Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

January 8, 2012

Extreme Snowboarding

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 5:36 am

Furano, Hokkaido.

This morning the sun came out and there was no new snow, so I thought I would get out the camera and take some photos. I had been wanting to get some photos of the extreme snowboarders. Guys who lay right into their turns and are almost horizontal when they hook into their turns. I do not know what it is actually called. I just think it looks cool.

Extreme Carving
Laying it over

I did some research on that interwebby thingo and found out it is called Extreme Carving and consists of totally laid over in the snow with full body extension and linked heel and toe side turns. Extreme carvers aim to be smooth and fluid. I have been watching this guy ski all week and had wanted to get some photos of his turns, so today I finally did get some.

Extreme Carving
Extreme Carving – Turning almost horizontal

The backhand turns are just as good.

Extreme Carving
Backhand turn

Some other guys on ordinary snowboards were doing some nice turns as well. I think this dude is an instructor or something.

The Green Lantern

I overexposed most of these shots about a stop. That is to compensate for the brightness of the snow and to get some decent exposure on the snowboarders.

Close-up on the turn

And finally, from behind and going down the hill to get another perspective.

Extreme Carving
Going down

December 27, 2011

Ski Photography

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — admin @ 7:47 am

Furano Ski Resort 27/12/2011

Ohiroma Run
Telemark skiing on Ohiroma run

Furano Town
Looking down on Furano town from the top of the Kitanomine gondola

Snowboard Link Powder
Snowboarding the powder underneath the Link chair

Telemark Skiing
Elegant telemark skiing on the Technical run

Dai-san Telemark powder
Telemark powder skiing on the Technical run/course

Dai-san Telemark
Telemark powder skiing again

Dai-san Powder
Skiing the powder on the Technical Course

December 25, 2011

A White Christmas

Filed under: Japan,Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 9:31 am

Feliz Navidad.

I woke up this morning and did not realize that it was Christmas Day. I was wondering why everyone was going Merry xmas on Facebook, so I had a look at the date and it was the 25th. Doh! I had lost a day somewhere. But all was not lost. It was snowing outside and it was my first xmas in the snow. And it was snowing, so it was all good.

Snowing on xmas day

I got all dressed up and headed out to the gondola. First run down and there was fresh powder all over the place. There was even boot depth on the pistes. It was nice and light as well. The previous few days have been a bit wet and heavy. I headed over to the link lift and had a ski down that and it was glorious. There had been a few other people on it earlier but there was still some nice fresh snow.

Kitanomine xmas day

The Furano side had some great snow and I was able to snaggle some nice stuff. Then I went up the chair lift higher than the ropeway and found some really deep snow right along the side of the piste. Some of it was knee high. It was light and fluffy and I had a ball. I skied that run until midday, then had some lunch at the bottom of the ropeway and had a few more runs, and by then I was pretty much exhausted.

Furano Ski
Guy skiing down the road

When I got back to the hostel I took some photos of the receptionist’s dog. The dog’s name is Kai, which means “sea”.


All in all, it was a great xmas because I got a great present – a nice day skiing powder. That will do me. It has been the best day so far.

Bonsai tree
A bonsai looking tree

October 4, 2011

Getting to Hokkaido

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , , — admin @ 1:53 am

From Sydney to Hokkaido.

This is the part where I plan out my trip to Hokkaido. I may as well lay it all out for you so that you can understand the steps I go through when planning a trip. I have sussed out a flight from Sydney to Osaka via Jetstar. I could have gone with AirAsia and had a holiday in South-east Asia on the way there and back. But I would have skis with me and lugging skis around Indonesia does not seem like a fun idea at all. I may stop on the way back yet, and leave my skis in Japan.

Luckily I have been to Osaka a couple of times now so I am fairly confident about getting around. From the aiport in Osaka(Kansai International Airport), I will take the Nankai train line to Shin-Imamiya Station. This will cost about a thousand yen. When you get out of the station turn left and go down the road and you will see heaps of cheap hotels for around 1500-2000 Yen per night. The area is a bit run-down but it has a lot of character and grunge unlike most of Japan which is sparkling clean. I stayed at the Hotel Toyo last time and it was fine. Rooms are about 1500 Yen and you can get a Japanese or western style room. Japanese style is a futon on a tatami mat and I guess Western is a bed. doh! The Hotel Toyo is a couple of blocks down the road right near the Dobutsuenma Subway station, so it is super handy for getting around in Osaka.

