A Japanese Winter's Tale

Published - Ski+Board December 2009
'Japan'

Andreas Hofer is bewitched by the backcountry in Hokkaido. IN THE WINTER, cold winds blow down from Siberia, pick up moisture over the Japan Sea, and drop it as snow when they strike the mountains of Hokkaido. Japan’s most northerly island is wedged between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific, close to Russia’s volcanic Kamchatka peninsula and the disputed Kuril Islands. Snow comes down in prodigious quantities – 12 feet and more in a prolonged single storm is not uncommon. But would I get to ski it?

For the authorities at Chitose, Sapporo’s international airport, I was a problem case. A gaijin who couldn’t speak a word of Japanese, who was too stupid to fill out the landing form, who couldn’t plausibly explain where he intends to stay, and who has lost his luggage in transit was a serious test for the usual politeness of the man with the moustache and typical accountant’s parting at immigration. ...Read more

 

 
The Shah’s Mountain Legacy

Published - Ski+Board February 2009
Our intrepid writer Andreas Hofer with a brilliant dispatch from Iran The Shah’s mountain legacy

WITHIN MOMENTS of Lufthansa’s flight LH600 touching down at Tehran Imam Khomeini International airport, a sudden change takes place in the crowded aisles between Business Class and the tightly packed rows of Economy.

Young women returning from shopping trips to Europe tuck their fashionably highlighted manes
and carefully blow-dried hairstyles swiftly under humble shawls. But there is a practical side to this. Tehran at 2:00am is veiled in smog, and the streets are carpeted with half a metre of snow. ...Read more 

 
Betwixt and between in Zermatt

Betwixt and between in Zermatt

Published - Ski+Board January 2009
'Zermatt'

MOST SKI RESORTS have either a high season or an off-season. They might have a good season or a bad season. And all of them have a dead season – that time of the year when hotels and B&Bs are closed, shops boarded up, and everybody in the business is looking after some other business or heading for their own holidays. Zermatt is different. It has an in-between season.

In May, when the last winter guests have packed their bags, and the summer visitors have yet to arrive, this picturesque village, with its century-old wooden chalets and farmhouses, cobbled streets and window boxes full of geraniums, transforms into hell. ...Read more

 

 
Moonstruck

Published - Ski+Board November 2008
'Well met by moonlight' (Austria/Grossglockner)
The facts were reassuring: Swiss pines, weather-worn fences, alpine huts,  covered under plump duvets of glittering snow. Further ahead the vast expanse of the dozing glazier, towered by the familiar pyramid shaped peak of the Grossglockner, at 3,798 metres Austria’s highest mountain. All there. Yet somehow nothing was real. The light was strangely dim, the shadows hard cast and pitch black, and the snow surface glittered in a colourless, steady white. No shades, just irritatingly white. At ten o’clock in the evening we had parked our car in front of the Lucknerhaus (1,920 meters), skins fitted to the skis, headlamps switched on, and began the long ascent through the dark valley. It was 1:30 AM when we stepped into blinding moonlight. ...Read more


 
Through Wild Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Published - Condé Nast Traveller November 2008
The desert came alive in the morning. Birds started to sing vigorously, flowers sprang up, and all kind of creepy crawlies busied themselves along the sand, carrying debris at high speed, only surpassed by scarabs which pushed along their mud balls at neck breaking velocity. At 6h00 A.M. the sun was already piercing.

We had already been driving for five hours, following a line to the north from Ashgabat, the oasis capital of Turkmenistan. The only thing which kept changing was the colour of the sand dunes: from a grey white to ochre, then from yellow to reddish brown. It was not a line to be exact, - more of a snake path: Jasmurat, my driver, had to avoid drifting sand, numerous pot holes, and innumerable turtles, which had emerged onto the tarmac to warm up after a short spring rain for their mating season. On our left electricity masts were accompanying the railway line, which was built only a few years ago to join the Central Asian leg of the Transsibirian in Dashogus, not far from Chiva on the Uzbek border.  ...Read more

 
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