Eric Pollard is one of the most recognisable names in the industry and is arguably one of the most influential skiers in the world. From the winter clothing we wear, the ski movies we watch, to the places we ride – Eric has likely played a part in shaping it all.
His skiing career started out in the terrain park – competing in events across the globe then eventually getting more interested in free riding before becoming more involved in film production with Nimbus Independent films. Eric was lucky enough to make use of his creative skills by designing products for Dakine, and unique skis for Line – with his design of the Japanese-influenced ‘Sakana’ ski winning a range of awards this year.
Eric has skied in Japan for over 20 years, so we went to find out what’s changed, and what keeps him coming back.
You’ve been to Niseko & Hokkaido quite a lot – what keeps you coming back?
I think It’s the mixture of the terrain and the amount of snow that falls here – certainly the quality of snow. You can’t just have one or the other, you have to have both. I think that’s what sets it apart from anywhere on the globe. I mean, if you want to ride powder, it’s almost guaranteed here.
Is there anything that you’ve wanted to do in Japan that you haven’t yet done?
Yeah – there are so many… every time I come here I’m like, how can I stay longer? I’ve been here a lot and there’s so much more to see just in Hokkaido alone – you could spend a lifetime here just trying to tick things off the bucket list.
What are some of your favourite things about coming back here?
The novelty of certain things just never wears off. Small vehicles, vending machines with weird shit in them – just random stuff. I’ve been coming here a lot and every time I’m just excited to experience it again. This was one of the first places I came to when I was young, and it was the first time I’ve been exposed to a culture that approached life from a different angle. It really made an impression on me, and really helped shape my world view and philosophy.
(Niseko) has really made an impression on me!
Do you think skiing in Japan, or Japan in general, has influenced your art and designs?
Yeah absolutely. Mostly what I’ve been doing on this trip is trying to document how Japan has shaped my art, my product design and generally my outlook on life. You see it everywhere – for example just yesterday I saw some imagery of temples with nimbus clouds carved into the side of the timber framing; the way the Japanese culture has really cultivated its art has really rubbed off on me.
What do you think is the biggest drawcard for skiers from North America to come and ski in Japan?
It’s the consistency and amount of snow, the allure of the culture… I think it’s a combination of all those things, and when they do travel here everyone has a good time. It really is something that has exploded in the last couple of decades.
I can’t really pinpoint it, but I think Japan has just appeared in so many magazines and videos which play into people’s curiosities.
The Nimbus Independent videos inspired a lot of people we know to ride in Japan… was it ever the goal of Nimbus to inspire people to travel and ski?
Yeah for sure! We were certainly trying to help people explore. We were basically just trying to document things about the locations, and what you can experience there. We shot and cut it in such a way that we thought would strike a balance between the experience and actual progressive skiing.
Is there a favourite moment that you’ve had with the Nimbus crew in Japan?
So many. One of the guys got some tattoos over here – one of them got Mt. Yotei on their knee, someone got a nimbus cloud. Travelling with my first daughter to Japan – she learned to ski and snowboard here. My wife got a cover shot here when she was riding professionally, and we’ve just had so many epic days here. It’s so hard to pick a ‘best day ever’, I don’t even know what that means anymore (laughs). One of the most memorable trips was of my first time coming here… things went pretty poorly, I had no idea what the hell I was doing (laughs).
There are quite a few new properties here now, do you think it’s a good thing to have a mix of high-end apartments and budget backpackers and pensions?
It is a good thing because it’s unique to this area. You need a place that can handle so many people, and has the full variety of accommodations so it should be Niseko. Is it the same place it was 20 years ago? Obviously not, but it’s got to happen somewhere and it may as well be here. To see that the infrastructure is developing and making riding more user-friendly, it’s definitely not a bad thing at all. Sometimes the stars align and it just happens.
What do you think about your current accommodation; Haven Niseko?
I’ve had the opportunity to have stayed in a lot of nice places, and this is a really cool one. I love how contemporary it is – the floor to ceiling windows and views are just ridiculous, and the design is very, very cool. To be able to experience a place like this with my wife, I’m stoked for sure.
Do you have any recommendations for visitors to the Niseko area?
There are a few things I like to keep close to my chest, maybe somewhere I want to tour in the backcountry, (laughs). I’ve always been a big fan of Okonomiyaki at Ju – you have to go there; it’s a guaranteed good time. Niseko Ramen too, I’ve chased that place while it’s been moving around – I love Niseko Ramen!
In terms of riding, probably Hanazono is my favourite. You get a good amount of vertical, the terrain is a sustained steep – if you get it sunny it’s really good.
I always recommend just driving around, getting a little lost on the island somewhere. I think central Hokkaido is really unique, but there are so many areas that are good in different weather.
Any sponsors or people you want to thank?
I’ve been with Dakine and Line for 20 years now and they give me a lot of creative licence so I’m thankful for sure. Anon, EVO and Marker – much appreciated. I’m so stoked on SkiJapan.com, I’m so thankful and honestly, we’re really looking forward to getting back here next year. I’m planning to bring my girls next time so we can spend some more time in this place that’s so special to us.