Adrenaline rush. Heart pumping. Naoki the pilot’s voice crackles in my ears, over the headphones: Watch out for the flurries when you get out, also when I take off! Great ride guys — Shiribetsu-Dake looks fabulous today! The attendant on the landing snowpad gives Naoki the thumbs up and away the bird goes!
I hear the whirring of the heli fade into the distance. And then quiet… A deathly silence! Except the mountain sounds like it’s booming with loud thumps! Ahh, it’s only my pumping heart in my ears! My nostrils hurt as I suck in the cold air. I look around — it’s panoramic. I see Mt Yotei and Hirafu in the near distance. I look down the north slope — that’s where we’re plunging today. Open powder lines, some cliff drops, birch trees to glide between — looks like it’s gonna be a mind-blowing ride! Mind-blowing!
I check my bindings. All good. Press my jacket pocket to ensure my avalanche beacon’s on. My shovel and probe are safely in my backpack. Eduardo, or Edu as he prefers to be called, gives the four of us final detailed instructions. We’re the first to be up today plus last night’s dump of snow had reset the terrain, so we’ll have loads of chances to be scoring those freshies! Edu’s from Argentina and has skied the Andes but says nothing compares to this! We’ll be going down some 30-40 degree pitches — vertical bliss!
Ready! Set! Let’s go man! The virgin powder is pristine — OMG, this is truly powder hound heaven! No tracks, an unwritten palette, I’m ready to carve my own patterns of adventure on the face of this mountain! Edu goes first — a figure that gets smaller as he moves down the slope, a jetstream of snow behind him! We follow each to his own destiny!
The snow’s beyond description, the pitch steeper than meets the eye, I plunge at top speed and carve a turn to slow myself… then plunge again. Thank heavens for the hours put in to train up those calves! Hurtling down the steep slope, in between the birches, sweeping snow sprays, air lifted over the mounds — it’s unbelievable! My breath comes in short spurts as I carve that deep powder snow, adrenaline flowing, my heart pumping. I hear the air blowing past me as we speed down the mountain, five figures like jetski riders with plumes of snow streaming behind each of us! Pause a while midway to catch our breath and the spectacular view especially up mountain, at the fresh curves we had carved. A wefie for Instagram — the guys back at college are going to chew their hearts out! Cool!
Later, we pour over our videos at dinner in Steak Rosso Rosso in the Middle Village, just several hundred meters down from The Maples, where we’re shacked up. Tsutsumi-san the owner has prepared our steaks to perfection. I’m starving — could eat a horse! The videos don’t do justice to the surroundings nor the heights we boarded down today. Edu’s video of us is a magnificent testament to an experience to die for! The freshies we’d carved were beautiful curves on the most pristine of snows! But they were proof we’d done it — yay! I believe Edu — this is indeed the BEST place with the BEST snow. So glad Mom and Pappy bought the unit at The Maples — you’ll see me here again for the next few years for sure!