Wednesday, just past midnight. A text from photographer Angela Percival pops up on my phone: «Hi Pia! Heard you’re back on your skis, and that your knee is doing fine. What’s your plans the upcoming week? Can you/will you go to Japan for a shoot this Friday?»
That’s how my trip to Japan started, for the Winter ’16 – catalog shoot. Fellow Arc’teryx- athlete Greg Hill received the same text, and just a couple of days later we all met up at the Black Diamond Lodge in Niseko, Japan. In Whistler, where Angela lives, the rain just kept pouring, and the deadline for the catalog-pictures got closer. Just like that, we were all in Japan; two flying in from Canada, one from Norway.
They say this season is a crazy season, even for Japan. During our stay it snowed constantly, and just in five days we’re talking 1,5 meters of fresh snow. As Greg Hill puts it; this being his first trip to Japan, being on a photoshoot in Japan is really just a tease of what you can expect. Focusing on getting good pics means work more than play. But even so, our short stay in Japan is one for the books. We’ve all seen the pictures before: not just waist deep powder, but neck deep faceshots with snow (leaping) over your shoulders. And you learn to appreciate each and every turn. That moment of pure happiness that only the feeling of being one with the snow and the elements can give you.
We’ve explored the Niseko backcountry. Short hikes just from the road, cat- skiing in unknown territory, fighting first tracks and freezing in the resort, and on our last day we tried to get to the top of Mount Yotei, 1898 m. Greg Hill, being the experienced uphill- chaser, reached the top in total white-out. The rest of the team turned around just shortly before the top, not knowing how long of a hike was left, and with a need of just a couple more pictures and a bus to catch.On his solo-mission Greg was lost for a moment in the total white- out on his way down from the top, and was one big smile when he caught up with us half way down.
On the bus ride to Sapporo, where we stayed our last night before leaving the amazing country named Japan, we shared a well deserved Sapporo beer and memories from our short but intensive stay in Niseko. Angela, the photographer with a mission was happy; which means that our stay was a successful, spontaneous decision. Pictures of deep powder turns, funny japanese toilets, Gregs fear of karaoke and longings for just one last onsen (japanese spa) was topics on our way home.