Akakan and Suginohara
22.01.2012 - 24.01.2012 -5 °C
Boring stuff - time to pack. In the morning it is goodbye Blue Wave Inn, you have served us well. We head out to the station and make sure L is on her train to Haneda, the we head over to Ueno to catch the Shinkansen to Nagano. Before we depart L checks in, she has arrived at Haneda no issues. We are soon whisked through the countryside, love the Shinkansen. Looks dry for a long way, wet on the ground at Takahashi, through the mountains to Kurizawa, where there is loads of snow on the ground. Before I get much of a chance to write anything we are arriving and have to duck over to the local train. This is a lot more characterful than the bullet train, but still whizzes along at a good rate of knots. Well as far as Kurushimae, where frozen lines stops the train in its tracks (I had to use that one) JR are organised with a shuttle bus getting us to Myoko Kogen station just a little behind schedule.
And guess who is there - the indefatigable Amy. The hotel we picked has its outside onsen closed, but there is another similar one which is closer to the action, so she has set us up there instead. So we settle into Central Hotel, head off to hire ski gear at Myoko Snow Sports, then head up to Akakura Onsen for our warm up ski. The snow is a little soft as the sun has been out all day, but still great by Aussie standards. Out on some of the runs, there is a great view to the north to the Sea of Japan. It is great how the snow legs come back quickly. We make the most of our limited time and ski until close.
G has chosen dinner at a yakiniku place. It is Spartan inside, but it is fun, we get to cook our own dinner on a little gas hot plate on our table. The pork is good, G enjoys chicken and I force the vegies on him. I go for hot sake to drink again - a little oily this one. Walk around the Akakura area of Myoko Kogen it is a small place full of hotels and restaurants and other ski places.
We head home with a plan to get to sleep and wake early so we can out to Suginohara on the 8 am bus. Three hours later we are still up reading, and we are similarly late waking in the morning, so we miss the bus and it is local skiing...
Local skiing means the Akakakan (Akakura Kanko) area which is pretty darn good. There has been snow falling the whole time and it is good hard packed stuff on the main runs. We get a few runs in, including doing a run from top to bottom – more than 5 kms. This is hard work, and we have a few stops for G to get over his foot cramps, something that will plague him a bit over the trip. Stop down the bottom to get G new goggles – a basic pair of Uvex as his others are too small and fog up all the time. But we have to get back to the snow sports for G’s lesson. Easier said than done as the lifts are in an upside down ‘Y’ – to cross from one arm to the other you have to go more than halfway up the mountain. So we race up the mountain to go back across to the other side, and do a big rooster tail stop with a minute to spare.
So while G is off having a lesson with cool instructor Damien, I head up to #3 Champion course and head into the trees out on the edge. This is a lot of fun making new tracks through the powder that has settled overnight. The hill is plenty steep enough to keep the pace up as I duck back and forth. No doubt at first run for the day it was pristine, but now there are plenty of tracks around. Mind, as this is the best tree skiing I have ever done, I make the most and cannot complain. Coming back down, I get to see G finishing off a lesson, including them throwing themselves off a cliff – but don’t tell L about it!
Lesson over, we go for lunch. It is now after 3:30 and the restaurants are closed. We do look into one, but everything has been cleared away. But the lovely people say it will be fine and in a short time we have a huge steaming bowl of noodles and curry – magic. With this in our bellies we ski the rest of the day out. The snow is great, good firm base with a bit of powder off to the side, if you know where to look.
After a refreshing bath I get to spend a while doing the accounts and checking the money. We then head out for a late, but easy dinner just down the road from Central. It’s looking good for tomorrow with a steady snowfall as we head back to the hotel.
In the morning we are called down for breakfast – need to get a move on as we are definitely heading over to Suginohara today. There has been a veritable dump last night and we are keen to get out there. We get ready, and I send G out, I will catch up. I was a bit frustrated to see G sitting in the street waiting for me. I yelled at him to get a move on or we will miss the bus ... and as my feet shot out from under me and I landed on my helmet, it did cross my mind that maybe he wasn’t just waiting for me. So he got to unload his frustrations on me, then we picked our way down the icy road to the bus stop.
The bus driver did not seem fussed about the ice on the road as he powered along. After the heavy falls last night, there is powder aplenty. We head right up to the highest parts of the mountain for a look around. Coming down the black side of Hell’s Valley G takes a fall and a hit to the head. My fault.
Out on the Mitahara side they have set up a terrain park, we head over here and do some of the easy stuff. G wants to go again, so we head over – and I notice a few tracks heading into the trees. I follow and have some great runs in knee deep powder through the trees – love it!! G is building up to it, ducking in along the edges here and there. At one point, I am heading along and all of a sudden, there is a 6 foot drop off and G is stopped at the bottom. I go over the edge, and land too steep so I am over the tips and thump into the snow right next to G – with a small whack in the head from my pole. I haven’t popped out so the bindings may be a bit stiff.
It continues to snow the whole day, so a warm cafe and hot lunch is welcome. Back out, we head into the trees on the lower slopes as well, ducking in and out off the groomed runs. We get to see the JSDF training up the next group of alpine soldiers on the flatter areas. They are obviously tougher than me as some have no hats, no goggles and thin gloves.
We head back up to the higher slopes. We do the big long run right down the hill, 8.5kms long. We are doing some of the terrain park when G has a big stack, which puts an end to the day’s ‘boarding. So we head back to the bus for a steamy 30 minute ride back to the hotel.
After our onsen, we have dinner in the hotel – a traditional multi course Japanese dinner with a steamboat on the table. It is very fresh and tasty, and goes down well. A beer certainly helps. We are getting pretty tired and are early to bed this time. Not that it matters - it is still difficult to wake in the morning. Once we are awake we do see something new for us – clear blue sky! This is the first time since day one of the trip.