Sandra Hillen's 2016 Trip to Japan

Sandra Hillen has been a long time friend of Airblaster. She spends her winters ripping around the world and her summers slashing away up at High Cascade. She recently trekked across the Pacific to pillage powder in Japan and was gracious enough to fill us in on her trip. So give her write up a read and try not to get too jealous along the way, even though we did.


As another season closes out I can’t help but look back and think about the amazing memories I had over this past winter.  This year was highlighted with a long overdue trip to the land of the rising sun.  It was decided then, with my long time snowboarding buddy Lisa Lemay as well as good friend and amazing photographer Brandon Huttenlocher that we would jet across the pacific.  There awaited us Kanasan Teuri and Yuikisan Kato, close friends who I had snowboarded with for years at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. The time had come to begin the adventure and dive into the culture.   




After a long and exhausting journey we decided to start our trip off right and meet some of the locals.    




In case you are wondering the rumors are true, its called Japow for a reason.  I honestly don’t know how to explain  the sheer  amount of snow that could accumulate so quickly.  People had to walk around with umbrellas and every parked car was buried.  The cars that were functional looked like cupcakes with giant mounds of snow frosting.   



This particular snowy day was complemented by an empty resort. We had free range to explore with fresh turns every run. 




Blue bird days are precious and few, and with the overwhelming majesty of the Japanese Alps this day was nothing short of breathtaking.  We didn’t know what we were going to find but as we headed to the top of Happo 1 and we saw some amazing lines just beyond the boundaries.  We grabbed our avalanche gear and headed to the top.



Not wanting to leave, we had to say sayonara to Hakuba and headed north on the train toward Inawashiro.  We met up with our  friends from Japan who took us to some quaint mom-n-pop resorts and recruited a guide to show us all the ins and outs of the mountain. Despite their smaller stature, the snow and scenery did not disappoint. It felt like we were on a different planet with snow boulders and craters dotting the surface of vast fields. There wasn’t a tourist to be found in this quiet village populated only by locals. Snacking on freshly grilled yakitori and sweet potatoes after a long day building up an appetite, we found the quiet side of Japan that we were looking for and that is rarely seen by outsiders. 



No trip to Japan is complete without at least a few days in Tokyo. I have never experienced such juxtaposed culture as temples were interspersed with large buildings and neon robot shows. If for some reason visiting Japan wasn’t on your bucket list, get that thing out and make some changes. The weirdness, the delicious cuisine, the inexplicable snow and not to mention the heated toilet seats definitely left me wanting more. There aren’t many places I want to see twice, but I will definitely be returning to Japan.