Tele or Not, Skiing Japan Powder

By: Ross Matlock



I have a problem, I’m an addict and I admit it. It’s similar to heroin, but different. My addictive personality forces me to search for more, go deeper. I found it again while skiing in Japan this winter and my drug of choice is the deep light powder found on the northern most island, Hokkaido. 

There are 3 reasons I keep going back to Hokkaido to ski year after year. 

1 The powder skiing is fantastic! Most people assume that because Hokkaido is a small island the the snow quality is more on the moist side or more of a maritime snow pack. Not the case at all in fact Hokkaido's snow pack is classified as polar maritime. You get all the benefits of the constant moisture flow with super could storms that sweep down from Siberia. Those blue bird powder days are rare due to the fact that storm cycles are so frequent. If you spend a week in Hokkaido chances are you will connect with a storm cycle. 

2 Geographically placed on the 'ring of fire', Hokkaido is the hot springs capital of the world. Its not just the abundance of hot springs but the culture that surrounds the 'Onsen' experience. By law males and females are separated and the onsen experience is more of a spiritual one. Quiet, contemplative and soothing which allows for a fitting end to a deep day of powder skiing. 

3 The food in Japan is exceptional. They take real pride in their food, its presentation and attention to detail. Quite often you have no idea what your eating which adds to the mystique of the eating experience. From salted squid guts for breakfast to the finest sushi the sea of Japan provides, its truly is a culinary treat.

There are two reasons I continue to prefer telemark skiing in powder. The first are the options available to me. I can stand up and alpine or drop the knee and tele. The second are the face shots. My thought is that due to the amount of sensory devices available on our face eg your eyes, nose, ears and mouth, the face has the largest capacity to sense changing conditions. Being so close to the brain the sensory feedback is fast and direct. Music to the addicts ears, fast and direct. 

Recently I have noticed distinct differences between the two disciplines regarding how the skier and snow interact. And using face shots as the standard I have observed the following. 

1 The first and most obvious difference is dropping the knee just allows you to get deeper in the snow pack. As skiers, this could be the difference between getting the occasional face shot, to getting constant face shots. For the addict, the constant supply is always preferred. 

2 The telemark stance allows the front thigh to act as a snow shovel pushing more snow onto the chest and face. Aside from just getting into the snowpack a little deeper, the front thigh provides the ‘plow affect’ redirecting even more snow into the face. On those not so deep days, face shots are icing on the cake and while your wiping your goggles, your buddy is struggling to get his chest peppered. Getting the most out of marginal product is a great quality a true addict possesses. 

3 Technology has increased the fun factor 10 fold. Skis with tip rocker have eliminated the rear ski plunge created from tip pressure that develops by lifting the rear heel. The more active your binding, the stiffer your binding springs or bellows, the more tip pressure created on the tip of the trailing ski. The neutralizing effect that rocker gives allows us to stand over our feet, taking full advantage of skeletal alignment. No more loosing the rear ski in deep powder, or having to adjust our center of mass to compensate for rear ski plunge. The result; skiing longer and harder in deep snow and by combining 1 & 2, face shots are available all day. Like the addict, our attempt is to have the high last all day. 

Its simple really, the deeper the snow, the more I tele. If face shots are the gage of quality powder skiing, we can get more from less by dropping the knee in powder conditions. Value for money, now that’s an addict!

Filed under: Adventure Bucket List

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