Home is where the heart is

Skiing is always a journey.

Whether it is a run from top to bottom at the local ski hill or a road trip to the tallest mountain on the horizon; to earn the reward, you have to be willing to put in the work.

Sometimes that means laying down a day’s wages for a lift ticket. Other times it could mean six months in the gym rehabbing a blown knee so you can get back out there next winter.

Somedays we get lucky and score perfect conditions without even trying. But usually, the harder we work, the more patient we are, the further we venture, the better the reward.

It’s a process and sacrifice that Yu Sasaki knows a great deal about.

Born and raised in the powder paradise of Hokkaido, Japan, Yu started skiing at a young age. In the early years, skiing was just something he did with his family on the weekends. But by the time he finished school, he had outgrown the Japanese mountains and was eager to ski bigger lines.

Faced with the prospect of staying in Japan, with the traditional college and career track looming, Yu did something highly unusual. At 19 years old, he packed his skis in a bag, bought a one-way ticket to Vancouver, British Columbia, and left the only home he ever knew in search of bigger mountains.

He knew no others who had done this before him.

He couldn’t speak English.

He didn’t know anyone in Canada.

But the one thing he had turned out to be the only thing he needed: a love for skiing.

So, what does one do when they land in a foreign country with no real plan but an ambition to ski big lines? He enrolled in English language classes, found a temporary room to rent in Vancouver, and a job in a Japanese restaurant.

The things you do for love.

Slowly but surely, his efforts added up until he eventually found his way to Whistler and then Squamish. He built a community, secured a visa, found stable housing, and most importantly skied his heart out on the towering terrain and deep Northwest powder.

Reflecting on the decision to emigrate to Canada, Yu has no regrets; “Japanese snow quality is the best in the world…but for me, it’s a little too small. It’s good for Japan, but I want more. I want to ski bigger lines on huge mountains. That’s what I want. And that is a big difference.”

As the years passed by in B.C., Yu’s love for skiing never wavered, but gradually the town around him started to change. Following the 2010 Olympics, Whistler and Squamish were no longer the cozy, accessible ski towns they once were, and the more remote mountains of the East beckoned.

So, Yu set off again, this time landing in Revelstoke.

What may have started as an enforced change, turned into the ideal opportunity. The wilder, more rugged terrain of Revelstoke created the perfect playground for Yu’s style of skiing. He approaches the mountain like an artist, attacking with straight, powerful brush strokes, and always finding new, unexpected ways to fly off natural features.

Skiing that is at once aggressive and poetic.

Threading his skis through tight shoots, dancing down spines, spinning over gaps, or launching gracefully down triple story drops, he’s always seeking out the most unforgiving lines,

Watching Yu ski, it’s clear he is tapping into an inner calling – some special relationship with gravity the rest of us will never understand – which brings forth a sparkle in his eye when he talks about skiing.

“Skiing is not just part of my life–skiing is all of my life. If it wasn’t for skiing, I wouldn’t be living in Canada. If it wasn’t for skiing, I wouldn’t be married to my wife. Everything in my life is from skiing.”

Yu went on quite a journey to get here, but now he is more settled than most pro-skiers. He has a wife, two kids, a thriving food truck business, a successful skiing career, and an active role in his community, brought together by a shared love for powder and big lines.

Yu is clearly at home on the world’s biggest lines, bringing a new perspective to the old saying; ’home is where the heart is’.

Tune in and cheer Yu on this winter when he puts all his big mountain experience to the test on the Freeride World Tour.