Hokkaido Winter

The best thing about holidays is reconnecting with my family. I take so much pleasure in watching my wife and children enjoy themselves and experience new things. I get more pleasure out of their joy than my own. I guess that is where an adult wants to be in middle age and in the middle of raising a family. It has changed me profoundly, thinking of others before myself. It makes life better.

Oliver came down with a fever and stomach problems while we were here, but managed to recover enough yesterday afternoon to enjoy some time in the snow. Nadia, Ollie and I went for a snowshoe hike on the hill behind the hotel. I can’t get over the amount of snow here, especially in this time of global warming and ski resorts around the world suffering from a lack of snow. The snow pack in the woods was a good 250 centimeters. The guide showed us how trees give off enough heat to melt the snow at their base, resulting in little snow caves. These allow one of the see the depth of snow. The little guy Oliver was non-stop talking and he really had a good time. Nadia doesn’t like downhill skiing and the resort doesn’t have cross-country skiing, so this was a good alternative. The fresh winter air and quiet of the woods caused by the heavy snow reminds me of my winters in Michigan. Something to be said for experiencing the change of seasons.

Owen, Ocean and I had a great final day of skiing. There was hardly anybody on the slopes, as spring break doesn’t start for the Japanese until next week and it being a Monday. The snow conditions were perfect and slashing down the groomed runs was a bit of heaven. It was the best day of skiing I ever had. Owen is getting good and was taking jumps and going off the course (they call runs, courses in Japan) and into deeper snow. If downhill skiing could be like this all the time, I would do it more often. The lines, hassle of equipment, and people all over the place, deter me from truly enjoying downhill skiing. But yesterday, with two of my kids and I spending a day outdoors challenging ourselves physically, was a bit of heaven!

I highly recommend the Kiroro Resort for a family ski destination. It has many different intermediate runs which provide the average skier variety of experiences. Kiroro comes from the Ainu words, Kiroru meaning a wide-walking path and Kiroro-an meaning resilient or healthy. The Ainu are the indigenous people of that region, but today they have mostly been bred out of existence in Japan with intermarriage with Japanese. The resort is owned by the Yamaha group and consists of two hotels in this mountain valley. There is no town or city close by.

I usually like the most wildest part of any country, like the Tara River valley of Serbia, and Hokkaido fits the bill. I hope to explore more of this beautiful island in my time in Japan.

Skiing in Hokkaido

There is plenty of powder snow on the slopes of Hokkaido, the main northern island of Japan. We are staying at the Kiroro ski resort, which is located 43km west of the capital city of Sapporo and 28km from the seaside town of Otaru. We really enjoyed the day yesterday, with almost no one on the runs, inspiring views and  fresh mountain air. The resort is much less known than Niseko and it is perfect for kids and intermediate skiers. The elevation only goes up to 2,000 meters but there are no snow-making machines in sight. I estimate around a meter of snow on the ground.

This is our first time in Hokkaido and skiing in Japan. One of my first impressions was the care of the lift operators. They take their job very seriously and are so caring, especially with the children. When Ocean dropped her ski on the lift, they went and got it and brought it up the mountain for her. They are also super helpful on entering and exiting the chairs. One of the nice things about living here is that you are always well taken care of.

Ollie and Ocean had a great time on the beginners slope. Owen and I went further up the mountain and did the intermediate runs. We are planning on going all the way to the top on day 2. The spring break for Japanese schools doesn’t start for another week so there are no lines waiting for the chairlifts and clear lanes on the runs. My only complaint is a lack of cross country ski trails. Nadia is being a trooper and playing a support role for the kids.

 

We finished off the day with a relaxing onsen here at the hotel. The boys liked the outdoor hot baths and were throwing snowballs at each other. They are getting over not wearing bathing suits and are learning the Japanese customs in public baths.

I sampled one of the delicacies of Hokkaido for lunch at the New Chitose airport, salmon roe on rice. Mixing in wasabi/soy sauce and combined with seaweed miso soup,it made for a perfect start to our Hokkaido adventure.

Hokkaido is surprisingly not that far north (43 degrees) but gets plenty of snow coming from the westerly winds off the massive Siberian plains. It looks and feels like the Baltic nations with the snow and pine trees. I really want to explore more of the island, which is the size of Ireland.

I would like to thank our friends Naomi and Tara for inviting us to go with them. We are having a fabulous holiday.