Ichinose 2018

On slope
On slope
On slope

The  annual family snow trips have been a popular event for  us for a while – it’s not too much of a drive (~4.5 hours / 320Km), to Nagano Prefecture’s Shiga Kogen area, and even better, the last 15Km requires [rubber] chains or snow tyres, and as we have the former, I do get to enjoy driving in the mountains.

some trees
some trees

We usually like to try different places to stay for a bit of variety, but this year we stayed at the same place for two weekends in the ‘village’ of Ichinose,  thanks to getting a deal staying at the Hotel Japan for a few days via Expedia.

bit of snow
bit of snow

Disconcertingly, this hotel we chose had a fire a couple of years ago in the main wing apparently, though from what we saw, it all looked like business as usual aside from lots of reminders not to smoke…   I don’t know why, but does the name ‘Hotel Japan’ seem a bit generic?  That said, breakfast was decent, it’s above an excellent Nepalese restaurant, and the onsen is nice and clean.

Car parks and snow
Car parks and snow

Anyway, for families, Ichinose is very decent – a cluster of hotels, some bars and restaurants, and access to much of the Shiga Kogen ski resort area, and even over to Kusatsu if you drive just a little bit more. We spent time around the Diamond area nearby – it’s not awesome powder or insane double diamonds, but it’s a nice family paced warm up area, then we drove the 5Km around to Okushiga, as they have a good ski school for the kids, and a good mix of steep,  S bend oriented forest runs for variety, and on a good day, some nice powder – it’s also just a bit of a slide over to the Yakebitaiyama courses.


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Review: The Fourth Phase

The Fourth Phase is the third snowboard focused film / travelogue from Brain Farm, mainly featuring the ideas and riding of Travis Rice and  friends.

The very short version:  It’s a well shot video of snowboarding and life following the water cycle across the north Pacific with some wit and wisdom from Travis Rice and friends thrown in. I enjoyed it the first time around on my home BD / TV, and I even enjoyed it second time around on my phone during my commute into Tokyo.  It’s re-watchable.

The Nighter

Still reading? Thanks, here’s the slightly longer version.

This video came five years after the excellent Art of Flight (2011), and almost nine since That’s it, That’s all (2008). I recommend both of those previous ones by the way.

It notionally follows the cycle of water around the north Pacific, meaning it starts in Wyoming (as ever with a Travis Rice part), then scoots via Travis’ catamaran across the Pacific to Japan, then to Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands in Russia, before heading back to Alaska.  The Fourth Phase of the title alludes to some wonderful property water possesses beyond solid, liquid and gaseous phases, derived from the book by Gerald H. Pollack.

That’s the metaphysical bit behind the title, but what about the film itself?

Compared to Art of Flight, there are fewer of the epic slow-motion and dolly shots, and more point-of-view and drone footage. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, making it feel more personal. As for the other personnel, there are a few guests per region, but it’s anchored around Travis Rice and Mark Landvik. They’re both personable on screen, whereas some of the other riders look overly self conscious. Landvik always comes across well I think, so a good choice there, especially as things develop, but there needed to be more of them together.

Fire Festival
Fire Festival

The time in Japan I especially liked. I’m biased I know as I live and snowboard here, but those scenes more completely captured what it’s about – great tree runs, hikes out, the very surreal feel in the countryside during the epic amounts of powder snow and deluges of water the islands get, and the people who live in the mountain regions. The standouts were the fire festival footage, and the eerie illuminated night tree-runs, so well done to the team for the location work and cinematography.

Music is always a key part of snowboarding videos, and this one moves from classical to rock to synth pop, and it broadly works, though some bits don’t seem to work as well as others. The orchestral sections in Russia are excellent for example, but some of the synth-pop for the Japan sections seemed a little disconnected to the visuals. Much of the soundtrack was done by musician Kishi Bashi.

The Russian section is interesting even if there isn’t so much riding, just through the geography of the place, yet there are snowboarders there, even if the set-piece of the crew giving some local kids a board feels a little clumsy, a bit more explaining what the local boarder community is up to would have been more useful than the surf scene, which whilst fun, didn’t really add as much as more with the local kids would have.

There is of course plenty of big mountain riding, hikes, great heli-drops and at least a few nice ramps.  There’s also the hospital section which is now either a requirement or a tradition at this point.

One minor disappointment with the BD version I have are the extras – not as many fun outtakes as previous discs, and even the behind the scenes sections seemed a little forced.

