Extreme iPodding: iPod Survives The Rigors Of Snowboarding In Hokkaido
by , 3:20 PM EST, March 8th, 2002
You think the iPod is just to alleviate boring train rides or make a jog more entertaining? I scoff at your feeble iPodding! Our little lucite friends want more out of us, and are able to step up to the challenge.
From February 20th to the 25th, I went on a snowboarding trip to Japan's northern island, Hokkaido. I was going to do four days of hard core snowboarding. I made sure to load up my iPod with inspirational snowboarding music... Sublime and Nine Inch Nails ruled the slopes.
I was initially worried about how the iPod would fare under the more extreme weather conditions. The average temperature on the mountain hovered around 0 degrees Celsius (not including wind chill factor) when it wasn't snowing, and while we were there, it probably dropped to -10C on the mountain as the sun went down. The iPod passed with flying colors, suffering only from a slight tinge in the corners of the LCD display, which is typical of most LCDs in the cold.
My snowboarding jacket has a pocket in the middle of the chest, which is designed to hold a small music player. Last year I rode with my mini-disc player, which sounded good. However, the MDs are limited in capacity like a CD or cassette. Only 74 minutes of music? But the lifts are open from 8:30am to 9:00pm! The answer is the iPod--just enough juice for a whole day on the mountain, with breaks for lunch and conversations on the lifts. My friend Paul had his MD player, but only had one CD's worth of music, because he didn't want to deal with the hassle of changing MDs on the mountain. He was tantalized by the potential of 13 hours of speed metal at his fingertips.
Music and snowboarding go together like beer and the ski lodge... a perfect match. You may have noticed that some of the half-pipe snowboarders in the Olympics put on headphones before they dropped into the pipe. Having my iPod up on the mountain with me was second to none. The quality (I rip my CDs at 192kbps) was outstanding, and there is, of course, no skipping like there might be with a CD player. The weight of the unit didn't slow me down or throw off my center of gravity; it's negligible to begin with, and becomes nearly invisible when you're wearing several layers of clothes.
Both the iPod and my headphones fit comfortably in the pocket. Even in the cold, it responded as fast as ever, the hard drive running like a champ. The controls and scroll wheel were super easy to navigate, even while wearing my snowboarding gloves. (Which says a lot about the design of the iPod, since I could control it with my gloves on, but was unable to properly adjust my headphones while wearing said gloves.)
It survived the cold, but would it survive me? Last year, I had a rib-crackin' accident, which probably would have killed my iPod. However, barring impact with trees, the iPod will take what you dish out. I took several hard spills, landing on the iPod a few times, and like that watch, it took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. (Note: I didn't bail on purpose just to test the iPod, though maybe it would sound better for me to say that I did.)
The iPod makes the perfect snowboarding companion. It holds all my tunes, operates perfectly in the cold, withstands multiple meetings with the ground, is easy to operate while wearing my snowboarding gloves, and blocks out the horrendous music that is often blasting from Japanese ski lifts. Not to mention the hilarity of having a skier "yard sale" (falling hard, losing skis, poles, hat, and goggles) in perfect sync with your song of the moment (Sublime's "What Happened?") as if it was choreographed just for you. The iPod is a soundtrack to your mountain experience.
Take your iPod on an extreme field trip. You'll both appreciate it.
Japanese ski/snowboard info (in English)
Darla Sasaki currently lives in Japan, where she teaches English to students who sometimes hit their teachers. When not hitting those students back and snowboarding, Darla can be found in the TMO forums.