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Trip Report elSpike's Ski Ski 2020 - Shiga Kogen and Myoko

Discussion in 'Japan' started by elSpike, Dec 5, 2019.

  1. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    The hype is real!

    We are just 23 days until team elSpike take off from warm and humid Singapore, which means it is time for me to start my, now, annual traditional trip report thread.

    I got so many positive responses last time that I decided to do the same format of daily trip reporting as the last couple of times

    Previous trip reports are here:
    elSpike's 2019 Ski Ski Ski 2019 - Shiga Kogen, Madarao, Myoko and Yuzawa
    elSpike's first Aussie Ski Trip 2019

    Some background. My family (Wife and 2 boys aged 14 and 11) and I are relatively latecomers to skiing. We started our adventure in January 2016 with a week in Madarao. From that beginning, the bug bit hard so since then we’ve skied Appi, Naeba, Joetsu Kokusai, Gala/Ishiuchi, Furano, Tomamu, Shiga Kogen, Myoko, and Falls Creek. We’ve all progressed from that first morning of asking “Is there a left and right ski?” to being early advanced who can tackle anything inbounds. My wife and I love perfectly groomed red/blues in picturesque settings with trees or views to the horizon. Our boys terrify us with their love of finding the hidden trails between the trees off the edges where mountain goats fear to tread.

    We again scored some amazing flights on points and have the following trip planned:

    Shiga Kogen and Myoko - Dec 28th - Jan 16th
    28th fly in to Haneda and overnight at the Airport Hotel
    9 days Shiga Kogen - Shinkansen and Express bus up to Ichinose, staying at Chalet Shiga. Boys have 5 half day lessons with Shiga International Ski School. Adults to take powder lesson if there is a big dump and instructor are available.
    8 days Myoko Kogen - Private taxi transfer from Shiga then staying at Refre Hotel with the Johnson clan.
    15th - ski all day then trains back to Haneda for a 2am 16th departure.

    Plan is to post a daily report each evening.

    Expect detailed food posts and details on par with the previous reports.

    The hype is real!
     
    #1 elSpike, Dec 5, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
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  2. Cheese Mountain

    Cheese Mountain Hard Yards

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    Fellow Aussie in SG here <waves>. Are your kids at AIS? My kid always goes back to school the first Monday after New Year's, making January trips tricky.
     
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  3. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yes we are at AIS. That January 20 start helps us out a lot!
     
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  4. BigWaveDave

    BigWaveDave Hard Yards

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    Enjoy your trip mate - we are arriving in Shiga staying at Chalet Shiga as well from 18 Jan so will miss you by a couple of weeks but I look forward to reading your reports and getting some more insight into Shiga as it's our first time skiing there. Cheers dave
     
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  5. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    You are going to love it. Plenty of info from my last season report, and up to date from this one. Chalet Shiga is perfect base of operations. Teppa Room downstairs, Bus stop outside. Short stroll up the hill to the other restaurants. Magic.
     
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  6. Melskius

    Melskius One of Us

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    Looking forward to your trip reports. I just bought our jr east niigata nagano pass from klook with their 10% sale. That was the last purchase needed, all set now. Our countdown begins too.
     
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  7. Zimbooo

    Zimbooo One of Us

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    Short stroll in a blizzard won't work. We have struggled to go next door for a naan and a curry during a big drop. :D
     
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  8. 2ESki

    2ESki Addicted

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    Yeah but don't you look forward to the next day with all the fresh stuff, like a kid the night before Christmas, or is that just me :ski:
     
  9. Kimski

    Kimski One of Us

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    I’ve just read through your trip report from last year. Love your work, especially the details about food and menus :)

    My 2020 trip is a Hakuba and Shiga Kogen so I’m starting to get excited.
     
    elSpike likes this.
  10. sn0wbunny29

    sn0wbunny29 One of Us

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    :woohoo::woohoo::woohoo: 9 weeks to go and ski fitness is in earnest! Well, apart from the bottle of champagne to celebrate the start to the weekend.:rolleyes:
     
  11. Kimski

    Kimski One of Us

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    I’m not really bothering with the fitness but I have started my pre holiday diet. Partly so I fit into my ski clothes and partly so I can eat what O want (within reasons) while I’m away :D
     
  12. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    I’ve lost ~13kg in the past 4 months.



    Pretty pleased with the prep so far.
     
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  13. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Skin and bone! :whistle:

    Good you come early - if it would be later.....LOL
     
    #13 Hyst, Dec 7, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
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  14. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 1 - Off We Go
    Tokyo Haneda Hotel

    This will be a shorter post. Our trip has begun! We departed Singapore on SQ634, a 777-300er, not my favourite plane but still not too bad for the 6 hour flight to Haneda.





    Touching down a little early at 9.20pm we raced through the terminal and managed to be the first into the diplomatic line (Love the APEC card) and cleared immigration in a record six minutes!

    The first three bags came out very quickly, with mine and Mr14s boot bags taking a little longer, but still very quick. I think all up, immigration , baggage collection and customs took a grand total of 25 minutes. Score.

    Then came the arduous 300m walk to the Royal Park Hotel at the departure level, and a breeze through check in due to prepayment, aside from the ¥100 tax each which I’ve never been able to prepay. Up to the room, brushing teeth, with Mr11 doing his usual “I’m only wearing the robe to sleep in!” and we were all in bed a short while later.



    Tomorrow we hope to be moving by 7am to get the two trains into Tokyo and a shink to Nagano as early as we can due to having our luggage with us.

    Fingers crossed for snow under the planks for a couple of hours after lunch!
     
  15. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Oops one thing I did forget to mention. Watch out for the Pork Cutlet sangas in the 7-11 in the departures area of Haneda. Got one with so much wasabi That I’m pretty sure my sinuses no longer actually exist!
     
