Tag Archives: Jenna Kuklinski

Read: My 25th Birthday

I made it to 25! I can’t believe I’m here, really. Feels like not too long ago I was 19 and moving to Portland with not much more than a snowboard bag and a dorm-room number. That seems like the marking point for me where I started really growing up; prior to then I’d always been pretty close (if not at) home, and even though I wouldn’t always stay there, I knew I could go back there very easily. Moving to Oregon suddenly put 3,000 miles between myself and anything I had known up until then. It was scary, and I honestly kind of hated portland for the first 4-5 months of living there. However, once I joined the PSU Snowboard Club my life was changed. Being a part of this group and finding people (like Chris and Eddy Barnhart) who were immediately so friendly and inclusive and FUN made me realize this was a place I wanted to be and that snowboarding was something I needed to keep doing. So that was it. I continued my push to finish my Environmental Studies degree, all while working paid (and unpaid) jobs and internships that allowed me to get that much closer to this fantastic new family of riders I’d discovered. I didn’t consciously realize that I was slowly shaping my whole life around this ‘sport’ (activity? passion? fun thing to do with friends?) but it happened all the same. Sometimes I get nervous that I should be out working a 9-5 job that pays more than $10k/year (actually I made less than that this year, according to my tax returns and W-2’s) but then I think about what that would really entail and I immediately feel better about where I’m at.

Last year I celebrated my birthday in the snowy mountains of Alaska, and this year I was in the rather warm Salt Lake City with a few more friends and a lot less snow. On my actual birthday I was taken through my first runs of (baby) chutes at Brighton,

Oh shoot
Oh shoot

followed by a gorgeous hike in to Diamond Fork Hot Springs,

Just dang gorgeous, and only an hour hike in.
Just dang gorgeous, and only an hour hike in.

and finishing with a less-than-pleasant four-police-car-pullover and drug-dog search of Tyler’s van.

Yep that pooch sniffed all over this sketchy van. I was sneakily shooting photos of this whole ordeal. Oops.
Yep that pooch sniffed all over this sketchy van. I was sneakily shooting photos of this whole ordeal. Oops.

Apparently there was a color festival happening the same weekend as my birthday and cops were staking out the hotsprings in hopes of catching out-of-town drugged-up hippies coming out from a relaxing soak. They didn’t find anything (of course), kept us there for about 2 hours, made me dump the rest of my closed bottle of sake (that was in my backpack) out into the dirt and charged us with open containers because we had chosen to carry out our empties instead of leave them in the hot springs for future visitors.

Oh yeah, and one of the cops wished me a happy birthday. Gee, thanks.

My second birthday celebration involved fewer police but was just as fun. My friend Laura R. works at a high-end restaurant in Park City and took myself and a few others out for one of the BEST meals of our lives. Although the plans were a little confusing to everyone (probably my fault for changing from telling everyone it was going to be a nail party to dinner party) we all had an amazing time.

I didn't eat the meats, but the cheese and that honey (oh the honey!) was amazing.
I didn’t eat the meats, but the cheese and that honey (oh the honey!) was amazing.

I will remember that meal for the rest of my life, it was that good (seriously). There were dishes such as winter fruit salad, champagne covered lemon sorbet, filet mignon and finally a richly liquored-up desert coffee that tied the whole thing together perfectly.

We had so many drinks we didn't know which ones to drink when.
We had so many drinks we didn’t know which ones to drink when.

Those chefs know how to make people happy.

Pickled onions and chevre. These chefs knew the way to my heart.
Pickled onions and chevre. They knew the way to my heart.

I think turning 24 scared me more than 25; when this birthday rolled around it felt like most of the other ones I’ve had throughout my life; another year older without any kind of life crisis. Maybe that means my life is more together than it was last year? Though I find that a little hard to believe. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity. Either way, I don’t really care; I’m just grateful to have amazing friends, family and some good stories to share. I’m gunning for another adventurous 25 years to come (and, you know, maybe a few more ;)).

