Keith Stubbs has spent more than two decades in the snowboard industry, first as a rider, then a coach and instructor trainer for Snowboard Instruction New Zealand (SBINZ), a division of New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA). His connection with Japan goes back to 2007 when he was a writer for the World Snowboard Guide. Later, he was the editor and photographer for Snow-Search Japan, a book Outdoor Japan collaborated with and distributed in Japan. Keith has contributed to Outdoor Japan over the years with his in-depth knowledge of snow sports.
After coaching in Niseko and Furano for several seasons, Keith Stubbs was mainly based in Nozawa Onsen, running snowboard camps there and nearby resorts through his non-profit snowboard club, CAMP3. He had been looking for a place as a permanent base and he finally found a home in nearby Madarao. We caught up with Keith to find out about his plans in Madarao, now that he’s got a more established Japan base, and what’s next on his snowboard journey.
When was your first snow trip to Japan?
I first came to Japan in 2007 as a writer for World Snowboard Guide. A friend, Kenji Matsuzawa, whom I worked with previously at a snow sports school in New Zealand, had landed himself into a unique tourism role to increase international exposure to lesser-known ski resorts in Hokkaido. This resulted in a month-long trip exploring almost every resort in Hokkaido—other than Niseko. What a great intro to Japan! After that trip, the publisher of World Snowboard Guide realized the potential and sheer number of Japanese resorts, and the Snow-Search Japan guidebook plan was born.
Do you ever get tired of chasing winters?
Kind of. I did the full back-to-back winter thing from the early 2000s for about six years between New Zealand, the U.S., Canada and Europe. You do get a bit burned out spending nine to ten months a year on snow. Since I started coming to Japan, however, it’s only been two-to-three months at a time, so I get a good slice of spring and autumn too, and the NZ winters are pretty sunny generally.
What is CAMP3?
CAMP3 is a non-profit snowboard club that we started in 2018. The goal was to facilitate rider development camps for adult snowboarders from around the world, with top-quality coaching and a “people over profit” ethos. It’s become an amazing community.
Who is CAMP3 for?
Initially CAMP3 started out catering to instructors looking to develop their riding towards the next level of certification, particularly the big jump from Level 2 to Level 3. We soon realized that the demand for this type of snowboard camp went far beyond instructors. There are so many people out there who have done winter seasons in the past, or spent large chunks of their lives immersed in the snow, yet, for whatever reason, have had to move on from that phase in their life—or are still trying to balance aspects of the seasonal life. Maybe they started a family, or their career took them to the city, but they still yearn for time in the mountains to connect with other snowboarders.
CAMP3 has become a place for both super active riders and those who can only get away for a few weeks a year—but when they do, they still want to surround themselves with other advanced, like-minded riders.
Why a clubhouse in Japan?
Accommodation is the hardest part of running snowboard camps. Previously, we had to lock in accommodation so far in advance that we were just guessing at our demand that year. As a non-profit, we haven’t been in a position to take big gambles on block booking ten months ahead. Purchasing our own lodge (or “clubhouse” as we fondly call it) has allowed us to scale our camps and be more flexible with bookings and schedules.
Madarao is a super fun little resort with a forward-thinking approach. We like the gullies and natural features, the easy access to the side-country, the size of the village and the community there—it’s a great fit for our vibe and ethos. Most of all, we really like the location in relation to the shinkansen (bullet train) line and to other resorts like Nozawa and Myoko. Our two-week camps spend about half the time riding at other resorts in the area, exploring the different terrain offerings, and we really enjoy the flexibility to adapt our plans depending on the conditions.
Who is the CAMP3 team?
CAMP3 was created by Richie Johnston and myself. Richie and I have worked together for many years instructing, coaching and running courses for SBINZ, the education body that qualifies instructors in New Zealand. We’ve done film work together…the list goes on. He’s a “get s**t done” kinda guy and I have a “make s**t happen” approach. We compliment each other well.
We have a small committee made up of members and coaches, sitting behind the scenes to help us make the bigger decisions as well. We also have a top-quality coaching team. All our coaches have to be minimum SBINZ Level 3-certified with proven coaching experience just to get a foot in the door, and most of our team are trainers (i.e. they run instructor training programs and certifications). They each have a long list of qualifications and accolades, but their commitment and genuine desire to help others improve is what makes them great.
What camps can people join this season?
We have one-week 3*** camps, either focused toward all-mountain freeride or all-mountain freestyle, and catering to strong intermediate riders. If you’re looking for something a bit more challenging or longer, our two-week 4**** camps are very cool. They have a more focused theme such as “Steep and Deep” or “Versatility,” and are aimed at advanced riders looking for a supportive environment in which to push themselves. We also have some 5***** instructor training camps too.
If you’re keen on an adventure down to New Zealand, we have a wider range of camps such as a 4**** Banked Slalom and Performance Carving camp or a 4**** Spring Park and Pipe camp. There’s something for almost every type of intermediate and advanced snowboarder.
Do you partner with any snowboard companies?
Both Richie and I have been riding on the Jones Ambassador Program for a few years now. Their all-mountain boards are ideal for my kind of riding. They have bomb proof, fast bases and fun, playful shapes. I typically ride the Aviator and the Mind Expander as my daily drivers. We’ve purchased a bunch of Jones ex-demo boards for Clubhouse Madarao too, so people on our camps can test them out and try something new while on camp.
Can you share a bit about the Hawea Grove Project?
I always wanted to design and build an eco home. That dream became a reality in 2020 during the pandemic. I don’t have a building or design background by any means, but I’m good at researching and planning, and have a tendency to think big. So I spent a few years hatching a concept to work with building professionals who shared the same values as me: protecting the environment, using natural materials and minimizing waste. We spent about a year building a house out of natural materials such as hempcrete, thermally modified timber and rammed earth. We filmed a YouTube series about the whole journey too if readers want to check it out. It was an amazing experience and the timing couldn’t have been better with the pandemic restricting our travels.
To find out more about CAMP3 snowboard camps and the CAMP3 Clubhouse in Madarao, visit their website or give them a follow here. The Clubhouse is a 15-bedroom lodge just 100 meters from the chairlifts at Madarao Resort. All bedrooms are en-suite and range in size from two-person double rooms to four-person family rooms. The clubhouse has a tuning room, a yoga/stretching space, Japanese-style baths and a funky little whisky bar for evening tales of your best face shots of the day.