#sendandreturn: Averting the Danger Zone in Kagura, Japan

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.

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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.

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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.)


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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. 


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Fortunately, Edge got some bootpacking exercise at Arapahoe Basin, five days before his #sendandreturn adventures in Japan!