Laughing in the Face of Danger

If travel broadens the mind, some places like Niseko on Japan’s North island

Hokkaido, narrow the focus. It’s hard to actually be off the beaten track here given

the tendency for landscapes to be shaped by people, as much as nature. But the

landscape remains a genius, even if a bonsaied one compared to Australia.

So many people in such a small space. Right across Japan they recognize the art of

cooperation for the common good. If you want an example of this look no further than

how they lock up bicycles outside their houses and apartments. They don’t. Bicycle

locks are almost never needed in Tokyo or anywhere else. Shame and pride are big

deterrents, so row after row of bespoke bicycles sit temptingly in a way that would

occur hardly anywhere else on the planet.

Even their bullet trains glide through that orchestrated landscape. Life by a railway

line here isn’t all rattle and clatter. If there’s a sound it’s virtually gone before your

ear-drums have a chance to react. And they don’t yell, or honk horns, or give each

other the bird while driving. They simply bow courteously except for the accidental

elbow or shove while squeezing onto public transport.

Which brings me to our recent excellent adventure at Niseko on Japan’s North island

Hokkaido. Reputedly one of the world’s best ski resorts for powder hounds. I can

vouch for this as I regularly performed face plants instead of pole plants. Powder

skiing is a technique all of its own. One moment I felt like I was roller-blading and

suddenly my skis sank into fluffy quicksand. Losing sight of my skis robbed my

already bankrupt confidence and so I made another fresh impression on the slopes.

Fortunately our good friends from Velogear were on hand - ambassadors of goodwill

and merriment – to witness our blunders off-piste. Yes we were slightly piste-off.

It changed our impression of deep, un-groomed powder. It’s hard. And unforgiving.

Especially for skiiers who think anything after Australian conditions must be easy.

It isn’t. It’s like sinking in inexperience, or learning a foreign language – easier than

usual to appear the idiot. Something like trying to explain an elegant turn of phrase

like “the suppository of all wisdom” in Japanese. Especially when it doesn’t even

translate well back home. Unless you’re a Rhodes Scholar of course.

Fortunately our friends from Velogear fitted us out with some of their uber

comfortable SIX30 compression clothing. While it didn’t improve our skiing style we

can say without hesitation we remained warm and supremely comfortable.

I began to wonder if this might not be the secret to happiness - gliding down the

slopes secure in the knowledge that our muscle, bone and few extremities of flab were

flexibly contained in garments of near-miraculous support.

Only once did I come close to losing my legendary cool when hanging out in in the

lunchtime café crowd. An American dude confusing which line I was in directed:

“Hey Buddy, get to the back of the queue.” I almost lost it then and there but I can

safely say my SIX30 compression clothing helped me to hold it together and behave

honorably in the best Japanese traditions. Praise for any product doesn’t come much


Peter Hyatt