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The Hokkaido Winter Outdoors: A Rediscovered Husky Way of Life
  • Experiential Learning
  • Outdoors

Rediscover the Huskies' winter way of life!


The Hokkaido Winter Outdoors: A Rediscovered Husky Way of Life

Cross-Country & Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snowshoeing

Words & Videos by J. Pangier

Photos by J. Pangier & Roman Constantine (featured)

Blender 3D modeling and animation: Luka Popovic

"Hokkaido Powder Remains" — Photo by Roman Constantine

Living in one of the snowiest places on the planet is a blessing, indeed. Sapporo is often ranked as either the first or second snowiest big city in the world and Japan’s nickname — JaPow — owes much to the island of Hokkaido. It only makes sense that one of Hokkaido International School’s three load-bearing pillars is none other than the outdoors.

As the world begins to peek its head out from the cave of COVID, our high school Huskies have rushed, once again, into the winter wonderland of Hokkaido through three special activities:

  • Cross-Country Skiing at Takino (March 2nd)

  • Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding at Kokusai (March 3rd)

  • Snowshoeing at Nakayama Pass (March 9th & 10th)

Cross-Country Skiing at Takino: March 2nd, 2023

Takino is Paradise for those who love well-groomed trails, birch-tree corridors, birdsong, and the slower pace of cross-country skiing. Students, many brand new to the sport, began by selecting boots, skis, and poles. After practicing on the flats, students and teachers alike braved the first hill — a worthy challenge for even the most athletic. The video provides a nice glimpse into the comical and athletic aspects of the half-day excursion, while the student voices video references the way this outdoor experience (along with the others) helped students connect with new bunches of peers as well as try something beyond their comfort zone. 

Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding at Kokusai: March 3rd, 2023

The crusty-topped trails of Takino made way for 12 centimeters of Kokusai powder during the March 3rd Ski and Board Day. It was the first time in three years since our high schoolers (and teachers) have had the chance to hit the slopes during a school day, and we were blessed with ongoing AM powder, followed by bluebird skies. New skiers and boarders learned a new skill while many of the more seasoned braved Kokusai’s “Downhill” black run — all unscathed and most returning to the Gondola with a smile and a feeling of accomplishment, something that Sophomore Kylee Wakamatsu speaks of specifically through the student voices video. Enjoy alongside our Huskies the powder of Sapporo Kokusai. 

Huskies Howl for the Outdoors: Student Voices

Following the enthusiastic response to the first two high school winter outdoor days (see their perspectives in the Ski and Snowboard Day video), I decided to dig deeper, to discover how students really felt about spending school time outside in the snow and to hear how they might design the outdoors at HIS. Check out the views of senior Kate, first-years Theo and Roman, sophomore Kylee, and a few more Huskies through the student voices videos.

Snowshoeing at Nakayama Pass: March 9th (ft.) & 10th, 2023

Before Hokkaido melts into spring, the students took one last stand — a leisurely but extensive walk beginning at 831 meters, which delivered stunning views and more opportunities to bond with each other — some students even electing to roll down the hill with their snowshoes on.

At the end of the day, as Kate James so insightfully stated in the student voices interview, the outdoors is good for our well-being.

A Chance to Reinvent Ourselves

As the world returns to a state of ordinary, HIS will continue to find new and better ways to deliver the extraordinary that surrounds us all on the northern island of Hokkaido. HIS, after all, is the star of the north for a reason: We embrace our beautiful surroundings standing atop the pillar of the outdoors as we look to the future. 

As we move beyond the pandemic, why don’t we find a way to bolster what some might call our most place-based pillar?

Here is one prototype displaying a way to expand our outdoors in a way that honors SDG#3’s Good Health and Wellbeing, the holistic growth of students, and the lovely place the Huskies call home! 

Using the example prototype above — which is not official school policy but an example provided by me — as a launchpad for creative thought and discussion, what are your ideas about what the future of the outdoors at HIS might look like?

In what way would you like to see HIS revitalize its outdoor program, post-Covid?

Feel free to contact me directly at jpangier[at] or one of the other staff members to share your thoughts. Just like the student voices in the video above, we value your perspective. 

Enthusiastically yours,

Mr. Jared Pangier

  • Experiential Learning
  • Huskies Outdoors
  • Huskies Wellness
  • Top Wellness
  • White Season
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