Osaka, Japan- The guys at www.powderheadz.comare taking a break from the Pacific Northwest and heading off to Japan for a week. We’ll be spending a couple of days at Osaka, renting an 8-person van, and heading to Shiga Kogen to go snowboarding and testing out some new gear as well. Hopefully we’ll get a day or two in Tokyo before we bullet train it back to Osaka and back home.
This’ll be more of a scouting trip to see if we can survive Japan as we plan for a much bigger trip next 2018-2019 season to Hakuba Valley, which was recently added to the Epic Pass. Check back here while we try and figure it out as we go along, leaving tips on how to plan your own trip out here.
Whistler Blackcomb, BC – Snowboarding isn’t technically over at Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort. Although the regular season at Whistler ended on April 23rd and Blackcomb ended on May 22nd, you can still get some turns in at the Top of Blackcomb Mountain. After a couple of weeks to set up the Terrain Park, Hortsman Glacier opened on June 10th and plans to stay running until July 16th, 2017.
The park was built specifically to host a multitude of Ski and Snowboarding Camps throughout the short summer period. However, the Glacier is open to the public, albeit you should be advanced or expert rider to feel comfortable up there. There are two t-bars that give you access to two parks full of features (the top terrain park is closed off for the camps) and a couple of runs (The top half of Crystal Traverse and Blue Line). We were also able to ride down the Green Line from the Hortsman Hut back to Rendezvous at the end of the day to download back to the bottom of the mountain (which might not be the case as the summer continues). So if you’re desperate for snow like us, head to Whistler while you still can.
Tips and Tricks
Operating Hours are from 12PM to 3PM, weather permitting. Public upload begins at 11AM at the Wizard Express Chairlift that is at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. Only camps are allowed to load before then. Last upload for Skiers and Snowboarders are at 1:30PM.
Lift Ticket includes a shuttle bus to and from 7th Heaven and access to the public lane that includes some Terrain Park features. Other lanes are reserved for Glacier Camps.
You must be an advanced or expert skier/snowboarder to ride, no exceptions. You also need to be able to use a T-bar as there are no chairlifts working during this time.
Definitely recommend getting there as early as possible, because you have to ride the Wizard Express, Solar Coaster Express, wait for a shuttle bus to take you to 7th Heaven before you get to Hortsman Hut. It can take up to an hour to finally get to the top.
Bring Sunscreen. It get’s pretty bright and hot up there and you are exposed to sun for extended periods of time. Many people leave with sunburns because they aren’t prepared.
Because it’s hot up there, you won’t need to bring as much gear as you would on a regular winter day. You’ll probably still want to wear a long sleeve shirt so you don’t get a weird tan. That being said, wear a helmet and practice safe riding.
Park City, UT- The guys at www.powderheadz.comare taking a break from the Pacific Northwest and heading off to the Utah. We’ll be spending a couple of days at Park City testing out some new gear as well as testing out a new snowboarder. One of Powderheadz.com cousins decided to get married this year and for his bachelor party he wanted to learn how to snowboard like the rest of us.
Some of the equipment we’ll be testing out this week is:
After LA, Travis Rice heads North for the Canadian Premiere.
BY ALFIE FELICIANO
Vancouver, BC – This past Saturday, the Powderheadz.com Team was able to swing some tickets to get a first look at Travis Rice’s The Fourth Phase. And with a bit of patience and luck, we were able watch the film with the cast and crew of The Fourth Phase at the same location that Travis Rice premiered 2011’s The Art of Flight. It was a surreal experience for us.
Two days after the World Premiere on Thursday, September 8th at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, Travis Rice and company traveled north to Vancouver, BC for the Canadian Premiere at Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts of The Fourth Phase. With introductions of rest of the team, a slight jab to Canada by stating “we didn’t film one day here” because “you guys have it to good up here”, a fake call-out to no-show Justin Trudeau (no, he wasn’t there), and a raffle to the lucky guy in seat 33B who won a few beard trimmings from snowboarder Eric Jackson, the film started with raucous applause. It was safe to assume that everyone here was pretty amped with Redbull. Perhaps some Vodka as well. And they had every right to. It’s been 4 long years to see the next film from Rice.
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The Fourth Phase Review
The film opens to a reflective Travis Rice aboard his Catamaran “Falcor” in a nondescript part of an ocean while Dr. Gerald Pollack, Professor of Bioengineering at UW, intros the main thesis to the movie:
‘We all learn that water has three phases. The solid state, the liquid state and also the vapor state. You can’t explain all the known properties of water with three phases alone. You need a fourth phase. As children, we have this natural tendency to explore. And then we go to school and we have to get the right answer. This has a tendency to squeeze out of us the truth-seeking nature that comes as a human being. Because of the institutionalized nature of science, scientists have become more hesitant to challenge perceived truth. If we wanna get real truth, we have to dig down beneath the foundations.’