When you are at the airport, I will drop my skis off at the Yamato counter and they will get delivered to my hostel in Furano. Yamato Express is a courier service which delivers baggage. They are awesome. Just drop them off and your gear will be at your hotel when you arrive. The service is called Takkyubin and is very efficient. They are open from 9am to 6pm at the airport. If you arrive later, then your hotel will fix up the Takkyubin service for you. Get the hotel to book your ferry while you are at it.

Now to get to Maizuru. I loaded up the Jorudan train finder website and found that there is a train going from Umeda/Osaka station to Kyoto, then I have to change to the Ayabe train to Higashi-Maizuru. That will take me about three hours so I could take it easy as I would have all day. Make sure you go to Higashi-Maizuru station which is the port and not Mishi-Maizuru which is the town. I could also spend a day in Kyoto if I wanted but I am not in the mood this time. The Shin Nihonkai ferry goes from Maizuru to Otaru in Hokkaido. It leaves at midnight each day and arrives in Otaru the next night at around 9pm. You can get a Second Class berth for 11,700 Yen.

So, the next night you will arrive in Otaru at the ferry terminal and you need a place to stay. I will stay at the Otarunai Backpackers. I will probably have to get a taxi there (~550 Yen) but if I did not have skis I could probably walk. As a side note, taxi drivers in Japan are incredibly honest and helpful. They will go out of their way to do their best to get you to where you want to go and will not rip you off. The hostel will cost about 3000Yen per night.

From the Otaru bus terminal I will get a bus to Sapporo. They should leave every half hour or so. Then from Sapporo bus terminal I will get the bus to Furano via the Chuo bus. et voila, I will be there, ready to ski for another season. Bring it on!

March 24, 2011

Skiing at Ashahidake

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:59 am

Asahidake, Hokkaido, Japan.

Today I was invited by the boss of the hostel where I am staying, Alpine Backpackers, to go with them on a staff day out to Asahidake for some powder skiing. We set off about 8am and arrived at Asahidake Ropeway a bit before 10am. So I am guessing that it takes about an hour and a half to get to Asahidake from Furano. The cable car or Ropeway as they are called in Japan, leaves every twenty minutes. I paid 2800 Yen for a four hour ticket. I reckon that is pretty good value.

Asahidake Volcano
Steam pouring out of vents in the side of the mountain

When we got up the top you could smell the sulphur in the air and up the mountain you could see steam pouring out of these vents in the mountain. I do not know how active the volcano is, but I was glad that it was letting off steam both literally and metaphorically.

Asahidake Skiing
You can see the tracks at the back where everyone was skiing

We went off down Skier’s left and it was wide open. Just a big expanse of fresh snow. It was a little bit heavy but it was still good to ski in and I was getting some pretty good turns in. I was just happy to be able to be able to ski this sort of fresh snow and not fall over every five minutes.

Yuki and Hiro
Yuki and Hiro

The crew from the Alpine were having a ball and I was enjoying myself as well. We had a lot of laughs and had a lot of fun. When we got further down, it started to flatten out a bit so we just skied down the cat tracks that led back to the bottom of the ropeway.

Cat Track
Cat track through the trees

There were quite a few back country skiers taking off up the hill further and traversing to some higher ground so that they could get some better and steeper lines.

Climbing Up
Some dudes climbing up higher

There was this wanted poster in the smoking room at the bottom of the ropeway. I was fascinated by it. I am not sure of the full story but I think it is some kind of criminal activity and they were offering rewards of five and three million Yen for these fugitives from justice.

Wanted Dead or Alive
Wanted Dead or Alive

There was still heaps of back country further out that could be skied by some extreme doods. There were mountains everywhere just covered in snow.

Asahidake Back Country
Asahidake Back Country

We skied from 10am until 2pm and then called it a day as we only had the four hour passes. On the trip back I saw two white foxes. I was stoked. One of them was out in the fields and he was really white. The other one was nearly a reddish colour and was in a backyard in the town of Biei. I also want to see a bear. They say there is one living in the ski resort at Furano. I hope he wakes up soon.

Hiro and Reflections

I liked these reflections in Hiro’s goggles. We are like the paparazzi pestering him.

I finally edited the video. Most of the footage was shot by Hiro.

