Niseko Powder

27/01/2009
Playing in the powder

Playing in the powder

I suppose someone has to do it

I suppose someone has to do it

Playing in the trees

Playing in the trees

Nice trees

Nice trees

This much fun should not be legal

This much fun should not be legal


Rusutsu

26/01/2009
Al carving big arcs at Rusutsu

Al carving big arcs at Rusutsu

Rael on edge at Rusutsu

Rael on edge at Rusutsu

Cathy had a rest day today and braved the local onsen – said it was a great experience.

The Grahams and I went to Rusutsu – a 50 min bus trip from here. The runs were long, wide  and immaculately gromed. We certainly got our money’s worth for the lift tickets with lots of fast carving down the mountain. The scenery is quite sensational there and the visibility was good. We could see all the way to the ocean.

Feeling a bit worn out and looking forward to a hot bath and some cold Japanese beer.

Hamish and sons at the Isola Mountain peak at Rusutsu

Hamish and sons at the Isola Mountain peak at Rusutsu


Niseko – Sunday 25 Jan

25/01/2009
Vicki skiing fresh tracks

Vicki skiing fresh tracks

Paul skiing fresh tracks

Paul skiing fresh tracks

Big day today. On first lifts at 8.30 am and arrived home at 4.30 pm. Lots of fresh snow to play in with Vicki and Paul. Had some great first tracks runs this morning under good visibility. The snow fell all day with patches of blue sky unveiling some fantastic views. Hamish arrived on the mountain about 10 am after a big night out with his boys.

We skied to Annupuri. Paul, Hamish and I went into the bowl through a high gate. The snow was light and deep with some challenging trees. Our legs had turned to jelly by the time we came out at the lower end of a long gully. The girls found some really good groomed runs and met us at the bottom for lunch.

We stuffed ourselves in a 2 hour marathon lunch at the big buffet. Hamish couldn’t take the pace and fell asleep at the table – quite embarassing really.

More great skiing this afternoon as the snow continued to fall. Hamish had an altercation with a tree branch below some deep powder and needed a little help to escape his predicament.

As we were skiing home, we were treated to a magic sunset with Yotei clearly visible. What a great way to end the day.

Hamish after the Annupuri buffet

Hamish after the Annupuri buffet

Yotei sunset

Yotei sunset


More Powder

24/01/2009
Ango in the pow

Ango in the pow

Hamish in the pow

Hamish in the pow

Cathy in the pow

Cathy in the pow

What a difference 24 hours makes. Rain yesterday, epic powder today. The pictures tell the story.


Niseko Jan 22

22/01/2009
Grahams in Niseko

Grahams in Niseko

First day of no snow falling. Bad visibility and wind up high so had to spend most of the day skiing at lower levels. Snow quality still good but looking forward to the next storm coming this weekend. Probably have another rest day tomorrow.

Another shopping trip into Kutchan tonight –  its always a mystery what you are actually buying as all package labels are in Japanese.

Hamish and boys here for dinner – a nice quiet night in with hardly any alcohol consumption.


White-out

21/01/2009
Whie-out conditions at top lifts

White-out conditions at top lifts

Cathy in light powder over a groomed run at Hanazono this morning

Cathy in light powder over a groomed run at Hanazono this morning

Lots of light, dry powder fell overnight and this morning. All photos on today’s blog are taken on groomed runs. This morning’s skiing was really good, although the visibility was down to a few metres at times.

Skied with Paul and Vicki (from Gloucester) and Hamish and boys today. Went on a big tour of the resort. Some tired legs and muscle tenderness had some of the group on a bus back from Annupuri.

Forecast for plummeting temperatures and a big dump of the famous Niseko powder this weekend have us all excited.

Off to have dinner with Paul and Vicki tonight.

How nice is this?

How nice is this?


Day Off

19/01/2009

bed-1

Picked a great day to have a rest from skiing. Warm air has moved over us (currently 0 degrees) and there has been a bit of rain down here in the village. This just does not happen in Niseko in January. How can we go from a huge blizzard to this in a couple of days? Must be climate change in action. More snow is forecast tonight so hopefully this is just an aberration.

Anyway, as you can see we are having a very relaxing day. Might go out and do coffee at the bakery.