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  16. mannyk

    mannyk One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Have a great trip. look forward to the TR/
     
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  17. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Oh I love 'live' TRs, reminds me of the old SJF days. Have fun!
     
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  18. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Mine are always live @Lucky Pete

    I’m too lazy to do it at the end.
     
  19. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 2 Tokyo to Ichinose

    We woke up at 6am, pretty well rested, and after the usual kerfuffle of getting four bodies moving we started our journey to Ichinose.

    Again, the ability to walk 300m and be on the monorail is worth the small fortune needed for a night at the Park Royal Haneda. It makes for a much happier family which was needed this morning.

    We topped up the boys Pasmo cards in the kiosk (mum and dad are using the Suica card on our iPhones that is topped up by ApplePay) and managed to catch the Rapid monorail to Hamamatsucho and then the JR inner loop to Tokyo, fully intending to grab some vegan ramen from T’s Tan Tan for breakfast.



    No plan survives contact with the enemy.

    Tokyo Station is often chaotic, but nothing has prepared us for the Sunday before New Years. The press of people took me back to playing high school rugby, each meter forward gained, the effort of 8 people.

    Abandoning plans I immediately lined up for Shinkansen tickets while the family took shelter against one of the columns at the bottom of those annoying 3 steps up to the Shinkansen station. Luckily it was all hands on deck at the ticket counter so the line moved quickly. The helpful attendant visibly slumped when I asked for 4 tickets to Nagano.

    “So sorry no seats” she said, turning the screen to face me so I could see the column of zeros after every train. “6.12pm earliest”

    I asked about unreserved and she typed away and secured us four tickets and pointed us at the 7.52 Hakutaka 553. The line on the platform was even longer, dropping our hope for seats.



    But with some fast moves and a bit of luck Mrs elSpike and the boys got seats while I minded the baggage in the vestibule.

    It was pretty full at Tokyo, super full at Ueno and bursting at the seams at Omiya!



    I felt a little bad blocking the vestibule with my bag but a quick shuffle on and off at each station with a polite “sumimasen” and no one seemed to mind.

    After a mercifully short 90 minutes we arrived in Nagano, happy but now hungry! The ever faithful Mizubashō sobs at the east exit filling the need. Delicious diner style sobas that are cheap and quick.





    30 minutes later, our amazing run of travel connections continued with the 10.20am Nagaden express to Okushigakogen.


    https://www.nagadenbus.co.jp/common/image/express/winter/sigakogen-express.pdf






    While lining up we grabbed a couple of drinks from the vending machine. Unfortunately, my Boss Black was not available so I had to try the Georgia Japan Craftsman (¥130) which is ok, but doesn’t punch you in the face like the Boss does.



    Driving up, the landscape looked a little bare. A dusting of white at the peaks only. Further evidence of the late start to the season.



    The chains were put on at the bus park just outside Yudanaka, and we were greeted with this just around the corner.




    We arrived at Ichinose Skijo just after 12.20. The bus stop is across the road from Chalet Shiga so just a short drag of the bags through the snow. Check in was simple, but our room wasn’t ready so we popped over to Hi Happy under Snowcan for lunch.



    The menu was very similar to last year. Queue for ordering went just out the door but lived quickly. Food came out about 10 mins after ordering and we all came away well fed.





    We then went back to the hotel and grabbed the keys, quickly changing into our ski gear to try to get a few turns in before end of day.

    Narrator: They wouldn’t.

    We’d had some great conversations with Nord Ichinose via Facebook messenger so we had a plan to walk up to their shop in our boots and gear. It’s probably 600m uphill. Mistake #1.

    They had put our skis for us but unfortunately there was a lost in translation thing which meant the skis they had were way too short, 168cm for our 180-186cm heights, or way too wide (98mm dynastars) for the conditions. Mistake #2.



    So then we had to stomp back down to Snowcan (downhill is easier). They had been basically cleaned out by the hordes of people in town for New Years week, but the skis we’d requested were still available with one notable exception.



    I snagged some Q90s in 177, Mrs got Volk Kink in 171 and Mr14 got K2 iconic84s in 170.

    Mr11 got these magnificent beasties!



    All of this took way too much time so at 3.15 we decided that the adults would do the Nighta at Ichinose family and the boys would open up tomorrow with their lesson.

    I’m typing this before dinner at the teppa room.

    The view is spectacular.





    I’ll post a quick update after Nighta as well.
    All in all a massive day.
     
  20. Ozgirl

    Ozgirl A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    The narrator, love it! (Sorry!)
     
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  21. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Update to Day 2. Nachtskiing.

    When we go skiing we almost always turn in to retired people. Up at 4.30am. Dinner at 5.30. Bed by 7.30. That sort of thing. So tonight, at 5pm, we wandered downstairs to the Teppa Room. I really love this place. Incredible beers on tap. Great food. Wonderful staff. It really can’t be beaten.

    As always I snapped some pictures of the menu.













    But the standout was the vegetable curry. Just the right amount of heat and oh so delicious. I feel there might be another serve in my future.



    After dinner we took the boys up to the room and left them with the digital babysitter while we went over to Ichinose Family for some night skiing. Tickets are ¥2100 and it kicked off at about 6.30pm.





    It started getting pretty cold for our Singaporean blood at about 8pm so we called it quits and stopped off at the Teppa room for a Sake nightcap and some dessert. While there we met a man named Ken who had studied at Murdoch university in Perth (where we used to live), had lived in Singapore for 4 years (where we currently live), and did his MBA with a workmate of mine! Small world!



    After that it was a quick Onsen and bed time as I type this to you.

    Tomorrow we have the boys first lesson with Jimmy from Shiga International Ski School, and an afternoon family ski.
     
  22. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 3 - First full day.