Here's to birthdays everywhere!
Here’s to birthdays everywhere!

 

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Home Away From Home- Niseko Negula

Reblog from my posting on japansnowboarding.com March 10th

photos by Jeremy Dubs

When we dropped in to Niseko Negula we had no idea that we were not only going to be staying at a great pension (a pension is a cross between a nice hostel and a bed and breakfast) location but that we were about to become a part of Negula’s fantastic community itself too. Wataru (the owner) initially impressed us by being a warm and welcoming person and then surprised us by being a great musician with extremely musically-gifted friends as well.

Wataru Miyazaki, the owner of Niseko Negula
Wataru Miyazaki, the owner of Niseko Negula

Twice now we’ve had nights that have ended in full-blown group music jams; where staff and guests alike are dancing, playing music and laughing together. Both times they’ve happened directly following a meal Colby prepared in the kitchen for everyone, all-in-all being a real community event.

The Negula living room is always full of excitement. The atmosphere is electric and its great to meet people of various cultures in such a great atmosphere.
The Negula living room is always full of excitement. The atmosphere is electric and its great to meet people of various cultures in such a great atmosphere.

We were each sitting around in the Negula common room, finishing the last bits of delicious yakisoba, mashed potatoes, cabbage salad or fried chicken (depending on which meal night it was) and then Yui (or Masato, or Yasue) sat down in front of a mic with an instrument and simply started jamming out.

The first night Yui and his wife Maico played a beautiful set that included renditions of a few Beatles songs, some tunes sung in japanese and a mongolian song that as far as has been explained to us is meant to mean anything from Happy Birthday to wishing someone good health in general. Once the music started up, everyone who could grab an instrument and play coherently did so.

Masato-San and Band
Masato-San and Band

The second night, Masato and Keita grabbed guitars and began playing that same Mongolian good-health song. I think they played it about four different times; I’m not too confident Masato knows any other songs on guitar (which was actually a great thing, because none of us knew the song at first but by the end of their session we’d all learned the words and were singing along. I was loving it). From there, Yuki (a visiting/traveling musician) grabbed his violin, blew us all away with his talents on that stringed instrument and the rest, they say, is history.

Negula Jam Band
The Negula Jam Band – Maico, Wataru, Macun, Iku

I don’t know how long we played for each night, but it was nothing short of at least an hour, though you had no idea what kind of time was passing. We were a group of American, Australian, Cambodian, Japanese and more, having the best time we possibly could. Everywhere you looked there were ecstatic ear-to-ear grins. People couldn’t help but clap or sing along when they caught the tune. Being in a foreign country where communication is limited to fragments of either english or japanese, it’s amazing the type of connection you can feel with others when you’re laughing and creating music together.

Yui Akimichi - Resident chef and musician at Negula
Yui Akimichi – Resident chef and musician at Negula

 

I think it’s safe to say these nights of gathering for delicious food creating spectacular music together have added more depth to our experience out here in Niseko, Japan. We’re approximately 5,000 miles from the closest place any one of us might call home, but with things like this being a part of our trip, that distance hasn’t been too much of a problem for us being able to relax and feel right at home out here.

Its a Negula Party Night
Its a Negula Party Night. Kampai!

 

Matane~

Until Next Time!

Mix Nuts Bowl Session at Rusutsu Resort

Reblog from my posting on japansnowboarding.com from March 4th

 

Japan is full of surprises. Did you know they have an event at Rusutsu Resort called “Mixed Nuts Bowl”? Neither did we. Ever heard of the Holy Bowly? Mixed Nuts was like that; a whole course of snow shaped like a set of downhill skatepark bowls, hips and a transfer or two.

Our friend Yuki at Negula pulled one of us aside Thursday night and showed us an edit from last year’s Mixed Nuts Bowl. It turned out to be at a resort not far from where we were staying and happening the next day. Snow had been a bit lacking for us lately, so we were all excited to have the chance to get out and ride in something.

