WITHOUT going too berserk on the puns, the third annual Niseko Hirafu International Darts Grand Slam has really snowballed and taken flight this year.
A formidable 24 teams were the result of a bumper early December registration night at the seven-week tournament’s home ground, Wild Bill’s (that’s more than double last year’s team total, and barely recognisable from the humble beginnings at Pow Pow Café two years ago).
Tournament instigators Matt and Az from Niseko Photography have even had to turn away unlucky, would-be dart-smiths for lack of space.
It’s already ballooned from being one night a week for less than 10 teams in the first two seasons, to this year spanning across three evenings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
It’s nothing short of shoulder-to-shoulder as darts takes a stranglehold on at Bill’s on game nights.
So, to what can we attribute this newfound penchant for lobbing glorified pins?
“It’s because Az and I are ‘cultural landscape architects’,” a modest Matt reveals to Powderlife.
A perpetually pink-beanied Az adds: “I think because we hyped it up this year, and there is nothing else to do here at the moment,” he says.
“Everyone likes darts, because it is the only thing in the entire village that every person and company can get involved in. I’m just stoked to play darts – we have created something that everyone enjoys, and that’s just unreal!”
And what’s not to like about strokes of genius in team-naming this year – gems like Humphrey Bodart, Pissed By The End, Pissed By The Start, Dart Vaders and, of course, Afraid Of The Dart (that’d be Powderlife’s darts arm).
The Mount Hotham-inspired darts event (or so legend has it) this year even makes Hirafu history with the first ever all-girl and all-Japanese girl teams.
“It is really getting a good cross section of the Hirafu community,” boasts Matt proudly.
Much to the entrants’ delight or dismay, the infamous ‘Paralyser’ bucket o’ booze appallingly awaits the winners of each night’s play, a drink arguably more effective than a tranquiliser dart in taking down livestock.
Thankfully, The Paralyser is served after sharp objects stop flying through the air. This year, we move away from the milk-curdling, racially sounding Black and White Russian, and turn to a seemingly endless and potent Mohito-based bevvy, starring 42 Below’s feijoa vodka. Many agree this drink should be fed to the loser, not the winner.
“The Paralyser is designed to caress our taste buds, while stinging us in the brain,” says Az, sounding a fear of a man once bitten, twice shy.
Wild Bill’s owner Brett – who admits to knowing ‘nada’ about darts, besides the fact that the boards are round, and that he buys two new ones each year (pool is Brett’s game) – says the general mood for darts this year is ‘off the Richter scale’.
“No one has any cash to burn, and there is no damn snow, so darts is all that is keeping anything afloat here,” chimes Brett, after the first round of matches earlier this month.
“Players are pretty serious this season – there is no questioning that. All the company owners compete with each other in this village, but it’s nice to see them all gel and get along, even if it’s only for three nights a week.”
So, who will it be to knock last year’s premiers, Dart Attack, from the trophy mantle that since last year’s final has resided in Kutchan’s Café Kaku?
Who will walk away with all the glory and bragging rights for another season? Only time will tell.
Let the crooked trash talk begin, but may your darts fly straight and true.