    We all woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at about 6am, with the view from our room obscured by the condensation on the windows. We always dehydrate overnight.

    Breakfast at Chalet Shiga is in a dining room off reception with the doors opening right on 7.15am, not a moment earlier. The buffet style layouts had all the usual favourites: Single egg omelettes that look like little clamshells, rectangle strips of bacon, pickled beans, non-specific meat sausages, fried salmon in misu, natto, rice, misu soup, orange segments, toast and cereals.

    After breakfast, I wandered over to the ticket office to pick up our 9 day super passes and was greeted by a fine mist-like snow as I waited.



    They accept pretty much every credit card, but my DBS visa debit didn’t work even though it worked across the road at Snowcan when we rented.



    We then met up with Jimmy, the boy’s instructor from Shiga International Ski School. Jimmy was the perfect, young and cool, instructor for them to want to impress and thus dedicate themselves to the lesson. Us parents then took off for 3 hours of “us” time!



    We decided to do a Ichinose Diamond run then head to Yakebitaiyama for the morning. Cover was a little sparse below the Prince No 2 Quad.



    Most of the western half of Yakebitaiyama is open so we looped the Quad a couple of times and then headed to the gondola at south to spend some time doing summit to base runs. Unfortunately we started to run into the first of many New Years crowds.



    About 9.30am, it started snowing, sometimes a little wet, and sometimes great big flakes with the pistes were still pretty nice and magical when you managed to find a clear lane.



    Visibility remained good for the rest of the morning. We met up with Jimmy and the boys at 11.30 near Hi Happy at Ichinose Diamond. They had had a great lesson, focussing on carving and making sure they had the correct pressures on the inside of the downhill ski.

    A quick lunch at Hi Happy for convenience and we were off for our first Family ski of the trip. We opened the account on the Ichinose Quad up to the Black run and then over to the trees at Tanne.





    A couple of runs there and it was time for our traditional stop for soft serve at the cafe near Takamagahara.



    At this point it started to rain at about the 1700m [edited as 900m is incorrect]** mark but was snow at 1900m [edited as 1000mis incorrect]**. Weird. But soon it stopped and we spent the afternoon in the trees at Tanne and lapping all the runs at Ichinose Family. Only the black run to the left of the quad was closed. Everything else was open.




    We did run into a few queues but they all cleared pretty quickly.



    In the golden hour, the surrounding mountains began to sing.



    All in we did about 34km of pistes today. Not a bad haul for “terrible snow conditions”.



    We packed it in and headed back to Chalet Shiga for an Onsen before dinner. I could t help but take a shot of Yakebitaiyama from our balcony. Just magic.



    Dinner was at Ethnic Beer Restaurant Kamoshika under Japan Hotel Shiga. I posted the menu last season and it hasn’t changed. This is real tandor breads and meats and curries to die for. As I said last year, we have access to some pretty spectacular Indian food in Singapore, and this restaurant holds its own against any of them. The Naans and the Vegetable curry are outstanding.





    We also took the opportunity to book in the remaining meals for our trip while up this end of Ichinose. I highly recommend you either get your accomodation to book restaurants for you, or walk around yourself, on the first night to avoid disappointment.
    One thing I will call out. I called the Phoenix Hotel in Okushiga to try to get an early sitting at the Italian restaurant. I gave them 4 dates in the coming 9 days and they could not get us in any earlier than 8pm.(This is too late for us to eat. We are in bed by 8 usually) I suspect the early sittings are reserved for guests staying there. But we’ll have to try again another trip.

    We again stopped in for a couple of drinks at the Teppa Room before bed. Well earned today!



    Tomorrow after lunch should bring some more snow. Fingers crossed everyone!

    ** Thanks to @Sandy for correcting my elevations. Not sure what I was thinking in original post!
     

    Attached Files:

    #22 elSpike, Dec 30, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2019
  23. hotsaki

    hotsaki One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Dehydrated?Are you sleeping with the heater on?
     
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  24. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Japanese mountains dehydrate us. No heater needed. Coming from Singapore, we literally feel the moisture leaving our bodies as we desiccate. I find I have to almost double our water intake (and moisturiser on our faces) just to keep up. Maybe it’s just us?
     
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  25. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    No, it's because you are higher up!
    (but japanese glassing is not that good either) LOL
     
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  26. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Mt Faber is 106m ASL. Don’t mountain shame us! :D
     
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  27. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Just one point.... you couldn't have been skiing in rain at 900m or snow at 1000m, because the lowest point at Shiga Kogen is around 1350m !!! ;)
    So I'm not sure I understand what you did!!!
     
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  28. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    I’m scratching my head at that too this morning. I can only say, because I got my maths wrong. Takamagahara is about 1650-1900m so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    I can’t even think of how I got those numbers last night. Was midway up the lift so corrected to 1700-1800m.
    Thanks for picking it up Sandy!

    Ninja edit: I edited the post above too and credited you.
     
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  29. hotsaki

    hotsaki One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I live in Darwin.Same problem I bought a humidifier.Makes a big difference.Some people sleep with heater on.Crazy.
     
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  30. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 4 - Bitey wind!

    This morning I remembered to take a picture of the breakfast spread at Chalet Shiga. Everything a growing (or hopefully still slimming) elSpike could need.



    Fewer people in the dining room lead to hopes there would be fewer people on the slopes.

    Narrator: Their hopes were sort of right.

    A minor emergency unfolded as Mr11 couldn’t find his ski locker key after putting his boots on. I had to climb up the 5 floors in my gear, fruitlessly pull apart their room, and build up a terrible sweat before he finally realised the key was in his pants pocket all along. The lesson of the day is don’t take your kids skiing, it’s expensive and often frustrating.

