between deep snow and rice noodle soup


between deep snow and rice noodle soup

A simple equation

The math is actually pretty simple: Japan + January = powder and face shots However, if one variable is missing in this equation, this juxtaposition becomes a little more complicated. So as not to frustrate all our readers and to bring a little light to the dark that is the world of mathematics, let us jump right to the start. 

[Translate to English (US):] Deep Japan powder

Together with Thomas, Head of Mountainwear at ORTOVOX, and Stefan, Head of Product at ORTOVOX, at the end of January freeride pro Angelica Kaufmann and I flew with the photographer and filmmaker Hansi Heckmair to Japan. The aim was to test the latest Guardian Shell collection in the field, to put the products through their paces, really vet them and provide direct feedback on quality and performance to the Japanese manufacturer. And we would, of course, produce insane photos and a short film of the trip – all this in five days.

As we landed on Hokkaido and boarded the bus to Niseko, our mood was dampened slightly. The landscape was – without a doubt – impressive, but the powder alarm had clearly been set to snooze some time ago. The first turns in the Land of the Rising Sun felt rather less radiant than we would have liked. Windswept, pressed, crusted, icy and compacted. And on top of that: blunt edges. 

After the first day on the slopes, far from the backcountry, Hansi and I sat in the onsen bath. Our washcloths wrapped carefully around our heads and our gaze directed towards the volcano, we philosophized about our current situation.

Of course, everything sounds so easy according to Wikipedia:

Thanks to its position between mountains and the sea, Niseko is exposed to the cold, dry Siberian winds that build up moisture over the Sea of Japan. In winter, this moisture produces strong, consistent snowfall.”

That’s the theory. But what about when this omniscient fountain of knowledge gets it wrong?

  • Missing powder.

    Missing powder.

    We had to be patient. But then we were rewarded: Sunshine, breathtaking landscapes and the first lines in fresh, deep snow. 

  • When it snows, it snows.

    The long sought-after Japanese DEEP POWDER took our breath away and brought a wide grin to our faces. 

    When it snows, it snows.
  • Saltwater and rain

    Saltwater and rain

    The collection was given a real test at the ocean, where we got insights into the daily life of local fisherman, ate lots of fish and drank even more sake.

  • Finest Sushi

    Finest sushi

    We expected the famouse hokkaido pumpkin but what we got was the finest sushi worldwide

  • The crew

    The crew

    From left ro right: Friedrich Baur, Iino Fumiyuki, Stefan Krause, Chris Ebenbichler, Angelika Kaufmann, Thomas Moe, Tana Schulz, Alexandre Fumeux


Day two was primarily about finding impressive film locations and new themes. Anyone can take moving pictures in waist-deep snow, and that’s why we decided to go to the sea.

Unusual shots in front of an impressive backdrop right at the ocean, friendly meetings with local fishermen and insights into the daily life of a Japanese family who received us warmly: A perfect day – even without BIG POWDER. It is precisely these moments that inspire us, shape us and make us aware once again of the simple things in life. Calm returns and we find our focus. The lack of cell reception means that you’re not disturbed by call after call, which obviously helps too.

We decided to embrace more of the ying and less of the yang, and at short notice Geli reserved a table in the world’s smallest sushi restaurant, in order to drink away the day – ahem, sorry – round off the day with sake. As we sat there, slightly merry from the rice wine and our bellies full of raw fish, the door to this tiny pub opened. I can no longer remember who entered, or how many people. What I can still see, however: That beautiful white powder that covered the small Japanese people’s heads. “It’s snowing!” I cried, and Geli’s and Hansi’s eyes lit up. 


What then followed is difficult to put into words. After all the waiting and despair, we had three perfect days in this beautiful country. When it snows there, it snows! We plowed through the freshly fallen powder, explored the Japanese backcountry on climbing skins and could barely believe our luck. Anyone who has the chance to tread on Japanese ground should take it with both hands – they will experience exactly what I can only partially put into words here.

Thank you, Geli, for your cheerful nature and thank you, Hansi, for the output, which was in the end a success. ORTOVOX makes it possible, and in the new Guardian Shell, skiing feels even more awesome.

Text by Chris Ebenbichler. 

Merino Guardian Shell Line