Sydney and Melbourne lock downs are bad enough, but spare a thought for long-distance frothers like Gold Coast based Sean Henderson, who just lost three seasons in a row.
If you live in Queensland, Japan or NZ are more likely to be your number one snow choice these days
Hendo is as keen as they come. Working hard running his horticulture business while dreaming of snow time.
“Yes you could argue that I’m proper snow frother mate” he says, “my whole working year revolves around getting to the snow, especially Japan. It most definitely is my happy place. I love it over there, not just the powder either, the culture, the people, the food, and I’m partial to the odd Kirin too.”
After last year’s lockdowns he missed the entire 2020 southern season. No going anywhere snowy was allowed from Queensland. Japan last winter? You’re kidding, we will be lucky to be allowed out to get back for 2022 winter.
Finally in April there was hope with the new NZ Travel Bubble. In no time Hendo was booked, froth levels rising as the dates got closer. Until the Sydney outbreak plus a few cases in other states caused the NZ government to shut down all Aussie travel for 2 months, from every state and territory. Which is really harsh for Queenslanders and other states with similarly low COVID cases.
Three snow seasons lost and counting. Which should cheer up those locked down in Sydney right now: things could be worse!
No doubt Hendo’s story or similar is one shared by a lot of our readers and followers, so we thought we’d share it with you.
How many trips do you normally get in a year and where are your favourites for north and south winters?
Being self employed and with the work I do means I’ve got to be selective with times I take holidays, especially with my high end ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ client base. I maintain about $400 million worth of real estate here, and our growing season coincides with the Northern Hemi winter, so I try to get my Japan fix anywhere from about mid-Jan through Feb for about 10 day stretches. Can’t really go any earlier as all my clients need their places looking spesh for the Christmas/New Year break.
Ten days is about the limit time wise otherwise everything gets too untidy and it takes too long to catch up. Even though my lady is a snow frother too, we try and get away in our winter for a sunny escape somewhere.
Having said that I have done 8 trips across the ditch between 2006 and 2013. I have a mate who has a house in Ohakune, so I’ve done Ruapehu heaps, she’s a fickle beast but I’ve had some epic days there.
I think Wanaka is my favourite Southern Hemi ski town, and I can’t go past TC as far as riding goes, although like Ruapehu, I’ve had sick days at all the resorts around Queenstown and Wanaka, Mt Hutt was awesome too.
Top of the charts for me was a heli day with Southern Lakes Heliski in 2013, wow, one of the best $1000 I’ve spent anywhere!
We also went to Chamonix in 2016 for my 40th, that was jaw-dropping stuff and we had some awesome powder days there too.
Did you get Japan in last year before everything shut down ?
We were lucky to get to Niseko last year in mid-Jan, was my second time there and my fiance Nicci’s first. For a supposedly ordinary year snowfall wise we scored big time. Only two Bluebirds, two 40cm plus days and the rest 10cm minimum days, so it was a cracking trip. The first whispers of Covid were starting to come through when we got home.
Last southern winter must have been harsh with Queensland locked out of NSW and NZ locked out of Australia ?
Last winter was a little bizarre on the Gold Coast. Nicci lost her job due to Covid, but I was lucky enough to have kept working consistently the whole time. We took advantage of the lockdowns to sneak up to Great Keppel Island for a week. Sometimes you forget how rad your own backyard is!
Did you ever get your hopes up for a Japan trip last winter? For a while there we were hopeful, then when they couldn’t even organise NZ last year despite almost no cases we thought there was no chance of Japan happening.
Yes we were extremely hopeful of getting to Japan this year, we travel with another couple which works brilliantly, as us boys are fairly advanced in our riding and the girls are similar levels of intermediate so we gel really well together.
We had booked Appi Kogen, and we always have a car too, so were endeavouring to knock off a few more resorts up towards Tohoku as well. But as the whole Covid situation turned for the worse it became pretty clear we wouldn’t be going.
Then 2021 rolls round and finally there is some hope with the NZ bubble in April. You were getting excited counting the days right?
We locked in Wanaka for July, we always try to get in early wherever we go, keeps me driven and gives me an exciting goal to aim for. My business keeps me very busy both mentally and physically 6 days a week so snowboarding is my release
It was looking good there for a while, with just a couple of brief shutdowns of the bubble till June. Then the Sydney outbreak starts and gets out of control. When did you have to cancel and how did that feel?
