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To ensure a future with snow.
Something one major ski resort has started.

Goldwin has started an initiative for environmentally friendly snow wear for businesses involved in snow activities. Snow wear is typically disposed of in large quantities; this plan aims to reduce such waste by encouraging the long-term use and recycling of snow wear materials, by offering rental, repair and maintenance services of the most efficient and effective work wear for those who work in the snow. Again, by using recyclable materials, once these items have fulfilled their original purpose, they can be reused elsewhere. We report on GALA Yuzawa in Yuzawa town, Niigata Prefecture, the very first place to introduce this workwear.


On the shinkansen line! GALA Yuzawa, where we can access with ease.

The Yuzawa area is known as one of the few places in Japan with abundant snowfall. Eleven ski resorts are located among these steep mountains. Each one has its unique characteristics. Of these, GALA Yuzawa, now in its 33rd year of operation, welcomes a great number of ski customers as it is directly linked to a shinkansen station. They receive a wide range of skiers, from families and inbound tourists largely from Asia, to passionate day trippers looking to enjoy snow activities.

‘Falcon’: the piste Kamimura-san ‘would love for everyone to experience’. There is nothing more exhilarating than enjoying these exquisite views while cruising.

The ski slopes at GALA Yuzawa are divided into a central area, north area, and south area, which can be accessed via the gondola that gains 800 meters in altitude at once. The central area has a varied lineup of courses: practice slopes and forest courses to glide around peacefully for beginners, as well as extremely steep slopes that satisfy advanced skiers. The north area provides a snow park and irregular mogul surfaces, and powder snow of excellent condition can be anticipated in the charming south area, offering exciting off-piste courses. A variety of skiing styles can be enjoyed in each area.

The Role of Ski Patrols: Removing Any and All Dangers.

The patrols at GALA Yuzawa begin their mornings checking the early-morning courses.

7am. Having completed their opening meeting, the patrols begin their long day. They head to the fields in their snowmobiles.

“One of the characteristics of GALA Yuzawa is the quality of snow, which is clearly different from ski resorts at lower altitude. Our job is to assess the possible risks this snow quality might invite, and to regulate the conditions accordingly. By clearing overhanging snow on our test skis, and by making full use of fireworks and snow dumps to induce snow slides, causing an abundance of snow to fall. We remove all dangers before the customers arrive on the slopes.”

These are the words of Kazunori Kamimura, from Minamiuonuma city. He is a veteran patrol, now in his 17th year. The snowslide-prone topography, the conditions, and weather… making full use of the experiences and knowledge he has gained from the snowy mountains, he says that the real pleasure of the job of patrolling is in anticipating and taking the initiative to implement these countermeasures.

“For instance heavy snowfall might make an area seem inaccessible, but we might induce a snowslide, or sometimes even manually use snow dumps to clear the snow and fix up the conditions, and we would manage to open that area for business. I get to see all the skiers enjoying those slopes with my own eyes. That becomes our motivation to work hard.”

Kamimura-san, the leader of the GALA Patrol Team. “The skiing population even in Yuzawa town is decreasing, and we are always short on patrol staff.”

As an expert on all the slopes, Kamimura-san’s recommendation is the course ‘Falcon’, where the skier can experience the top snow quality of GALA Yuzawa. At 2.5km in length, and 800m in altitude, the distinction of this long course is the exceptional views that encompass not only Yuzawa town, but also Minamiuonuma city.

“There are many beginners at GALA Yuzawa due to its easy access, but even snow freaks are satisfied by the ride-worthy ‘Falcon’. The feeling of skiing down this slope on a clear day, with unbroken views of Yuzawa city, is absolutely exceptional. I would highly recommend this course to anyone, even if not to ski down.”

Having prepared all the courses before the lifts start operating, they go to greet the customers.

The Ropeway Team: Supporting the Slopes from Behind the Scenes.

Meanwhile, here is the Ropeway Team who take care of the preparation and maintenance of the ski lifts. Ueguri Ryota, from Mitsuke City in Niigata Prefecture, works here. He has always enjoyed snowboarding, and whilst working as an instructor at GALA Yuzawa’s snowboarding school, took the opportunity to become a full-time employee.

“The role of the ropeway team is to support the ski resort from behind the scenes. We office workers provide the logistical support to ensure that the staff operating the lifts can work free from incident. People won’t think twice about why the ski lifts and gondola are running at the ski resort, but I get my sense of fulfillment from supporting that ‘obvious’ state of affairs from behind the scenes.”

The ropeways refer to the transport system of gondolas and lifts that are suspended from cables. The role of the Ropeway Team is to ensure the maintenance and servicing, and safe operation of this system. Ueguri-san of the Ropeway Team observes the monitors set up at the gondola stations.
Ensuring a safe snow experience by servicing the lifts and gondolas outside operating hours.

Work Wear Functionality Affects Performance of the Ski Slope Staff.

The Patrol and Ropeway Teams at GALA Yuzawa all wear Goldwin work wear.