Asahidake Powder Skiing

March 10, 2011

Ski Resorts of North Honshu

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , — admin @ 6:23 am

Tohoku Skiing


Accommodation: Hotels along Shinmachi street near train station. Moya Kogen YH.

Moya Kogen

From JR Aomori Station go to bus stop #3 or #9 and take the bus for Moya Hills or Villacity Moya. Get off at Moya-Kogen after about 37 minutes. The YH is 100 meters up the road. Moya Hills Ski Resort has 6 lifts and a half day pass is 2000 Yen.

Hakkoda Ropeway

There are 3 lifts, Hakkoda has an average snow depth of 200-300 cms, with a vertical of 650 meters. Hakkoda is 24 kms from Aomori Station via the Hakkoda-Towada Gold Line.

Iwate Prefecture

Accommodation: In Morioka there is a capsule hotel directly opposite the train station. There is also a relaxation cafe, Z~ , along the main street on the left side, 2F, about a kilometer from the station.

Appi Kogen

Appi Kogen has a vert of 828 meters, 18 lifts and an average snow depth from 100-200cms. You can get there from Morioka on the Hanawa train, taking 1 hour. There is a free shuttle bus from Appi Kogen station(West Exit, bus terminal 26). Appi Kogen Live Camera Link. Accommodation at Appi-kogen Kamui-no-mori Youth Hostel.


There is a free Shuttle bus between Panorama and Shimokura areas. Panorama has a vert of 460 meters and Shimokura has a vert of 550 meters.

Getou Kogen

Getou Kogen is west of Kitakami with 5 lifts and a vert of 430 meters. They share lift passes with Appi Kogen. From Kitakami there is a shuttle bus which leaves from bus bay 3 just outside of Kitakami station (~Y400 each way) and takes about 40 mins.

Akita Prefecture


Tazawako has 6 lifts and an average snow depth of 180-200cms. The train goes to Tazawako Station and the resort is about 25 minutes away. There is a Youth Hostel down by the lake(From JR Tazawako station, take a bus for Tazakawako for 15 minutes, and get off at Tazawako-Koen-iriguchi). Tazawako is west of Morioka.

japan rail map

March 8, 2011

Ski Resorts of Hokkaido

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , — admin @ 6:40 am

Hokkaido Skiing.


Nothing much needs to be said about Niseko. It is very well known. It receives massive dumps of snow but can get quite crowded. There are four main inter-connected resorts and there is accommodation to suit every budget. Get here from Sapporo airport via a shuttle bus, or train from Tokyo. The Shinkansen bullet train goes all the way to Hakodate as of February 2011, but there are plans to extend the line in the future. Go for day trips to Rusutsu if you like.


Smaller and gets less snow than Niseko. There are two sides to the resort – Furano Zone and Kitanomine. The trees are very tight here and you have to dodge the ski patrol to go off-piste. There are lots of places to stay for varying budgets. You can do day trips to Kamui Ski Links, Tommamu and Asahidake.

Otaru Area

Accommodation: The Otarunai Backpackers Hostel Morinoki. Dormy Inn Premium, across the road from Otaru station. Otaru Green Hotel ~3500 Yen.


Kiroro Ski Resort is 40 kilometers west of Sapporo and 30 minutes from Otaru JR Station. The average maximum snow depth is about 400 cms. There are 4 Quad Chairs, 4 double chairs and a Gondola. The highest point is 1180 meters and there is 610 meters of vertical to ski. There are two hotels at the resort.

Otaru Tenguyama

Tenguyama has an average snow depth of 150-170cms and has four lifts. To get there, take the number nine bus from Otaru station and get off at the last stop. There is the Otaru Villa Mountengu Youth Hostel which has beds for around 3500Yen. It is 2kms north of Otaru.

Asarigawa Onsen

Asarigawa has an average snow depth between 150-200cms. There are 6 lifts and it is 30 minutes by train from Sapporo.

Sapporo Area

Accommodation – Ino’s Place ~3000Yen. Marks Inn Sapporo ~2100Yen. DK Guest House Sapporo (long-term rates). Jimmyz Backbackers.

Sapporo Teine Ski Resort

Teine has about 14 lifts and around 450 meters of vertical. Average snow depth is 200 – 250 cms. It is made up of two areas, Highland and Olympia. To get there take JR train from Sapporo to Teine, then catch the bus. It takes about 45 minutes from Sapporo Station. JR sells a package includes fare and lift pass.

