Monster-sized jumps waiting and competing against the world’s top athletes, the pressure is extreme.

For 22-year-old Gen Sasaki, the memory of skiing in his home town of Niseko as a youngster is what keeps him calm as he represents Japan in world competitions. When he was young he skied daily with his friends in the abundant powder that blanketed the terrain.

Gen’s speciality was the natural jumps that formed on the slopes.

The desire to have those around him say how good he was helped him improve and develop his talent. The soft powder snow allowed him to try big jumps and protect him from falls. “When I remember the good times I had in Niseko, I can really give my best performance”, said Gen. His brother Youhei, seven years older, was always just ahead of him.

Gen started skiing when he was two. Famous for freeskiing in Niseko, Youhei was his role model growing up. “He looked really cool and free, using the terrain for his tricks and jumping and spinning,” Gen says.

Youhei also began to realise his younger brother’s talent. Yohei made a movie of Gen skiing when he was in Grade 6. The snow wear brand SOS saw the movie and became Gen’s first sponsor and this was the start of his skiing career.

Already famous for freeskiing, Yohei was his role model growing up.

To get into the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea this year he needed to perform well at the World Cup in America, but injured himself in practice and was unable to compete. Feeling depressed, Niseko’s powder snow helped him recover and reset.

Gen farms in Niseko during the summer, working the fields. Youhei works in the family accommodation business Bongo Hiroba in Niseko, where they are expanding into the “glamping” (glamour camping) business.

Gen and Youhei will continue their journey, born, raised and living in Niseko.

This article appeared in Powderlife 2019 / Vol 12 / Issue 52 

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