Happy skiing, happy life! This is Azusa Uehara’s motto, and it certainly seems to be a successful formula. Always smiling, joking and with a joyous outlook on life, Azusa-san is one of the larger-than life characters that make up the fabric of Niseko.
Skiing and the snow is in Azusa-san’s DNA – she grew up in Niigata on the mainland and her parents were ski instructors, so she learned to ski not long after she could walk. After spending a few years working as a fashion designer in Tokyo, and then travelling the world skiing, she moved to Niseko. After working as a ski patroller she noticed there were a lot of people in Niseko telemark skiing – a Nordic style of skiing where the toe of the boot is attached to the skis, but the heel is free, allowing greater ability to negotiate different terrain.
It seems she was a natural and perhaps, she says, “crazier” than other telemarkers, because within two years of taking up the discipline, she had won a swag of national events, and came 10th in the FIS World Cup Telemark. Unfortunately due to an issue with her heart she had to retire from the strenuous competition side of the sport, so we will never know if she could have gone on to be number one. Fortunately it hasn’t stopped her from getting out on the mountain every day in the winter.
These days she shares her passion for life and skiing with others through telemark camps for women under her company, Snow Diva Telemark. She gains true joy from teaching others and witnessing the moments when it all clicks and another person is a step closer to mastering the art of telemark skiing.
TEXT: KRISTIAN LUND
PHOTOS: NATE CAREY & GLEN CLAYDON
APPEARS IN: POWDERLIFE WINTER 2017 EDITION