I have been involved in the snowsports instructing industry for almost 15 years as an instructor, competitor, instructor trainer, Snowsports Operations Manager and Snowsports School director. Unfortunately, during this time overall ski technique has taken a back seat to the freestyle and big mountain. While these specific disciplines have evolved, the everyday skier has swapped their carving skis for park or fat skis which has gradually devolved ski technique over the last decade.
Not in Japan! The Japanese skiing population are obsessed with technical skiing and have a thriving technical skiing competition scene. These competitions involve tasks that challenge skiers in most disciplines of the sport. This includes short turns, slalom turns, race carve turns, moguls, rhythm changes etc. Participants are judged on their speed, ski performance and efficiency of movements. The national champions are treated as celebrities in Japan and they heavily influence the Japanese ski industry. When you look at a slope in Japan the skiers are generally practicing or training their technique and the average lesson is taken to refine technique rather than just getting people going as is the demand in other countries.
Being an instructor myself these competitions are an avenue for me to compete and gain recognition for the technique that I have trained so hard to improve. Over the last 6 years of working in Japan I have completed the necessary accreditation to start competing in these championships. The process begins with a regional selection competition. Those selected then progress to the state championships and then finally the national championships. I first attempted these competitions last season as a participant of the regional Kutchan association’s competition. I was fortunate to have a few good runs and came out on top advancing to the Hokkaido state Championships. I was very nervous competing in this event as it is such a massive deal to the Japanese. There were over 200 competitors selected from their regions, and thousands of spectators and supporters. I really had no idea what I was doing and learnt a great deal about Japanese ski technique through this experience. I ended up placing 46th out of 210 and did not progress to the National competition.
This season I am again competing in these technical championships and have made it through to the Hokkaido Championships. Fortunately a few of my friends have also started competing and have progressed through to the state Champs as well. I’m also very proud that Niseko Base Snowsports staff took all the first places in the Kutchan association selection competition with Rachel Hall (NBS School Operations Manager) winning the women’s division and myself placing first in the men’s.
The Hokkaido Technical Championships will be held on 29-31 January in Rusutsu. My main objective is to see if I can place in the top 26 to progress through to the nationals. This will be rather controversial as no other foreigners have competed in an all Japanese competition and I believe that foreigners are not permitted to enter the National championships. Placing in the top 26 may possibly mean the first foreigner to compete in a national even. Fingers crossed and I hope I can report back after competing at the Nationals!