So much snow!!!
08.01.2014 - 09.01.2014 -3 °C
So our last day in Tokyo started with a sleep in after a late night playing cards. We didn't have to check out until 11 so we took our time packing up and getting sorted for the snow before leaving our luggage at the hotel to head back to Shibuya to spend our last day doing some more shopping and showing James the coolest area of Tokyo. We split up on the way and the boys headed to the Burton store so Zac could buy pants, James could buy a snowboard and Marc could buy a GoPro, and I headed back to the Shibuya 109 department store to buy some more quirky Tokyo fashion. I also bought some necessary items - new ski goggles to match my jacket and a J-Pop CD/DVD! We met up again after 2 hours and some devastating effects to our bank accounts, and then had lunch at the cool sushi train place to show James the best restaurant in Shibuya. After we picked up our luggage we then had to manoeuvre 5 suitcases and 3 snowboards around the subway system, onto the Narita Express train and finally to the arrivals lounge back at the airport where we then had to wait 2 hours for the shuttle bus to take us out to our lodge in Hakuba.
We expected a small bus with not many people but were very concerned to see over 40 joining our group and then even more concerned when we got out to the bus and the driver was chucking our snowboard bags up through the back window of the bus and along the back seat. Because we got there first we decided we would be the cool guys and take the seats at the back of the bus in front of the now huge pile of snowboard cases, but we soon realised that was a mistake as even more people were turning up with boards that we then had to pull in through our window and stack up the back. I'm pretty sure we worked hard enough to be paid, or at least be given an OzSnow jacket and a name badge for the week! However I did impress the guys with my muscles lifting the board bags so all was not wasted
Once we finally got going (after the extra 4 people had settled in to sleep on the floor in the aisle or sit on the weird extra fold down chairs in the middle) it was already past 9 and the driver announced it would be a 5-6 hour trip plus a stop for dinner. That was not a pleasant thing to hear, but we settled in for a long, cold bus trip armed with a few episodes of New Girl on my iPad and a double headphone adapter to share it. After the dinner stop we all tried to get some sleep but it didn't work to well for anyone with the noise of one group of pretty bogan guys sitting near the back. As we finally pulled in at 3am we then realised we had to unpack all the boards from the back of the bus and when we got out of the bus and the snow was knee deep and super slippery it became all the more challenging! It was absolutely freezing and trying to slide down the icy hill with a suitcase, satchel and snowboard bag was a little to much for so early in the morning, but it just made us all the more thankful when we finally got into our room (2 bunks and 1 single with a share bathroom down the ball) and crawled into our beds after setting the alarm for 8 so we could be up to get our gear and head to the snow
It took a little longer than we expected in the morning for Marc and Nick to get their hire gear sorted out but we were all happy to relax a little more and enjoy breakfast while we tried to wake ourselves up enough to get our gear on. Once we walked outside though it was impossible to wipe the smile off our faces! The gondola is literally 100 metres from our front door and once at the top of that you can strap in and get straight on the lifts before enjoying the crazy long and windy runs that are here at Happo Mountain. It was snowing lightly all morning as well which helped to keep us awake and also added to the huge amount of fresh powder on the tracks. The best stack of the day was as we hit our first section of untouched powder and Zac face planted straight into it, disappeared for a minute because it was so deep, and them sat up with a full Santa beard of snow before shaking it all off like a little puppy after he's had a bath. I laughed so hard I then stacked it and had to spend a good 10 minutes digging my way back out of the deep powder. That was how we spent the rest of the day - mixing it up between fresh powder stacks and winding tracks with amazing views! All the trees are covered in powder and the chair lifts go for so long that you actually have time to look around and enjoy the views. By the time it got to 3 we were all to wrecked to keep going after fighting our way through the deep powder, so we decided to get changed and go for a walk down to the main town to find some restaurants and for a few of us who forgot to bring towels to buy some. Google said it would take 20 minutes.... But google lied. It also didn't help that after 10 minutes outside it was near blizzard conditions and I took a wrong turn so we walked for ages down the wrong road before realising and turning around. By the time we finally made it to the town, frost bitten toes, fingers and noses galore, we vowed that no matter how much it cost we would pay for a taxi back! So we had lunch at this cool pizza/burger bar, stocked up on supplies and then found a taxi.
We asked the driver whether he would let us squash 5 people in and he said that was fine, but we soon realised that was the least illegal thing to happen. As police drove past him at the lights he subtly pulled his seatbelt on, his phone rang while he was cruising round icy narrow streets and he answered it, and he was flicking his high beam on and off into hotels we passed as if he wanted to start a disco, but we got back eventually and came inside to get ready for our group dinner.
At 7 we went down to the restaurant of our hotel to meet with the other group members and have a big traditional Japanese sumo meal consisting of huge pots on boilers in front of us filled with a mix of chicken, tofu, mushrooms, carrots, lettuce and who knows what else all mixed in a broth which we then boiled ourselves and ate with big fat noodles. It was good fun to meet some of the other people we had been on the bus with and it was particularly fun that lots of them are young and very chilled out and easy to chat to. After dinner Nick went upstairs to check his laptop while we went into the bar to have a drink while happy hour was on and while there the tour guides got us to do what they called a "Shotski". Basically they have a ski which they have drilled 4 big holes in that they shoved shot glasses in and they fill those with saki and the two people on the end hold the ski with one hand each and the two people in the middle put their hands behind their backs and you all put your mouth on the glass then the end people tip it back to drink and then back down. We were pretty pro at it, but while down there we saw 3 shot glasses break from people stuffing it up, so I feel there is probably a better way to do it... But anyway, was a fun thing to watch and a good ice breaker to get talking to some of the other people staying with us.
After a while Nick came down to join us and then once we all decided if was time for some quiet we came back up to our room. Now I am lying in my top bunk bed typing this while the boys play cards down the bottom. Some of them are discussing Pokemon, a subject which I now know more of then I ever needed to, and some are playing with the GoPro videos taken today, but I assume that very soon we will all crash so that we can be up early in the morning to be at the lifts as they open. We now know that you have to go outside to get to our ski gear lockers, so at least tomorrow we won't need to walk bare foot through the snow after forgetting to bring shoes down in the morning, and we are fairly confident where the different cafes are so we will be able to split up a bit and all go on the levels that we feel confident on.
Loving the snow here and so amazed by how much powder is on the mountain, but believe me, as we were walking through the blizzard today I had my first moment of wishing I was back home in a heat wave!!! Hope you are all enjoying it