We loaded our five-person car with six people plus all of our snowboard/photo/film gear (it was cozy) and drove off towards Rusutsu. After hanging out in a closed amusement park-

Colby found an octupus to surprise.
Colby found an octupus to surprise. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski

-we made our way over to the resort. As per the usual, we didn’t really know what we were supposed to do once we got there, so we asked a couple kids in a lift line. As soon as they realized we needed help finding where to sign up for the event, they unstrapped from their boards, jumped out of line, grabbed a flyer from a liftee and walked us the 100 yards or so over to the tent where we could sign up. Once we’d gotten things sorted and waivers signed the two kids strapped back in and rode off. They weren’t even doing the event themselves. People here are really too nice.

The event itself was super fun; as Madison Ellsworth put it, “It’s like skating a bowl but I’m on a snowboard and actually good at it.”

A rider starts carving down the course at Rusutsu's Mixed Nuts Bowl Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
A rider starts carving down the course at Rusutsu’s Mixed Nuts Bowl Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
Jenna Kuklinski Hiking the Course
Jenna hiking the course. So nice of them to think to add steps. Photo- Jeremy Dubs

The riding was one thing and then the announcer for the event was another. This dude was something else; at first he merely called out tricks people were doing, most of them in english. Then; and I don’t know if people switched off here or if it was the same guy, but the person on the mic was suddenly rapping for a good solid hour and a half. It was mostly in Japanese, but every now and then he’d get on a kick of just shouting, “Mix Nuts Bowl! Mix nuts! Mix Nuts! Ride, ride, ride, ride! Mix nuts! Ya! Ride! Microphone! 1, 2, 3! group 247 we here! Mix Nuts! Mix Nuts Bowl!”; it was amazing.

You can just tell he's staring at the camera thinking of new ways to remix "Mix Nuts" on the mic. Photo- Jeremy Dubs
You can just tell he’s staring at the camera thinking of new ways to remix “Mix Nuts” on the mic. Photo- Jeremy Dubs

Towards the end of the night we still didn’t know if the event was a contest or something they were just doing for fun; but we didn’t really care either way. We’d gotten out on our boards and just rode in a group full of Japanese shredders. Watching those guys on their surfy carving boards fly around the banks was a reminder of how tricks aren’t everything; if you have great style anything you do, down to simply carving, will look unique.

We walked back to the car, loaded everything up again and headed back to Niseko Negula, our home away from home. There was more riding to be done tomorrow.

Good Times all around; Colby hanging out with Yuki, Keita, Yasue and Nimo on the side of the bowls. Photo-Jenna Kuklinski
Good Times all around; Colby hanging out with Yuki, Keita, Yasue and Nimo on the side of the bowls. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
Mixed Nuts Rusutsu Flyer
Mixed Nuts Rusutsu Flyer

Hiking Mt. Yotei

Repost from my entry on japansnowboarding.com; Feb 27th. Enjoy!

We tried to get up early, we really did. As with most things such as this, it just wasn’t early enough. Even so, our day of hiking and filming on Mt. Yotei near Niseko was nothing short of phenomenal.

We were up around 6:30 and out the door maybe an hour later. A quick stop at Seico mart for snacks and then another jaunt down the road and we found ourselves at the base of this stunning volcano.

Nimo the Inu found Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara
Nimo the Inu found Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara

Snowshoes were passed out, bags were packed, cameras started clicking and then we were off! We had one fantastic and diverse group heading out all together; Keita Nakamura again, Masato Aihara; a chef at Niseko Negula, Ryu Okawa; a friend of mine I’d met in Alaska and found out he was in the Niseko area, Wataru Miyazaki; the owner of the place we’ve been staying at- Niseko Negula, Darryl Naidu; an Aussie staying at Niseko Negula as well, and Mori-Mori; a determined guy who hiked the whole way snowshoeing in his ski boots.

