In January, Beyond the Boundaries Women’s Snowboard Camp crossed the Pacific in search of bottomless powder and never-ending ramen. The crew set their sights on Hokkaido, where snowstorms were rolling in consistently and January was set to be an all-time winter weather month (of course, this is the norm on The North Island–they don’t call it “Japanuary” for nothing!). The day after New Year’s, Christine Savage, Summer Fenton, and Mary Walsh pulled into Hirafu Village and unpacked their powder boards. It was already dumping in Niseko.
To say that Japan is a magical place would be an understatement. Consistent storms blanket The North Island in early winter, offering whipped cream cheese-style powder with plentiful refills. Even on nights that seem devoid of precipitation when you hit the lights, it’s standard to wake up to a few inches piled up on cars and plenty more settled into the rolling terrain of the mountains. Days spent lapping the gondola at Niseko’s Annupuri or the high speed quads of Rusutsu end in evenings making turns under the Hirafu lights and then dipping into town for soup curry. It’s a beautiful type of Groundhog Day.
This year, the Beyond the Boundaries crew offered two distinct trips designed for female snowboarders: the first, an 8-day snowboard tour based in Niseko on Japan’s North Island; and the second, a 9-day trip, beginning with snowboarding on Hokkaido, then followed by a weekend in Tokyo. Ashley Giangregorio joined for the second session and Madison Blackley and Kelsey Boyer joined up for a few days, too. The crews were treated to storm system after storm system, which provided plenty of opportunity to explore the terrain of the area mountains.
Niseko United is made up of four resorts, Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu, and Hanazono, all connected by a lift system at the top of the peak. On days that it’s not dumping, it’s easy to bounce between resorts and find seemingly unlimited powder stashes. Each of the four resorts has its own unique terrain personality, too. From the gullies of Annupuri to the legendary gates of Niseko Village, the trees of Hirafu, and the pillows and poppers of Hanazono, literally the most challenging thing about riding there is figuring out which resort to start the day at. During both weeks of BTBounds, the ladies crisscrossed Niseko United, rarely crossing tracks and emerging at the bottom covered in fresh snow, perma-grins plastered on their faces.
Just a short drive away from the hustle of Hirafu Village lies a resort loaded with the kind of tree runs usually reserved for daydreams, Rusutsu. Nestled in the southwest mountains of Hokkaido, Rusutsu is the largest resort on The North Island and if you have some local knowledge (like a friend like Ski Rusutsu), you can easily get fresh tracks up until the lifts close. The BTBounds ladies made sure to head to Rusutsu for multiple trips, ending each day by exploring the inside attractions at the resort (insane Hokkaido baked goods and a pretty epic photo booth, among other surprises) and partaking in local Jingisukan nomihodai (all-you-can-eat Japanese bbq).
By the end of the month, it was still snowing when the crew pulled out of Niseko, it’s an incredibly hard place to leave, though one thing is reassuring: next January is only a year away.