Words, Photos and Video Stills by Geoff McDonald. Article originally found on MeatheadFilms.com

The idea had been floating around the Meathead Films offices for several years now.  How about bringing back travel segments to our movies to places outside the East?  Our earliest movies featured destinations like Utah and Whistler, but we knew that doing it now, it would have to be to someplace special.

What better spot than Japan?  Hokkaido…The North Island…The Far East.  And so it was decided (and plane reservations confirmed just 7 days prior to leaving) that we would travel to the other side of the world with East Coast homegrown’s: Dan Marion, LJ Strenio and Sean Decker.  What did we find 10,000 miles away?  Well, to be honest, terrain, trees, and snow very similar right here in New England.  Just imagine Stowe or Jay Peak covered in birch forests with annual snowfalls of about 800″.  Sound good?  It was…

Geoff carrying 200lbs. of gear (we weighed it). No wheels on any luggage. HUGE mistake

Marion lost in translation

forced our way into the taxi cab. did not take “no room for skis” for an answer!

So here’s the skinny on what went down in short form:

? Dan and Geoff drive to Boston on Feb. 16, arrive 1:00am

? Sleep at friends house for 3 hours, catch cab to Logan airport at 4am, flight leaves for Chicago, 6am

? layover in Chicago, 13 hour flight to Tokyo, meet up with LJ and Sean

? 2 hour flight to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island

? 45 minute train ride with all our gear to Sapporo

? smash our gear into a taxi cab after much confusion and make our way to first night in hotel after 30+ hours of travel

? Tatsuya Tayagaki, from Bravoski Magazine, miraculously shows up and we’re saved!  He’s our local guide and translator for the trip.  Plus he’s a sick skier to film with

? Grab rental van in morning and head out for first day of skiing

? It’s dumping outside, tends to do that a lot in Japan, everyone is pumped

? First day, we only get to ski for a few hours, is ridiculously rad and everyone is slaying and getting shots

? Takahiro Nakanishi is firing off the photos

Dan sessioning the right hand driving

Decker stomps a 180 of a cornice

If this was at Sugarloaf it would have had 100 tracks on it by 9am

LJ is not just a park skier. Seen here slaying a pillow line

large pillow. if only we had the time we could have built jumps up to all of these!

Marion and Decker, first day, stoked

That just happened…

slash a la Marion

Decker finds the goods!

Marion in pillow land

Brief break here to comment on the food in Japan which anyone who ever travels there has stories about.  Because we lived out of small hotel rooms for most of the trip, the local Seicomart (like a SevenEleven) was literally our bread and butter everyday.  Dan, Sean and LJ lived off sushi triangles for awhile before they got too sick of them and everyone experimented with various sweet breads, bean goop and of course we ate a ton of chocolate which was the most recognizable thing on the shelf.  I went to the grocery store to buy a tub of peanut butter which I was craving and found an aisle filled with what seemed to be PB in plastic containers and pictures of kids playing on them.  I couldn’t read the Japanese text.  I spent $6 on the biggest tub.  Well to sum it up, it was NOT peanut butter, and after I got back to the hotel to spread it on my bread I discovered it was miso soup concentrate, which tastes like hardened soy sauce.  Don’t be fooled if you go to Japan, it looks EXACTLY like peanut butter!

life on the road, in a van, with food

Geoff enjoys nothing better than a Pucca (pronounced puke-a)

John Strenio picks out his meal

What?! Marion finds his family’s crepe chain restaurant all the way in Japan!


? Snow got better and better everyday and we sessioned one region for the first 6 days of the trip

? Deep powder, pillows, cornices, tree bonks and we built a big ‘ol jump

? Met up with Wataru another local photographer for a few days who has the best laugh of anyone I’ve ever heard

? Filming and skiing was going too good to be true and the crew was banging out all the goals for the trip

? True to form, it WAS to good to be true and in typical East Coast fashion a significant thaw was projected on the weather horizon

? Trying not to panic, we quickly made use of our final cold day (on the backcountry jump)

? Celebrated our first week’s success in Sapporo with Kuro Kuro Sushi dinner (conveyor belt), karaoke and too many beverages

? Next day attempted to outrun the thaw by heading north into the heart of Hokkaido but to no avail, rain came, destroyed

? Made use of our rainy day building a tree jib in the mash potato snow

? Left the North country and headed back into Sapporo to say goodbye to Sean Decker who had to bounce a few days early

? Snow in the forecast we charged down to Niseko area with renewed energy!

? Got the hook up at the Hilton hotel which was amazing and finally got to chow down on some American style food

? Noticed the overabundance of Aussie’s in Niseko which creates a bit of a bro-town atmosphere

? Gawked at the out-of-bounds terrain at Niseko which looks incredible but is strictly off limits

? Sessioned some roadside attractions

? Got lucky on the last 2 days with about 40cm of snow and some sweet pow days to end the trip

LJ the gaper being left behind

Tatsuya and Taka represent

Uber zone

Day at the fish market in Sapporo

Marion skies a ridiculous 7

Nothing slashes as good as the K2 Hellbents. Decker demonstrates…

Dirt for the Gobi desert can get deposited on top of the snow during high winds

Night out in Sapporo! Karaoke with the locals later…

Kuro Kuro Sushi master

All in all a hell of an experience and one that should make a entertaining segment in our upcoming film.  Hopefully the images will bring some fresh flavor to the movie and open a new chapter for Meathead Films.  For those East Coasters that are worried about our loyalty to the region, have no fear, we’re back at home busy hiking the Whites, driving to New Jersey and gearing up for mogul season.  Do it up!

Huge thanks to Tatsuya for all his help in coordinating the trip and getting some of the best powder footage, the trip would not have been possible without him.  Thanks to Taka and Wataru for taking all the pics.  Thanks to the ski resorts for the tickets and to the Niseko Hilton for the incredible place to stay!  Thanks to my wife, Jen, for not leaving me after being on the road for a month and most of all thanks to Dan, LJ and Decker for slaying it!

LJ runs his own escort service in Niseko apparently

Introducing himself to the trees, LJ strenio – mute stall

I don’t know what this says but it’s sweet

Mt. Yotei from the top of Annapuri. Not to be too lovey dovey, but it was breathtaking

Kutchan, among the snowiest towns in the world

LJ with the banger shot of the trip. Huge river gap with style