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  • You're watching Vagabrothers,

  • and this is the Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan.

  • What's up everybody? I'm Marko.

  • You're watching Vagabrothers,

  • and right now I'm in the home of the world's best

  • powder snowboarding: Hokkaido, Japan.

  • I am so stoked.

  • I have just come all the way from California

  • to the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido.

  • My friends and I from the college UCLA ski and snowboard team are having a giant

  • reunion here, and we came all the way out here because

  • this part of Japan has some of the best powder in the world.

  • It's only 1,300 meters high here.

  • It's not a gigantic mountain,

  • but the thing is that the powder here is very, very soft.

  • It seems to fall about 15 centimeters a day,

  • and even though it's right next to the ocean,

  • it's still very, very dry.

  • Combine it with beautiful natural hot springs,

  • tons of great food and beautiful nature,

  • and we have one of the best ski destinations in the world.

  • This is my buddy, Chucky, also known as

  • Black Falcon here live in Japan.

  • Are you stoked on this trip? Very stoked. How stoked?

  • I am feeling great, stoked day one, get some powder.

  • First time in Niseko?

  • All of us have the Ikon Pass.

  • This is a ski and snowboard

  • pass that works on all different mountains around the world.

  • Mountain Collective Pass also works here.

  • We can go snowboarding for free on the Ikon Pass here.

  • We redeemed our passes for a local ski pass.

  • And now it's time to hit the mountain.

  • This is so nuts. This is beautiful, beautiful powder.

  • Oh wow!

  • Yeah. Not bad for a first day.

  • Got to love these trees.

  • Big difference from here and back in California is that

  • in California we have these big pine trees.

  • Okay so a couple runs in so far. This is amazing.

  • There are tons of back kind of like powder runs you can do,

  • and we haven't even got the top of the mountain where all the gates are, right?

  • Natural terrain galore with more to come.

  • Good stuff, soft snow, nice trees, nice fantastic day.

  • So we just stopped for a lunch break.

  • So far everything has been super good.

  • This powder is incredible and the mountain is gigantic, and

  • we haven't even really touched the back country,

  • but it's still here on the resort.

  • There's tons of tree runs and there's tons of powder and

  • It's great. It's going to be snowing all week.

  • We have five days of snow ahead of us.

  • We're in Niseko's famous powder .

  • We're going through a gate,

  • which allows you go off back country,

  • and there's fewer people.

  • The farther you walk from the gate, the better it is.

  • As they say you have to earn your turns.

  • So we're going on a hike

  • and hopefully get some fresh powder.

  • Alright. Time to drop.

  • Oh wow.

  • So nice. These are like big open fields.

  • What'd you think? All-time. Lives up to the name, lives up to the hype.

  • We can't even walk, we're too happy.

  • We just have to sit and talk about it.

  • What makes the snow so good here?

  • Just the moisture content.

  • All the cold air masses that pass over from the Japan Sea and from Siberia

  • just make for perfect conditions for it you just absolutely dump here in Niseko.

  • So the hotel I'm staying in is really cool.

  • It's what's known in Japan as a capsule hotel,

  • which is when you stay in a capsule

  • In a room full of other people of the same gender.

  • So this is my capsule.. it's not super big.

  • It's just pretty much a bed, TV, some storage space down below

  • But at only 70 bucks a night, it's about a quarter of the price of getting a hotel room

  • in one of the bigger hotels.

  • You have a lot of common areas, common lounge area.

  • There is, like I said, a hot spring called an "onsen"

  • that's all included, plus breakfast.

  • Not a bad way to go, especially for your solo traveler.

  • It's dinner time, and I'm waiting for the bus.

  • Shit. That was it.

  • Damn it.

  • It's the evening. I'm in downtown Niseko,

  • and now this is a town that has a ton of different people

  • mostly from Australia and New Zealand, a lot of expats from Canada as well.

  • So there's a huge international influence here.

  • But for dinner we're going to do something more traditional.

  • My friend Chucky and his group have rented out a restaurant,

  • Japanese restaurant, so it's time to have some dinner and experience some of the local culture.

  • Good times. Amazing.

  • Has anybody else ordered a hot tea?

  • We explored Rusutsu, which has all together different terrain

  • compared to Niseko, a lot more trees.

  • I like to describe it as nooks and crannies of the mountain.

  • Just little drops, side hits. it was amazing.

  • Sakes and Sapporos. Cheers.

  • What was the word? Kanpai. Kanpai.

  • Chucky, where's the next spot?

  • The next spot is

  • going to be a very

  • relaxing and surprise spot.

  • It's a bar situated in a bunker element.

  • We're going to go into a refrigerator door.

  • It's called the Ice Bar. Pretty rad.

  • That's a very long way of saying it.

  • It's like a little cabin.

  • It's very, very cozy,

  • and there's a big window looking out to the snow.

  • The drinks are great.

  • They're basically LA prices, fifteen bucks a cocktail.

  • It's not cheap. Great music.

  • A whole vinyl collection.

  • Whisky bottles on the wall.

  • And overall, excellent vibrations.

  • All right so it's another day here at Niseko,

  • and it continues to dump. It snowed all night.

  • I think it's one of the reasons why so many people come out here

  • because if you plan a trip in January or February,

  • you are pretty much guaranteed to get powder.

  • That's why they call it "Japow."

  • Just snowed so much here.

  • We are so close to Siberia, and it's very consistent.

  • Today a lot of the mountain is closed down because there is so much snow.

  • I think they need to clear some avalanches out at the top.

  • But some of my friends have gone to another resort,

  • which might be more open.

  • But we're going to go hit the top of the mountain and see what's open

  • and what we can get into.

  • By the way I'm super stoked on the board that I picked up.

  • I got a Burton bottom-feeder.

  • It's 150 centimeters long; it's designed specifically for powder.

  • It's got a big nose in the front, short tail and the nose is kind of elevated

  • with some rocker so that you can go through the

  • powder without doing a nose dive

  • like you do on a kind of a twin tip forward.

  • It's my first time upgrading my board in a while and the folks

  • at Burton Santa Monica we're super cool with helping me get set up on the right stick that's

  • specifically designed for this type of powder snowboarding.

  • There's actually a hike you can do up here to get to gate 4 and 5,

  • which let you into the backcountry, the backside of the mountain.

  • It's going to be a bit of a hike but then

  • I should get some fresh tracks then have to hike out at the end.

  • But you know you've gotta earn your turns, especially here.

  • So let's go.

  • Are you Ryan? Marko Ayling.

  • Hey, Marko's here. Small world.

  • What's up, buddy? How are you?

  • You actually can't see where you're going.

  • You have to stop periodically

  • and let your power storm die down.

  • I can't see right now.

  • Okay well it's snowing so much that they have closed down the entire mountain,

  • but that's not a problem because here in the village of Niseko

  • is a place that I've been curious about visiting for a long time.

  • Behind me is the shaping room of Gentemstick.

  • This is a company whose shapes of snowboards have revolutionized the

  • snowboarding world unlike any other company in recent history.

  • The shaper behind this company has created boards that combines surfing and snowboarding

  • to tackle powder unlike any other boards on the mountains.

  • So I'm going to go inside and find the man behind the shapes and learn what

  • makes his boards so unique.

  • For the last twenty five years

  • Gentestick has brought the best of Japanese craftsmanship to snowboarding.

  • Founder Taro Tomai shapes wooden snow surfboards

  • that were called a retro surf designs of 1970.... wide noses,

  • swallow tails, lengths long and short.

  • Browsing their showroom was an excellent way to wait until conditions improved enough to get back on the mountain.

  • Man, the snow is packed,