Sunday 18 Jan

18/01/2009
Cathy with Mt Yotei in the background

Cathy with Mt Yotei in the background

Another Yotei sunrise photo

Another Yotei sunrise photo

Another day of skiing in perfect snow. Apparently Niseko now has the deepest snow base of any ski resort in the world …. this is why we keep coming back. A nice sunny morning (only -9) but snowing again this afternoon. Came home early today as our legs are now officially stuffed. Might have a rest day tomorrow to recover.

Check out the photo of the snow covered car in the carpark next to our lodge. I think it is a Toyota Corolla and it has been there for a couple of days. The snow clearing machinery had to work around it.

Oh what a feeling

Oh what a feeling

Cathy charging down Yotei Sunset

Cathy charging down Yotei Sunset


Perfect Day

17/01/2009
Cathy on fresh corduroy at Niseko Village (formerly Higashiama)

Cathy on fresh corduroy at Niseko Village (formerly Higashiama)

Cathy on the parrot chair - note the survival grip with the left elbow

Cathy on the parrot chair - note the survival grip with the left elbow

The wild snow conditions of the past couple of days have finally subsided and we actually saw the sun at times today. Of course there were also periods of heavy snow. With all the fresh powder, the groomed runs were fantastic – true ego snow. It was really good to give the legs a rest, cruising on the soft corduroy. Not many people around for a weekend. Stopped in the Hilton (formerly the Prince) at Niseko Village (formerly Higashiama). Sitting in velour chairs and being served by a Japanese waitress who got down onto her knees to take our coffee order.

I had to pretend I didn’t know Cathy when she tried to get into the gondola with her skis on. The Japanese liftie thought it was very amusing.

Had the usual all you can eat buffet at Annupuri and skied much faster this afternoon with all the extra weight.

Greg on the Annupuri piste

Greg on the Annupuri piste

Perfect snow at Annupuri

Perfect snow at Annupuri


Powder

16/01/2009
Greg in powder at Legend of Shinya

Greg in powder at Legend of Shinya

Cathy in powder at Shirakaba

Cathy in powder at Shirakaba

Greg in powder at Legend of Shinya

Greg in powder at Legend of Shinya

The photos tell the story. What a day! Kept snowing all night and continued most of the day. Visibility was marginally better and the wind abated. After two days of skiing in these conditions we are both completely stuffed. So much for training on the One Mile sand dunes ….. a complete waste of time. I almost had to be carried up the stairs to our apartment this afternoon and it is only day 2. Cathy had a few ventures into the powder today and went really well. I only had to rescue her once from a deep hole she had made after a small error in her technique (or a snow snake)  made her crash.

Time for a bubble bath an a cold beer (at the same time of course)

Cathy in powder at Stairway to Heaven

Cathy in powder at Stairway to Heaven

Small error in technique

Small error in technique


In the snow

15/01/2009
snow on the sign outside our apartment

snow on the sign outside our apartment

Carpark after heavy snow

Carpark after heavy snow

Finally arrived at Niseko. Bit of drama getting here with snow clearing on the runway at Sapporo putting our plane into a holding patten for over 2 hours. The pilot said we could only wait another 10 minutes before we had to divert to another airport. Thank goodness we lucked out and were able to land.

Talk about being hit in the bum by a rainbow. Biggest single dump of snow for the season started when we arrived in Hirafu. 50cm overnight and probably that much again today. We had to walk through thigh deep snow just to get out of our apartment this morning. On our first warm-up run we ended up in neck deep powder – hard to see and breathe – really did need a snorkel.. The groomed runs were covered in thigh deep powder. What a start to our skiing.

Heavy snow all day reduced visibility but the snow was light and dry. After many visits to Japan, I think today was the deepest snow I have skied in.

Going into Kutchan for some grocery and grog shopping tonight.

Hope the visibility improves so I can take the camera tomorrow to get some shots of this insane snow.

Poor puppy must have cold feet

Poor puppy must have cold feet


Geishas

13/01/2009
Maiko in Gion

Maiko in Gion

Maikos in Gion 2

Maikos in Gion 2

Maikos in Gion 3

Maikos in Gion 3

Very special day today. We were just having our final walk in Kyoto when we spotted a heap of paparazzi up a narrow road in Gion. We went to investigate and discovered that today was a special event for Geishas and Maikos (apprentice Geishas). Lots of cameras were clicking (including mine) as groups of Maikos and their assistants were walking down the street and entering a building for some kind of ceremony. We continued along other streets and came accross many groups of Maikos. It was great to be there and see these girls with their spectacular outfits and makeup. What a stroke of luck.

