Winter Funnage in Spring


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Asia » Japan » Hokkaido » Niseko
March 30th 2010
Published: March 31st 2010
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Strapping inStrapping inStrapping in

first bit of night boarding
We managed to find a snowboarding deal at the travel agent in Noichi, where some of them even speak English! We got return flights from Kochi to Chitose, return bus transfer to hotel, 6 nights in a business hotel (with breakfast), 2 lunches, equipment rental, and a 6 day lift pass for all mountains (including night ski) - all for JPY88,000 each, which is about £600. So all that leaves is 4 lunches, 6 dinners, and the ever compulsory omiyage.

Monday
We left home at 06:35, 5 minutes later than planned. But my landlady’s husband (who incidentally is the spitting image of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid) drove us to the airport, and he seemed to enjoy speed, so we got there in good time. At the check-in counter, we were told to go to different desks. I’m not sure what the point was with us, because instead of making it go faster, which I’m pretty sure was the reason for it, it just hindered everyone, because they kept speaking to Alex in Japanese, and obviously he couldn’t reply to them, so he had to wait for me to translate for him, and then I had to go back
Chair-liftChair-liftChair-lift

reading material
to my check-in woman to answer her questions, and blah blah blah….

Once on the plane though, it was pretty plain sailing all the way to Hokkaido. I read somewhere that ANA is the second most punctual passenger airline in the world. JAL being number one. Beats the 9 hour delay we had in Thailand. Bloody Thailand. On the second plane from Haneda to Chitose, we were on the upper deck, which led Alex to believe that they’d upgraded us to business class because he’s a gaijin. Turned out it was just another deck for economy passengers. Boy did I laugh. 😱

When we got to Chitose, we had to wait about an hour for our bus, which was okay because there was a small tank with big fish to look at. Man were they ugly. I went over to take photos, but one snuck up behind me and scared the living bejesus out of me, so I ran away to the seats and waited there for the rest of the time.

The bus itself was a coach, and we got 2 seats each, and I managed to nap, listen to music, and read some Pay It
On top of the worldOn top of the worldOn top of the world

top of hirafu
Forward. I never realised the teacher was originally black.

When we got to the hotel, we checked in and went up to our room on the second floor. It’s definitely a business hotel - not as nice as the Toyoko Inn, but good location with the lifts right next door. Our window also looked out onto one of the big kickers, so we could sit and watch people do tricks. We sorted out our rental and lift pass, and then headed out to find some food. The restaurant in the hotel shut at 14:00, so we went for a walk downhill toward the village. We found a crepe van 5 minutes down, so I tried the tuna mayo sweet corn crepe with onions, which was really yum, although that might have been partly because I was so hungry. And then I proceeded to spill some tuna/mayo juice all down my front. Time for Alex to laugh.

We decided to finally head out just after 16:00, in time for some night boarding. Luckily the night lift is one of the ones next to our hotel, so that’s handy! We did a few runs, and it was quite nice because
More night boardingMore night boardingMore night boarding

completely empty runs
it was empty. And the runs were so long and wide compared to Shikoku. We were out for about 3 hours in total, just in time for some dindins.

Alex wanted some western food, so I asked the receptionist at the hotel and he pointed us in the direction of Hirafu Fleur, which I assumed would be Frenchy food from the name, but turned out to be kind of Italian with pizza and pasta on the menu as well as Japanese dishes. I got the tomato pasta, because it looked nice in the photo. But when it came out, it looked NOTHING like the picture, dagnamit! I was really looking forward to that spinach as well 😞

Tuesday
Breakfast:
bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, mini omelette, chicken nuggets, fried potato, fried squid, salad, rice, natto, OJ, tea
Lunch: Hamburger set (hamburger, potato, nuggets, coke) at Scot Dining
Dinner: Sizzling Mexican Chicken/Beef Fajitas at Vale Bar & Grill
Lesson of the day: There is no need for a bowl of rice as a second course at breakfast after a hearty fry-up-esque first course

Breakfast is served at 07:00 - 08:30, so I set the alarm for 07:00 and we
Single seatersSingle seatersSingle seaters

scary, cold, windy
made it down to brekkie at 07:35. There was so much food - much better than the Toyoko Inn breakfasts where they serve some bread, rice, soup and some other stuff that doesn’t warrant being named.

We cotched for a bit and then started getting ready for some morning boarding. By the time we got out, it was about 08:45 and we decided to try and make it to the Holiday run through the trees. We totally missed the route we were supposed to go, but it did take us through some nice powder amongst a different set of trees. And after a bit of walking slightly uphill and sideways, we made it to Holiday - yay! It was a beautiful run as well - fresh snow and empty, yum! There was one part where we had to skate for a bit because it was pretty flat, but other than that, it was really nice - a good start to the morning. 😊

Because of the walk on Holiday, we didn’t go back there for the rest of the morning. Instead, we found the Hanazono, which has a red and green run, and near the bottom there’s a
HigashiyamaHigashiyamaHigashiyama

spectacular view, but more family-orientated
couple of small kickers and rails. We both had a go on the kickers. I chickened out on my first go, but that just made me more determined the next time. My second try was a little better - at least I made it over!

Wednesday
Breakfast:
bacon, sausage, mini omelette, chicken nugget, fried squid, potato salad, yum-yum-esque bread, OJ, tea
Lunch: Hamburger set (hamburger, potato, nuggets, Calpis soda)
Dinner: Yotei course (minestrone soup, rib roasted steak, potato wedges, rice, salad with Japanese dressing, tea) and red wine at Edelweiss, Niseko Alpen
Lesson of the day: I cannot ride on hard surfaces, be it ice, super packed snow, or plastic.