We all trudged the mile or so to the base of the mountain together where we’d finally start our ascent. Getting in to the woods at the base of Yotei was exciting and bit intimidating at the same time. The volcano loomed up huge in front of us all, looking almost too steep for anyone short of seasoned mountaineers to summit. Keita and a few others said they’d all done it before though, so we had to believe it could be done and hike on.

Andy with the traditional peace-sign shot. Photo by Jenna Kuklinski
Andy with the traditional peace-sign shot. Photo by Jenna Kuklinski

As we clomped and slid (two people had skins on some planks) further up the side of the mountain the place grew more and more still. Earlier we’d stopped in a wide-open field to film a few talking pieces and get everyone’s first impression of the mountain. Our friend and mountain guide, Keita, had said during his short inquisition that he loved how quiet things got when you were high on the side of a mammoth mountain. I was beginning to see what he meant.

Jenna and Colby starting the hike up Yotei. Photo by Andy Stern
Jenna and Colby starting the hike up Yotei. Photo by Andy Stern

Japan is different, in almost every single way. It’s not just that we don’t share the same language. It’s the fact that they have things like necklace name-tags on their milk jug, just to let you know it is in fact milk. They drive on the left side of the road. You get carded for cigarettes but anyone can pick up a beer and be drinking while walking down the street (smoking, however, must happen in indoor designated areas unless you’re outside of town). Toilet seats are all heated and no one tells you how many group baths you’ll take with strangers, scrubbing next to them on low stools.

Not to compare soaping up next to a stranger with hiking a volcano in snowshoes; what I’m trying to get at here is that even the hiking is different. We were in an area that was easily accessed from town; the hiking was steep in places for sure, but not too bad. If this were a place in the states we would have seen at least one or two other groups out there. Instead, the only living thing we saw outside of our company was a giant white rabbit that ran across the snow and scared Dubs. It was empty, but not desolate. The terrain here is breathtaking, it can’t be describe in any other way. Andy commented at one point that he was getting chills down his spine. Later, our friend Ryu admitted to feeling the same. That’s how Japan is.

After hiking for about four hours Madison spied something in the trees he really wanted to hit and right after he sent it we found another gully that was begging us to ride through it. We then had to pause and debate for a minute; if we stopped there and filmed everyone going through the area then we wouldn’t be able to summit. If we pushed on to summit then we would have gathered very little footage from a whole day of hiking. After a bit we decided that we should forgo summitting for the day and instead get clips of riding in the trees.

Dubs checking his camera while Masato does the same behind him. Photo by Jenna Kuklinski
Dubs checking his camera while Masato does the same behind him. Photo by Jenna Kuklinski

Though getting to the top of the cratered volcano would have been amazing, we were all just as stoked to be riding through the trees and finding super fun natural features. There are so many stumps, gullys, sun-splotched clearnings of untouched snow and fantastic backdrops on the side of Yotei that we rode until we could ride no more and were still talking about how we could probably spend our whole trip on the slopes of Yotei.

Ryu Okawa hikes and skis fast. Photo by Masato Aihara
Ryu Okawa hikes and skis fast. Photo by Masato Aihara
Keita Nakamura goes deep into the chute at Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara
Keita Nakamura goes deep into the chute at Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara

Madison Ellsworth lays out a slash 2. Photo by Masato Aihara

Masato Aihara has some great surfer style. Photo by Keita Nakamura
Keita Nakamura has some great surfer style. Photo by Masato Aihara
Keita Nakamura getting chased by his inu Nimo. Photo by Masato Aihara
Keita Nakamura getting chased by his inu Nimo. Photo by Masato Aihara

When we were spent we packed up all of our hiking gear and strapped back in to our boards. Riding down through the trees was just as fun as hiking features and though I can’t speak for everyone, I know I had a perma-grin plastered on my face the entire way down.

At the bottom we were greeted by the other half of our group with running high-fives, tons of laughter and more mad grins. We hadn’t accomplished our original goal for the day, but what we had done was just as amazing. If this is how things are going with week-old snow, I can’t wait to see how it is when we finally get a real snow storm to blow through.

