PHOTOS: ALL US IN WINTERLAND — WORDS: TORI BEATTIE



Holy Gozaimasu doesn’t really translate into anything. Gozaimasu is like a positive postscript. An exclamation mark.



The fact that it makes no sense but felt so good to say was exactly why it stuck. It was a phrase introduced to us on day one in Hakuba, and it quickly became the catchcry for our trip. Everything we encountered during our two weeks in Japan felt like it deserved the respect of a positive postscript. An extra nod of appreciation. It guaranteed a face-splitting smile on even the most earnest of Japanese faces when we dropped a gozaimasu into a stumbled sentence, and that was always our goal.
^ Sauce the wonder van
We arrived in Hakuba on the 15th of January to bare rice paddies, dry roads, and the worst start to winter in over 50 years. The freedom to just go with the flow and take whatever came our way was the key to the success of the trip. Patiently awaiting the arrival of the snow, we travelled around in our faithful mini-van Sauce and feasted on the delights of Japan. Our first week was spent wandering lost through
valleys and villages, exploring shrines and backroad onsen, chasing snow monkeys, walking frozen beaches, and enjoying the gentle generosity of the Japanese people. Then overnight our patience was rewarded and the switch was flicked. Hakuba’s unique coastal position delivered a 2m insta-base, and the floodgates blew wide open. Every action we took then became a means to a simple end:
^ Tom Brownlee’s road side laps




“Every action we took then became a means to a simple end: to get as pitted as possible and have all the fun doing it. When it snows 3 metres in a week that’s a simple task.”
^ Cam McDermid floats a 3 in the Happo One back country
From runs through the Cortina trees to hike-accessed lines behind Tsugaike Kogen and Happo One, we gorged ourselves on the fruits of the Hakuba valley. In our increasing appetite for that sweet sweet Japanese pow, we outran patrollers in private tree zones, hiked one-turn lines from the side of the road, ski toured up avenues of ancient trees, and dropped alpine faces in the sunshine. We sought every experience we could from of the 2 weeks in Hakuba and still left craving more.
Holy Gozaimasu is a collection of the stories and faces that made those 2 weeks feel like a lifetime. None of it would have been possible without the generosity of the Kamoshika Views guesthouse in Hakuba, for providing the friendliest accommodation imaginable and the use of a tiny, rusted, moustachioed van.

www.skilodgehakuba.com
^ Tori Beatie goes tits deep
^ Pat Green aims for the spaces between the trees