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The Inertia

Japan. Is there a single country that has become as iconic in the snow-riding world of late? Riding powder defines the winter experience and Japan, it seems, has it in spades. Light, dry, deep powder. And the best way to ride that powder is to find un-tracked lines by touring the country’s incredible terrain. Maude Raymond, Taylor Godber, Caley Vanular and Elena Hight did just that last winter and needless to say, they scored in the most spectacular way. Vision Nowhere is a short film, the love child of that trip where the ladies utilized our favorite form of winter transportation: ski and snowboard touring. I caught up with Elena to talk about the journey.

So the film is pretty quick hitting.

We wanted it to be a short film and really highlight the experience of being in Japan. It’s such a cool place and so different than anywhere else in the world. A lot of people outside the snow world don’t think of it as a snowy place. But it is seriously some of the best snow on Earth and to experience a culture like that makes it one of the best places in the world to ride.

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How did the trip come together?

It was a super last-minute trip. Maude Raymond (skier) had the idea for the trip early in the season. The other three girls are all Canadian and they called me last minute, “want to go to Japan?” Things turned out so well. The film—in my opinion–really highlights all the girls and how they have very different styles. All of them are doing really unique stuff within snowsports. I guess it’s a little atypical of a group but it worked out so well.

Talk about the athletes in the film.

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 Maude is a ripping skier who’s been deeply entrenched in the backcountry, and filming in the industry for a while. Taylor Godber is a really good Whistler snowboarder who knows the backcountry around that area well and is definitely a strong snowmobiler, too (she’s got access). I got to go into the Whistler backcountry with her this year and she took me to some new spots. Caley is an all-around good shredder. She does everything in the snowboarding world really well.

 You’ve been pretty deeply entrenched in competition. That seems to be changing.

I’m actually stepping away from competition. I’m taking the year to focus on filming. I had a history with backcountry touring. I grew up in Tahoe, some of the best backcountry riding there is when it’s good, and I always had that in my snowboarding repertoire, I guess. The past five years I’ve done my best to get into the backcountry as much as possible. This Japan trip was the perfect touring trip–epic snow, more than we could handle really. We actually found ourselves wishing the sun would come out for ten minutes, which was kind of funny.

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The ski and snowboard touring in Japan is spectacular, to say the least. Photo: Ben Girardi

So your focus has definitely switched.

My focus switched mid-season last year to riding backcountry. I had the opportunity to go out with Jeremy while filming Ode to Muir, and it opened up my eyes to long distance touring. I’ve done plenty of short stuff, but I’m super-excited about human powered snowboarding. You can get to places you can’t access any other way. Ode to Muir was a catalyst to take the next step and jump into filming.

Talk about the powder in Japan. It just sounds so insane.

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The Japanese pow is insane. I would say it’s like the deepest day you’ve had in Utah or Colorado, where it’s just super-light snow but every single day for weeks on end. I couldn’t believe it. People had told me about it. But it seriously snowed a foot every day. Every night, everything would reset. It was unbelievable.

How was that line where you guys dropped down to the ocean? There just seems to be so many backcountry options in Japan.

That was a road spot we had to poke around and find. It wasn’t set up for that. It got sunny for one moment and we had to do a little searching. I feel like touring and being in Japan really gives you that full experience. One of my favorite touring days was behind an Onsen (hot springs). We hiked and then rode back down to the hot springs, like literally snowboarded to the door of the hot springs, which is the ultimate after a long day.

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Group dynamics seemed pretty spot on.

We had an awesome group. I think everyone brought their own flair. We rode a lot of diverse stuff. We had an incredible media crew—Carlo Mion’s style was really in line with what the girls wanted to create out of the edit. Our photographer did a great job of capturing the lifestyle beyond snowboarding. It’s hard to have a bad trip in Japan: you’re eating the best food of your life, snowboarding the deepest pow you’ve ever ridden, soaking in hot springs and then you wake up and repeat it all over again.

 

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