Well, better late than never is usually the saying, right? As mentioned in my last blog post < the arctic diaries 001 / read here > it's been a very busy couple of months, nonstop in fact and I haven't had the urgency to set time out to write for myself considering how many amazing things we have lined up at Pukka Travels. But hey, I am 100% okay with that. Though I thought I would start taking the time to document some of the insane trips over the past couple of months because these are the types of adventures that create the intrinsic motivation for everything I do on a daily basis.
The Ski Week Japan was certainly a special one, and as someone who has had the pleasure of being at all of the ski week locations thus far, including Austria, Chamonix & Aspen it was a pleasure to see the familiar faces I have had the opportunity to travel and ski all over the world with, and more importantly the new people I got to meet along the way.
< rewind >
Back in the summer of 2016, I suddenly got a call from the one and only Sir Red Rainey, whose voice can take you on an adventure anywhere. For those who have met him, you know what I mean.
for those who haven't: this is red, he will push you up mountains.
“Darling. Book your flights" he said "You are going to Japan, its happening, its going to be insane in the membrane and you have to be there. Gather a crew and just do it” ** (something like that)
At the time I was sitting at my desk in Germany and without hesitation I booked a flat. I messaged my two best girlfriends from college. Sarah, one of my favorite traveling partners who is always down for a new adventure and Kate, whom we have been trying to plan a ski trip for quite sometime. As expected, they were super keen to go and started booking flights. The excitement was starting to settle in.
With that, I had just moved to Norway < Read “So, Im moving to the Arctic” > and life was, well… hectic, as expected when working for a start up in a new country, in the Arctic.
Fast forward a couple more weeks and the trip was vastly approaching. Meanwhile, I still had 2 spots left in my flat so I decided to post in The Yacht Week Withdrawals group. At this point, it was first come first serve, who wanted to book a last minute trip to the worlds fluffiest pow, with a good vibe tribe that will easily transition into the squad of all squads?
Within seconds, I had DJ Sam Wilson, Australian, good vibe extrodanaire and new to the game Vlogger, Duong throwing their credit card details at me. That was easy.
< skip packing, traveling 20 hours, missed flight connections, etc. >
VOILA. I arrived in Japan. I decided to stay at the 9 Hour Hotel at the Narita airport because 1. I’ve always wanted to cross off a pod hotel from my list of places to stay, and 2. I was in Tokyo last year and would rather spend the time to work than play.
This place that they called a hotel was pretty much a modern day insane asylum for jet lagged wanderlusters. The checkin process took about 5 min., after paying the receptionist, she gave me a mesh bag with a muted grey robe, tooth brush slippers and a key which had the number to my locker and bed. “Was my bed in a locker?” She pointed to a white door on the right hand side of the 'lobby' which led into a dark room. “What on earth did I just sign up for?” I thought to myself.
I proceeded into another monochromatic room and dumped my luggage into my designated locker while meticulously wandering into the shower. Clean, efficient and minimalistic, it was perfect the place to sleep for one night at the airport (considering the circumstances).
After traveling for 20 hours all I could really think of was sleep, so I tip toed into my pod for the evening. It was weird, spacious and a snoring neighbor was my soundtrack. Justin Beiber ring tones whistled in the air throughout the evening as my fellow pod-mates ventured off to their next destination. Oh how I love concept of travel.
As per usual, 5am rolled around and I was wired and ready to go. Another very exciting day in a new airport. I read a Hypebeast article months back about the redesign of their domestic terminal and what do you know, I was flying domestic. Muji decor and color coded navigation on a running track, distinctly marked for those looking to get their steps in while perfecting the journey. Functional and simple, I was beyond satisfied with my office of the day.
I bought a Japanese sim card, a coffee and sat down at a little coffee shop with the most annoying airport announcements in the world. No stress though - I put on my noise cancelling headphones and all of a sudden I was having a solo silent disco, Fleetwood Mac on repeat.
My flight wasn't for another 7 hours, so I sat and let the working day commence but not before running into some familiar faces at the airport. Catching up over insane robot clubs and karaoke nights in Tokyo, I was secretly happy I let my inner introvert go wild at the 9 hour hotel.
As the time passed getting lost in the world of the adobe creative suite, I finally saw Michael Pictionary running (slowly, sloth life) to his flight, Brandon & Trevor rebooking their missed flight and of course reunited with Kate and Sarah after so many years (yay!) my heart felt so full. I met Sam, and knew the week was going to be one to remember.
We grabbed sushi, made it through security and was well on our way to Niseko.
The transfer was long, but worth the wait. We arrived just in time for the opening party at the Barn, which was a rustic, tasteful venue with Mumm champagne flowing and reunions commencing.
no friends on a powder day.
I decided to not bring my skis on the trip so after a good night of sleep (we are in japan y’all, we are here to ski… or at least I was) we got driven to the ski rental shop which had the best service I had ever seen (in a ski shop at least).
Within no time we were up on the mountain and gee wiz was it marvelous. A group of us decided to take gate 5 into the backcountry and though the powder wasn't shoulder deep it was still so much fun. Leo, Flora, Jens, David & Scott - the vibes were strong.
the mornings, afternoons & evenings
The morning routine included a 6am wake up call to work for a 3 hour work session (cappuccino & croissant included).
The late morning was spent getting our zen on in between japanese trees & green tea ice cream stops, cozy mountain huts, and snow filled amusement parks... on the slopes.
The afternoons were spent working for a few hours while many went to onsens, and evenings were spent sipping sake at one of the many super cool bars of niseko.
Because Japan is so much more zen than the other ski week locations, there were a few more intimate and smaller gatherings rather than the big 'ragers'.
Some of the events that stood out were the Valentines Day evening ski and the snow shoe hike to a snow lounge in the magic of what is the Japanese zen forest. The ski week left cozy postcards with a fellow room number to help integrate the group, so we had a glass of bubbly and went to the mountain for a night ski session. Another amazing extra was a day snow mobiling trip (with Par Pow Paradise) into the back country of japan - an add on, but definitely a unique experience.
Japan is certainly more ‘tame’ than the other ski week locations, with more emphasis on the aprés ski onsen vibe than rager, it was up my ally. For the few nights that there was a proper apres ski event, girl boss DJ Anna killed the game and it was definitely a night to remember. Let's not forget about the 17 liter Sake barrel that was tapped into and gone within a few minutes...
Its a very special feeling being around 150 strangers who pretty much all think quite similarly. I can’t emphasize how important it is so venture to places with both familiar faces because it fosters the perfect environment to catalyze conversations that really change the way I live.
During this week, I sat in a 1000m hut with 3 people I barley knew going through the 30 questions to get to know one another while sipping sake for flora’s birthday, went snow mobiling through the japanese back country with people from every corner of the earth, skied with my best girlfriends from college and created relationships that will last a lifetime. We spoke about our perfect day, laughed about pretty much anything & left the negativities of the world behind. Japan is a special place, and the ski week fostered with a feng shui that simply works.
If you are expecting a wild party, book aspen or austria but if you are looking for an event that gives you the time to actually get to know people, book japan. It’s that simple.
More importantly, the skiing was pure ecstasy.