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort

Kokusai is a fairly small ski resort and you can get there via a subway to Makomanai station and a bus to the bottom of the ski hill. Some ticket specials include a lift pass. There are 5 lifts and average snow depth is 300-400 cms.

Hokkaido Travel

There is a 5 day pass from Japan Rail (JR) which is very good value. It is called the Seishun Juahachi Kippu. It is for 5 non-consecutive days travel on local JR trains. It costs 11,500 Yen. The Spring ticket is on sale from February 20 to March 31 and is valid for travel between March 1 to April 10. A day is from midnight to midnight.

February 22, 2011

Furano Piste Skiing

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:37 am

22nd February 2011

This morning was a sunny day and there was no new snow, so we decided to make a video today. Boris volunteered to be the camera man and eventually directed an epic that turned out to be bigger than Ben Hur in scope and length. We headed up the Kitanomine Gondola at the Furano Ski Resort(Hokkaido, Japan) a little after 9am and then skied down the Ladies’ Downhill course to the training run. We did that a couple of times and then headed over to the Furano side.

Me skiing at Furano

The Furano side was a little bit choppped up already so we went up the ropeway and then I headed back over to the Kitanomine side. It was not worth venturing off-piste because there was a crust on the old snow and it would have been hideous trying to do anything. Hopefully it will snow again in a couple of days.

The video of me above shows me walking up the hill to the ski-jo, going into the Tourist Information Centre to ask a staged question and then going up the gondola and skiing back down. It is really hard for me to watch myself in a video, it just seems really weird. I don’t like it much.

February 17, 2011

How To Ski Trees

Filed under: Skiing — admin @ 9:38 am

Why Ski Trees?

Typically the snow between the trees is a lot softer because it is out of the sun and wind and is not packed down as much as snow out in the open. Sometimes it is easier to see when you are skiing through the trees on whiteout days because the trees give contrast to the snow and you get better definition and you can see everything.

How to Ski Trees

These tips on how to ski trees come from Glen Plake.

1. Plan your route. Look down the tree line and have a general idea of where you want to go. Try and avoid small bushes.
2. Stand square and keep your head up.
3. Look Beyond the trees in front. See what is coming up and keep your eyes open to what is ahead.
4. Watch out for Dangers. Avalanches can happen in the trees. Watch out for stumps.
5. Ride with Someone. Have a buddy when you are skiing trees.

Glen Plake Tips on Skiing Trees

Things to Watch Out For

Branches that can spear you.
Tree wells often form around evergreens at the base and it can be difficult digging out of a tree well.
Make sure that you can do short turns before attempting tree skiing.
Do not go into trees late in the afternoon, because if you get lost, it may be hard to find you in the dark.

More tips on skiing trees

Do not look at the trees, but look at the space between the trees. Your body tends to follow where you are looking.
Make sure you have a buddy.
Start with nicely spaced trees and work your way up to tight trees later.

Ski Tips from Section 8

February 10, 2011

Furano Powder Skiing

Filed under: Skiing — Tags: , , , — admin @ 7:01 am

Hokkaido Powder Day.

Two days ago we had a great dump of snow at Furano Ski Resort in Central Hokkaido, Japan. There was more than 20 centimeters of fresh powder and everyone was very keen to get up the hill early in the morning. I went up the quad chair at 8:30am and after a warm up lap down the beginner’s slope, I headed up the double and was second down the Giant piste. The Merewether boys were still doing up bindings and stuff and I just flew past them and down the piste to some lovely fresh powder on a nice flat base without all those horrible bumps underneath.

Powder snow at the Giant Course and under the Link Chair

After that run I headed across to the Furano side and on the way filmed some guys bouncing down the fresh pow through the trees. At some spots it looked about waist deep. I had a few good runs to the left of the Furano Ropeway and then went up the double chair to the very top of the mountain and skied down the black run, which is on skier’s right from the top of the double.

I cannot remember what I did after that. Yesterday I had a shocking day. The first run down the Ladies Downhill run was quite good but after that I had a shocker. I could not seem to do anything right and was feeling very incompetent. 🙁 Today I had the day off to recuperate and get stuck into it again tomorrow. There is some more snow coming in a few days, so that should be good.

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