February 2009 - Japan

Every now and again I get an idea in my head that I just can't shake and I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Sometimes these ideas are quite last minute, taking me by surprise and other times they linger for months, an idea that needs the perfect plan to execute. My only full day in Sapporo was the latter for I was in powder country and there was something I had never had the chance of doing before now... Skiing.

With Jonno left in the thrall of Sapporo I jumped on a train to Niseko, to ski Grand Hirafu, even though I had no idea how to ski. I'm coordinated enough I thought to myself. I got this.

Now I should explain the timeline here. It is now almost six years to the day I went to Niseko and I am finally writing the last chapter of this trip. I am now currently living in a ski village and have some decent skills on both a snowboard and on skis; skills that I can confidently say I did not have the first day I attempted to place my ski boot into my binding.

For I did not have 'this'... at all.

The trips to and from the mountain are about as blurry as staring through a train window. There was a train and shuttle bus and visa versa and I managed to get myself there and back without a memorable drama but that's about all I remember. Oh and it was a near blue sky day and the view out window of the train captivated me the entire way to the slopes.

But the skiing, oh I remember the skiing. I remember studying the map and chosing a green run (beginner) to start on, only the chair I took placed me on a blue (intermediate) run. Of course I fell off the chair lift and was holding my skis. Somewhere along the way I found a cat track that I assumed lead to the green run, decided to get those skis on and give it a try but I could not for the life of me get them on. That's right people, the rookie mistake of trying to put your ski on when the binding is locked. I must have looked like an idiot to the Aussie that pointed out my binding to me. Slightly embarrassed, I half skiied half walked and stumbled back to the bottom of the mountain (fortunately I had not travelled very far by Whistler standards). There are two things I think about now in hindsight: the first being I probably should have started on the bunny hill; the second is how I would love to cruise down that blue run on my skis now (the at the time dauntingly steep blue run that now looks like a beautiful wide, perfectly groomed speed run in my head).

For the remainder of the morning I relegated myself to the bunny hill. Over and over again I would pick myself up after falling off the chair lift, prepare and with trepidation make my way down the slight incline that currently sits between a magic carpet and the Magic Chair in Whistler. Like I said, bunny hill. Around lunch time I could actually turn with a little confidence but I knew I wasn't getting anywhere fast and I needed help. I went to the Ski School booth only to find they were fully booked for the day. Well that idea was short lived.

I didn't stop for lunch that day, and by the time I was becoming so sore from all the falling. There was good news though, I'm almost certain I stuck a couple of exits off the chair lift. It was almost time to go back home, but I had barely been on the mountain. I could try another green run by now right?

And so with that thought in my head I took another chair lift (the right chair lift this time) up the mountain. A couple of non-selfie (it wasn't a thing back then) happy snaps later I VERY slowly made my way back to the bottom of the mountain where I could hand back the skis to the rental shop with great relief. I may have fallen once or twice (I can't remember), but I know I successfully navigated the sometimes quite narrow green run to the bottom and on that happy note I was done for the day. So SORE!

Perhaps if I had have planned that better, lesson and all, I may never have switched to snowboarding the next time I saw snow. Perhaps I would have learnt to ski in Whistler before I snowboarded. I wonder what that would have been like? I know for sure I wouldn't, or couldn't have fallen as many times as that first time on Easy Out on skis right?

Now all I'm thinking about is how much I want to go back to Hokkaido to ski (and board) another round.

And on that note I will leave you with the strangest KitKat variation I have ever seen (seen in Sapporo at the train station the evening I returned from skiing).


I kid you not.

CORN... IN A KITKAT... WTF! Only in Japan.

Got to love that place.