If you see reviews, reception was mixed – maybe they wanted Art of Flight 2  which is a little unlikely as this wasn’t directed by Curt Morgan, it was from Jon Klaczkiewicz,  and as I understand it, there was an Art of Flight series which should’ve covered that?

I think there’s a few things going on here.

Firstly, as this is built around Travis Rice, he’s getting older, and whilst he brought other younger riders in, this is more about his thought process, and what he’s into, which was doing runs he hadn’t done before. Yes, his first world philosophizing about being a seeker is a little cringe inducing, but you can tell he believes it and to his credit, is getting out there and doing it.

Also, given all the snowboard videos available online these days, it’s difficult to know if the sponsors would go for yet another flurry of epic jumps in Alaska by itself, or whether Red Bull, GoPro, Skullcandy and all the other very obvious sponsors would want to do that, given they’re already saturating those markets online.

On the ‘missed opportunities’ side, I actually wanted to see a bit more of Travis Rice on the catamaran, beyond the philosophizing, actually following this water cycle the premise hangs on.  I’m always keen to hear more from Brian Iguchi too, who just seems like a very calm chap to sit down with.

Ultimately it’s a great film to watch but it’s straddling two different genres – it’s not an hour and a half of shredding and epic jumps, but it’s not really a travelogue either since there really isn’t enough about what happens locally – even the Russian shutout wasn’t really explained for example.

If you want straight riding and tricks with the odd laugh, probably better to go back to That’s It, That’s All in this series.

 

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Kiroro Snow Trip 2014

As a country with a spine of mountains and volcanoes, Japan not only gets a lot of snow, it gets a lot of good snow, and has built some great snow resorts up around them, which is possibly another reason why the country has hosted the Winter Olympics a couple of times (1972 & 1998). It’s also the reason why one of the first things I did when I moved here was to take up snowboarding.

This year for our family snow trip, we went up to Kiroro in Hokkaido. As far as I know, Kiroro has not held an Olympic event, but represents another type of Japanese snow resort – the bubble resort. It was built during the height of Japan’s economic bubble in the 1980’s and has well appointed hotels and facilities, which are wearing a little bit, and the place has the feel of something a little over done, but still shows how Japan likes to do things. This is the first time we’ve been back in 6 years (2008, 2006, 2004).

There are two main hotels there with not much else around, as it was a purpose built resort. We stayed at the Mountain Hotel, which is closer to the main slopes, but a few minutes by free shuttle bus down the road is The Piano Hotel which has a large souvenir shopping area, and some more bars.

The are a good selection of courses, though there aren’t that many truly difficult runs, so it’s a relaxing venue, and it’s a resort which likes to leave a fair amount of powder around, especially on the edges of the pistes, which means you can play on the more groomed central areas, then branch off into powder and light trees.

By the time we went in early January, a small ramp of snow had formed at the edges of the pistes, meaning you could get some speed up and ramp into deep powder and between some trees. The powder was so light it was more like surfing at times, pushing down on that back leg and lifting the front up to stop from face planting or just plain stopping due to a lack of traction. Mine is an old 2000 Nitro board which doesn’t flex much, so by the end of a few powder intensive runs, that back leg was getting a little tired. Also, I will admit I had to paddle out a few times from waist deep powder when enthusiasm got the better of me. It was snowing so much that tracks were covered by your next run, and some people were struggling to keep going on the flatter areas.

The nighter course is pretty good too, well lit, and has a good covered 4 person lift up. Regarding the nighter, they have an ‘evening’ pass, and a ‘nighter’ pass – the former is about 1000 yen more and gets you an extra hour.

Thankfully, a day lift pass gets you the nighter included, which is nice, because I know some resorts which charge extra for that. I also didn’t see a ‘first run’ fee, which is another bolt-on extra some resorts started doing a while ago.

I also spent a day on my skis and really enjoyed it – likely because they have some gentler slopes for that, and skis are still not something I’m competent on, but I do enjoy them, and it means I can ski with my eldest, though she outpaces me nowadays. Wait till next year and we’re both on boards!

If you have a family, it’s good for the children’s ski school and activity centre which isn’t too expensive in comparison to some resorts, and they’ve gotten the kit rental for kids well integrated. As ever in Japan nowadays, the quality of the rental kit was excellent, the teachers were good and if you need it, a few spoke some English. There’s a large section of the area in front of the hotel dedicated to a family lift, a children’s play area and a sledging area, all of which is kept separate from the main ski areas.

