The Big Backcountry

Once again thanks to Takeuchi-san, I hit Yamagata's backcountry on the 15th. The size of the group got a little out of control on this one though...

The main thing I remember from skinning up is being terribly, terribly annoyed at how slow the telemarker in front of me was skinning. Not that it mattered as we had to wait for everyone to catch up anyways, but whoo. Slow.

You might have noticed from these two photos that it was absolutely dumping the whole time. In fact, we bailed on our original mountain due to the bad weather.

There's a mountain range west of Sendai that acts as a barrier to the weather. Travelling to Yamagata (the prefecture West of Sendai where all of the skiing happens) you go through a few tunnels. When you come out of one of them, it's like you've teleported yourself thousands of miles North. The snow just absolutely dumps on the West coast of Japan - if I ended up living in Japan long term, it's a safe bet it would be on that side of the country.

The guy all the way right in the above photo is Whati-san, who was my hospitable driver for the day. His car had a television that he used to play Red Bull's latest snowboarding flick, which had three songs by an artist I knew. All the Japanese were so impressed with me. I'm too cool.

Kanji also came along in Whati's car. I'm sure I've talked about him before, but Kanji is my main homeboy at B'nuts. He's there every day, and we've gone skiing together a few times. We've also got two multi-day backcountry trips set up in the future, so look forward to those posts.


That day lacked any steeps and involved too much waiting and too-short segments of runs.  The low visibility meant that we couldn't get too far without having to stop and wait for everyone else, so I never got a chance to build up decent speed. That might sound like complaining, but it's just because the good parts of backcountry seem so obvious to me that I have trouble saying them in any words other than, yay. It wasn't the best place, but there was definitely no better way to spend my Sunday.

Towards the end there was one very sweet two to five meter cliff people could hit, and it got steep for a bit after that. You can see Kei-san rocking a go-pro in the picture above and he was nice enough to link me what he put together. The editing isn't necessarily inspiring, but you can get a glimpse of what things were like. Sadly, he completely avoided that cliff.

Also, I suggest just muting the video, and its just a click-clack click-clack without any music. Backcountriers here need to work on their editing!

My cameos are at (look for big-bird):

  • 0:01 A brief shot of people in the parking lot, starting up
  • 0:19 Putting my bindings on the splitty
  • 2:50 My starring role
  • He blows by the cliff at 4:10

At the end of the day, most people took off - one run seems standard here... But Kanji, Takeuchi, Whati and two or three others and I hopped up another nearby, smaller, steeper hill before heading back. That was nice enough.

All in all, a somewhat lackluster trip as far as backcountry goes, as you can see in that video. Of course, still glad I went. The trip the next week though, was, oh my... Next time!

Matt Enlow

Matt has a camera, a home on wheels, and this website
Down by the river