.

By three o’clock in the afternoon Mount Dick has been shredded, ripped and carved. Although it did take some time and there were more than a few of us involved.

My mission for the day is complete so we start to pile in the chopper, me and my well-earned bragging rights that is. I am ready for a beer and there is one waiting for me on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.

Images by Tamie Wexler

 Heli Info

  • The heli season usually begins in July and finishes at the end of September in New Zealand. Shredding days depend entirely on Mother Nature so it is good to schedule a few days of possible heli, in case there is only one good flying day.
  • You can usually wrangle a deal with a heli company, but the experience is priceless. Alpine Heliski offers deals from $250. My trip was booked through Mint Tours.
  • You don’t need to be an amazing snowboarder or skier to experience heli. Sarah had a great heli day and she was only just learning to link her turns on a snowboard.
  • It’s a good idea to take a shovel with you, if not for safety at least for building kickers.
  • Make sure you hold onto everything when the chopper is landing, especially when you’re sitting at the top of the mountain. I watched one girl chase her new snowboard down the mountain because she wasn’t paying attention. Her lesson was well learnt.

Alas, poor New Zealand.

Earlier this year New Zealand got shat on by Mother Nature.

In 2011, Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island was struck with a deadly earthquake. It killed over 100 people, destroyed the city and left many violent aftershocks to come.

Then there was the ash cloud that floated across the seas from South America. It caused chaos for those traveling to and from New Zealand.

Like she hadn’t done enough yet! The waiting game was on throughout June and finally she spat a little snow in early July.

Still in shambles, she puked it all at once. Leaving the snow resorts with no choice, but to close the mountains due to avalanche danger.

Like many other Aussies and those working in the tourism industry I was getting a little worried about my planned trip to Queenstown.

Luckily she came good. It’s September and the season is peaking. Tourism in New Zealand is as pure as ever.

Niseko, the magnet pulling Aussies to Japan

This place has the reputation for being the powder capital of the world. It’s no wonder, with snowfalls puking up to 14 metres a season. Off-piste, backcountry, halfpipes, night riding, terrain parks, cat skiing – your choice is endless at Niseko. There is a damn good reason why it is by far the most visited snow resort in Japan by Aussies. Lift tickets are around 40 Aussie dollars. The food is fresh, cheap and delicious. The powder is not knee, but chest-deep and the Japanese people are genuinely happy to have you visit. Niseko will make any powder lover smile.

Now that you know this, do I still need to explain to you why I spent three weeks on holiday here with an ex-boyfriend?  Yup ex at the time. Ok, it definitely was not how, at 22 years old, I had planned to have my picture-perfect winter escape.  But, I had paid for my holiday several months earlier, when me and my ex were still sleeping in the same bed and we had already split the costs, 50-50. The nasty break up (I still cringe) came four-months later. The flights and accommodation were already booked on my credit card so I was certainly not pulling out. Would you?

You’re probably thinking I’m stubborn, dumb and young, right? Most people thought I was crazy! “You can still pull out,” my older sister said. “Are you sure you don’t want to spend Christmas with us?” another friend asked. But like many Aussies, I was magnetised to this place and there was absolutely nothing that was going to stop me and my new Gnu B-Street board from riding this mecca in Japan.

After dragging 20kg of gear up stairwells in airports and train stations from Melbourne, to the Gold Coast, Osaka, Kobe and Sapporro. I finally got there.

First things first, I set my bindings back and ditched the ex.  Then I headed to the Central Hirafu Quad Lift for a taste of night riding. In the beginning I played it safe on the groomed runs, but within minutes I had found the powder pockets on the edges of the runs. Never had I boarded on Japanese powder before, only hard-pack in Australia and now I know that there is an incredible difference.

It was not long before I discovered the tree runs, ducking ropes, hot drinks from vending machines, grape soda, jumping off cliffs and landing under piles of snow. Where was my snorkel that day? Then I discovered the challenge of digging my way out of chest-deep powder. All in a days work at Niseko.

Park tips

Most people who visit Niseko are freestyle riders who love dry snow. However, if you want to give your back leg a break, head to the terrain parks to take on some kickers.

Ok I’ll admit, for a beginner it’s a little intimidating. Niseko locals are pulling off 540s, front flips and tricks you would not even know the name of, let alone even try. They are smooth and stylish in everything they do on the slopes. So how do they do it?

Here’s a few basic tips I learnt  to get some gnarly air:

  • First, keep low and head toward the jump. Never forget, as an experienced instructor told me, “Hitting a jump a little too fast is better than a little too slow,” thanks Baz.
  • To get a comfortable speed and balance make a couple speed checks before you approach the jump.
  • Keep your board flat on the snow when you approach the jump and always aim to lift you knees to your chest.
  • Mental note: Relax, breathe and no negative thoughts.
  • When you land, keep your knees bent and this will take the impact off the jump; don’t try to stop as soon as you land. You’ll be sure to catch an edge and fall on your bum, or worse, your face.
  • Instead, slow down gradually. Once your stable you can begin your snow dance with a big snow smile.

Biting the dust, a.k.a. eating snow – we all do it.