And then the movie kicks into high gear. Immediately after the mellow opening, Travis lays waste to the Wyoming backcountry with insane tricks off of eighty foot kickers. He’s joined by snowboarders Pat Moore, Cam Fitzpatrick, and Ben Ferguson as they assault the mountain alongside him. Humble Master and Jackson Hole icon Bryan Iguchi comes along to do a quick session around the Grand Tetons with Rice before Rice embarks on this epic adventure.
“…I realized by combining my love of the ocean with my love of the mountains it might be possible to actually follow the flow around the north Pacific, travel with the water that melts down from the Continental Divide, sail with it as it sweeps across the ocean and turns into the snow that blankets Japan…” – Travis Rice
The crew embarks on their first trip of the journey through a dizzying view of a Japanese airport to some of the most beautiful tree riding we’ve ever seen. Travis Rice claims that the Japanese Alps is one of the snowiest places on earth and he wouldn’t be wrong. Snowboarders Mikkel Bang and Mark Landvik join Rice as they genuinely ‘play’ in waist deep powder.
This was the part of the film that was the most enjoyable to me. It looked like 3 guys having the time of their lives and were having a blast doing it. And it didn’t look like work. It looked like a lot of fun and there just happened to be a film crew. And its part of the film that seems the most attainable thing that the audience can do. The gorgeous lines that these 3 were able to take is sure to drive up snow-tourism in the area for years to come.
“…The cycle swings up and tears past the Kamchatka Peninsula…” – Travis Rice
What comes up, must come down. The sheer joy that is on display in Japan gets replaced with the flipside of the harshness of Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. This section was probably the most interesting because it shows that even the greatest snowboarders in the world have to deal with an uncooperative Mother Nature or a very uncooperative foreign government. Or worse, boredom.
Flying around in a military helicopter around an active Russian Volcano was awe-inspiring, but once the riders got on the ground, it was a different story. They were riding through some of the ugliest, windswept terrain that’s been filmed. You can feel the frustration and boredom build throughout this part. And although a glimmer of hope gets them flying off for one last try, their trip gets crushed by government officials. The only silver lining was that Rice, Eric Jackson, and Mark Landvik were able to meet some Russian youths who recognized them from The Art of Flight. Snowboarding is alive and well in even the most harshest of places.
“…and then finally banks into the catcher’s mitt that forms the Gulf of Alaska. These charged weather systems coming off the ocean hit these coastal mountains which ring out precipitation like a sponge, creating some of the most incredible snow formations on the planet.” – Travis Rice
Rice, Landvik, and Jackson arrive to variable conditions and a questionable snowpack in Alaska. The grind of filming this movie has taken its toll on the team and Mark Landvik eventually bows out of film, leaving Rice and Jackson up north to wait it out. We are rewarded with their patience. Travis Rice and Eric Jackson put on a clinic of riding Alaskan terrain as they ride through vertical lines, narrow chutes, and knife-edge ridges with ruthless aggression. You can see the riders release all that built up energy.
Side Note: You might recognize one of the Lines that Travis Rice takes from Skier Cody Townsend’s 2014 Line of the year:
If you’ve got time, read Travis Rice’s conversation with Cody Townsend about it. It’s a glimpse to a real world dilemma if hoarding film for a movie while others don’t have to.
Rice comes back to Alaska a year later with Victor De Le Rue and Jeremy Jones to tackle Valdez again. And the next part of the film was probably the toughest to watch out of all the segments. The film crescendo’s into these scenes and the you can hear the audience at the Centre in Vancouver groan in unison and then remain silent for the next few minutes. It’s something you have to see to believe.
“I have not figured out how to separate reckless optimism from a healthy appetite to pursue things until it becomes impossible. To be able to know the difference? Yeah, it’d be amazing. I’ve been lucky to have a few glimpses into this idea of what letting go really is. I know it’s impossible.” – Travis Rice
The film ends where it begins, on a homecoming high note. Travis Rice and crew “riding off in the sunset”. The Fourth Phase lives up to the hype. If you loved The Art of Flight, you’ll love this.
Watch The Fourth Phase on October 2nd when it streams live on Red Bull TV at 8 pm.
The 2015-2016 edition of El Niño has come to pass and La Niña has a 60 to 75% of making an appearance. And according to the NOAA, a pool of cold water is materializing in the Pacific Ocean below a shallow mass of warm surface water. La Niña is coming.