    That all done, we passed the boys to the baby faced Jimmy, for their lesson, agreeing to meet at the ramen place at the bottom of the Yakebitaiyama Quad No 2. (Foreshadowing a bit later in the report. It’s called building a narrative :D)

    Us parents then took off for Ichinose Family hoping to get early tracks at Terakoya. Coming up Family quad we saw a pristinely groomed Black run at the top of the main slope with our name written all over it. Smooth as butter and fast as hell.

    A nice distraction but Terakoya was calling so we lapped the 3 runs there until it went from this:



    To this:



    It was now time to start heading back to collect the boys we boarded one of the slower romance lifts back up toward Takamagahara.



    Still very pretty.

    Along with the temperature, the visibility really started dropping just before 11.30.



    We then collected some runs at Takamagahara, Tenne and Ichinose Family with a couple of the green runs near quad 2 at Yakebitaiyama before stopping for lunch.

    Our usual modus operandi is to meet the instructor and boys near wherever we are planning to have lunch. As lessons finish at 11.30 this time, we arrive at the spot about 11.15 and one of us goes in to order while the other waits to do the handover. This allows us to beat the lunch rush and get a good table.

    As I foreshadowed earlier, today’s lunch was at the ramen place beside the Prince West, in the basement under the not very authentic Chinese restaurant. I posted the vending machine menu last year and it hasn’t changed. Like last year, I spoke to the chef and made sure he could make a miso broth without pork for my wife’s Butter Corn ramen, which he was more than happy to do.

    If you do the same, buy a ticket and when you hand it over as for Vegetarian (pronounce it “bege-a-tarian” if you have an Aussie accent like me) and say “iieh buta kudasai” (no pork please). They catch on very quickly and are happy to oblige.


    Charsui Ramen left, Butter Corn right.

    While we ate lunch the wind really came up and the bitey, sideways snow really started pouring in. ~1-2cm accumulating around our skis in the hour we were in there.

    Our tummies full and fingers warmed, team elSpike Transited over to Tenne to get out of the wind and to play in the trees that we do love, along with the relatively quick quad lift to minimise chair time.



    The crowds were significantly less than yesterday for the most part, until they weren’t for no good reason.



    There were still smiles all round and with a the snow falling, some stashes of powder to find of you looked hard enough.





    At about 3.30pm we decided to call it quits for the day and grab an early Onsen.

    Stats for the day were still pretty respectable.



    When we made it back to Chalet Shiga, our room had been made up, and we found Mr11’s Okojo wearing his beanie and tucked into bed.



    For dinner, we went to Izakaya Time, the wonderful little izakaya in the lobby of Hotel Dairoku that @Lady Penelope introduced is to last year. The menu is the same and the food just as delicious.


    We arrived early so it was all shut up until 5.30pm.



    In what is fast becoming a habit after dinner, we sent the boys up to the room and had a quiet drink, Umeshu on the rocks tonight, at Teppa Room.



    Happy New Year y’all. I’m very grateful for this wonderful community here at ski.com.au and all the great advice and wisdom you’ve all shared in 2019.

    From our family to yours, we hope you find 2020 with plenty of opportunities to get snow under the planks!

     

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  31. sn0wbunny29

    sn0wbunny29 One of Us

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    And a happy new year to you too! Loving the trip reports and making notes for our return in a month!
     
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  32. Lady Penelope

    Lady Penelope One of some lot ... Ski Pass: Gold

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    Bringing back some happy memories there! Happy 2020, elSpike clan!
     
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  33. BigWaveDave

    BigWaveDave Hard Yards

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    Thanks for the blow by blow updates, we arrive on 18 Jan and your tips are sure to be helpful, esp food options!. Enjoy the rest of your holiday
     
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  34. skivet

    skivet Addicted

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    Happy New Year to you and your lovely family! Really enjoy your trip reports, read all of last years adventures and now this years! We too love Shiga and reading of your adventures brings back so many memories!
     
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  35. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 5 - So many busses.

    Last night, Shiga Kogen put on fireworks for New Years. At least that’s what Instagram told me. I was tuckered out and asleep by 10.30pm.

    Before bed we decided to take our adventure over to Yokote and Kumanoyu. We required a little bit of research on the shuttle busses and the help of 2 hotel staff and a kind gentleman named Hatashi to make it over there.

    The shuttle bus timetable reminds me of a slide rule. Incomprehensible until it clicks and then dead easy to navigate.

    The one key thing to know, is that all busses you care about, interchange at Shigakogen Yamanoeki. If you look at the time table to see how you get from wherever you are to Yamanoeki, when you arrive there will be another bus within minutes heading toward the remainder of your journey.

    For example, if, like us, you want to go from Ichinose Ski Fields, to Kumanoyu, you should see that there is a bus leaving Ichinose at 8.30am that gets to Shigakogen Yamanoeki at 8.57am. You then get off that bus and follow the crowd that will no doubt be heading toward Yokote like you. That bus is scheduled to leave at 9.05am but will realistically leave as soon as you and ~80 of your new closest friends board. Be prepared to stand up for both of the 30 minute legs to and from Shigakogen Yamanoeki.

    The clearest timetable I found is here: https://www.go-nagano.net/en/travel-guide/bus_timetable/northen_nagano/

    Moving on. Last night I was looking at the map between Kumanoyu and Yokote and saw there is a linking course, but none of the maps indicated which way that course ran. I asked at our hotel reception, who then consulted a man who I swear was 105 years old who assured us it definitely ran from Yokote to Kumanoyu. Narrator: This is false information. The 105yo man is not to be trusted. With that knowledge we be went to bed planning to go straight to Yokote and then head to Kumanoyu after lunch.

    This morning, after another excellent Chalet Shiga breakfast, we raced up the hill to the bus stop opposite Snowcan at Ichinose Diamond at 8.10am determined to be the first there.



