In Search of Powder: Miles Clark heads to Japan


Most skiers will travel for powder, crossing state or country borders to find a great day on the mountain. Helly Hansen ambassador Miles Clark has found a fool proof recipe for powder but it requires traveling across the ocean, here is his account of finding an amazing powder day so far this winter:

With Lake Tahoe, California experiencing a record dry season this year, I completely freaked out and bought a plane ticket to Japan the week before Christmas while riding the chairlift at Squaw Valley in grim conditions. I had just read a National Weather Service long range forecast discussion that read "NO END IN SIGHT TO THE DRY PATTERN." This deeply frightened me and got me on a plane to Tokyo on December 27th, 2013.

After 42 hours of travel (delayed flight, missed bus, night spend in Tokyo airport, train, bullet train, bus, taxi) I arrived in Hakuba, Japan and it was already snowing. My first day was nice and mellow with about a foot or two of fresh snow and a bit of a crust underneath. Then, the classic northwestern Japanese wind blew in a fierce storm that dropped a meter of snow in under 24 hours.

The next day, January 2nd, was a special day with deep snow, good friends, and more snow than you can shake a stick at. I'd originally planned on heading to Japan in mid-January and had I stuck with this plan, I'd have missed this incredible day. Maybe sometimes it's ok to be ridiculous and reactionary?

So far, we've been blessed with great snow and great terrain in Japan. Avalanche fences, open faces, tight trees, monkey sightings, and preposterous amounts of snow have made my first 3 days in Japan memorable. I've got 6 more weeks here and I can't do anything but smile about that.

Tahoe is forecasted to continue it's warm and dry ways. Japan is forecasted to continue it's deep & wet ways. Our favorite ski resort here, Happo-One, already has a 280cm (110 inch) base and that will only increase during the coming month. It's extremely not uncommon for Hakuba, Japan to see 300 inches in the month of Japan. Here's to hoping this January is extremely not uncommon.

We have a secret, spiny spot here in Japan that is our go to on stable sunny days. It's what we dream about during the endless, plastering snow storms here. Not that we're complaining about all the snowfall, it's just that you don't get many sunny, stable, powder days in January and February in Japan. When you do, you have to take full advantage.

We got just such a cycle the first week of January this year and it was spectacular. We had one half day of sun, then a little storm, and one full day of sunshine. Our secret zone is full of spines, noses, trees, steeps, and all the lines are long. It's hard not to scream and whoop the whole way down. The skiing here is unreal.

Every year I come back here to Japan, I'm one step closer to simply moving here for the winter. My good friend here told me: "If you're not in Japan in January, you're not doing it right." I don't think he's wrong.

Stay tuned for more updates from Miles and the endless powder of Japan.

Photo Credit: Zach Paley