I want to bring one home with me but Cathy is against he idea.

Abbey Road in Gion

Abbey Road in Gion


More Kyoto

13/01/2009
Golden Pavilion - Rokuon-Ji Temple
Golden Pavilion – Rokuon-Ji Temple
Geisha at Gion Corner
Geisha at Gion Corner

Another snowy start to the day and the temps hovered around freezing all day.

Started out at a gold-leaf covered temple in the middle of a lake. Built in the 1220’s, it is now a World Cultural Heritage building – very spectacular.

Went to the BIC Camera store near the station – 5 levels of great toys (computers, cameras etc  …… all things digital and electronic). No problems with Japanese helping their government fix the country’s economy – they are fanatical shoppers.

Had a temple break this afternoon to prepare for a night time venture into the Gion district. An older part of town with narrow streets, lots of restaurants and the occasional Geisha scurrying by.

We walked around for a while, had a great meal and some interesting conversation with the chef who spoke very little English.

We now have the pubic transport system mastered and have seen a lot of this city from inside a warm bus.

Leaving tomorrow to return to Osaka. Not before checking out the Imperial Palace which is walking distance from our hotel.

Lots of great memories from an amazing city.


Exploring Kyoto

11/01/2009
Geisha

Geisha

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine

Really wore ourselves out today. Walked all over the place. Saw Buddhist temples actually being used for prayer by Japanese people. The temples all have rich histories and and feature ancient architecture and elaborate gardens.. Check out the flickr photos.

Today is Sunday and everywhere we went was pretty crowded. They tell me there are lots of people in Japan – I think most of them were out enjoying a rare day of sunshine today.

The highlight was seeing 2 geishas in a rickshaw near the Gion area.

Kyoto is a fantastic place to visit and absorb some of the ancient culture of Japan. You could easily spend a month here – there is so much to see. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical about wasting good skiing time doing the tourist thing  but this has been great and I now have a much greater appreciation of Japan and its people.

Last day here tomorrow. Tour director, Cathy has big plans. Better get some sleep as I anticipate another big day of walking.


Hiroshima

11/01/2009
Shinkansen (Bullet) Train at Kyoto Station

Shinkansen (Bullet) Train at Kyoto Station

Atom Bomb Dome

Atom Bomb Dome

Woke up to snow falling in Kyoto this morning – temps have started to dive. Saw a real live Geisha in our hotel last night … very impressive.

Got the transport system mastered now. Travelled on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Hiroshima this morning. What a great experience, moving at over 300 kph and banking at curves in track. Really smooth, no clickety clack train noises. Better that a plane.

With Cathy navigating using a Japanese map we walked from the station to the site of the atomic bomb detonation. A memorial park and museum are there now. The A-Bomb dome is the remains of one of the few buildings not completely flattened by the blast, apparently it was almost directly under the point of detonation.

Some pretty horrific displays in the museum. It was a very moving experience. There were heaps of people in the museum and nobody was talking, just shaking their heads. Hopefully this sort of destruction will never happen again. It’s amazing that the city has been completely rebuilt in just over 60 years.

Another big day planned for tomorrow …. Shrines, Temples, Castles and Geishas.


First Day in Japan

10/01/2009

Cathy at the Nijo Castle in Kyoto

Cathy at the Nijo Castle in Kyoto

 

Cathy at the Kyoto train station

Cathy at the Kyoto train station

We are finally here. No problems with flights, stayed at the Ramada Hotel in Osaka last night – typical Japanese efficiency, all very smooth.

Unlike home, the weather here is really cold.

Had the big train adventure this morning. Express train from Osaka to Kyoto. Had the whole carriage to ourselves. The train was clean, comfy and very fast. Cathy did well booking our hotel in Kyoto – great location and a cute room.

We spent the day exploring the Nijo Castle (opposite our hotel). Built in 1603, it was the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu. We soaked up the history and enjoyed the beautiful surrounding gardens.

Another adventure this afternoon, catching a bus into town to investigate our bullet tain trip to Hiroshima. The Kyoto station is an awseome piece of engineering – check out some of the photos. Had dinner at a great little restaurant and managed to catch the correct bus to get home.

Bullet train to Hiroshima tomorrow – looking forward to another transport and cultural adventure.