    We were, but only by seconds, as a very gregarious older Japanese man arrived with his wife. Always on the lookout for opportunities to practice my Japanese, we exchanged introductions and in our conversation bought up our plans. Hatashi was very quick to correct our information. Narrator: The link course goes from the top of Kumanoyu to the mid Station of Yokote. He also shared that he was doing the same sort of loop and that we should just follow his lead at the bus interchange. The first bus arrived dead on schedule and had all but a few of the seats taken by people from Okushiga or the Prince Hotel. We did manage to snag a seat but at the Ichinose village stop the bus became full. Very full.



    Each time we thought we had reached maximum capacity, a few more people would board at the stops along the way. This did not bode well for getting a seat on the bus heading to Yokote after the interchange.



    After roughly 45m we made it to Kumanoyu where the pistes were manageable busy. Do be aware that there is about a ~200m walk up the hill from the bus stand to the first lift. It’s shaded in the morning so was slick with icy patches when we arrived.

    Kumanoyu is a relatively small resort area with some very slow pair lifts but a decent variety of difficulty levels and some lovely wide black runs for your carving enjoyment.



    I do love that they have warnings saying that they like the look of nature so they don’t wrap trees in mats. If you hit one it’s your own fault. :D

    We started on the three runs to the right with some spectacular mountain scenery.





    I did manage to catch an edge where the grooming piled up some icy snow on a very easy red and opened this trip’s crash account with a very funny double ejection. Nothing hurt but my pride.

    We then went up the middle romance lifts (very slow but take the left lift as it’s marginally faster) to tackle the reds and black runs there.



    It really was breathtaking scenery.





    Feeling a little cold we went inside to the cafe at the bottom of Kumanoyu. We only had drinks so I didn’t grab the menu shot, but they did have Black Vanilla ice cream which I just had to try.



    Kumanoyu’s mascot is a bear, hence the bear shaped cookie in the ice cream and this:



    After the warm up, we collected the last couple of runs off the Quad lift to the summit (fastest chair in Kumanoyu, take that one for pretty much everything on the left side of the resort) and then took the linking course to Yokote. That link course’s aching beauty is only matched by its achingly shallow grade. It’s essentially a 2km bunny slope.



    I’m running out of photo uploads for this post (max 20) so I’ll continue today’s report in the next post.
     
  36. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 5 - So many busses. Part Two.

    The link course arrives at the mid point up Yokoteyama and as I mentioned, requires a little bit of human power to complete and introduces you to a defining feature of Yokote. The ramp up to the lift.

    Every lift we took on Yokote required you to either approach it with velocity, or to climb up a ramp, be it a short few meters or one inexplicable 10-15m ramp at the bottom of Shibutoge that also had no platform at the top while people bunched up going through the electronic gate. Frustrating.





    All that said, Yokote has some incredibly redeeming features. It is a spectacular landscape full of frozen pine trees and views for miles. And on top of it all there is both a bakery and a crumpet cafe at the summit.

    It was now just after 12 and time for lunch, which was unanimously agreed to be partaken at the Crumpet cafe. on the way up we were treated to these views:









    The crumpet cafe was everything we had hoped for. Absolutely delicious.









    Do take note. The English milk tea on the menu is an Earl Grey teabag steeped in warm milk. It’s as horrible as it sounds. The chai latte is, however, really good.

    After lunch, Mrs elSpike, Mr14 and I all went to do a run at Shibutoge while Mr11 stayed at the cafe to warm up a little more. It was blisteringly cold at the summit.

    Shibutoge is one of those magical sets of runs, much like Terakoya, that is just built for our family. Perfectly groomed, interesting red runs with room to carve and just have fun. We initially set out to do just one side, but due to Mr14 having a little bit of trouble and losing a ski as he got on the chair, we had to do another run to make sure.



    the only letdown was the quite slow romance lift. A faster quad would make all the difference there.

    Returning to the summit we picked up Mr11 and cruised all the way down from summit to base, only pausing to collect the little spurs off to the side of the main course.



    By then we had just enough time to make it to the bottom to catch the 2.10pm bus towards Shigakogen Yamanoeki Narrator: All busses lead to Shigakogen Yamanoeki

    On the way back we got off at Takamagahara and skied our way back home to Ichinose.

    Overall, the day trip over to Yokote was a success and I’m very glad we did it. I’m not sure we’d go there again via the shuttles though. If we had a car or if there was a local taxi that could do it for less than the roughly $200 we were quoted, it would be a different story.

    Dinner was at the new burger and pizza place called Ristorante ALTOPIANO, which is located behind and up the hill from Hotel Japan Shiga, which is the place with the Nepalese restaurant and the Shabu Shabu meat restaurant. Just keep walking past the Nepalese toward Ichinose Family slopes and you will see it. It is very well lit up and signposted.





    The food was great. The pizzas are real homemade bases with fresh ingredients and the burgers are decent size and very flavourful ( a little well done for my tastes). Aside from the beers listed they had a selection of Shiga Kogen beers including the 1t IPA which is about as smooth an IPA as you are ever going to find. I’d buy a case if I could.

    As is custom we finished with an Umeshu at the Teppa room and retired early.
     
  37. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    One point about Yokoteyama and Shibutoge ramps.... They are not there later in the season. The double at Shibutoge has NO RAMP later, because it's 3-4m deeper.... Otherwise the bottom would be buried.

    I was meaning to tell you to maintain your speed on the link from Kumanoyu to Yokote.
     
  38. BigWaveDave

    BigWaveDave Hard Yards

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    I was wondering just how 'interlinked' all the various resorts are at Shiga. From your observations @elSpike Are Yokoteyama and Kumanoyu areas the main ones which you must catch shuttles to access? (ie there's no chance of accessing via skis from Ichinose?) We'll definitely want to do Yokoteyama on a bluebird day as I've been told the views are incredible, so just wondering how best to plan our mission. As always thanks for the info!
     
