Most motocross riders have to train their butts off to make a living from their passion, but a good mate of ours, Mat Cox, has landed the dream job. He shreds armpit-deep Japanese powder every day. On a snow-bike. And he gets paid for it. Some guys have all the luck, hey!
Coxy, to be honest, I almost refused to do this interview because I’m seethe with jealousy every time I see your Instagram feed. How the hell did you land a job riding snow-bikes in Japan?
Hahaha I’ve had a few mates unfollow me because they can’t handle my photos! I guess it goes back to when I worked for Race SoCal in the US from 2011 to 2014. I basically ran the tours there, chauffeured clients to all the moto tracks, made sure their bikes were ready and showed them a good time riding all the great motocross tracks in Southern California.
Last year I went snowboarding in Japan for the first time and did a snow-bike tour with Niseko Snowbike Adventures while I was there. I got on with Jens the owner really well and went out for dinner and got talking about my experience at Race SoCal. They got a lot of people enquiring about the snow-bike tours from my social media posts, so they brought me on for the season.
You’re based in Niseko, right?
Yeah that’s right – we’re in the north of Japan on the island of Hokkaido, which gets insane amounts of snow. I got my visa and landed here in November and did a bit of pre-season riding and testing. We started our tours on Christmas day and have done 23 of them so far. It’s the first full season the company has operated and we’re just starting to get our name out there now. Next season’s already looking good with a lot of people rebooking – they can snowboard the best powder in the world and then get their moto fix at the same time.
What does a normal day involve?
I’ll leave home around 7:15am, pick up the boss and head to base to get the bikes out, give them a final check and then ride them to a safe spot. The boss’s wife, Yukari, turns up with the customers and we’ll kit them out, including avalanche beacons, brief them then get them riding around the paddock until they’re used to the bikes. We’ll then head into the backcountry and ride until about 12pm where we get to a snow cave we dug for lunch. Then we’ll keep riding the backcountry all arvo – hillclimbs, peaks, little tracks, trees, big powder stashes., the lot. We make sure we tailor the day to each customer so they’re happy with the experience; today we had a group into touring, so they just wanted to ride trails, whereas last week I had a group of moto kids who loved jumping so it was all about finding jumps and drop-offs.
That’s awesome. How different are snow-bikes to ride from moto?
At first the front end feels unstable, but once you get used to the front ski reaction then you’re away laughing. The biggest different though is there’s no front brake – our rear brake is routed to the bars instead. Most people take about 1-2 hours to get used to riding them, especially if you’re a competent moto rider. As for riding, you’ve got to ride the snow like you would in sand – smooth throttle control and don’t chop the throttle. If you do the front end dives into the snow. But yeah – they’re unbelievable to ride – it feels like you’re riding a dirt bike on a cloud.
Any hairy moments?
One day the boss and I were out scouting for new terrain and came cross a mountain peak that’s usually rounded. There was very low visibility and all of a sudden the bike sunk into a chest-deep windrift and I realised there was a massive drop just a couple of metres away. I didn’t know if the cornice went underneath me and I was about to drop through, or what. The boss was on the same line but stopped and we got my bike out, but we could see a crack forming in the snow around us. That was a really scary moment and opened our eyes to just how critical it is to know the terrain. That’s the most important part of job – knowing wind direction and how that affects snowdrifts and cornices.
Damn, dude, that’s crazy. What’s the biggest nationality represented in the groups you’re hosting?
Aussies and Kiwis by far. We’ve had some Europeans, Taiwanese and English clients, but Aussies are our target market. Japan’s a close destination with amazing snow, and Australia’s the second-biggest dirt bike market in the world behind the USA.
Nice. Do you get sick of the cold?
I grew up in Orange and it gets pretty cold there in winter. I was working in Port Headland in 40-plus degree heat for three months before coming over here, so the cold is a refreshing change!
Hahaha that’s a great way to look at it. Well you’ve had some pretty epic experiences in your life. Where does this rate?
Hands down it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve always loved dirt bikes and snowboarding and this combines the two. I still go boarding occasionally, but snow-bikes are so much fun and it hurts a lot less when you crash on snow!
When does the season finish?
The season runs through to April but it depends on snow conditions, really. Once our customers start to fall away we’ll go exploring a heap of creeks, gullies and hillls for next year. We’re always looking for more and that’s part of the adventure.
What are your plans come April?
I’ll make a choice to either stay and extend my visa, or come back to Australia, work the mines and put some money in the bank, then come back over. I might try and do a sneaky trip overseas in between and keep living the dream, but at this stage I’ll definitely be returning here next year. I want to get an actual Japanese work visa and am in the process of working that out at the moment.
Dammit. So there won’t be a job opening up any time soon.
Nah, sorry mate!
Hahaha, you know I had to try my luck. Good catching up with ya, bro. Enjoy the rest of the season.
Thanks mate, catch up with you soon!