The weekdays were very quiet which was great for us, and even at the weekend, it never got crowded. Also at the weekend, they had a DJ booth in the hotel snow centre, run by the local radio station, Air G FM in Hokkaido, who drive the music for the resort, take some requests and hold competitions, which actually added quite a bit of energy to the whole resort (snowboarding to old Wham songs was a bit odd).

The only downside to Kiroro is the cost, specifically of evening meals. The breakfast buffet is often included with the hotel price, and it had a decent selection. Lunch either on the mountain or in the hotel restaurant was also reasonable for a snow resort, such as ramen running from 980 – 1,300yen a bowl. However, you should be aware of the evening meal prices – they range from 4,200 – over 8,000yen per person – even a child’s meal in some restaurants cost over 2,000yen though we found one in the Piano hotel for 500yen but it was basically some soup and rice, and the adult meals were still over 4,200.

If you’re not on a package deal, be aware there aren’t any real supermarkets or restaurants outside of the hotels, so your only alternative is cup ramen and instant yakisoba from the snack shops in both hotels. We took this latter option as it was so much cheaper with 2 children, but also because it took us back to our roots on snow trips which we did things as cheaply as possible. There is a bus to Niseko which apparently takes an hour each way, but we didn’t explore that option.

The area doesn’t have the natural onsen spa baths some do, but the Mountain Hotel does have a ‘fake’ onsen, and a rotenburo, both of which were clean and well maintained. There’s something fantastic about spending the day on the mountain, washing off, then relaxing in pools of hot water for a while. Why more countries don’t have this, I have no idea. This was the first year I could take my son in too, and he loved it.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do another snow trip this year, but if this turns out to be the only one, I have to say I really enjoyed it. Kiroro is aging well, and whilst there are some pricing issues there, the place is a good place to spend a few days.

Rusutsu Snow Trip 2013

In January,  we took the family up to Rusutsu in Hokkaido for a bit of snowboarding and skiing. Yes, this post is a little late.

The resort feels very much like a bubble place, but essentially is a collection of hotels and a few chalets around three main mountain ski areas. We stayed in the Resort Hotel North, which is at the base of one of the ski areas. Is it really a bubble era hotel? Well, it has an animatronic talking tree, some animatronic bears (or dogs, perhaps), and a full double decker carousel in the foyer which you could ride for free every evening, so yes, it’s very much a bubble hotel, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you aren’t paying bubble fees.

We went for an all in package with breakfast and dinner, especially as the food at the in-house restaurants was good – believe me, we’ve stayed at places where the breakfasts were awful, and yes, I’m looking at you, Yamada Onsen in Niseko! As I’ve learned, with kids, having a buffet with a decent selection is vital to keep the complaints down.

Rentals weren’t too expensive, and the kit was very good, as is pretty much standard here nowadays, and the staff were fairly multi-lingual given the decent number of Chinese and Australian guests – also pretty much standard here nowadays.  The instructors were good too, and our eldest got some lessons in when she wasn’t skiing with me. For once I wasn’t renting ski boots, having picked up a cheap pair of Head ski boots in Jimbochou for Xmas last year, and it was nice to have a consistent setup for a whole trip.

Rusutsu’s got a good selection of courses too, and on clear weather days, some great views. I’m not sure whether I prefer it to Niseko, but it’s still got a decent selection of runs, and some hilarious tree routes. There’s a snow park, where I spent a morning. I’ve never been much into jumps and such, but I did actually have a good time in there, so next season I might invest a bit more time in the snow parks and see how it goes.

I also took my GoPro out, and got some great shots of the kids skiing, and us out on our snowboards. As I’m a much better boarder than skier, it was interesting to shift from trepidation on even easier intermediate slopes on skies, to double diamond slopes through the trees on my board, and just feeling challenged, rather than concerned I was going to break something.

I tried the camera both mounted to the board, and a headcam, and actually, I think it works as both, but obviously you get a lot of snow blowing up onto the camera on it’s board mount. One note though, unless you have the anti-fog inserts, you’ll want to regularly open the casing to lot the condensation dissipate after about 20mins.!

All in all, we had a great trip, and even the flights and travel went fairly smoothly, so no complaints there.

