THE ladies were the talk of Niseko at the first amateur Après Bar Rail Jam of the year, with the women raising the bar – or rail, as it were – stepping it up and stomping some of the tricks of the day.
Three Japanese female boarders confirmed what many of us have known for a long time – the girls can shred it up with the best of the blokes.
The December 28 competition in upper Hirafu, held under King Pair Lift 1, even sparked talk of the women taking on the men in future contests later in the season.
Both Japanese and foreign boarders and skiers worked together side-by-side to put on the Rail Jam, then enjoyed some heated competition.
The womens’ boarding was won by Shimiza Mina, who also took out the ‘Sickest Style’ prize.
Following Shimiza was second placegetter Sayaka Nagao, and in third, Ayah Izuki.
Seasonal Niseko local, professional skier and one of three judges on the day, Frenchman Nicolas Cruz, says he was very impressed with such skills at an amateur level.
“For the best of the girls, I would say yes, they could stand up against guys,” he says.
But that’s not to forget the fellers, who put on an impressive show of their own.
After some heated competition, and much judge deliberation, Yuuya Ogasawara from Japan claimed first place, and chomping at his heels fellow countryman Daisuke Akagi in second place (also winner of ‘Sickest Style’), followed by Canadian Matthew Caron coming in third.
Men’s skiers also fought it out with two independent feet, with an Aussie trio taking out the top three places – in winning order Dre Bennett, James Winfield and Douglas Corrin.
With Niseko turning on its snow machine – 1.5m of snow dumped over the Christmas weekend of competition – 35 competitors battled it out in cold and sticky conditions for about four hours to decide on the master of the rail in front of a tidy crowd turnout.
There were 27 men and eight snowboarding women; three of the men skied and the rest boarded.
There were no female skiers on the day, prompting calls for ladies to register in this division next time.
Thanks go out to all three judges, and organisers of the event, particularly local snowboard instructor Ross Monaghan, who set up much of the rail and jumps, and organised sponsors and promotions.
Prizes were provided by local store Rhythm and Beats, and the jam was sponsored by Grand Hirafu Resorts, Après Bar, Niseko Photography, Red Bull, K2 and Kirin beer. Ski and snowboard prizes for the series winners will be provided by K2.
There is already word of about 100 competitors and more professionals for the next contest, a Big Air competition on January 25.
Whispers around the village are the plan is to grow the competitions from the current grassroots level to bigger and better things.
If these rumours are true, this can only be a good thing for putting Niseko on the world snowboarding and skiing map, says organiser Shisei Oka.
“Our aim is to build this thing bigger than the Tokyo X-Trail, which is the biggest of its kind in Japan and packs out the Tokyo Dome,” he says.
Register for the first Big Air competition online at www.powderlife.com. Entry forms will also be available at businesses across Niseko.
There are three more Apre Bar competitions this winter in Niseko…
• Big Air Comp I, January 25, 2pm-8pm.
• Rail Jam II, February 15, 12pm-6pm.
• Big Air Comp II, March 1, 2pm-8pm.
Details may be subject to change, so check local guides for details closer to the dates.