On Friday morning, I arrived at the office with my suitcase so that I would be prepared to head directly to the train station in the event of a last-minute meeting or work emergency. This turned out to be a good idea because I made it out of the office just in time to head to Shinjuku and catch the bus. As anticipated, Shinjuku was very busy and difficult to navigate while toting even the smallest of suitcases.
(Tip: If you're planning on skiing in Japan, you can use Takyubin to ship your luggage or gear in advance.)
The trip was organized by the Tokyo Snow Club, which means that they arranged the bus, accommodations, lift tickets, rentals, onsen and some meals.
The bus delivered us to the Blue Monkey Lodge in a surprisingly short amount of time. (Let me be clear that I do not recommend this accommodation to anyone looking for a place to stay in Minakami during the winter months.) There were six women assigned to my room. A space heater was provided, but it was so cold that we could see our own breath (this was true both that evening and the next morning, after the space heater had been running all night). You see, the Blue Monkey hadn't turned on their central heating and there were even windows wide open on our arrival!
|Our room at the Blue Monkey Lodge|
The next morning, I skipped a shower because there were only two working showers for the thirty-nine people staying at the lodge. The provided breakfast included two pieces of bread and a glass of water. Not what I had in mind, but the trip got better from this point out.
We arrived on the slopes shortly after nine o'clock. Our rentals had been arranged in advance by TSC, so pick up was very quick. I just walked up to the skis, boots and gear labeled with my name, scooped them up, and walked out. It doesn't get much better than that!
|Welcome to Hodaigi!|
The slopes were great and the quality of the snow was excellent. It turns out that, even after a ten-year break, I can still ski pretty well. This was my first time on parabolic skis and, wow, do those beauties make skiing a lot less work!
|A look at one of the lifts up to one of the beginner runs.|
Here's a slightly better look at the base of the resort. It's a pretty small place, but there were enough runs to keep us busy on this weekend trip.
So how was skiing at Hodaigi different from skiing at a comparably sized U.S. ski spot? One downside was that other than the couple of cafes on the slopes there weren't places to eat within walking distance of our accommodation. This means there wasn't an alternative place to grab breakfast or dinner on our own. But it wasn't all bad.
For starters there was this giant, cute snow kitty at the base of the slopes near the kids' area.
The beer selection looked a little different.
And, best of all, the lift tickets were very reasonable.
|This 2 day lift ticket cost JPY 5,300 or USD 52!|
Skiing after so many years away from the slopes brought back a flood of memories of skiing with my family as a kid. It is a wonderful thing, as a very homesick and lonely adult living abroad, to be reconnected with those types of memories.
The rest of the trip consisted of onsens and a few more hiccups with the provided meals and the accommodations. We arrived back at Shinjuku at a reasonable hour, which was an accomplishment given that while we were away Tokyo had received the largest snowfall of the last 45 years.
|Tokyo neighborhood on Sunday night.|