Moving to Japan, I don’t know why, but I really thought our ski days were over. We packed our gear anyway because I was terrified we would go skiing in Europe or America and have to buy everything all over again. FYI, skiing is one of the most expensive sports to participate in. In my first winter here, I have been to Niseko (Christmas time), just returned from Hakuba, Nagano (Winter breakette= 2 days off), and next week I am looking at spending time in Tsumagoi with Chase’s class for their ski trip.
Our first day of skiing in Niseko was a bit nightmarish for Chase because he is really a beginner and at one point, Cliff asked me if we needed to call ski patrol to get Chase down the mountain. You put an overgrown 10-year old on a pair of skis in deep powder, you need to prepare for a lot of waiting around and tears. Despite all the drama, it amazes me that Chase still claimed to enjoy skiing. Alexandra’s boys were on Spring Break from the British School for a week, Cliff was going to the U.S. for business and Chase had Thursday / Friday off that week, so I thought it would be a good time for Chase and I to do our “Mom & Me” trip to Nagano.
On our way to the train station, Chase was wearing his ski jacket and as he turned to say something he must have gotten a whiff of something special because he says, “Ewww! this jacket smells like tears and boogers!” I didn’t bother asking him to check that out. We caught the Shikansen (Bullet Train) from Tokyo Station. Better to go through the Yaesu entrances. The last time we took the Shinkansen it was going to Kyoto. It was much easier navigating this trip. The trip from Tokyo to Nagano was just under 2 hours. Then we had to get on a bus that took us to Hakuba and that took a little over an hour. At the Hakuba Information center, we contacted Hakuba Tokyu Hotel and requested a lift to the hotel. They picked us up within 5 minutes.
Our first night, we had terrific casual dinner with Alexandra, Andrew, Ollie and Max. The food was terrific, the sake was cold and we were excited to ski the next day.
FYI: A lot of resort/vacation packages will have ENGLISH and Japanese language options. I accidentally happened to navigate through both and I know enough Japanese to realize they weren’t exactly the same. I was able to get a Japanese person through Tokyo American Club to help me book through the Japanese language site because for the same price I was able to get lift tickets for each day we were staying as opposed to just room and breakfast. Even though Hakuba Tokyu is not ski-in/ski-out, the rental is in-house and the shuttles are available. There is also a basic onsen available.
We joked a lot about Andrew the Sultan with his 2 wives and 3 boys.
Our first day of skiing was rainy and cold. It was probably our best day of skiing in the season. Even though everyone else seemed to be heading back to the hotels, Chase and I were just getting started and he had a lesson with an instructor booked. I skied with the 2 of them until I realized Chase was being whiny just for me so I peeled off to ski on my own. A lot of people like to ski in groups but personally, I enjoy the independence of exploring on my own. Sometimes I tag-along behind another interesting group or chat it up with other interesting folk and it just makes my day feel so spontaneous. The only downside skiing alone and not knowing a mountain is the chance of getting lost or getting stuck in a precarious area alone.
After leaving Chase, I headed over to Kokusai and took 2 lifts (Kokusai 1 and Kokusai 3) up the mountian. These map pictures were taken at the top of these lifts. Coming off area 2-2 I turned left thinking this looked like an interesting red run. BTW, Japanese Red Run = American Blue Run. Also, signage in Japan is terrible. So I’m skiing along, doing great, thinking highly of my own ski skills. Thoughts like: Aren’t I terrific? Boy, the Japanese must be very low threshold skiers, etc…. Then, I stopped to rest at an area that looked like a cliff. As I looked over, I saw what seemed like miles of moguls appeared before me and a VERY steep grade. Of course, I am hit with the revelation that I haven’t really seen too many people up to this point (but I assumed it was the rain) and the only other person I see is this bouncing orange jacket all the way at the bottom. Way out of earshot.
I used to think the only reason to ski was for the vistas. Now I see skiing teaches you how to get through bad decisions. I ain’t gonna lie. I was very scared. I took it one bump at a time and I traversed the hell out of that run. By the time I was finished, my thighs were trembling (not in a good way) but I had an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t even realize it was the Men’s Olympic Mogul run until I got inside the Kokusai information building to complain about the lack of proper signs.
Is it just me, or does that Olympic Course I line change colors mid-stream?!? Who does that?!?
By the time I met up with Chase, we were soaked through. I could wring out our gloves and water was running out. But he felt great about his improving skills and I felt great about being alive. My spinning coach recently told me, “It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that matters.” I think I’ll borrow that one.