Saturday, February 8th, 2014

We had arranged for our breakfast to be served at 8 pm so we were up at 7:30 to have a quick shower. Last night we received some snow and it is very pretty outside of our window with the trees covered with a thick layer of white.

Our traditional Japanese breakfast was very good indeed consisting of a small piece of salmon cooked in salt, a wet mushroom salad, a very mushy potato salad (on lettuce) and a raw egg. This was served with tea (of course - “barley” which we very much enjoy particularly over matcha) and rice on the side.


Before returning to our room to dress for the day we had the owner call the rental agency to arrange a pick up since it was closed last night he could not call then. They arranged to pick us up at 9:15. We were ready in the lobby at 9:00 and they arrived shortly thereafter. They drove us to a small rental company which was staffed, it seemed, by a bunch of Australians so English was not a problem as we went through the various forms (I left a copy of our rental voucher with them). Of course there is always the confusion when they ask for my height and weight since I generally have no idea though here they had scales on the floor and a ruler against the wall. We managed to figure out our skis (helpfully labelled with our names though mother’s are about a foot shorter than mine…they are both made by “Head” if you are marginally interested), sticks and boots without any problems. Mother had brought her helmet in her massive bag but I had to rent it here myself. The equipment looks al-right - A bit worn but seems to be in good condition. They were all very helpful then at the end they had us put our normal winter shoes/boots into a bag and took them back to the hotel so we could go straight over to the slopes to start skiing.

I noticed opposite the rental shop that water was running down the road. Looking closer I saw that they had sprinklers in the road surface itself. We believe this is to keep ice from forming as no matter how cold the water is if it is flowing ice will not form (well, not on that steep a surface at least, and I think the water was warmer anyway). It was odd to see water being used to fight ice though…Quite counter-intuitive.

Wet Road

It turns out the main lift for the “Happo One” (no, not the number “one” but you say “o-nay”), the “Adam” gondola was just a short distance from the rental agency so we slung our skis over our shoulders and headed up the rather busy road to the bottom of the lift.

The Lift is Just Up That Way...

At the lift station I queued to exchange our coupons for ski passes for the day including paying a 100 yen deposit that is returned at the end of the day when you return the electronic passes…<sigh>…seems so complicated!.

The "Adam" Gondola Station

The passes have been a big pain in the neck - We put them in our pocket but no matter how much we rubbed our pockets against the electronic gates at each lift it would not register so eventually I was taking it out of my pocket and putting it directly against the sensor which seemed to help. Others I noticed had bands strapped around their arms or wrists with the pass inside which seemed to be the trick as the pockets definitely did not work very well (we were not the only ones simply taking out the cards and pushing them against the gate sensors). It was also odd that here we had to use our passes at every lift - In Europe and elsewhere you tend to use it at the bottom of the hill but lifts further up they do not bother.

Ready to go!

The first trip up to the top of the hill was in an antiquated ski bubble seating four people - two people in front then two people in back - back to back. The first trip up we were with two guys from New Zealand that were chatting about various banal things…It seems that Japan is a big draw for people from New Zealand and Australia which sort of makes sense as I believe while there is skiing down in those countries it is probably much better here. It is odd to think of Japan as being a “cheap” or “close by” ski area…

Today it was REALLY snowing which is pretty (big fluffy flakes) but means it is very heavy to ski on so we finished at about 2:00 pm simply because we could not be bothered to continue struggling - particularly on the first day. Mother was not happy and it is difficult without knowing the slopes. Often we could not see very well (it was “flat light” as we call it - overcast such that you cannot make out features on the slope) and the conditions are quite icy in spots and the slopes were quite senior - You really need to be able to see them. Japanese skiers seem a bit rude but fairly good.

Only Way is Down...

Is that me?

We had lunch at a cafeteria at the top of the “Adam” gondola. “Usagidaira Terrace” is a massive building with two levels that can be entered depending upon how far up the slope you are: The bottom level has a small cafe (and the toilets) while the second level is a massive cafeteria seating several hundred people.

Usagidaira Terrace Cafeteria

When we arrived it was very busy so we quickly found a spot to sit at the communal picnic-style tables beside a group of children more interested in playing video games than skiing where I left mother to while I went to order food. The offerings were good but not exactly haute cuisine. I ended up with beef curry on top of (!) pork cutlet (sort of katsu-y). Mother only had rice and a coke (the lunch of champions?). I ended up picking up some chocolate covered nuts which were very nice as well.