The Road To Shiga 2012

Last month, the family once more hit the road to go up to Shiga in Nagano Prefecture to get a few days skiing and snowboarding in.

Compared to last year, a few things on the technical side had changed – this time we were in a Toyota Ractis since our beloved Vitz was written off by someone who just didn’t seem to understand traffic lights. The Ractis is slightly bigger, so was a bit more comfortable for all the hours on the road, but because of that, we had to buy some new snow chains. I’m not completely sure, but I think Carmate, who make the Biathlon car chains we used last year, have changed their product mix a little, since the most easily available model in their lineup was the ‘Quick n Easy‘.

One other change was that our son had outgrown his 0-12 month baby seat, so was now in a 12month – 11 year combination seat which we were a little unfamiliar with as we’d only installed it a few days prior, but it worked out very well, and he seems to love it. It’s the Aprica ‘Euro Impact Junior 01‘, and no, I don’t know who comes up with the names for these things; the ‘euro’ part though I suspect comes from the fact that it supports ECE R44.04, a European originating safety standard that all child seats now have to, or want to support.

Armed with all this, we set off from Kanagawa-ken, managing to be on the roads early, with ETC set up, a route in the navi, the kids well occupied (or asleep), and the usual rampaging DJs on FM Yokohama, we were away.

We kept to a stop every 90 mins or so, mainly for toilet breaks and such, to let the kids get out, and for additional tea breaks for the drivers – I’m apparently lucky that my wife doesn’t mind driving, so she took on the first third of the journey. Of course, as you get further up to the mountains, you eventually get to the snow line, and all the ice and fun which comes with it. We actually had to stop a few kilometres earlier than we did last year to put the chains on, and true to form and the couple of practice goes I’d had, the chains went on no problems at all – in fact, I think they were easier than the Biathlons we had last year.  If you’ve never driven with chains, especially on real mountain roads with a decent amount of snow, it is a very fun experience, providing you keep the speed down. I should say that going up a mountain always feels safer than coming down.

The hotel we chose was right at the end of the road we were on so at least we knew we couldn’t miss it. We got the booking sorted out through Snow Japan, a bit like we did last year, but for reasons I’ll explain later, I don’t actually think that route is really worth it. The hotel was the Okushiga-Kougen hotel, and we got a decent price on a family sized room, with breakfast included, and I’d read the breakfast was pretty good. So, to do the hotel review first: it *is* a good hotel – the staff were relatively efficient, the wi-fi (only in the lobby area) worked as advertised and got a decent throughput, and the carpark is right in front and fairly well sheltered and maintained, so I had less snow digging to do each morning. The breakfast was very good for a Japanese ski hotel, a decent western and Japanese buffet, with good sausages, bacon and scrambled eggs which weren’t swimming for a change. The down side is that all other meals are horrifically expensive – the dinners start at 2,500 for a childs set meal, go to a basic adult meal for 4,500en, and top out at 12,500en for a deluxe course. These prices are out of our range. What we learned are that for lunches and dinner it’s much better for quality and cost to either pop around to the Prince Hotel Shiga West, or over the road to the Hotel Grand Phenix, which oddly is an expensive place to stay, but reasonable to eat. The Italian restaurant there does a fantastic rabbit dish.

All of the Okushiga hotels are at the bottom of the slope, but let’s get something out of the way – the area is skier only – no snowboards are allowed. We chose the place though because our eldest is learning to ski, and the ski school there is excellent, reasonably priced, and even will sell you digital copies of some on piste photos of the kids for a small amount. When we were there, there were no other students. The ‘no boarder’ attitude, combined with some of the pricing means it’s pretty quiet, and the average age of people there is over 60 as far as I could tell. We simply put the eldest in ski schools in the mornings, which she loved, and then drove to Yakibitaiyama around the corner, where our youngest could play in the creche, and we could get some boarding done. I should also point out Okushiga does have a creche, but only on Saturday and Sunday, which was a minor fact they didn’t mention when we called in advance to confirm facilities.

The Okushiga Kougen hotel then worked out very well once we sorted the food sourcing out, and the onsen was clean, and the TV, though an aging CRT with a digital converter literally bolted to it, did allow us to use the audio/visual cable for the iPod so my daughter could watch her shows, which is invaluable when you’re a little bit confined for space. The in-room bath was also a little bigger than many other hotels, though still technically a unit bath/toilet room.

