Tyrolia team rider Josh Absenger is a regular sighting in the powder fields and snowparks around his home base of Schladming, Austria. But in recent years he’s also traveled regularly to Japan, attracted like many others to the lures of deep, fresh Japanese powder.
Josh just dropped this year’s Headbud clip from Japan with Dani Maurer, “Children of the Snow.” Hit play to get an eyeful of the goods from Hokkaido, then read on to learn more from Josh about their trip and what he and the crew have been up to lately.
Interview: Ethan Stone | Photos: Matthias Fritzenwaller
Hey Josh! You’ve been around the freeski scene in Austria for a long time now. What are you and the crew up to these days? Is everyone still around?
Hey Ethan, time goes faster than you think… it must be 17 years now since everything got started. Back then a crew around Schladming got started with the Pickings Fam. We financed our first trips to America with video premieres and concerts. Of course we were also keeping an eye on Headbud, they were the freeski crew and production with the most creative and best riders in the Alps. We decided to throw in our lots together to make the film projects more professional. I think Fabi Hyden, the CEO of Headbud, has worked on more than 15 ski movies in the meantime. Big respect. A lot has changed since then. A few guys have families now and are working normal jobs, but everyone has kept their passion for skiing and that’s the main point. I also don’t make my money from sponsors alone, for a few years now I’ve had my own business producing aerial imagery for hotels and the tourism industry. That’s been going well. I can plan my schedule as I like, so that’s a big plus.
You’ve been to Japan quite a bit in recent years. What’s the attraction?
Japan has fascinated me since I was little, when I saw the first videos from T-Hall blasting through the birch forests and launching fat airs off pillows. “You have to go there sometime,” I told myself. We usually go as a small crew, two riders plus a photographer and filmer, then you’re super flexible with regards to spots and getting around. I’ve been over there five times in the meanwhile. I have to give a big thank you to the resort Kiroro, because they’ve always supported our projects and helped make them happen. Cameron from Black Coffee has shown us a lot around the resort, too.
How was your trip this year?
Together with Dani Maurer, who’s also been around since the beginning in the Headbud movies, filmer Sebastian Höllwart and photographer Matthias Fritzenwaller, we took two weeks in the middle of January to go to Hokkaido again. We’re always excited to go back to the land of the rising sun each year. Culturally and culinarily, it’s always completely different as soon as you step off the plane, and taking in the life there is really cool. This year we stayed right at Kiroro Resort, who helped us out with accommodation. We had ten good ski days there, and we didn’t see the sun much in those 10 days. The daily routine when you’re shooting is simple, you eat a big breakfast and grab a big coffee from Cameron, our buddy, local and guide from the Black Diamond coffee shop, the best café in Kiroro. Cameron was always able to help us out with finding some sick spots. Then you’re out all day shooting till around 5 o’clock, drink a few beers, grab something to eat, and that was it. On days off, we took some short trips to Otaru or Sapporo.
What ski setup do you bring to Japan?
I ride the Armada ARV 116, awesome ski, it floats so well in powder. I have those mounted with the Ambition 12 touring binding from Tyrolia at -4cm from center, and the Dalbello Lupo for boots. For me it’s the perfect setup for short hikes, and a trustworthy binding and material for the downhill as well as the up.
Tyrolia still has a frame binding for touring. Does that have its advantages?
For my film and photo projects where I’m hiking between 500 and 700 vertical meters, the binding is very appropriate. The frame gives a lot of stability and the toe piece is like a classic alpine binding. I’m totally satisfied with the setup.
You’ve been on the Tyrolia team for a while. What’s your special connection to the brand?
I’ve been on the team for six years, and using the products for over ten years I think. Tyrolia has always supported me with my projects, like this one in Japan, which I’m very thankful for. From the beginning on it’s been a good basis for teamwork, and they’re always open for my ideas.
You’re from Schladming, right? One of the best home spots a skier could ask for… where and how are you underway in the winter?
That’s right, Schladming is really awesome because you’re super central in Austria, and whether you’re there in the summer for biking or in the winter for skiing, you’ve got everything that a nature-loving person could ask for. I’ve been appreciating our region more and more recently, meaning the Dachstein area as well as the Tauern on the other side of the valley. There’s so many possibilities for skiing and great spots for touring. Absolut Park isn’t far either, just a 20-minute drive from Schladming and definitely one of my favorite places in the winter. It’s like a second home for me, you meet all your buddies here to ski together, and the vibe is like a big family.
Rather deep pow in Japan, or spring laps at Absolut Park?
Everything at the proper time… in January I’m always down for a trip to Japan. In the spring though, there’s nothing better than cruising the park with your friends and having fun.
Will there be another full ski movie from Headbud anytime soon?
I hope that there will be another complete Headbud film sometime. It would be awesome to get the whole crew back together on a project again. For Fabi Hyden, the founder and the heart of Headbud, a lot has changed. He’s got his own family now, so the priorities have shifted a bit, but the passion is still there. Maybe there will be another movie sometime soon.
I saw you were still hitting jumps this summer in June.
The story is, Johannes Rohrmoser, nice guy (you’ll be back soon buddy! Jonny had a wild crash on his bike this summer) and I went to Obertauern to scout a bit. Everything was south-facing and fully in the sun, but from the valley we spotted a landing. “That might work,” I told Jonny, and we hiked up there on touring skis and scoped it out. It was a perfect spot—inrun, flat, landing, everything fit just right. We dug for four or five hours and finished the kicker, then came back the next day and had a sick session. That was the second of June, haha.
Any final words?
Yeah, I’d also like to give a shoutout to my sponsors for their long-standing partnership and support for projects. Thanks to Armada, Tyrolia, Blue Tomato, Dalbello Ski Amade and Absolut Park!