Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snowboarding in Akakura

This past weekend I went boarding with two of my good friends, Ai-chan and Kazunori. I have been friends with both of them for almost 6 years now. Kazz was a student of mine at Nova and Ai was a co-worker there (in charge of the Japanese staff). The two of them hooked up a few years ago and got married in Dec. 2006. They love boarding just as much as I do and we always want to go together, but our schedules usually conflict. Last Dec we made a pact, vowing that we would to a weekend trip to the mountains together come what may. Last weekend was THE weekend.

Saturday morning we left for the Akakura ski area in Niigata prefecture, about 150km from Unazuki. The wind was blowing hard, but the sun was shining. However, as we got nearer to the area, the weather changed drastically. Clouds hovered on the top of the mountains and snow started to blow in. We dropped our bags off at the hotel Korakuso, put on our gear and headed for the lifts. The snow was already coming down so hard that we couldn't see the mountain from the gondola entrance. By the time we got to the top it was a complete white out. We tried a few runs and then gave up and went for an early lunch.

By one o'clock the forecast called for 11cm within the hour. We took our time eating and then headed out again. We lasted for two more runs before we had to call it quits agai, our goggles so fogged up, in addition to the white out meant we were boarding blind -and frankly, that's just not fun.

So more cocoa and ice cream in the chalet...finally, around 3:30 we decided to get our butts down the mountain and into the onsen (bath) waiting for us at the hotel. But we had to dig the car out of the parking lot before we could go anywhere. We were exhausted and we had hardly done any boarding!

Dinner was a set meal at the hotel, lots of food, lots of wine. We stuffed ourselves silly and then went straight to bed. I think we were all asleep by ten!

In the morning we took our time getting up. Took our time at the buffet breakfast, took our time getting ready...got to the hill by 10:30, but the conditions were the same, if not worse than Saturday's.

We headed up the lift (not the gondola, because it was closed due to the windy weather) and attempted to board some of the more protected runs. The powder was amazing and it was great to be able to go down the expert slopes and not worry about injuring myself if I wiped out. We got two or three runs in before we couldn't take the cold anymore and sought shelter in a little ramen shop on the hill.

Another long lunch, another forecast check, another day finished. We packed it up by two o'clock and were heading home by three.

Out of the snow and back to Toyama where apparently the wind was so strong they were getting deadly sized waves.

Despite the weather, the weekend was great. It's nice to 'get out' once in a while and I always enjoy spending time with Ai and Kazz. I will miss them when I go home, but it looks like they might be on the same continent as I for the next year or two. Kazz is being transferred to Washington D.C. in October for work. I guess that means I have one more location to add to my list of places I need to visit when I get back to North America!