Blog

Blog

I distinctly remember arriving on Japan’s northern island. After a fast food stop, we headed from Sapporo to Niseko. Traveling into the mountains, the snow progressively fell in larger and larger tufts, making it hard to see the road already coated with white. With the help of our headlights, I saw both forest and field under a constant barrage of tremendous, fluffy flakes. Arriving in Niseko, I opened the van door and, quite literally, fell into a drift.

I had heard about Japow (Japan powder) for years. As a skier who has been to a fair share of mountains, I wasn’t expecting the snow to trump anything I had seen in Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, or Breckenridge. But, even at the base of Niseko’s Grand Hirafu, I could tell that this snow was different.

I was taken aback by just exactly how much accumulation there was. Nearby drifts were taller than buildings. Roadsigns were barely visible. I immediately regretted showing up with only a pair of casual canvas Sanuk sneakers. Despite my arrogant shoe choice, my first experience with Niseko and its famed snow was amazing.

Since that first visit, I have returned to Hokkaido several times to ski. Yet, my most recent trip north from Tokyo to Niseko wasn’t to pounce in the powder but to capture it with my camera for The New York Times. The travel assignment had been in the works for nearly a year and, with Japan’s ski season underway, I was glad to finally get to work on the piece.

I quickly learned that skiing on holiday and skiing for work are two vastly different experiences. Since I would be concentrating on making images, I only purchased a half-day lift pass to Niseko’s Annupuri area. I knew that I would need the rest of my assignment timeline to photograph other amazing things Niseko has on offer (i.e. food, libations, shopping, etc.).

In the end, I only took two meandering trips down the mountain. One decent took me from the peak of Annupuri to the base of Grand Hirafu. The second run crisscrossed the first, traversing the peak of Grand Hirafu towards the base of Annupuri. During my four hours on the slopes, I made nearly six hundred images of the terrain that makes Niseko one of the most beautiful places in the world to ski in deep, deep snow.