February 3, 2017
By Bruce Edgerly, BCA Global Sales & Marketing
Japan has epic powder (“Japow”) and incredibly mellow user-friendly terrain–except for the deep, v-shaped river valleys that can turn into horrendous terrain traps. I found this out the hard way earlier this week in the sidecountry terrain at Kagura Resort on Honshu, Japan’s main island. Fortunately, I caught myself before getting in too deep and slogged my way back uphill to safety.
It was storming so hard none of the upper lifts were running. So I skied down to the lower part of the mountain, alone, to check out the terrain park. On the way down, under the gondola lift line, there appeared to be a very tempting birch forest with perfectly spaced trees leading down into an adjacent valley. So, jonesing for some classic Japow turns, I pointed my skis in that direction.
Too bad I didn’t see this sign or the major warning posted in the gondolas–about the “Never Come Back” zone down in that valley.
After about 15 turns, I noticed the terrain was rolling over steeply and there was no sign of a cat road and any other egress out of there. It could have been very tempting to just go for it. But I had no skins, and no partner, to help bail me out if it got ugly.
Instead, I bootpacked in waist-deep snow for over an hour back up to the gondola lift line. I could hardly sleep that night thinking what would have happened if I’d gotten stuck overnight in that valley – or worse, 50 feet deep in avalanche debris.
The next day the weather was equally as inclement so I recruited my new Japanese friend, Shew, to go do some light hucking in the park. This time I stuck to the plan and skied right past that enticing “Never Come Back” zone. We had a blast tossing a few 360s, and eventually got in some nice touring when the weather cleared. Epic averted!
(Cheers to #unepicadventures, they happen to the best of us.)
Bruce Edgerly, center, and the Yuzawa mountain rescue team show off the new avalanche beacon training park at Kagura Ski Resort in Honshu, Japan. They spent a few hours practicing up on their new fleet of Tracker3 avalanche transceivers. Lots of JAPOW on the ground, so great deep burial practice! Click here to find a BCA beacon training park near you.
Fortunately, Edge got some bootpacking exercise at Arapahoe Basin, five days before his #sendandreturn adventures in Japan!