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  39. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Yokoteyama, Kumanoyu & Shibutoge are out on their own, and you need to catch a shuttle bus from Ichinose.
    All others are interlinked, although a short walk is now required between Hasuike and Giant, since the rope tow no longer runs.
     
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  40. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Also. The bridge across the road from Takamagahara to Nishidateyama is currently closed due to lack of snow so you’d need to unclip and walk across the road. Probably needs another 40+ cm to be safe.
     
  41. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    That's often the case late season as well, since it's rather exposed to the elements. (but you often need to side step anyway)
     
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  42. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 6 - a very big ski day.

    My legs are feeling today’s efforts.



    But let’s go back to the beginning. This morning’s look out the window showed maybe 1-2cm on the cars in front of Chalet Shiga. Not quite the 8cm that Snow Japan was touting (further proof that their numbers rarely have any link to reality), but one does not look a gift-snow in the mouth.

    As we pulled on the boots, it started to snow properly, which was good news indeed.

    The boys back with the ever effervescent Jimmy from Shiga International Ski School, we decided to play at Yakebitaiyama and Okushiga Kogen today.



    With the snow came a chilli -4°C temperature that made sure every run was brisk. My ‘stach, that I grew for Movember and decided to keep for skiing, started collecting frost. Not quite as epic and that massive powder day from last year, but still very respectable.



    We spent a couple of hours skiing around Yakebitaiyama, sometimes with almost no one around, and other times with a couple of hundred people on a run, with no indication on when or where the hoards would appear.



    At the top of the No 1 gondola, we turned right and traversed to Okushiga Kogen. The linking course isnt open due to lack of cover so the only ways across are the top traverse or the shuttle bus at the bottom.



    The runs at Okushiga weren’t as great as we remembered from last year. Lots of runs had been left ungroomed and had heavily Moguled up, which are not our favourite type of run. There was fun to be had at times, the red run from the summit was fast and relatively unpopulated, and Mrs elSpike enjoyed the green Family switchback run alongside the cut up black Expert run that I did just to collect it.



    By then it was time to head back to meet the boys for lunch. After crossing the traverse back to Yakebitaiyama (Be careful on the downside of the travers “trail” just a few cm off the piste and you step into over a foot of uncompressed powder. Don’t ask how I know that) we zigzagged our way to the base of the No 2 Gondola ate Prince South. On that journey we found the standout runs of the day off the No 3 high speed quad in the East and Middle courses. They were still pretty well groomed and had a nice 3-5cm cover of powder to carve through.

    I posted a short clip to Instagram showing how nice it was on the little link between the east course and the run down to prince south.



    For lunch we had asked Jimmy to meet us at Prince South so we could have the Donburi bowls at Izakaya After in the basement of the No 2 gondola building. You might recall we had dinner there last season after a nice walk through the forest from Prince West. Thankfully their lunch menu is much better and the bowls were delicious.





    During lunch we managed to catch a very uncommon moment where Mr14 was warming his little brother’s hands.



    After lunch the boys needed the afternoon off, so we dropped them back at the hotel before spending more time collecting the open runs of Yakebitaiyama. We managed to get all of them bar the champion course that had been so moguled up that it was difficult to imagine anyone had ever groomed it. (We really don’t enjoy moguls if you haven’t noticed).

    At about 2pm the snow stopped and blue skies returned. We used the remaining time to rush over to Terakoya and one final slide down the winding mellow green at Ichinose Family.



    We watched the light disappear from our balcony before taking our Onsen.



    Dinner was at Shiga Kogen Tacos. I raved about them last year and they are still great. It really is one of my favourite little bars in Ichinose.



    The vegetarian tacos with soy meat are especially good. Unfortunately the owner said it was a little dead due to the low snow, with the Shiga Grand Hotel they share a lobby with saying they have had a lot of cancellations this week.

    As we’ve shown on this trip report, there is plenty enough snow here at the moment, so for those of you coming in the next week don’t stress, there is plenty of pistes to ski. We did just over 41km today alone!
     
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  43. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 7. New food day.

    I slept really well last night. We are in a combination western/Japanese room on the 5th floor at Chalet Shiga. The boys are in the western beds while we are on 3 futons each in the Japanese section. Bliss for the back.

    Looking out the window first thing, we unfortunately, could not see any accumulation on the cars, so it was probably a 0cm day. Luckily the groomers at Shiga are first rate, so the pistes would be just fine.

    It was day four of lessons for the boys, with Jimmy declaring that it was time to really nail their carving in variable terrain today. They were going to spend time on the lower red runs of Okushiga with their mercilessly chopped up and frozen terrain. So glad it was them and not us!

    We, on the other hand, decided to have a leisurely morning at Yakebitaiyama, but as there was no one around we did a couple of runs on Ichinose Diamond first.



    After those warmups we spent our time lapping there gondolas and fast quads, occasionally finding the pistes empty...



    And occasionally finding some crowds....



    But regardless we had a lot of fun. Especially on the Eastern side of Yakebitaiyama.











    For lunch, we returned to last year’s stomping ground in the Prince West cafeteria. Their menu is largely the same, and you can still either use cash (accepts 10k, 5k, 1k and coins) or Credit Card/Suica at the manned counter.



    Do note that Pizzas take 10-15 minutes, and they give you a laminated A4 number and will call it out in both incomprehensible Japanese (we were listening for yon juu ichi) and perfectly clear English. You can also wear you ski boots up to the cafeteria at lunch, but not at Breakfast.

    After lunch we agreed to introduce Mr11 to Terakoya, Giant and Higashitateyama.

    Terakoya was its usual foggy self, but still heaps of fun. Philosophy (left most run) and Eternal (right most run) are starting to look a little bare in patches.

