Friends on Powder Days: A Gentem Trip Across Hokkaido’s Top Ski Resorts

What could be more fun than reuniting with old friends after an extended separation, loading up vans with boards and gear, and heading off chasing powder around Hokkaido… especially when your friends just happen to be some of the founders and icons of the modern Japanese snowsurfing movement.

That’s exactly what Jackson Hole-based Patagonia Ambassador and Gentemstick pro-rider Alex Yoder did as soon as Japan’s borders opened and Hokkaido’s mythical powder snow buried the island once more in the winter of 2022/23. Yoder first snowboarded in Japan in 2014, where he discovered an unexpected and welcome synergy with the mellow, soulful style of his new Japanese mentors and masters of their art. He went on to visit every winter thereafter, forming an almost spiritual bond with Niseko and his adopted Gentemstick family, until COVID struck and drove an invisible wedge between him and Hokkaido.

Gentemstick was founded by Taro Tamai in the 1990s, and fine-tuned over the following decade in partnership with a pioneering crew of snowboarding disciples who carved their freestyling signatures into fields of untouched powder right in the middle of Grand Hirafu – day after day, winter after winter.

While Gentemstick was born in Niseko, the beauty of Hokkaido is that there are dozens of resorts within half a day’s drive that those in the know can cherry pick and hit at short notice. After reuniting with Taro, Yoder tag-teamed with various characters among the extended Gentemstick family on a two-week “Gentem Trip”, sponsored by the Hokkaido Ski Promotion Council, to rediscover the island’s top ski resorts.

If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you may have a spiritual connection with Niseko as well. In the following pages, join Yoder and friends to see how the custodians of Japanese snowsurfing do Hokkaido on powder days.