A notable experience for me on the snow side of things that was the first time I got to ski with my daughter, going up on the chair lift together and coming down and I have to say I was very impressed, though I think she was irritated with the grip I had on her on the chair lift, given she was quite relaxed.

When not on the slopes, we could play with the kids safely at Okushiga, though the snow is so powdery, it was difficult to make a snowman.

Coming back was as simple as going, but again, going downhill always makes me think a little bit, and we passed one person coming up who was sliding all over who apparently thought that normal road tyres on an SUV would be enough – it’s not.

As usually, we sent all of our boards and skis via Takkyubin, which is always the simplest way to do it. Perhaps next year we’ll try a roof gear holder for them.

Booking via SnowJapan used to get some decent discounts, but now I really don’t know since the prices we were quoted on the phone with hotels was the same as via their site, so aside from driving some traffic I’m not sure where the value is any more (and the SnowJapan make-over with Silverlight hotel finder was perhaps ill advised).

In all then, a massively successful trip for the whole family, and we managed to make use of all the lessons we learned last year, and learned a few for next year, as we wont be able to make another this year due to a stream of other commitments. I also got a nice ‘yuki 雪’ sticker for my old Macbook.

 

Snow Trip Hakuba 2011

We just got back from our second and final 2011 snow trip with the family. I’m not going to go over the prep and such as I think I over adequately did that in the Shiga post. I only blog this one as it added a few different angles.

Instead of a hotel, we stayed in a self catered chalet for two nights, and quite nice it was too. The benefits of the chalet were space – two bedrooms and a living room diner on two levels, which meant everyone had a bit more space to breathe – useful for four of you. It also means you can eat out of step with the often rigorous schedules Japanese hotels allow for eating. The Alpine Chalets are run by the Panorama hotel and so you can send and receive takkyubin from there, and they’ll drive you and your gear to the chalet if need be. The chalet itself had a usual cooking range, microwave, kettle and fridge, as well as a washing machine, TV and even a decent internet link, which puts it ahead of even many hotels.

Those plastic chains
Those plastic chains

To get the food and drink for those snacks and meals, you can easily walk to the nearest konbini, or take on of the fairly frequent buses – the chalets are a few minutes from the slope and conveniences, but since we had the car we went down to the local ‘A Coop’ supermarket, which seemed to be enticing people to buy bacon in wholesale sizes, and who are we to decline an offer.

Hakuba is just full of places to eat as well though. For the two nights we were there, we went to TakoTaco, a Tex/Mex – Japanese restaurant which served big portions of takoyaki, and fantastic tacos and nachos, in a very relaxed environment. It was one of the few places where the background music was actually listenable, and fairly well rounded – you don’t hear Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” in many places. The food was great, and worth a walk into the town – from the chalet it was probably ten minutes, though we drove, and were surprised just how close it was.

takotaco
takotaco – call them

To finish the restaurant list, for the last night we went to Amazing Diner Avalanche. Checking it was open wasn’t as easy as it sounds – the phone number on the dining leaflet we’d been given was wrong, and believe me, searching for “Hakuba” and “Avalanche” will get you plenty of snow links before any restaurant; in the end we found another leaflet which had the correct phone number, but no location, and we already knew the location on the original leaflet was wrong. Like many places in snow resorts, if you do call them up, there’s a decent chance they’ll come and pick you up. By the way, even though it was a Friday night, we did call the Italian place and was told that it was closed on Fridays (at least someone answered).

So why be closed on a Friday night? Well, to be honest, the place was empty, pretty much. I’ve been to Hakuba a few times, and this was like a ghost town by comparison, with the obligatory groupings of Australians, and at least on Saturday morning a few more Japanese, but really, nothing compared to years past. I do kind of wonder where the Japanese are skiing nowadays if at all.

So is the last weekend of February now the end of the season? It used to be late March some years. There was plenty of snow though, not really that much artificial and though it was a bit wet, it was perfectly boardable.

Hakuba on a sunny day!
Hakuba on a sunny day!

Tips from the trip would definitely be to get a GPS Map location of your hotel/chalet. Unlike the Prince Hotels in Shiga, Hakuba has a lot of pensions and hotels in a fairly tight space, so if you’re hunting by address, post code or phone number, you’re not going to hit it with your average car navi. Most of the access pages definitely assume people are coming by mass transit, but really, is a Google Map link so much work?