I woke up in pain. Lots of pain. Everywhere. We decided to explore Higashiyama, which is the middle section between Annupuri and Hirafu. When we got to the top, the view was amazing, because the sun was out and the sky was so clear for the first time since we arrived. Unfortunately it was quite busy - not just with people, but children! It’s definitely more family orientated in Niseko Ski Village. So we got out of there quick time and made our way back over to Hirafu.
Admiring the viewAdmiring the viewAdmiring the view

on both parts
On the way, I was going so quickly down the hill I nearly couldn’t stop myself falling off the side. My first thought was that Alex would scold me for going too fast, but I later learned that he was too busy going into a tree stump and falling over himself. Ha!

We found Hanazono again and I tried the kickers for the third time. I figured last time I didn’t get much air, so this time, I’ll just keep going at full speed and hopefully it’ll be better. And yes, I got serious air, but I also landed on my arse and thought I was going to break my neck. Luckily I didn’t, but I did have a nice fat bruise in two places. Well, I guess it wouldn’t be boarding with me if I didn’t have a nice fall…

We then decided to go back for some lunch via Holiday, and this time, we managed to keep our speed up and not have to skate any of the way. Unfortunately, at one point I was going quite fast along a flat bit and caught an edge, so I tumbled a bit, hit my head, lost my
Steak!Steak!Steak!

perfectly cooked australian fillet steak
hat and goggles, and thought I was tumbling downhill for a bit before I stopped. Luckily I didn’t go over the side and managed to get my hat and goggles back. Had a bit of a headache after that.

Thursday
Breakfast:
rice, pork and potato, chicken and bamboo shoot, grilled salmon, pickles, lotus root, boiled spinach, natto, OJ, tea
Lunch: cold udon with tempura at Scot Dining
Dinner: Hokkaido fillet steak, fried potato, Caesar salad, red wine at Steak Rosso Rosso
Lesson of the day: Never underestimate the power of a good fall.

Sach arrives today - woohoo! It didn’t snow last night, so it was pretty hard on the slopes today, which gave us a nice rest in the morning. We tried to do some night boarding but only managed one run, because the snow was so rubbish. 😞

After dinner, we met up with the others and chilled for a bit in their room with some drinks before retiring for a bath and some much needed sleep. I think yesterday’s falls took the confidence right out of me and now I am but a mere noob yet again…

Friday
Breakfast:
rice, pork and potato,
The viewThe viewThe view

snow + trees = great combination
pickles, grilled salmon, lotus root, boiled spinach, natto, OJ
Lunch: bibimba at Scot Dining
Dinner: imomochi (‘camembert’ with potato), super sweet corn, grilled king crab
Lesson of the day: Try and read the signs before accidentally going down black runs and taking everyone else with you. Better yet, just stay behind someone else and follow…

First day out on the slopes with the other guys, although Sach did a lesson in the morning. The snow wasn’t great, but we got a good few runs in and met up for lunch at noon. We ate at the hotel restaurant, where Alex had his FIFTH burger of the week. I guess he’s trying to get as much of it as possible seeing as he’ll be deprived of decent western food as soon as we return to Kochi.

For dinner, I chose Izakaya Raku, which supposedly served Hokkaido seafood and fried whole chicken. When we got there, every air particle was fused with squid molecules and the whole place reeked! But we sat down and I ordered the king crab, because it looked like the most Hokkaido food on the menu. I must say it was very tasty, but it took
It's been a hard day's workIt's been a hard day's workIt's been a hard day's work

time for some cassis orange...
so long to crack the thing open, and the spikes hurt my fingers. 😞 I think I ate the least out of everybody, but I was the last to finish. And I got crab in my hair.

We had planned for some karaoke carnage in the evening, but we ended up having a late dinner at the izakaya and then got some bevies and just sat in the lobby before heading for some much needed sleep.

Saturday
Breakfast:
rice, natto, OJ, tea
Lunch: Genghis Khan set meal at Gulliver
Dinner: BBQ jumbo ribs at The Vale Bar & Grill
Lesson of the day: Blizzards are fun - even more so if experienced from the warmth of indoors.

The snow was beautiful because the snow lord took a dump last night and this morning. Thought we’d be in for a good day of boarding - and we weren’t wrong. Managed to go right to the top and do a black run - woohoo!! It’s crazy how much more confidence powder gives you on the slopes. Tried the kickers again -it confused me at first, because there were 4 instead of 2 and I thought we were in the
Snowy headSnowy headSnowy head

i brought a great deal of snow into that hotel...
wrong place, but they’d just put up 2 more since yesterday. I managed 1.5 this time - the first one I got over with about half a centimetre of air, and the second I nearly reached the top but then I slid back down. Luckily there was nobody behind me to see my blunder. Still, I was too ashamed to try the last 2. 😉

For lunch I decided to try the Genghis Khan set meal, seeing as I probably wouldn’t get the opportunity to have lamb in Japan ever again. It was nice, although a little chewy with the fat. Alex went for the bibimba and I felt compelled to film him stirring it. I’ve never seen anyone hit a spoon on a bowl so much. He did it for so long that my camera ran out of time. Probably more the camera’s fault for being so rubbish at filming - it can only catch up to 15 secs of footage at a time. Wish I’d known that before I got it…

After lunch, I dragged Alex back out onto the slopes, but when we got to the top, it was the windiest and coldest we’d seen the whole week. Turned out it wouldn’t be stopping for a while. We spent the next half hour negotiating our way down the mountain with about 5 metre visibility. At times, just standing was hard because it was so disorientating having everything around you just be completely white, so we just lost balance and fell.

When we were chilling in the lobby after dinner, there were 2 Jap blokes doing something against the wall. Next thing we know, we hear a loud bang and look over to see that one of them has rammed into the wall and left a huge hole in it! WTF?!?!?!

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