    We then sped up the ramp and down through the beautiful tree lined trail down to Higashiteyama and a remarkably empty Giant.





    The “s bends” down to Giant and the ramp down into Hoppo are threadbare, with ski mats and bare ground exposed in parts. The lowest part of Giant had me thankful for being on rental skis as it was almost to the point where sparks might have came up from the edges.

    The chairs to Maruike and Sun Valley were running but we’ll report back on those pistes another day.

    After doing Giant twice we headed back up to the Higashiteyama Gondola, which I maintain is the cutest, yet most impractical gondola on the planet. The ski holders on the outside are barely able to take a 130mm tip when you split the skis, and only have 4 slots on the side. Our family had to take two carriages to the top.



    On exiting the gondola, we were greeted by the unmistakable aroma of great coffee.



    Lift Up coffee is the newest addition to the Higashiteyama summit station. It opened just a couple of weeks ago, and their advertising of being authentic Melbourne coffee is not wrong. It was a seriously good coffe that we will definitely be back for. Prices were more Perth than Melbourne though...



    While there we went upstairs to the cafe and grabbed a shot of the menu for anyone who is curious.



    We also had a look outside on the observation deck but the fog made it a little less picturesque. We’ll come back up on a clearer day I think.





    We then did a now very familiar route of Takamagahara, Tenne, and Ichinose family before heading home at about 4pm with a pretty good scorecard.



    Dinner was at the Teppa Room downstairs with much the same ordered as last time but I did manage to try the Triple IPA, which at 13% had me wanting more pretty quickly.

     

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  44. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Were they the green gondolas, or the ultra small cream coloured egg shell ones?
    The last two years, they've been replacing the original tiny cream coloured egg shell gondolas, with the bigger green ones, which are still small !!!
     
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  45. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    One of each. The egg shell ones are cuter. The green ones are marginally more roomy.
     
  46. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 8 - Another big day.

    Ichinose awoke to a glorious sight; fresh snow!



    10-15cm according to the resorts, but more like 7-8cm on the cars outside Chalet Shiga. Still, any snow is great snow!

    Breakfast was the usual buffet affair with one minor change. Mr11 didn’t really eat that much, saying that he wasn’t hungry. This becomes important later.

    Being the final lesson, we asked Jimmy where he would like to teach the boys and then decided the lunch meeting point based on that. He was planning on having them spend time at Okushiga again, so we would met at the perennial favourite, Yakebitaiyama Quad No. 2 at Prince West.

    The necessary administration out of the way, we adults raced over to Terakoya as quickly as we could to make use of this precious fall of snow. We weren’t disappointed. Despite the usual fog, the 3 runs were magically smooth and pillowy. Perfect for carving and swooping at speed.



    We then replicated yesterday afternoon, taking the treed trail down to Hoppo.



    The chicanes near the bottom were much better with the added snow.





    We stayed playing down there for a while and then navigated our way back up to the Higashiteyama Gondola.



    This time we managed to get a pic to show how small those little carriages are.



    Two full sized adults are supposed to be able to fit on that seat!

    We again availed ourselves of a Lift Up coffee at the summit before making our way down to Takamagahara, Tenne and across to Ichinose Diamond.



    We met Jimmy and the boys right on time, with tales of crashes and slightly sore backs, indicating the need for another half day off. Jimmy was full of praise for their effort and gave them a passing grade for being qualified parallel skiers in most terrain.



    I’ll pause here to say that we have now used Shiga International Ski School twice and have been impressed both times. Everything from Robel (Lead instructor) interactions with booking, to online payment, and the quality of the instructors has been great. We got what we paid for both times and have become better skiers because of those lessons.

    Lunch was a return to the Ramen place with another mention of not being hungry by Mr11. We got him to have about 1/3 of a serve but it was obvious he wasn’t quite into it. Having two meals where he wasn’t hungry is unusual, but not alarming, so we packed them off home for some rest and iPad time while we continued on with our day. Seeing we were already at Yakebitaiyama, we continued our afternoon on what is probably our favourite resort in Shiga.

    Going up Quad No 2 we noticed that the ungroomed Buna course was now open (having been closed this last week) so we quickly made our way up and were rewarded with some boot deep powder along the sides.



    We then spent an hour or so on the runs either side of the No. 3 Quad, practising our navigation of ungroomed runs. I did manage to lose a ski half way down the black run and answered, quite definitely, how far I can then ski an ungroomed black on one ski. The answer is about 12m.

    At about 3 we stopped at Prince East for cake and hot chocolates.



    I grabbed a shot of their lunch menu too. Pricy!





    After warming up we took one more ride on the No1 gondola before working our way back towards Ichinose.









    At Ichinose Diamond, we found two things of note. First was the visibility had cleared up and we could see all the way across the valley for the first time since arriving.



    The second was the first sighting of the dreaded Minions!



    This was soon followed by sighting another 5 or 6 groups. We thought we’d have until Monday before the school groups started arriving but alas we were wrong.

    For Dinner we went back to the Nepalese place but Mr11 was still not feeling hungry and was now running an ever so slightly elevated temperature. We gave him a Panadol and tucked him into bed, hopeful we don’t have another three day virus like he had last year!

    I’m now waiting for our washing to finish so I can put them in the drier. Chalet Shiga has two top loader washing machines and a single drier on the 4th floor. The washing machine is ¥200 and takes between 40-60 minutes to complete the cycle and the drier is ¥100 for 40 minutes.



    We bring our own washing powder but I’m sure there is some for sale at reception or I did see some at the combini next to Villa 101 which is next door to the Nepalese place.

    Assuming Mr11 is ok (and his temp was pretty normal when I checked on him just then) our plan is to head to Hisuke and Sun Valley tomorrow to look at what they have open. It’s currently lightly snowing but I’m hoping the forecast is correct and we awake to another foot on the ground.
     
