Timing | Hakuba to Hokkaido

PHOTOS: Max Houtzager, Amado Stachenfeld and Rob Schanz

LOCATION: Japan

Watching does not end with the eyes. It is a multi-sensory endeavor: the subtleties of how our bodies move through space can be just as informative.

Weather patterns will take away warmth, light, and life just as quickly as they provide it. This is especially clear on the islands of Japan — particularly in the mountains of Hakuba and Hokkaido, near the Sea of Japan. Staring skyward, we watch storm systems come and go in what seems a matter of minutes. The same sun that can illuminate valleys, burning red at sunrise, might decide to hide behind the dense clouds that loiter above cold blue waters. The snow will turn from weightless crystals of ice to a slushy mush, and the ocean’s surface from somber glass to a furled mess. Paying attention to these cycles — continuously watching, tuning into the natural rhythm — allows us to harness their energy rather than be ended by it.

Watching, however, does not end with the eyes. It is a multi-sensory endeavor: the subtleties of how our bodies move through space can be just as informative. Challenging the mountain and the sea — climbing steep peaks and gliding down powder-filled bowls, punching through powerful surf and sneaking into almond-shaped tubes — provides an unparalleled sort of elation. In these moments, one notices every cell playing its part: locked into position, perfectly aligned with the storm’s offerings of snow or swell. We make pinpoint adjustments as we glide through space and time, synchronizing with conditions, placing ourselves in the center of it all. Harmonious with the double-edged delicacies of our environment thanks to a never ending process of observation and reaction, these are the times we feel most alive.