When you bail on a jump, tuck in and go with the momentum, not against it. Call me a novice, but I purchased padded protective shorts. They keep my coccyx cosy and my bottom protected. You can purchase them for under 50 Aussie dollars at most of the local retail stores in Niseko.

If you’re not yet ready to enter the parks, perhaps start on the smaller jumps. Annapuri, the neighbouring mountain to Hirafu, is well-known for natural kickers on the sides of the intermediate runs. Annapuri is a 30-minute bus ride from the centre of Hirafu Village. You can also catch the lifts across, but make sure you take a map with you as it can get a little confusing.

When you’re ready for a bigger thrill, head on over to the terrain parks. If you want some professional help, most ski schools in Niseko like NISS and NBS offer group or private lessons in park riding.

Other than boarding, here’s my top 5 to try around Niseko:

  1. The Onsen. Hot springs in Japan are called Onsen. They are never far away in the Japanese mountains.
  2. Sick shots – no, not alcohol, I mean photos. After a bucket load of snow has fallen, take a photographer out on a sunny morning for some professional shots in the deep, deep powder. Check out Hotshots, located next to Niseko Base Snowsports. Or DIY with a friend, but remember to position the camera so it actually photographs your buddy in action. You won’t be that popular if you cover the lens with your glove.
  3. Places to shred: Strawberry Fields, Anapurri bowls. Need I say more? You’ll know when you get there.
  4.  Eat – Apart from all the amazing Japanese cuisine, head over to Hanazono Café to try their cheesy pizza and for an after-shredding snack, don’t go past the chocolate and almond toasted muesli from J-Sekka Deli in Hirafu. Tempting? This stuff should have a warning on it – it’s almost as addictive as the snow.
  5. A night in?  Don’t be ridiculous! Stay up late and party with the locals and staff. Head out to Smash Bar, Blo Blo or Tamichis, just to name a few. There is nothing better than having a drink with people who share the same addiction as you. Kampai! That means cheers in Japanese.

What not to try – Going on holiday with an ex.

The perfect balcony in Japan

Tried and tested – sandboarding

One of the things I love about board sports is that it gives you the chance to explore new places. So when a Kiwi friend asked me if I wanted to join him on Kangaroo Island, a little island off the peninsula of South Australia to go surfing and sandboarding for a weekend, of course I would find the cheapest way to get to there.

It just so happened that at the time of travel Qantas was on strike and Tiger was grounded meaning ridiculous flight prices. So the cheapest way for me to get to South Australia from Melbourne was by bus. With a freshly pressed student card I managed to get South Australia, return, for under $45. I’ve learnt that the key to a good trip on the bus is to be carefree. So I packed a good book, a neck pillow and some noise blocking head phones.

Personally, I think if you’re going to go to Kangaroo Island you should catch the ferry over and enjoy a coffee on the way rather than fly. (Although make sure the lid is on tight with all that rocking. For those who also might want to visit KI, the coast from Adelaide to Kingscote is just divine and the ferry ride makes the trip all the more exciting (give or take a few waves that occasionally make your stomach churn.)

On arrival I was frothing for a surf, but unfortunately I was on an island where the wind was wild, in all the wrong ways. Instead we headed to the Little Sahara’s sand dunes to give sandboarding a try.


We rented boards from a little gas station alongside the high way. I walked into the shop and was greeted by an older fellow with a white beard and a wife beater. After meeting this guy and trying sandboarding I was just about convinced that he was a stoner who invented sandboarding because he thought it would be a good tactic to rip off tourists and have extra money for grog. Apparently I was wrong and ancient Egyptions actually developed the sand sport.

In the shop there were a couple different boards to choose from. We grabbed one big and one small board. I handed the cash over to the old fella and he handed over some wax (which was more like a tea candle) and we headed 5km up the road to the sand dunes.

We arrived to the dunes with no one else around, just a few birds chirping in the trees. I changed into some shorts, took off my shoes, put on my sunnies (a must for safety) and grabbed my little board.

We headed to the peak of the sand hill, but quickly realised it wasn’t steep enough because the boards hardly slid. You really had to lean back in order for the board to slide and give it a good wax. How did these kids do it on You Tube? After a solid hour I was covered in sand (it began to rain) and I was disappointed of my failure to sandboard.

I was about to give up when we saw a steeper hill where there were numerous trees. (I had a flash of boarding through the trees in Niseko.) Finally it worked and I boarded about 20 meters. A small achievement. I had been hoping for an opportunity to make sand kickers, but the amount of speed you picked up when you were actually sandboarding was barely enough to make it down the hill, let alone to do a jump or try a trick. Sorry no happy ending here.

I don’t mean to sound so down on sandboarding. It wasn’t a complete fail, the sand dunes are peaceful, beautiful and it’s an effing good work out hiking back up the hill. If anything it’s made me realise that I’ve been spoilt in the western world with snowboarding.

Now back to the surf beaches, if you do decide to go for a surf on the island, make sure you bring your own board and a wettie, there isn’t a place to hire them on the island. Ah rookie mistake.

For details where to surf in KI check out this PDF