  47. Sandy

    Sandy Dark Sith Lord of the Pool Room Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    LOL
    Those GREEN gondolas are the LARGER ones!!!
    The cream coloured ones are even smaller!!!
     
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  48. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Not that uncommon, there were some in the 3V area France:

    [​IMG]
    The old Foret

    In an other one you sat back to back, not facing each other.
     
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  49. elSpike

    elSpike I am a Meat Popsicle Ski Pass: Gold

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    Day 9 - Powder for everyone.

    This is me:



    Now, you may be wondering how I found myself tumbling through almost a foot of accumulated snow. Here’s my story.

    Sunday morning greeted us with a much better balcony view, with cars buried happily in the pillowy soft snow.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately Mr11, while having no temperature, still felt a little unwell. After a slice of vegemite toast, (we bring vegemite on all our vacations) he decided a day in bed would be good for him.

    So it was just Mr14, my wife and I racing to put on gear and be ready for first lifts at Ichinose Family. Climbing the hill was a little more difficult with at least boot deep powder everywhere. The official 28cm report was very accurate in the village.

    Unfortunately some other people had the same first lifts idea.



    So on the sixth chair of the day, we made our way up the Ichinose Family quad, with me bravely (Narrator: foolishly) declaiming I would come down the main black run, while the other two followed the winding green of the Tengu course.



    Let me reiterate that I’m not very good when the powder gets deeper than about boot deep. Shin deep and I’m struggling. Knee deep and there’s going to be some interesting footage.

    The front black course was a consistent knee deep, tending to waist deep in drifts. It did not go well. In the space of 600m or so I had fallen twice, once with a wonderful double ejection. Perhaps this wasn’t the best “first run”. But in the end I managed to make it down and on to the red and green lower parts where I had much better success. The other two met me with tales of untouched trails and crashes of their own, though most of them seemed to entail not being able to determine where the edges of the pistes were.

    Great fun!

    Our second and third runs were on the “b” chair that takes you up to the Red section of Ichinose family and we’re much more confidence inspiring.



    It was about this time that I posted this to the Shiga Kogen thread.



    What I neglected to share was this little beauty!



    Crashing is learning right?

    About this time, Mr14 decided that it was not in his best interests to stay out so he headed back to the Chalet to keep his brother (and his iPad) company while the parents soldiered on.

    After having so much fun at Yakebitaiyama’s quad 3 yesterday we thought we might have more luck over there on runs we love.

    On the way I found the first of the deeper snow drifts, just off the top of Quad 2.



    And my wife commented that my Movember Mo had progressed to a Snovember Mo!



    Quad #3 and the two runs off it proved to be as magical as we hoped, and even more magically, only had 6-8 people lapping it with us for most of the time.



    Most of the morning was a chilly -8°C so a warm up in one of the gondolas was needed.



    At around 11am we went back to check on the boys.



    We had every intention of grabbing an early lunch at the Teppa Room but they didn’t open until 12 so after a brief conference we left the boys some money to get their own lunch and kept moving.



    We ended back at the Pizza and burger place we’d been to a few nights before. At lunch they have the same menu but you order and pay using a ticket vending machine. You can keep you ski boots on, but they insist you give them a good brushing down to remove the snow before you are allowed in.



    Pizza and burger were still very good. With bellies full and fingers defrosted it was time to start our “loop” through Terakoya, Hoppo, Giant, Hasuike and Nishidateyama.

    Unfortunately we’re we’re greeted with this sign at the top.



    So instead, we went along the top of the ridge to Takamagahara where we learnt that the Higashiteyama Gondola had been stopped for wind and would probably not be running for the rest of the day. No delicious coffee for me today! Instead we followed the trail from the top of Takamagahara down to Hoppo and over to Giant. we spotted a snowmobile that gave a good indication of the snow depth at the summit.





    Climbing the hill from the bottom of Hoppo to the Giant romance lift is a real pain in the butt. It really needs something there. Maybe a moving carpet or something.



    At the top of the romance lift, the wife and I managed to get separated for about 15 minutes due to the intense wind and near whiteout visibility, but we finally reconnected at the bottom of the Hisuike triple thanks to the wonders of modern technology. (Find My Friends)

    Hisuike and Sun Vally are quite small and we’re filled with lots of minion groups. I didn’t really enjoy the runs over there and after asking a few people am convinced there is no more rope tow to be found. This will be disappointing news for the elderly members like @Hyst LOL



    The traverse back to Giant was pretty arduous. I’m sure there is a better way, but for us it involved about a 200m boot back through the forest trails. You could probably skate your way over in normal conditions but the foot deep powder was impossible.



    We then travelled back up through Nishidateyama, though most of the red and black runs there were aggressively closed off. Not just a token rope and some poles but Signs and in some cases a fence structure to block your way.

    I will admit we saw some incredibly funny crashes from the various chairs we took throughout the day.



    Coming back down from Nishidateyama there was a lovely surprise. The bridge across to Takamagahara was still closed, but the constant fall of snow throughout the day meant that you could just ski straight across the road. Easy as!

    Around 3.45 we decided to call it a day so it was the usual zigzag back through Tenne and Ichinose Family before skiing down the footpath back to Chalet Shiga and it’s welcoming Onsen.



    Dinner was supposed to be back at the Taco place at Shiga Grand but with the weather and Mr11 not 100% we snuck downstairs to the ever faithful Teppa room before early bed.

    Tomorrow is going to be so good after the fall last night, the constant snow throughout the day, and more coming tonight. But please don’t come to Shiga. We want it all to ourselves!
     
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  50. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks from the elderly (wife) and me! LOL
     
    sn0wbunny29, elSpike and Kimski like this.