|BIG IN JAPAN
"Because it' there." These were the classic words of British
mountaineer George Mallory of his attempt to reach the top of Mt. Everest, at 8848m the
highest point on Earth. He failed (fatally) but 29 years later, on May 29 of 1953, Edmund
Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first two men to stand on top of the world. Since
then, over 500 climbers have managed the feat, making it, if not exactly everyday news, no
longer remarkable. The challenge now is to find ever more difficult, or even downright
bizarre, ways of leaving one's mark on Everest. None breaks the mold better than Miura
Yuichiro The Man Who Skied Down Everest.
Born in Aomori in 1932, Miura is a fanatic adventure skier whose trademark is his constant
desire to push the envelope. In 1964 he participated in the Italian Kilometer Lanciad, the
first time for a Japanese skier, at which he established a new world record of 172.081kph.
Not content with ski racing alone, in 1966 he skied down Mt. Fuji for another first: He
became the first skier to employ a parachute brake. Skiing down mountains is clearly
Miura's passion: Mt. McKinley (1967), Popocatepetl (1968), Towers of Paine (1969), and Mt.
Kilimanjaro (1981, with his 77-year-old father).
The feat which took his name to new heights was his historic slide down the 8150m South
Col of Mt. Everest in May of 1970. Captured on film, his story became the subject of The
Man Who Skied Down Everest, which took home the Best Oscar statuette for a
documentary in 1975. This escapade (which cost an estimated $3 million to pull off) nearly
ended in fatal disaster as Miura, with the aid of a parachute, slid to a stop on his
stomach, mere meters from the edge of the precipice. He attained speeds of over 150kph on
his flight down Everest. Miura maintained a detailed and fascinating diary during his
ascent of the mountain, which became the source of the Canadian documentary's narration.
Miura (an honorary citizen of the US state of Washington and one-time president of the
Alaska Boys & Girls Expeditionary School) now cools his heels in Hokkaido, where he
founded the Snow Dolphin Ski and Snowboard School at Teine Highland, site of the 1972
Winter Olympics. In line with Miura's "international approach" to the sport to
which he devoted most of his life, the school offers ski and snowboard lessons in both
Japanese and English. When not skiing, Miura promotes the sport via summits, international
ski tours, invitationals and events. Lately, he tested the waters of the political arena
(with only lukewarm results).
No matter: Having tackled the highest summits on this planet, even down to earth in
Hokkaido he's sitting pretty on top of the world.