“In the mornings, we make preparations; during the way we might deal with injuries, and in the evenings after we have checked that all the skiers have descended from the slopes, we collect all the poles and nets so that the snow grooming vehicles can enter. As Patrols we work all day from morning to evening, so we need snow wear that is functional, stretchy, and easy to move in. Of course, we get very sweaty doing maintenance work, so breathability is a must, and we often have to push our way through bushes, so durability is necessary too.” (Kamimura-san)

The patrol wear being used for a second season has been perfectly repaired where damaged from last year, and the cleaning process has resurrected its water repellent qualities.

Goldwin patrol wear, which was introduced last season.
Lift staff, who bear the brunt of weather conditions, require work wear that is waterproof and thermal, breathable, durable, and that can be easily adjusted to regulate body temperature.

Meanwhile, the most important function for the ropeway staff work wear is that it is waterproof. Of course there is a lot of work in the snow, but in the spring, wet grease can fall from the top of the lifts, so it simply needs to be waterproof. For outdoor work such as snow removal, breathability is also necessary. Trouser hems and jacket sleeves can easily get damaged during snow removal or lift maintenance work, so durability is also indispensable.

“While of course we need it to be functional, as a facility centered around snow activity, we are always concerned about what we can do for the environment, so it’s also important that the manufacturing process of our work wear considers its environmental impact”. (Ueguri-san)

GALA Yuzawa is searching for ways to reduce their environmental burden on a daily basis, such as by reducing unnecessary waste by repairing their workwear, and by effectively repurposing resources with a recycling mindset. This is in no small way due to how the staff working on the slopes are feeling the effects of global warming with their own flesh: such as rainfall in January, even in Yuzawa, or worse yet, being hit by catastrophic levels of snowfall.

“So easily accessible from the city, GALA Yuzawa has long acted as an entry point for people to engage in snow activities. In order to continue contributing to ski culture, it is necessary to protect the natural environment of our town. It would be good if the long-term use of our work wear prompts everyone to think about what else we can do.” (Kamimura-san)

The skiers owe their enjoyment to the Patrol and Ropeway staff who support GALA Yuzawa behind the scenes.

GALA Yuzawa’s Sustainability Initiative

“With the snow season getting shorter each year, our work on the environment and our contribution to ski culture, as well as providing content that satisfies our customers, are all important themes,” says Masato Honma, chief executive of GALA Yuzawa.

“While we are tackling our environmental work with an affiliate company (JR East Japan), since GALA Yuzawa is a skiing business with close links to climate change we have been trying to find specific solutions as a ski resort for some time. We are continuously introducing new measures, such as changing our lighting to LED, separating and recycling our waste, and trying to save on energy. We have introduced hybrids as our company cars, and we have brought in “GO GREEN”, which collects single-use hand warmers and turns them into purified water.”

Masato Honma, who became chief executive of GALA Yuzawa during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The minimal design is aligned with its functionality, receiving good reviews from staff.

In this workwear initiative with Goldwin, not only was the aim to reduce waste and  get the most effective use out of it, but it was also considered beneficial for GALA Yuzawa’s image to wear one design over a longer time period. A pop-up was installed at the resthouse entrance to give an overview of the project, in order to inform snow activity enthusiasts about these efforts, and to make the themes of environmental discussion feel more familiar.

“A few years ago, the soft drinks industry started a “Bottle to Bottle” scheme, which recycled used PET bottles and re-used them as new PET bottles. Just as this has now become standard, we feel there is a need to make “Wear to Wear” just as standard in our industry. While this current initiative serves only as an initial step, we hope that by starting at GALA Yuzawa, we can spread this across the country.”

To Optimize Ski and Snowboard Use

GALA Yuzawa is single-minded in their devotion to creating content that brings ski culture to life. For instance, they hold lessons run by top skiers Hiroki and Miku Kuriyama, members of GALA Yuzawa Ski Club. For those who want to race, they offer a course by “Fischer Racing School”. For inbound tourists and families, they not only offer a complete gear and wear rental service, but also offerings such as snow shoeing, snowmobile tours, and moon biking tours, for more inexperienced skiers.

Miku Kuriyama (left), who took first place in the 2022 National Japanese Women’s Ski Championship, and Hiroki Kuriyama (right) who acquired his skiing speed and skills in Austria. They are both members of the GALA Yuzawa Ski Club, and are working to popularize ski activities that can be enjoyed by a wide age range.

“We think that by introducing people to enjoying the snow through snowshoeing or snowmobiles, and guiding them to the next steps of skiing or snowboarding, we can bring more life into the snow sports culture. We also think that after-ski activities are part of the attraction of snow activities, so we have suggested not only installing saunas and hot springs, but also periodically changing the restaurant, and introducing local specialties and food culture. By broadening the attractions besides the activities themselves, the interest and popularity in skiing and snowboarding should increase as a result.”

GALA Yuzawa and Goldwin have cherished this lifestyle of plentiful snow. Their sustainable initiatives that seek to protect the culture and resources cultivated by the snow and connect them to the next generation look extremely promising.

“Cowabunga”, the ski center directly linked to “GALA Yuzawa” station on the Jōetesu shinkansen line. It is equipped with a rental corner, changing room, restaurants, as well as a hot spring facility.
GALA Yuzawa
1039-2 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture
Brand Site
text | Ryoko Kuraishi photography | Ryuta Iwasaki