After a brief hiatus, I am finally back to write about my skiing adventure with Kanako. She had been itching to go, and I having not yet gone in Japan decided it was time. So on a Saturday, we piled up in my car and drove about 2 hours south to the Ikawa slopes. The mountains down there were much larger than those around me, and had actually collected an impressive amount of snow. Despite only being half a foot or so, it was still the most I had ever seen in Japan and was certainly beautiful. The ski spot only comprised the very top of the mountain so unlike other places I’ve been, I needed to drive up some crazy roads to get there. The steep mountainside, and the villages and tea plantations that covered them were very beautiful.
My camera doesn’t do so well with bright light, but it gives you something of an idea
From here, things started to get a bit interesting. As we worked our way up the mountain, the roads got worse and worse. The amount of snow and ice was well beyond what I was used to in Shionoe. People think I’m crazy for not buying snow tires here at home (any Midwesterner would understand that to be a complete waste of money) but these steep, unplowed roads proved a bit of a challenge. Every other car we saw was equipped with both winter tires and chains. I would still call chains a bit excessive for these conditions, but I was understand the logic behind the winter shoes. The road up to the top was mostly a single curving lane to be shared by traffic going both ways. I’ve gotten used to the dangers of blind corners by now, but there were some new challengers. Any time I had to stop due to an oncoming car, I struggled to get the car moving again. My 3 inch wide and balding tires were proving remarkably ineffective at generating traction. At one point I had to make a few running starts at a stretch of road before finally making it. These successes were just teasing us though, since towards the top of the climb was a stretch that was proved impossible. I think I would have had it the first time, but I was met head on by another car, forcing me to stop. Despite several attempts, I was never able to regain the momentum necessary to make it up that stretch. Throughout this frustrating ordeal, I had to field the most ludicrous of queries: “Do you want me to push?” Why certainly, just throw all 100 pounds of your hulking frame into it and we’ll reach the top in no time… Or, “Do you want me to try [getting behind the wheel]?” Yeah, why don’t you do that. I’m sure that whatever skills you’ve developed not driving for the last 8 months would completely eclipse my winter weather expereince… Eventually, we just abandoned the car at a wider part of the road and hitchhiked the remaining In order to go on the terrain park, I had to put away my flower hat and use a helmet. Too bad. kilometers.
I’m really surprised anyone dared to pick us up…
Once we got our rentals and such sorted, we had some food at the lodge while we waited for things to open up again. Japan doesn’t really understand the normal way to run a ski resort and opts to close the place down twice a day. While it’s nice that they groom the runs (all 5 of them), it does seems foolish to close down two hours a day and also require separate lift tickets for each of the three time periods. We opted for the night skiing, which was probably the best. They flooded the main run with rainbow lights, which looked pretty nice against the dark sky. There was not the number of run I had come to expect at places like Crystal Mountain, but I was able to get a smattering of everything, including a few jumps and rails at a terrain park. The rails are beyond me but I still had a good time on the jumps, though I fell some here. I will credit Kanako for trying a couple times until she too landed a jump, which I was very impressed by. Probably my greatest failure all day was misreading the depth of some fresh snow. Thinking I would splash through it, I was instead completely buried in it. I guess the physics of moving at a good clip and then hitting thy deep snow will send you flying forward.
Eventually we called it a day. We hadn’t been out there as long as expected, but due lacking diversity in the runs, the normal gripes of the cold & sore feet, and also still needing to get home safely, we decided it was time. So, we got someone to snap a picture of us to make the outing official and started out towards my abandoned car. We couldn’t tempt anyone with our thumbs as we walked down the road at night this time, but it made for a nice walk. It was about three kilometers of perfect wintery silence. Kanako was struggling with the slick roads thoguh, which I fully attribute to every woman’s failure to buy functional winter boots. The sight of my car still there was a huge relief to our cold and tired selves. We rolled down the mountain roads without issue and finally drove home. Overall, the day was tons of fun and helped open my eyes to some of the oddities of skiing in Japan, and of course was the source of many memories.
In order to go on the terrain park, I had to put away my flower hat and use a helmet. Too bad.