Sunday, February 18, 2007

Almost done

Just as my final days at work are winding down, the next countdown is ready to go. 3 days left until the end of my contract, 2 months left in Japan. I dropped by a travel agency last week to inquire about pricing for a flight our of Tokyo on April 18th, which seems to be the mutually agreed upon date of departure at this time.

That reminds me of a conversation I had today on a ski lift somewhere in Fukushima Prefecture. Ayako, a students from way before my time at the school, asked me what was my favourite thing in Japan, adding the caveat that I couldn't say Yoshiko. I pondered the question for a few moments. As my time here flashed before my eyes, I thought of places I'd visited, things I'd tried and experienced, but the answer which finally came out was: our students. They really are what have made this whole "coming out to Japan" thing worthwhile. And seeing as Yoshiko was a student, I even got to work her into my answer... lol

So yes, today, we hit the slopes for my third ski trip this season. This time, we hit up a resort I had only heard rumours of... a so called "skiers' paradise" where boarders are politely turned away and Olympic skiers come to compete: Takahata. Very different vibe to this place, probably due to the caliber of skiers who were here. Takahata's skiers usually only include the most hardcore aficionados, willing to drive deeper into the mountains for the experience of snowboarderless runs.

Unfortunately for us today, the conditions weren't so great for the first half of the day. A steady snowfall severely limited visibility, to the point where you could only see a few feet ahead of you at times, which is very unnerving when skiing a resort one is not familiar with. At least it wasn't cold.

I finally strapped on the short skis, with disappointing but I guess predictable results. While lightweight, easy to travel with and easy to skate with to get around on flat areas, they certainly don't offer the stability and control that I've gotten used to with my full sized skis. I did a couple of runs on short skis before zipping back to the chalet and going back to long ones. Funny thing is, after switching from short skis to long ones, I sucked! My skis now felt heavy and awkward and I kept crossing my ski tips, something I haven't done for years! Thankfully after a lunch break to make my feet forget about the short skis, I got back into the groove of things and by mid-afternoon I was zooming down with the best of 'em. During lunch, we actually met up with Kotaro, one of my students who makes Takahata his home on Winter weekends. We managed to ski one run together before he had to go off and take a lesson in preparation for his test next week. He will be passing the Ski Association of Japan's Grade 1 level.

Here is a shot of the group, taken by Kotaro. From the left: Keizo, Sayaka, Ayako and of course myself.

After finding a run we really liked and making a couple of runs down with the skies clearing which offered us great views of the surrounding mountains... bad luck struck and Ayako went down with an ankle sprain. The ski patrol whisked her off in a snowmobile and we packed it in for the day a little over an hour earlier than usual, which is no big deal. Today's injury marks the third (first was Christian's broken arm while boarding at Camp Fortune, second was my collision with a stupid boarder last year at Alts) where I've had to put up the ol' crossed skis distress signal and have the ski patrol drop by.

I think I've shifted my skiing energies away from distant Hokkaido and settled them on Shiga Kogen, a massive amalgamation of over 20 ski resorts in Nagano which served as grounds for the ski events during the 1998 Winter Games. Heading there instead of Hokkaido means no plane, and the web sites seem more foreigner friendly, likely due to the large number of expats from Tokyo who make runs out to Nagano to ski. I've got an information request out to a ski-out hotel, we'll see what comes of it.

And that's about that. Great day of skiing, work is almost done, skiing plans are in the works and we're making plans for Canada... things are looking pretty damn good to me at this point, which is good because the ol' company pulled some crap this week I was not pleased with... I may need to post a bitching blog about things later this week, we shall see.


Blogger tornados28 said...

You will probably say I have way too much time on my hands but I just finished reading your entire blog. Very, very interesting. Belated congrats on you marriage. It was interesting reading from the beginning knowing that you had already been married.

I am very familiar with Tochigi and Nikko as my wife is from Otawara and her other relatives live in Nikko, my favorite place. Too bad I only recently found your blog since you are leaving Japan very soon. Oh well. God luck.

Jon from Los Angeles.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Hey there Jon!

Thanks for the comment, wow, you read the whole thing? I may have to sit down and do that myself some time... It has served as a journal of sorts for me.

I think Nikko is also my favourite place in Japan, magical.

Take care!

8:48 PM  

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