Having passed my ski instructor’s qualification in Queenstown, New Zealand in June 2009, I had the challenging task of finding a job in a ski resort for the 2009/10 season. By chance, I shared a chairlift with a chap who had completed a season in Japan. My first question (and most other’s first question) was “You can ski in Japan?” Not only can you ski in Japan, you may well have your best skiing experience in this majestic country.
I ended up spending an incredible season in Niseko in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Coming up with a top five is very difficult, I’ll give it a go however, see what you think:
5. The Isolation.
It may seem bizarre, but it was truly refreshing to be completely cut off from television and sensationalist newspapers. While Britain may be caught up in the latest ‘footballer scandal’ or ‘coalition debate’ I was blissfully unaware skiing bottomless Hokkaido powder from 8am – 8pm!
4. The Humour.
Japanese people have a great sense of humour, even with such a huge language barrier! We often found ourselves sitting next to a Japanese person, having no idea what we were talking about, but laughing our heads off!
3. The Food.
Although I am a picky eater, I really had to embrace the Japanese culinary offerings. Everything is so fresh, and prepared with expert precision. I’ve never had such amazing sushi and sashimi and, unless I go back to Japan, I may never again! Another staple is Ramen which is perfect for an après ski meal! Often prepared right infront of you (the chef is usually always visible in a ramen restaurant and shouts “enjoy your food” when you order) this soup-like dish contains noodles which you are encouraged to slurp loudly!
2. The People
I taught mainly Australian clientele, however, the resort itself has Japanese employees and the town operates year round. The Japanese people are incredible; a culture of immense respect and politeness have created an atmosphere which is superb to be around. Even buying a chocolate bar from the local Seciomart is treated with the utmost respect and dignity. For example, if you walk into any store in Japan all the staff shout “Welcome to the store” as loud as they can to welcome you. At first they could be shouting anything, but when you realise, it’s amazing! They really appreciate the correct use of their language. Greeting someone in the morning by saying Konichiwa, (before Noon,) is actually rather rude, but saying Ohayou Gozaimasu (Good Morning), generates a huge smile and respectful bow.
1. The Snow.
Every single resort in the world claims it has the best snow; unfortunately, they may be mistaken. Japan as a country often gets well over double the average snowfall for the French Alps. In a good year over 50 feet of snow is the norm. The snow consistency is also very important. We experienced light and fluffy champagne powder for four straight months – non-Stop. For the entire season in Niseko we had 3 bluebird days. Other than that, it snowed every day!
I’ve often had the urge to travel back and I am currently planning a trip this December!
Ski Independence has some great offers for Japan in Winter 2012/2013, including free lift passes in Rusustu – book before the end of June!