We basically cancelled last Friday after NZ’s PM announced the hard border closure for all of Australia. I was devastated.
I really was clinging to the hope that Queensland would still be able to fly as our numbers were so low. It was a bit of a roller coaster fortnight as we had a short lockdown 2 weeks previous and a bubble pause with NZ, then they reopened travel with a week before we had to fully pay for our accomodation and car hire. So I paid up, stoke levels are high again, then fast forward another week and I’m reaching for the tissues. Deflated is probably the best word.
If things do open up by September would you consider an October mission to the North Island ? It’s actually the best time to hit Ruapehu in our experience – great lines hiking up to the glacier from Turoa side or round the lake from Whakapapa side.
I’m always down for a hike anywhere to try and hit some great lines, but as far as heading back over to NZ October is going to be too late in the piece for me, I’m on the downhill slide to Christmas work wise by then, so I’m going to have to settle for a mini vacay out to The Granite Belt for some R n R, buckets of red wine and some epic food.
Otherwise it’s wait for Japan. Which is not looking good to happen either.
Our travelling party will no doubt be discussing Japan next year, it’s already on my mind, no doubt we will be discussing over said buckets of red around the fire next week. It seems like a long way off, especially with case numbers the way they are at present, but hope and optimism are a big part of my vocabulary at the moment and staring down the barrel of going 3 seasons without some turns isn’t computing for me at the moment.
So we will discuss where to go, when, look at booking if we can, and I’ll consider myself going until the powers at be tell me I can’t.
Where are your favourites in J-land?
Where to go in Japowderland? Wow, a tough question..
I’ve been saying for years now that I go to Japan to lose my mind and regain my soul. I’ve covered nearly 30 resorts over there and haven’t even scratched the surface, the possibilites are endless.
NISEKO It’s a must, even if you only go there once. It’ll blow your mind. It’s famous for many reasons, not just the snow. While you’re there zip over to Rusutsu and Kiroro too. Soooo good. If your ability allows it hike the peak off the pizza box chair at Hana, I don’t know how many times we did it last year but fresh lines all day even when the rest of the resort is packed.
FURANO and Central Hokkaido Heaps colder than Niseko, they don’t call it champagne powder for nothing, the snow quality is mind-boggling. With Asahidake, Kamui, and Tomamu close by, there’s something for everyone in Central Hokkaido, for first-timers to insane free ride hellmen or women. Go hunting for off the beaten track places to eat, soooo good.
MYOKO KOGEN – MK is where my love affair with Japan really started, that single street still brings a smile to face every time I think about it. We’ve been there twice. The locals are truly lovely people, as are all Japanese, the food is just sensational and the snow falls in silent truckloads.
Rule of thumb in MK is whatever they forecast, multiply it by 4. In 2017 we were there for 5 days and got 2.6 metres, truly staggering. The 3 MK resorts cater for everyone, Myoko Snowsports have you covered if you need rental gear, Tom and Noz the owners are legends. Joey’s is another gear option too, their coffee rocks too!
I need to highlight Seki Onsen, we hit that tiny resort after 50 cms, it was simply epic, and after the day’s riding we were lucky enough to spend some time chatting with the owner of the resort over beers out of his own fridge, he’s an amazing guy and a forefather of the Japanese ski scene.
Lotte Arai on a clearish day (rare) after good snow is awesome too, you can hike their avi controlled pow zones for hours.
Nozawa Onsen and Madarao need a mention too, NO is simply a gorgeous little town, again something for everyone, onsens for days. Oh and make sure you get some octopus balls out of the Kombi in the main street too, you’ll know what I mean when you get there! Madarao tree skiing.. ENOUGH SAID, it’s as good if not the best tree skiing I’ve done anywhere in Japan, its rad.
Hot tip – take a couple bags of Caramelo Koalas with you when you go to Japan. Tipping is an absolute no no there. But bowing, offering an Aussie chocolate and saying Domo arigato, Kore wa anata no desu (thank you, this is for you) after a wicked meal, to the taxi or bus driver, the lifty, or to the cleaners who meticulously tidy your accom for you goes a long way!
There’s so much more to see and I can’t wait to get back over there. Mata ne Japan!
With no snow time guess you got more time for the business. Who should people call if they need a good landscaper/horticulturalist up there ?
If you’re on the GC and need a horticulturalist give me (Henderson Horticulture) a shout. If I don’t answer I’ll either be on the tools or snowboarding.
Hope you’re back on the board soon mate cheers!