This article has been adapted from the Winter 2018 issue of Downdays magazine. Use the mag finder at the bottom of this page to find a copy near you.
Words: Klaus Polzer
What in the world is going on in these photos? If you don’t get it immediately, don’t worry—I didn’t see it at first either. Then I realized just how much this Japanese telemark skier is enjoying what he’s doing. These are just two of a whole series of images of creative carve ninja Takemitsu Ueno, seemingly defying physics while arcing through fresh corduroy, his body suspended mere centimeters above the snow. There’s no posing and nothing is faked; this is pure unadulterated fun with centrifugal forces.
I wonder if Takemitsu had any role models to inspire him? It’s hard to know. His turns remind me of photos from back in the day, of snowboarders laying out similar carves. The “euro carve” it was called back then, but that was half an age ago; in the last two decades, many other trends have taken over snowboarding’s definition of cool. With two planks and normal alpine bindings, similar manoeuvers are seemingly impossible, at least not without breaking your legs. Nevertheless, Takemitsu Ueno is exploring new possibilities with his tele gear, entirely independent of current snow sports trends—and in doing so, has achieved something that inspires me.
The art of the carve: Takemitsu Ueno is a practictioner.
When we stand on two skis, we have no obligations. In contrast to our ancestors, who used wooden planks for hunting and later for military reasons, the modern version of the ski serves only one purpose: fun. Even if our social spheres—the real ones or the social ones—often try to restrict what is acceptable or cool behavior on skis, the only limits a skier has are the ones that are self-applied. If you allow these societal influences to curb your imagination, you’ve got nobody but yourself to blame.
Of course, maintaining mental freedom is often easier said than done. Last season, as the European winter decided to remain far drier than it should, my desire to go skiing diminished even further among the flood of footage from the bottomless powder that graced Japan and North America. Yet whenever I managed to strap into skis and push any expectations aside, the fun returned instantly.
This kind of open-mindedness to conditions and terrain—the common thread that runs through freeskiing in all of its modern forms, from free touring to urban skiing—has become my goal for the coming season. If, for the sake of variety, a real winter decides to show up, then it’ll all be good anyway. But if not, I’ll probably be pulling out my on-piste skis for the first time in years… who knows, maybe even with some telemark bindings mounted. The point is: don’t let anyone or anything steal the fun, no matter when, where, how, and why you you choose to put your skis on!