And if it does, the Pacific Northwest to Squaw Valley will see above average snowfall. There is already more concrete evidence as Whistler gets its first snowfall of the season (about 3cm). We should be seeing more action from La Niña in the late fall and through the winter. Some of the best Ski Resorts in North America will get the benefit of the larger than average snowfall:
Lake Louise, BC
Mt Baker, WA
Mt Bachelor, OR
Mt Hood, OR
Sun Valley, ID
Big Sky, MT
Jackson Hole, WY
Squaw Valley, CA
Lake Tahoe, NV
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A Bit of History
The last time La Niña mattered was during the 1998-1999 ski season, when Mt. Baker, WA received the most snow at any location during a single season. 1140 inches of powder dropped that winter, totaling 95 feet. It’s still a record that hasn’t been beaten. Hopefully we get somewhere close to that this year, if not beating it altogether. It will more than make up for the lackluster winter of 2014-2015 that the Pacific Northwest had experienced two years ago.
It is still to early to tell when La Niña will truly show up, but it something to keep in mind if you are planning on any major snowboarding trips. There is a possibility that some resorts will have enough snow coverage for the Thanksgiving weekend. Or perhaps by Christmas time. But forecasts this far out can be a little unpredictable. La Niña should reveal her true colors in the next couple of months. We at Powderheadz.com think you should hold off on buying those plane tickets until more time has passed.
Perhaps I’m writing all of this because I just needed an excuse to just to show this clip:
Travis Rice is back with The Fourth Phase, the follow-up to 2011’s phenomenal Art of Flight:
“This hydrological cycle, it’s this beautiful choreographed cycle of life. I realized by combining my love of the ocean with my love of the mountains, it might be possible to actually follow the flow around the North Pacific.” – Travis Rice
The Fourth Phase by Travis Rice is a love letter to riding that follows the exploits of Rice and fellow riders Mikkel Bang, Shin Biyajima, Victor de Le Rue, Ben Ferguson, Cam Fitzpatrick, Mentor Bryan Iguchi, Eric Jackson, Jeremy Jones, Mark Landvik, Bode Merril, Pat Moore across the North Pacific.
The premise to Art of Flight‘s sequel is an exploration of the hydrological cycle – the evaporation of water from the surface of the ocean to the condensation of clouds to the precipitation of rain and snow and finally to the runoff of water back into the ocean. While exploring the Wyoming back country in 2013 with his mentor Brian Iguchi, Travis Rice comes up with an idea. He plots a 16000-mile journey to follow the water cycle around the Pacific and snowboard along the way. Along with several legendary snowboarders, Travis Rice attempts to “witness firsthand the many moods of the North Pacific storm engine”
“Travis took this idea about the hydrological cycle and turned it into this epic journey.” – Bryan Iguchi
The Fourth Phase is a journey of self-discovery and an adventure to explore new terrain around the North Pacific. The film will cover breathtaking landscapes such as Russian volcanoes, the Japanese Alps, remote Alaska, and the Wyoming back-country.
The last movie to get this much hype was 2013’s Into the Mind by Sherpas Cinema. The Fourth Phase is sure to be another classic that Art of Flight was back in 2011. This will be the perfect movie to get us all amped for what is going to be an amazing season.
Soon your Epic Ski Pass gets you riding in the Great White North.
Vail Resorts Inc’s $1.4 Billion friendly takeover of Whistler Blackcomb aims at making skiing and snowboarding cheaper for everyone. The proprieter of 13 resorts across the world just added the biggest gem to its collection with Whistler and on Monday, August 8th, they entered into an agreement to acquire them. This makes Vail Resorts owner of half of the 10 busiest ski areas on the North American Continent with Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, and Breckenridge being the top 3.
This deal comes only months after the British Columbia Provincial government approved of Aquilini Investment Group’s plan to build a $3.5 billion Ski Resort in Garibaldi Park at Squamish, BC, which is about at 45 minute drive south of Whistler. Also, Vail Resorts plans on honoring Whistler’s $345 million investment plan, the Renaissance Project, to create more offerings of additional four-season, weather-independent activities to make Whistler Blackcomb a better, more expansive year-round resort.
And What It Mean’s for You.
For now? Nothing yet. As of right now, the Season Pass for Whistler Blackcomb is still valid for 2016/2017 and the current 2016/2017 Epic Pass from Vail Resorts (which includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, etc. Visit www.snow.com for more info.) does not include access for Whistler Blackcomb. However, Vail Resorts has confirmed that the Epic Pass will include Whistler-Blackcomb for the 2017/2018 season and that it has no intention of drastically raising its rates for the very inclusive Epic Pass.
For reference, the Whistler Season Pass for 2017 is regularly priced at $2049.00 CAD while the Epic Pass for 2017 is priced at $809 USD. So come Winter 2017/2018, Americans will gain a giant resort for the taking and Canadians will see a drastic price drop to their season pass. Snow for Everyone!