Tuesday, March 06, 2007

As Frank Sinatra once sang... "Heaven.... I'm in heaven"

What a lovely day. Conditions are crap due to yesterday's rain, which coupled with today's colder temperature makes the going pretty icy and crunchy... but for an Ottawa boy who is used to skiing on icy\crunchy conditions on a GOOD day... this is still some great skiing. As you may have noticed in yesterday's picture of the ski map, this place is HUGE. It's essentially a series of 22? 23? interconnected resorts which you can ski with one lift ticket, which are linked by 71 lifts and countless runs and a free shuttle service. This truly is the best organised and generally speaking THE best ski resort I have ever been to. Of course, this is really my first "true" ski holiday, with most of my skiing being done on day-trips. There certainly is something to this whole ski-out kind of hotel, it is sooooooooooo nice. Case in point, after breakfast, I noticed the lifts weren't running yet, so I kept an eye on them out my room's window. The second those bad boys started up, I was out there doing my thing. And at lunch time? I decided to just have a quick sandwich and catch a 30 minute power-nap... fantastic.

The day started out pretty gloomy, with a thick fog and a little snow falling. Here is a picture I took on my first of many lift rides of the day.

Considering the size of this place, the complexity of the interconnecting lifts and the variety of different terrain available, this was totally not the kind of weather I wanted to have while trying to explore a new resort. Oh yeah, and by the way, those trees you see are part of this little area just outside my hotel. Kind of a groomed glades area, with some wide runs and some closer in ones around the trees... again, this whole "fog" thing doesn't help you avoid trees. You'll get a better view of this ski are a little further down. So needless to say, my day got off to a bit of a slow start, as I picked my way around the trees in the fog a few times before speeding up a bit. After skiing the 2 lifts here for a while, I crossed over to the larger area to the left and spent most of the rest of the day skiing off the 4 lifts there. The weather alternated between cloudy, which at this altitude means skiing in the clouds...

and sun mixed with cloud.

I quickly spotted a few runs which I enjoyed, one of which is the panorama course, a narrow intermediate which meanders for a good 2+kms down the left side of the resort. Since the weather was iffy and the conditions not so good, I decided to stick with what I knew and skied back and forth between the Ichinose Family, Tanne no Mori (where my hotel is) and Takamagahara. Now that I am a little more comfortable with the resort's setup and I have my skiing legs back under me after a disappointing few outings so far this year, I'll be hitting up some new areas tomorrow.

The people here really are wonderful. From the hotel staff and guests to random skiers on the hills, I've gotten plenty of hellos, "where are you from" and "can I take a picture with you" while out and about today. At one point when I saw the skies open up a bit and started snapping away, a gentleman approached me and offered to take my picture for me.... see? great people!

Sometimes I think that 50 percent of my love of skiing comes from the amazing views out here in the mountains. Even Mont-Ste-Marie back home, a mere molehill at 300 and some odd meters compared to these 2000+ meter ski hills, has some great views. Thanks to Yoshiko's camera, which is nice and handy and easy to use while only taking one glove off, I managed to get a couple of good shots. For example...

And at one point, the skies really opened up and we could see all the way into the valley towards Nagano city, and the surrounding mountains.

After my quick sandwich and snooze back at my hotel, I headed back to the Ichinose Family area and noticed this gate standing off to the side. I'd seen a picture of it somewhere, but hadn't noticed it while skiing this morning. As is my habit, I took a picture of it... thus proving that this is a true Japanese ski resort.

Since the sun was shining and the conditions were thus a little better, I headed to the East and got a good shot of the mogul run at Takamagahara... I have yet to try moguls, and have no real desire to either... looks scary from down here... lol

As the day was winding down and the lifts were about to close, I headed back to my "home" area and did the runs through the trees without the fog this time... much more fun! Really great little area, and not crowded at all either.

Just as the lifts were about to close, I called it a day and headed in to the hotel. In the changing\drying room, a nice little lady struck up a conversation with me, at first in Japanese and then in English. I'd peg her at about 60 years old and was happy to hear that she was just starting to learn how to ski. She is from Aichi and has travelled quite a bit from what I understand, including to my part of Canada. She asked me if I wanted to ski with her tomorrow and I said sure... so I have a date! Hope Yoshiko isn't jealous... lol On that note, this is the first trip I've had apart from Yoshiko in a long time, possibly back to my China trip??? and it certainly is different. While I am probably enjoying the skiing a little more due to our difference in levels, my non-barrelling-down-a-hill-at-breakneck-speeds time is painfully empty without the presence of my lovely wife. Sitting down and enjoying a nice meal and a bottle of wine just isn't the same alone... ne?

Anywho, another couple (5? 6?) of hours of skiing tomorrow before I make my way back out of the mountains, then a visit to see the plum blossoms at Kairakuen on Thursday and my family arrives in Japan for our tour on Monday... busy times!


Blogger tornados28 said...

What an amazing resort. I hope to ride there someday also. Have you ever gone skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb in BC? I have ridden many resorts over the years in California, Utah and Colorado and Whistler/Blackcomb is probably the best resort I have ever been to.

But if you want the lightest, fluffiest snow anywhere, you have got to make a trip to Utah. Utah has by far the lightest, flufffiest snow I have ever ridden.

11:26 AM  

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