Well hello there, I am officially the worst blogger this season. Last year I told myself I would blog once a month with that same goal for this season. I think I’ve gotten about three in so far. This may have to do with the fact that I hardly open my computer anymore since I don’t have schoolwork to do, or maybe it’s because I never slow down and give myself time to write and process my day or week. But you know what? I’m writing meow and that’s what matters.
I kind of neglected to tell too many people that I had planned a trip to Japan this winter and all of a sudden I’m already back and headed to Grand Targhee bright and early tomorrow morning for the best weekend of the season-the Freeheel Life Cup and World Telemark day are happening and I am beyond excited to spend the next few days with all the rad humans I met last year. But that excitement can wait, first, Japan stories!
February this whole winter has meant Japan for me. But it also meant a nice long visit from Liza to start off, and then an appearance by fellow telemarker Troy Haas who has been living on the road the past few weeks doing the 22 Designs Outlaw Demo Tour. If you don’t know, the Outlaw bindings are the NTN bindings that 22 Designs makes, they’re fabulous and helping Troy with the demo day at BBowl was debatably the best day of my season so far and I didn’t even ski. I basically just talked telemark, bindings, and skiing all day and was continually energized by the stoke being shared by everyone who tried the bindings or even stopped by the tent to chat.
Wednesday morning I said bye to Troy and had exactly 20 hours before I left for Japan and hadn’t even done laundry yet. And because I worked at 2pm that day…ensue panic packing. Before I knew it it was 5am and Frank was driving me to the airport, then I was in DIA sipping a mimosa(trendy I know) and then my parents and I were on the train to Tokyo. About three stops in on our train ride, I went to rub my eyes and noticed yellow mucus draining out of them. SWEET, I thought. Last time that happened I was bound for a yoga retreat in Mexico and had to get antibiotics. So after a painfully English-less dinner experience near our hotel in Tokyo that night, and a good wandering around with all of our duffel and ski bags trying to find the hotel from the train station, I looked up a clinic and made an appointment. Saturday morning found us back in the train station with significantly less shit trying to navigate our way to Sendagaya, where the clinic was located. When we got there I asked a police officer where the clinic was and he pointed to a spot on the map-all in Japanese of course-and motioned which way to go. Side note, I got the basics, and I mean basic words in Japanese down before I left, but it wasn’t quite enough for directions and restaurants, although I did manage to memorize how to say “I don’t eat meat,” so that was a plus. Ok back to finding this clinic. We walked straight down the street for about 15 minutes before we decided we had either passed it or just weren’t finding it. I saw a Starbucks sign down the road and took off running because I know Starbucks will always provide you with free WiFi no matter where you are. Google Maps showed we had passed the clinic long ago so after a quick coffee break we finally make it to the clinic and I was still early for my appointment. the doctor did a quick finger prick and I did indeed have some bacteria junk going on so he gave me five different prescriptions along with the antibiotics. For my second international doctor’s appointment I’d say it was pretty efficient.
Following lunch and a nap, the parents and I went to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to start getting cultured. From there we took the metro into Shibuya, think the times square of Tokyo. There were more people packed into those streets than I think I have ever seen in my life combined. Cities are overwhelming. After wandering around we found an Indian restaurant with a view of a busy street corner so we planted ourselves in front of the window and ate naan, drank sake, and talked about the next day’s journey to Hakuba. Oh ya, then we poached a karaoke bar and I forced my dad to sing Shake It Off with me. Karaoke in Japan is much different than here, it consists of you and your friends filling a little booth type room and then you can actually sing as loud as you possibly can into the microphone while everyone covers their ears…and the people next door can definitely hear you. Wait, you mean that’s not how you normally do karaoke?
Shinkansen: Bullet Train. FABULOUS. At 235km/hr, why can’t these be a thing everywhere? We sped up to Nagano so fast and then ate some dank Oyaki in the train station while we waited for our bus. Also began my obsession with Kirin, the Japanese PBR. If you don’t know, Oyaki are these little hot buckwheat pockets filled with green veggies, pumpkin, or cheese, beans, and bacon. AND THEY ARE SO GOOD. If I could have brought 180 of them home with me it still wouldn’t have been enough. Papa and I quickly became obsessed. The bus finally came and then we were picked up by Nick, an Aussie who along with his girlfriend Jasmine, worked for Geoff at the Sheltered Inn. It was so refreshing to be able to communicate with other humans again. The Hakuba Valley is actually crawling with Aussies so English was way easier to come across there than in Tokyo. We also had the whole of the Inn booked out with couples from the US, some my dad had worked with back in Nevada, and some were just friends of friends who worked in Indonesia or Reno or what have you. Regardless, we were all friends by the second day and yes, I skied with my dad the whole time because he rips. Also mom managed to break her wrist the first day in Hakuba on the icy path to see the Snow Monkeys that dad and I decided not to go to because skiing, duh. Which was a bummer because that meant she didn’t ski the whole time but at least she still got to experience everything besides skiing!
Side note: I’m super aware that we were in Japan, therefore they speak Japanese, so anyone who travels there should make an effort to know some Japanese before you get there. Which I did, really, but this is the first country I have ever been to where I a) couldn’t speak the language fluently, b) know enough of the language to get by, c) English is the common language, or d) have someone with me who could effectively communicate for the group. And that was and still is a super weird concept for me. It took me far outside my comfort zone and it was a completely different experience than skiing anywhere in Europe.
Next up: THE MEOWTAINS. My god. They call them the Japanese Alps, but honestly they were bigger. I’ve never been to Alaska, but in my mind these suckers were Alaska x3. Spines on spines on spines, so daunting and glorious and seemingly still (except for countless obvious slides).
We kept to resort skiing on this trip, mainly because of an unstable snowpack and socked in weather that made it confusing and difficult to navigate our way around unfamiliar terrain. The first day we were greeted with heavy, wet snow and went to Hakuba47. Tuesday brought slightly lighter snow and big flakes all day so we headed to Iwatake, Wednesday went something like a few inches of fresh and sunshine that quickly heated up, so Happo-one was our jam. Thursday it poured rain so I said f*ck it and a few of us went into Nagano to visit the Zenkoji temple and eat green tea ice cream. That night everything froze and Friday’s skiing back at Hakuba47 was debatably the worst day of skiing I have had all season but I drank enough beer that afternoon that I forgot about it. Saturday we hit up Cortina, where the previous day they had received 20cm, not opened the top of the hill, and the tree skiing was some of the most fun tree skiing I’ve ever had the pleasure of slashing. Our last ski day we went back to Happo-one because I wanted to gander at the huge meowtains one more time while the sun was still shining, and then all of a sudden it was Monday and we were headed back to Tokyo to fly back to the US. I could elaborate more on this trip, but I’m not sure who actually reads these things in their entirety and hopefully I’ve included enough photos for you all to scroll through and get the general idea. Much loaf, until next time!