Not Pleased with the Ski Conditions...

We were sitting beside a window with heaters that, of course, were covered with mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves to dry in these wet conditions. The view out of the window was quite limited as it was snowing so hard…

It was really disappointing to finish so early but it was just too silly. We were all tense and getting more and more tired without really getting anywhere. At one point I found a green (easy) run on the map that I thought would be good to get us warmed up but it turned out to be a narrow track (probably a road) that wound it’s way down the hill. I don’t mind these as I just go very quickly down the middle and don’t make too many turns but Mother is not a great fan and would prefer anything else - as long as it doesn’t force her into a particular path like this. So it did not really help matters.

Unusual European Restaurant Playing "Sound of Music"

We ended up skiing up and down a short stretch of hill in the hopes that we would be able to figure it out - We never did and eventually gave up and headed down on the only real way out - A narrow “green” (easy) track - Mother does not like tracks but I slithered along without too much problems.

On-Piste Monument for the Nagano Olympics

At the bottom of the hill I returned our passes and picked up our deposit as well as arm bands so we can put each day’s pass in around our arm which we can probably use a bit easier to get through the gates. We were on the far side of the resort from where we started so from the small ticket booth I asked for where we could catch the coach back into town and was directed well off to the side where there was a small (closed permanently, it looked like) rental shop beside the bus stop. We waited a few minutes and got aboard one headed to our area (the Tourist Information building which is only about a five minute walk from the hotel). So even though the individual resorts are not connected physically on the slopes they are connected by these small coaches that run specific routes with specific schedules which are all very clearly marked. Being the first day it did take us a while to figure it out but talking to the driver he confirmed we were on the right bus. The buses seem to be normal coaches and it was a bit awkward getting on board with our skis and boots - I was trying hard not to hit the ceiling or the seat in front…

The walk back to the hotel was a bit difficult walking along the road with the ski boots, heavy ski clothing, poles and skis. We were also very wet from the snow all day and sweaty. By the time we were back at the hotel we were very tired. We trudged down the stairs to the basement to hang our skis in the racks along the walls then into another room with a heater in the middle where we were able to put our boots and hang some of our clothes to dry.

One advantage for being back so early is that we could try out the private “onsen”. By the time we arrived yesterday all of the times had been taken by other rooms but this time it was our choice!

The “private onsen” is a large room that you enter in a hallway located off of the foyer on the main floor. When you enter, you flip over a sign that says it is occupied and slide the door shut. A small reception area with a seat is there then a small room with a chair in front of a dressing table/mirror with all sorts of facial liquids. The bath is entered to the right (at the back of the area) through another sliding glass door. There are a series of three taps close to the floor on the right with stools in front of them - You sit on a stool first and wash before you enter the large bath on the left of the room. Mother and I could only stand about 10 minutes in because it is VERY VERY hot (it is natural hot springs but only smells a bit) - We took turns - I came up and got her when I could stand it no longer.

It is a bit odd being in a large room naked but it was very refreshing. Came out bright red like a lobster!

I am sitting typing this in a chair by the door of our patio (3rd floor) and it is still snowing - I am typing on mother's computer with a glass of Clamato Extra-Spicy that mother brought for me from Canada (my favourite). Watching the Sochi Winter Olympics (in Japanese) on the small TV.

View from the Window

It is now quite late. Before eating we visited the Tourist Information Center to pick up information about the area including shuttle schedules. We learned that tomorrow was going to be the finale of the “Hakuba Yukikoi Festival” at the bottom of the Olympic ski jumps. We are so there!

We decided to go out to try somewhere different for dinner tonight and we found ourselves in this cheap and cheerful soba shop about half way to the ski slope. The menu is quite simple but the soba (buckwheat noodles) were very good. We both had the hot soba noodles in broth with tempura prawns (soggy, of course, by the time we ate them) with a side of “wasabi greens” - the leaves of the wasabi plant - topped with bonito flakes - Hot but not overly so.


We saw a bit more of the area when we were walking around including finding another souvenir/grocery store and a pizzeria . The snow is quite deep in places but it is fairly warm. We know this could lead to ice on the slopes or just be hard to ski through like today. Today was very disappointing and, indeed, discouraging. We are hoping that it gets cooler and stops snowing otherwise it is going to be a very long, hard week for us.

>> Next: Day 12

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