What better way to embrace our place than through after-school adventures down our local slopes?
The Huskies Ski and Board Club
Hitting the Slopes After School
Words: J.Pangier & Daniel Shen
Photos & Video: J.Pangier
Video Intro & 3D Modeling: Luka Popovic
The word has been spreading. Japan has great powder and Hokkaido has some of the driest stores on the planet. In 2007, Forbes Traveler rated Niseko as the second snowiest resort in the world (behind Mt. Baker in Washington), but to those who know, quality is just as important as quantity. Hokkaido snow is plentiful, dry, and joy-inspiring. And with two local and extremely affordable slopes a short car ride away, why wouldn't we celebrate the beautiful place we live?
2023 Student Perspectives, Featuring our newest (and most enthusiastic) member, Daniel Shen
I remember my first nighter. The van was packed with avid students and teachers. When we got to the ski resort, everyone pitched in to help others in need. When non-Japanese-speaking Huskies faced problems renting equipment or buying ski passes, the bilingual in the crew stepped in to help.
Throughout the season, the action ranged from the beginners: falling down and getting back up; to the experts: Ungroomed blacks, low-to-the-ground carving turns, mogul runs, and a tiny taste of freestyle. The teachers and “veteran” club members made sure that the slopes were safe and that everyone was following the rules of the slopes.
When I asked some of my friends about what they thought was great about the ski club, most of them replied with the fact that they could do 2-hour-long nighters with friends. “It was lit to hang out with friends after school! Skiing down the slopes is much better with friends”.
I also interviewed the student leader of the Ski club: Remu Ohta to discuss what he had in mind after he took over as student leader!
Daniel: What were the main goals for the ski club this year and were they achieved?
Remu: The main goal for the Ski & Board Club was to let students experience the privileges we get in Hokkaido, which is snow! That’s pretty much it—no other specific goals.
Daniel: How has the membership of the club changed from the previous year?
Remu: It was amazing that many participated enthusiastically in the early season, however, fewer people [participated] in the later part of the season, which was understandable because snow is getting worse in March. We hope to have a sufficient number of participants throughout the season next year.
Already dreaming about next season, I interviewed a student not yet in the club. The number one concern voiced was that they were scared about it not being beginner friendly. “I’m kinda nervous about skiing because I grew up in Florida. We don’t have snow there” said a student. “I’d be happy to join if there was a ‘crash course’ where we could learn to ski.” Luckily, the ski club provides just that thing—our way to let students who are new or unseasoned to learn the basics so that we can share the Hokkaido powder love with even more Huskies!
The History of the Ski and Board Club
Since 2016, HIS has offered skiing and snowboarding at two local resorts, known shorthand as Fu’s and Bankei. Early in the history of the club, the van would be filled every single time. But in the 2019-2020 season, Covid swooped in to interrupt our positive flow, ending the season three weeks early. 2021 was canceled. 2022 was open and then closed with another outbreak. But this year, once again, the ski and board club got the greenlight and students filed into the Grand Cabin van to enjoy learning and growing on the slopes together with their friends and classmates.
Undoubtedly, the students enjoy the time with friends in the famous Hokkaido powder. But most of us don't realize how lucky we are to live here. One thing that always seems to surprise new winter visitors to Japan is how affordable it is to ski and snowboard. With the most expensive North American resorts exceeding $200 for an all-day ticket, a day pass to Sapporo Kokusai—the location of our daytime ski days—at only ¥4,800 = ~$36 or the even cheaper frequent visitor’s price of ¥3,600 = ~$27 moves skiing and snowboarding into a recreation that need not be reserved for the uber-rich. Certainly, to many students attending HIS, price matters, which is why when former P.E. teacher Dan Adams created the ski and board club in 2016, it was a huge success. Week after week the school’s Grand Cabin van was filled with skiers and boarders—some beginners, some experts, but all enthusiastic.
In contacting Mr. Adams just recently (March 30th, 2023), he shared his reasons for starting the club in the first place:
To give dorm students time to hit the slopes
To encourage newbies to come out and try boarding and skiing with a teacher to help them get going
To build healthy and positive school culture by organizing fun activities
Mr. Adams continues by sharing his larger vision.
“I was hoping it would become an annual activity that would continue with students excited about winter and winter sports. It also made ski days for high school amazing as we would teach any newbies prior to ski days so everyone could enjoy the days out there on the slopes and have the groups student-led with little teacher involvement beyond supervision and support when needed.”
Having taken over the club from Mr. Adams in 2018, I hope that we have lived up to Mr. Adams’s hopes. Certainly, where at all possible, we have tried to keep the club running, encouraging newbies and experts to spend their nights enjoying the delicious and affordable powder of Hokkaido—alongside their classmates and friends.
As I currently write these last words, mask acceptably off, breathe in with me as we step into the future possibilities of the Ski and Board club and a revitalized Outdoors at HIS. As the Romantic poet William Wordsworth said, “Come forth into the light of things / Let nature be your teacher.”
For more information about recent HIS Outdoor activities, see “The Hokkaido Winter Outdoors: A Rediscovered Husky Way of Life”. And if you have any ideas about how HIS can continue to expand and remodel its outdoors program post-Covid, please send them to jpangier[at]his.ac.jp. We’d love to hear from you!
We hope to see you on the slopes in 2023-2024!
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