Imagine a steep snowy alpine slope of forty-five degrees or more, dotted with cliff faces,
rocks, trees and natural features. This type terrain is a free rider’s dream and this past
January 2017, Hakuba Village played host to the first ever Freeride World Tour in Asia.
For those who may not have heard about the Freeride World Tour, it is a competition where
skiers and snowboarders descend a slope in steep off-piste terrain that is 100% natural.
There are no gates except the start and finish lines and the best run wins.
Freeriding is by its very philosophy a very creative, progressive and truly exciting type of
winter sport. Skiers and riders are set loose (at one at time) down the mountain and their
run is judged on the difficulty of their line, control, fluidity, jumps and technique. From the
the early roots of “extreme skiing” in the 80’s and 90’s and from what was purely daring ski-
mountaineering descents in Europe, extreme skiing and snowboarding competitive events
took wings in Alaska and then Switzerland. From there, the two disciplines merged into the
current Freeride World Tour, which has staged junior levels all the way up to the pro level.
With an already solid base of freeriding skiers and boarders in the Hakuba area and blessed
with steep big-mountain terrain of the Northern Alps, Hakuba and specifically the
backcountry terrain off of Happo-One Resort was the perfect location for the event. As with
any major winter sporting event in a new location, there were plenty of logistical hurdles to
overcome. Besides the obvious challenges of running a huge international event like this in
Hakuba, the team also had to bow down to mother-nature who brought heaps of snow and
tricky avalanche conditions to manage.
Allowing for weather and snow stability the event days can occur over two weeks, but
needing just 2 days the both the 2-Star (amateur class) and 4-Star (Invitational/Pro Class)
went amazingly well. The skiers and snowboarders from Japan and around the world put on
a fantastic show of freeriding skills, tricks all while ripping down the mountain at top-speed.
What was really cool for us Hakuba locals was that Japanese skiers and boarders took 1 st , 2 nd
and 3 rd places in the 2-star competition and 1 st and 2 nd in the 4-star event.
Those who progress onto the 4-star winner level can then battle it out on the other Freeride
World Tour events that take place in America and Europe. You can catch all the action and
videos at www.freerideworldtour.com, and come January 2018, we will hopefully see the
action live here again next winter in Hakuba. See you there!
Article by James A. Robb, Evergreen Backcountry Guides
James A. Robb is a professional guide and General Manager of the Evergreen Outdoor Center in Hakuba. He and his team of fellow guides and instructors assisted the Freeride World Tour by with initial planning, providing ground support, first aid & rescue and avalanche risk control.