Blue skies for blacks, reds and greens

On Saturday we woke up thinking we might not going skiing until later in the day – if at all – but one look outside at the clear blue sky with no cloud in sight and we were out of the house by 9am and waiting for the shuttle bus. Glen and I headed across to Hanazono, a side of the mountain we hadn’t yet explored. Behind us sat a family from Perth whose kid made us laugh because he thought they were going to ski back to Australia. Adorable!

Hanazono doesn’t have a lot of runs on it but there’s a long green (about 3.3km) and a red (about 1.8km) which looked good. There hadn’t been much – if any – snow overnight so the slopes were icier than we’d experienced on the other days. It felt just like being back in Ontario.

We caught the lift up and then both took the green down. This green was insane. It had a couple of incredibly steep sections followed by long stretches that were practically flat. I found the steep bits thrilling (if a little intimidating first time around) but Glen wasn’t so keen. When we reached the bottom, he stayed while I got back on the lift and went to do the red.

Now this really was fun. Steep, wide and long, I couldn’t wait to do it again once I reached the bottom. As Glen was nowhere to be seen (he’d gone back to do the green and felt much better about it second time round), I jumped back on the lift and did the red again. Technique wasn’t too bad though, as I said about yesterday, next time I’ll definitely have a lesson or two to iron out the kinks.

Glen and I met at the bottom, our ski runs coinciding perfectly, and then went back up the lift before catching another to get us further up the mountain. We were attempting to make our way to the next side of the mountain and had to go up to get across. Glen was anxious as there were a lot of reds but only one green and if we missed the turn then we’d be committed to a red. Of course, we missed the turn.

Our first black

We were the committed to a red (Jumbo, 34°/17°/1200m) which was fine until it turned into a short, steep black. We both paused at the top of this. I said we could do it, Glen wasn’t so sure, but I was keen to give it a whirl. It took a lot of effort but it was so much fun. For me at least. Once Glen got to the bottom, he wanted a rest so we pulled into King Bell Hut at the bottom of this black and took some time out to consider our next move.

Glen was keen to get to the side we’d been at the day before, with the Niseko Gondola and some runs of reds and greens. To get there we took a lift up, then skied across the base of the peak. I then decided that now was the time to do one of the ungroomed black runs at the top of mountain. Glen wouldn’t go near it so waited at the bottom for me.

The run was called Large (32°/19°/650m) and it was by no means the steepest on the mountain. It also wasn’t the highest point (lots of people were walking up to the peak and going out of the resort boundaries…maybe next time). However, catching the lift up was a terrifying experience as I got higher and higher and wondered if I’d really made the right decision. At the top I seriously doubted it but there was only one way down.

I took the run slowly, traversing across the mountain a lot more than I would have liked. Ideally I would have liked to have pointed my skis down the hill and ever so coolly and with much awesomeness, skied down the slope with control and no fear whatsoever.

While it wasn’t with as much grace as I would have liked, I did manage to get down the majority of the slope without falling, only taking a slight tumble when I was about ten metres from Glen. I didn’t lose my skis and it was more like I had decided it was time to sit down. My legs were extremely tired by the end of it, but I was proud of myself for giving it a go. However, I didn’t have any burning desire to repeat it so Glen and I skied across the slopes (avoiding the annoying bit where you have to walk between the two sides of the mountain) and then attempted the reds and greens again.

Having just done the black run, the reds were that much harder today. My legs ached, I did have all my weight on the downhill ski and I was putting all my energy into making sure I didn’t fall over (which I didn’t). At the bottom of the hill, we skied into the Hilton and met Bec at Ezo Pub where we had another bit of food and rested up.

A rest and then a red run

All three of us took the gondola up to the top. The sky was still clear so we got some excellent views over the mountain and the volcano in the distance. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Before we got to the top of the mountain, Glen and I thought the greens weren’t so bad up there but once we were there, we realised that they weren’t as easy as we remembered. Glen skied with Bec while they took it slow, while I zoomed off to do an almost non-stop run of the reds from the top to the bottom.

My legs were jelly by the end of it and I think the only way I made it down without injury was to order myself to put all my weight on the downhill ski. Even then, it wasn’t as much as it should have been. I made it to the bottom, however, caught a short lift up, did the red run, then had a toilet break before catching the gondola back up to find Glen and Bec.

Bec had managed the first green run but the rest really were a lot harder than we’d expected. Luckily the snow patrol saw her slow descent and stop and came to her rescue. Glen continued on. I took the green runs this time, hoping to catch up to them. The green runs were actually quite hard at this time of day because the snow had been wiped out, leaving behind ice, my legs were shot and the runs were narrow and curved. I was freaking out that I was going to off the edge! I eventually caught Glen at one of the junctions and we skied Banzai together to the Hilton.

Onsen!

We then went to the onsen in the hotel as the view of the mountains was a highlight, as was the koi pond. This one was nicer than the one at the Prince. It was also quieter. The inside onsen felt hotter than 42°C, while the outside one felt cooler than 42°C. It was nice to sit in the outside one and look at the mountains, taking it easy and feeling our muscles relax. We were probably in there about twenty or thirty minutes, then showered and got dressed. As we’d come from off the ski slopes, the worst part was having to put our ski boots back on.

Glen and I sat at the lobby bar and had a drink and slice of cake while waiting for Bec to come out of the onsen. We then waited outside for the bus to take us back to Hirafu. Once back in town, we split up so Bec could return her stuff next to the Vale and collect her shoes, while Glen and I went to the other ski shop nearer the bus stop, returned our skis and went grocery shopping.

We didn’t stop for long at the apartment, changing our ski boots for comfy walking boots and then heading out to get crispy bread from the bread and fondue place. We met Bec along the way, bought some stuff, then decided that instead of leftover soup (for which we’d bought the bread), we’d go to the sushi and tempura place on the corner.

Bec and Glen ordered tempura sets while I had a sashimi set. All of them came with a wide variety of things included miso soup, rice, veggies, tempura and sashimi for both of us, a custard thing and a slice of orange. I wasn’t so keen on the raw squid so left them but all the other sashimi was nice.

After dinner, it was back to the apartment to prepare for tomorrow’s departure. It’s been great to be here, especially ending on such a beautiful weather day (Sunday it’s meant to rain). Perhaps a fourth day would have been nice, then we wouldn’t have felt the compulsion to go out every day to ski or to go out for so long and then we could have gone night skiing, but I don’t feel like we’ve been especially rushed. It’s been a great skiing holiday.

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