Sunday, January 24, 2010

Northern Japan Snow Adventure

Niseko. Cone volcano Mount Yotei in background (photo: Business Week)

One of the activities sitting near the top of my "must do" list for my Japan stay was snowboarding the mountains of Hokkaido. I'm actually not much of a snowboarder, but being from Boulder, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a break from the concrete and glass canyons of Tokyo and get some fresh mountain air. Throw an active cone volcano (Mount Yotei) into the mix and I was sold. Luckily, it didn't take much to convince Maris either, and so we decided to spend a few days in between Christmas and New Years up north on snowy Hokkaido.

Very cold but very fun!
Hokkaido, among other things, is probably best known for Sapporo beer, tasty taraba crab and snowy winters. Much of the island lies right in the path of Siberian cold fronts that help contribute to Niseko's ranking as the #2 snowiest resort in the world according to Forbes Traveler--average snowfall is 595 inches per season. For our trip in particular, we had a love-hate relationship with the weather: our ski days were met with bone-chilling wind, fog, rain(!), and yes, sweet powdery snow.

It was so cold my snot froze my jacket zipper shut

Our "Australian frat house." Looks nice enough from the outside anyway.

The other rough spot was our accommodations in Niseko, and the blame lies squarely with me. (Perhaps I messed this up enough to get myself permanently relieved from this duty; one can only hope...). The name of our "hotel" was Ramat Niseko, and it was less hotel than Australian frat house (Maris's verdict, not mine). I knew we were in trouble when the owner, Sue, didn't offer us a key to our room. This would later haunt us each night when drunken Australian college kids would barge into our room looking for "the pisser." Oh well. Win some, lose some...

Maris contemplates Yotei-zan

My new Japanese snowboard buddies

Overall, I think skiing and snowboarding with scenic Mount Yotei looming in the background more than made up for the strange sleeping arrangements. Niseko was probably the only chance we'll have to hit the slopes this season. For our singular shot at powdery glory, though, it was quite ideal.

Warming up, Apres ski. Cup of hot chocolate says "Comfortable elegant time". Comfortable elegant time, indeed.

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