Although Japan’s mountains have only half the snow of a typical 600-inch year, face shots were still found by even the tallest of skiers on two nine-day FLC trips to the Land of the Rising Sun. Organized in-house by FLC’s Outdoor Pursuits program, Japanuary provided the ultimate boots-on learning experience for eight students, 12 alumni, and a couple of staff members who relished the reality that experiential education happens even when you work at FLC.
Reaping the fluffy goodness was hard-earned for everyone after four flights, lost luggage, and 26-hours of door-to-door travel from Durango to Niseko. The first trip exposed students to six days of backcountry touring that involved an average of 5,000 feet of climbing and 10 miles of adventure – the equivalent of skiing overland from Red Mountain to Telluride and back. Even the most stalwart of San Juan skiers melted into the hot spring by days’ end and had zero energy for karaoke.
The second trip hosted 10 alumni ranging from 1984 to 2011 classes. Because a third of Japan’s ski resorts were closed due to poor conditions, most trip members chose touring over riding chairs. The group signed off each day with sake toasts and steaming bowls of ramen before collapsing into bed to dream of more Ja-powder.
“Thanks to our legacy of exceptional skiers stemming from Dolf Kuss to the OP program, we knew Japanese powder wouldn’t be too much for FLC grads,” says Dave Kerns, Development Officer of Advancement.
From driving the shuttles to onsite guiding the daily ski tours, OP coordinators Josh Kling and Brett Davis calculated both trip’s monster logistics down to the perfect onsen for après-ski soaks. Meanwhile, Alumni Engagement Director Krista Knott played the role of “trip concierge,” taking care of any day-of details, like dinner reservations, noodle-making classes, and where to find birthday cakes. The team effort created two unforgettable journeys that have travelers and left-out others drooling for another OP-crafted trip.
“It was a way more powerful trip than if we would have hired a guide,” says Knott. “These guys are doing amazing work by keeping these opportunities alive for students. You’re living it when you’re with OP.”