Oh, and after all of this we went to another Onsen to scrub clean on stools next to naked strangers. It was fantastic.

The crew stoked for a day hiking Mt Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara
The crew stoked from a day at Mt Yotei. Photo by Masato Aihara

Ohayo

A lady about my age sat down in the window seat next to mine on the tiny jet that was flying from SLC to LAX. She was dressed up, make-uped, in a skirt and carrying a giant fluffy pillow and tan jangly hand bag. A really friendly person, we started chatting about where we were each headed. She was a Mormon girl from Arizona on her Mission, going from Temple Square to a place in california for about four months. I told her I was headed to Sapporo, Japan to snowboard.

“I love snowboarding! But, isn’t Japan kind of far to go to snowboard?”

Sometimes I forget that not everyone in the world is living the same lifestyle as myself and my friends. When I told people I know that I was getting to snowboard in Japan they usually responded with, “Dream Trip!”, “I’m so jealous!”, “Go slash some Japan Pow, you’re so lucky!” (“take a radiation suit”).That’s the same kind of mindset we’re all in. We know Japan has amazing snow, we all believe it’s a crazy fun place to visit and we all love to travel for the sake of traveling. What we forget (like I did) is that there is a whole other world (er, worlds, rather) that think we are, basically, a little crazy.

I’m ok with that.

Going from having this trip be a possible notion, to purchasing my ticket, to waking up at 3am this morning with my sister Rachel and Tyler to drive to the SLC airport to waiting here in LAX to board a plane to Tokyo… it’s kind of a whirlwind. It still hasn’t settled in. Though I keep getting reminded of where I’m about to dive into by all the people speaking Japanese around me in the terminal. The only thing I can really understand out of what they’re saying is, “Thank you”. I guess that’s not a bad phrase to know. I could just thank everyone I met in Japan. I’m going to be this American running around with a giant snowboard bag shouting, “Thank You! Thank You!” at everyone for no particular reason. I think it’ll go really well. I may have trouble actually getting  help with anything but at least they’ll find me polite.

Right now I’m a mix of excited and nervous. This is going to be my first international flight, and I have to sit relatively still for 11 1/2 hours in a middle chair of economy seating. I’m really hoping by some miracle they just HAVE to upgrade me to business or first class, though that does seem a little unlikely.

I’ll be posting as often as possible on here and everywhere else I can while I’m over there. I’ve been told the wifi is plentiful in Japan.

And now, for the next two and half hours before my flight I believe I may go find a place that serves mimosas and prepare myself to (inevitably) find I’ve been seated in the middle chair between two overly-large individuals and they’ll both fall asleep and drool/snore on me as I try to learn a few more words of japanese before I land in Tokyo.

Arigato!

IMG_5781

4×4 Chains or Traction Tires Required

The warning on the flashing yellow sign was supposedly only speaking to Commercial Vehicles (giant 18-wheeler trucks) but I guess I should’ve known they were talking to me and my little Mazda as well.

Driving out to SIA was an adventure in itself. Before we even got to Denver we’d already had ourselves a crazy sleepless night where people got drunk, people got lost, someone got sick, we got to hang out in a hot tub and the police showed up (not necessarily in that order).

What we all learned: Everyone needs a bathrobe.
What we all learned: Everyone needs a bathrobe.

I knew that we were supposed to get a little snow for the drive out to SIA in Denver, CO. I didn’t know that meant we’d be driving through a snow storm. At 4:00am Thursday morning the 30th of January, my car stopped moving uphill on the Vail pass four miles from the summit during this ‘dusting’ of a storm. Four miles isn’t all that far when you’re driving on the highway, but when you’re pushing a car uphill in a blizzard those four miles turn into a VERY long distance.

This was pre-blizzard; Amanda having a gay ol' time in the Mazda.
This was pre-blizzard; Amanda having a gay ol’ time in the Mazda.

