Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 19 : Nov/Dec 2007  > Columns  >  Pera Pera Corner  >  Backcountry Snowboarding in Japan's Powder Heaven


Pera Pera Corner

By Pauline Kitamura

Backcountry Snowboarding in Japan's Powder Heaven


こういう時はどう言うの? 教えてポーリン先生!質問とリクエストはmost welcome。ドシドシ送って下さい!
Pera Pera = to speak fluently; to blab; to blabber; Blabber Blabber

Okay. I’ll admit it. Being Canadian, I was a bit of a “powder snob,” haughtily believing the best powder in the world was to be found in Canada. But after a few ski trips up to Hokkaido and northern Japan, I have to say I could be wrong. Some of the best can be found right here in Japan.

Backcountry Gear - The Basics

Snowboarding or skiing on fresh powder is heaven, as long as you’re well prepared. So before we head off to the backcountry (bakku kantoree バックカントリー) here’s a list of gear you’ll need. Many of the words will sound familiar, since they originally come from English but, to sound truly Japanese, attempt pronouncing them in Japanese.

snowboard - sunohbohdo
boots - bootsu (ブーツ)
goggles - goggu (ゴッグル)
helmet - herumetto (ヘルメット)
snowshoes - sunohshoozu (スノーシューズ)
backpack- bakkupakku (バックパック)
snowboard jacket & pants - sunohbohdo jakketto & pantsu (スノーボードジャケット & パンツ)

You also might want a pair of retractable ski or snowboard poles.  In Japanese they are not called “poru,” but rather referred to as suttokku (ストック).

Avalanche Essentials

While backcountry snowboarding is extremely rewarding, it also involves some risks, the biggest being nadare (雪崩) or avalanche. Listen carefully to the snow and weather reports before heading out and make sure you always carry the following avalanche essentials:

beacon / avalanche transceiver - beekon (ビーコン)
shovel - sukoppu (スコップ)
probe - purobu (プローブ)

A walkie-talkie, called a toransheebah (トランシーバー;) in Japanese, may also be useful, since you most likely won’t get cell phone reception out there.

Guided Tours & Renting Gear

When venturing into unfamiliar territory, signing up for a guided tour is highly recommended. You’ll also be able to rent gear you might need.

“Sunohshoozu to sutokku wo karitai desu.” (スノーシューズとストックを借りたいです)“I’d like to borrow a pair of snowshoes and poles.”

 “Beekon wo rentaru shitai desu.” (ビーコンをレンタルしたいです)“I would like to rent an avalanche beacon.”

Useful Phrases in the Backcountry

Here are several easy but useful phrases when powder boarding. If someone falls, check to see if they’re okay:

Daijoubu? (大丈夫?) Are you okay? You alright?
Kegawa? (怪我は?) Are you hurt?
Un, daijoubu (大丈夫)  Yes, I’m okay.
Daijoubu janai (大丈夫じゃない) I’m not okay.

If they’re “daijoubu,” then go ahead and say: Hadeni korondane! (派手に転んだね!) Great wipeout! Then, if you feel generous, you may want to offer some help: Tachi agareru? (立ち上がれる?) Can you get up? Can you stand up?
When asking for assistance, you can say: Tasukete! (助けて!) Help me! Or Chotto teo kashite kudasai (ちょっと手を貸してください) Please lend me a hand.

Backcountry Tips

Here are a few words of wisdom that may spare you some discomfort.

The longer the better. When riding on powder, longer boards will more easily uku (浮く; float) on top of the powder, while a shorter board will frustratingly shizumu (沈む;sink) into the deep snow.
Protect your digits. Wear a warm pair of innah gurobu (インナーグロブ;inner gloves) beneath your waterproof autah gurobu (アウターグロブ;outer gloves). Without the inners, your fingers can numb in seconds when exposed to the freezing cold while fiddling with your gear.
Fall not! If at all humanly possible, don’t fall because recovering from a tumble will cost you a lot of extra energy. Trying to stand up in powder is like doing push-ups where the floor keeps dropping out beneath you. If your recovery efforts seem futile, the best course of action is to give up. Detach the snowboard and trudge through the deep snow until you can find a slope to re-start your ride.


Backcountry Gear

ストック (suttoku) Poles
雪崩 (nadare) Avalanche
ビーコン (beekon) Beacon, avalanche transceiver
スコップ (sukoppu) Shovel
プローブ (purobu)  Probe, avalanche probe
トランシーバー (toransheebah) Walkie-talkie
スノーシューズとストックを借りたいです。(Sunohshoozu to sutokku wo karitai desu.) I’d like to borrow a pair of snowshoes and poles.
ビーコンをレンタルしたいです。Beekon wo rentaru shitai desu. I would like to rent an avalanche beacon.

Useful Backcountry Phrases

大丈夫? (Daijoubu?)  Are you okay? You alright?
怪我は? (Kegawa?) Are you hurt?
大丈夫 (Un, daijoubu)大丈夫じゃない (Daijoubu janai) Yes, I’m okay.I’m not okay.
派手に転んだね!(Hadeni korondane!) Great wipeout!Crash, tumble, fall
立ち上がれる?(Tachi agareru?) Can you get up? Can you stand up?
助けて! (Tasukete!)  Help me!
ちょっと手を貸してください (Chotto teo kashite kudasai) Please lend me a hand