Nimbus in Japan 2012 words and photos from Andy Mahre

On January 9th, I caught a flight out of Seattle, WA on my way to Tokyo, Japan. There I linked up with Eric Pollard, Pep Fujas, Ike Smith, and Justin Wiegand. To simplify, most of the Nimbus Crew. We then hopped on a plane to Sapporo. Clayton Kernagan, owner of Black Diamond Lodge, picked us up and drove us to Niseko Village where we were greeted by the likes of Chris Benchetler. The full Nimbus crew was once again reunited.

As you know, prior to mid January, the US was having a somewhat lackluster winter. Warm temperatures and scarce precipitation made groomers a daily habit. There were a few good powder days, but they were far and few in between. While this was going on at home, it was dumping here in Japan. We arrived to an abundance of fresh snow, and a continuation of the aforementioned dumping. The snow banks were 3-6 feet tall everywhere, from the airport to the ski area.

Our first day on the hill we were kids in a candy store. More than enough snow, pillows for days, and great company. We got in a few ski days, and then went out for a snowmobile mission with Clayton. He has a very cool crane truck where loading and unloading anywhere is possible. Ike and Clayton tried to make a snowmobile trail to the bottom of a nice cliff zone so we could do easy laps on it. Key word, “tried”. They didn’t succeed in getting back up, so the parked the sleds on the snow bank along the highway and walked back to the truck. We were able to ride the sleds right onto the deck of the truck and get away without any problems. That night’s dinner was at a delicious Ramen shop, which ended with a snowball fight in the parking lot.


A few days later, we left the Black Diamond Lodge and moved to Rusutsu Resort. We were generously housed in a very cool hotel named The Tower, which is somewhat ski in ski out. Across the highway from the tower is Rusutsu’s night skiing area. Accessed by either a short 5 minute walk, or a heated seat mono rail ride. We have done both, and found the walk to be a bit quicker overall.


Rusutsu’s ski area is a powder skier’s dream. The slopes are littered with amazing tree skiing, and more pillows than a throw set for a king size bed. Log rides are everywhere, and there isn’t a crowd. We’ve been getting some great shots, but also some great crashes. Sad to say, it’s the way she goes. Just ask Benchetler. On our way out of the ski area, he did a nollie, caught his tips, crashed, and broke his collarbone. It was a very funny crash, with a not so funny ending. He left last night and should be back on his way to the US today. Chris, if you are reading this, get well soon buddy. It was a blast shredding with you again.


All in all, this trip is very fun. It has snowed everyday, and we have seen a little bit of sun. I won’t complain about more snow, unless I’m shoveling and not skiing. Luckily, here I am skiing, and at home I do both.