Luckily, Eli’s beast of a Volvo was still cruising up the pass. With Kevin and Eli pushing the Mazda through the snow and Tyler driving the Volvo we finally were making some uphill progress. Then, even, traction! I broke away from the Volvo and was cruising up the pass a good mile or so before we got stuck again and Amanda and I had to wait for Tyler to meet up with us. Then we got a call from Tyler saying he’d been reversing down the freeway for 15 minutes and had seen no sign of either Kevin or Eli. Oh Shit. It is now 4:30am, the blizzard is still blizzarding, 18-wheeler trucker trucks are flying up around and past us and we don’t know where the hell two of our friends just ended up out there.

Then Amanda got a message from an officer. He was on his way to find us, and had Kevin and Tyler in his car with us. We were so hyped that our friends weren’t plowed and mangled in a snowbank somewhere on the side of the pass!

When we told Tyler he was relieved, then freaked out because, “Amanda I can’t be driving this car when the officer gets here, I’m _____.” (You can fill in the blank here. I’m gonna just leave it at that).

Amanda gets into Eli’s car, the officer gets up to us in his car, I’m still hanging out in my car and we’re all reunited. The officer apparently picked our two friends up, then spun out for about 20minutes in his rear-wheel drive charger somewhere along the pass before making his way up to us. He then offered to try and push us with his car, but after he almost spun out into the guardrail we just thanked him and went back to pushing the Mazda with the Volvo all the way to the crest of the pass.

Planking
Planking

By the time we reached Amanda’s parent’s house it was 6am and none of us had slept at all. So we decided it’d be best if we just skipped the sleep and jumped straight into the hot tub. Once we got suited up in swim wear and bathrobes, we booked it back out into the storm and splashed into the glorious outdoor tub. Sitting there, cracked out from no sleep and our ridiculous adventure on the pass we laughed and joked and froze our ears off watching the sky lighten around us. Giant flakes whipped around the little alcove of the hot tub while we kept laughing and realizing how much you can really get done when you just don’t sleep.

SIA was it’s own adventure and half, with more talking and schmoozing than actual time spent checking out vendor’s booths. I met people, met up with people, ran around, drank, got lost and had one hell of a time. I also linked up with my friends Jeremy Dubs and Andy Stern, and officially got invited along for their trip to Japan. Two weeks later, I’m just as stoked from all of this and I have my plane ticket booked to leave the 19th to fly to Sapporo. Life is amazing, hilarious and one swell adventure. I can’t wait to keep getting after this thing (whatever it is) cause it’s real fun.

Here’s a little photo gallery of all the fun that was had-

Transworld's Riders Poll Awards with Marie-France Roy, Jean-Marie and Chelsea. We drank a lot of flavor whiskey that night
Transworld’s Riders Poll Awards with Marie-France Roy, Jean-Marie and Chelsea. We drank a lot of flavor whiskey that night
Yep. A lot of Blackberry Whiskeys.
Yep. A lot of Blackberry Whiskeys.
Before
Before
After (Hint- this wasn't Tyler's doing)
After
(Hint- this wasn’t Tyler’s doing)
R1-03736-0016
Everybody needs a buddy
Group shot
Group shot
We're going to Japan! Sugoi!
We’re going to Japan! Sugoi!
Oh yeah, there was product too. I really liked these graphics.
Oh yeah, there was product too. I really liked these graphics.
Kevin starting the day off right
Kevin starting the day off right
Spotted! A set of Smartwools on my friend's feet.
Spotted! A set of Smartwools on my friend’s feet.

 

 

 

My roomates for the duration of this trip.
My roomates for the entirety of SIA. Don’t they look great?
Burton hosted one mean game of Stump.
Burton hosted one mean game of Stump.
This guy in the background flipped me off after I took this photo.
This guy in the background flipped me off after I took this photo.
And there you have it, one hell of a time at SIA Denver 2014. (rolling four-deep in the backseat to get from Denver to Silverthorne and back to my car that was still parked there)
And there you have it, one hell of a time at SIA Denver 2014. (rolling four-deep in the backseat to get from Denver to Silverthorne and back to my car that was still parked there)