Sun over Hakuba
Sun over Hakuba

Family road trip to Shiga Kogen

We just got back last week from our first snow trip of 2011. It also marked some other landmarks: at 644Km in 3 days, our longest trip as a family in a car, our first multiday trip with offspring #2, our first long run with the ETC, and of course, our first with the the (non metal) snowchains!

For background, we have an old Toyota Vitz (that’s a Yaris in a few other places), which is fine, but we knew we couldn’t get all the snowboards in the car, so we takkyubin’d them a few days before departure. Takkyubin is a wonderful thing – for 2 snowboards and our boots etc. as two bags, it cost 2,500yen all together, and even though I carried them a few hundred yards to the local Family Mart, they would have picked them up for not much more.

A rental car any bigger than the Vitz, for the time would’ve cost ~¥30,000, and then would cost more in fuel, so we decided to stick with the Vitz as a trial and spend that rental money on an ETC unit for it (~¥14,500 fitted at Autobacs) and some CarMate Biathlon Athlete ‘non-metal’ snowchains (~¥16,500 from 8&7 Wholesale @ Amazon).

The ETC unit would be a bit of a universal benefit – it’s the electronic toll road payment system unit so you don’t have to fiddle with change at toll booths, and gives you some discounts, so this was a nice to have anyway.

We got most of the car ready the night before, and followed some of the tips from flying – made sure the elder offspring had plenty of entertainment on the iPhone, a couple of books, toys, and drawing utensils for the stops. It’s also trips like this where buying that cheap car stereo which takes iPod/USB input pays off – we could have our whole music collection plus podcasts and audio books to listen to en route.

Trees n Snow
Trees n Snow in Shiga

Continue reading “Family road trip to Shiga Kogen”

Prepping the board

I know when the snow season – at least for me – is about to get underway, because it’s nigh on midnight, and I’m on the balcony, cleaning, tuning and generally preparing my snowboard. It’s a battered old Nitro Atlas 64, and I think the only reason it’s survived the 8 seasons I’ve put it through is because I do try to take care of it. Anyway, here’s to another great season, and next week end, when Jim’s Legendary 4-day Niseko Trip (TM) gets under way.

Chilly waxing

You can tell we’re about to go on a family snowboard trip, because it’s almost midnight the day before we have to takkyubin the boards, and I’m here on the balcony waxing the aforementioned boards, using the meager light from the living room, and a small torch to see what I’m doing. Fortunately they’re in good repair and only need a minor tune and clean.

wax time

I’m definitely looking forward to Kiroro this weekend, partly because it’s the first trip we’ve managed this season, but mainly as it’s our daughter’s first view of real snow. Hopefully it’ll be safe, yet entertaining!

Waxing the Board

I just got in from almost an hour and a half on the balcony tuning and waxing our snowboards so we can send them to Kiroro tonight, in time for next weekend’s three day trip.

Standing on a chilly balcony may not sound like fun, but it’s worth it, partly because maintaining the boards is important, but also because for some reason I quite like it; I think it’s fairly therapeutic – I get a bit of fresh air, listen to my iPod at loud volumes, and check up on my favourite hardware.

Waxing and ‘tuning’ a snowboard isn’t too difficult, although I suggest that doing it well takes a lot more effort and practice than I can contribute. There are lots of guides on the web though.

Today then I spent a lot of time on my board, and more specifically, my edge. The board is six years old now, and has become something of a war-horse. The edges are scratched and burred a little, and despite regular cleaning and drying after use, I’ve noticed little rust pits appearing in a few places. I decided then to break out a fairly small gauge file and get some of the pits out that the little red rubber-and-sand block wont. That took a while, but the edge gleams now, it looks brand new.

Whenever I wax my board, it’s like a trip down memory lane. I can remember where I got pretty much all the marks on it: the gouge I got three days after I bought it in New Zealand, piling down Temple Basin, only to snag a rock barely below the surface of the snow. Fortunately we filled it with plastic quite well and I haven’t had any more issues with it. There’s also the scrape along the top side, where an out of control beginner slashed across behind me and I lunged out of the way, only for her to rip my rear binding strap off, and leave a small hole in my trouser bottoms. It might not sound good, but had the timing been any closer, I think we’d have both ended up in hospital with broken limbs.

So the boards are now done, and I can double-check the binding angles, put them in their bags, and the great people at Seven Eleven will hopefully make sure they get to Yamato/KuroNeko and off to Hokkaido. Roll on Friday.