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

elSpike

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One unrelated question for you. I was looking at the pics and noticed you always use the same lens on your Airbrake XL (is it an Airbrake XL?), even when the weather is less than optimal. Do you have good visibility with the same lens in all conditions? I'll have to change my goggles at the end of the season and the Airbrake is definitely among my candidates.
They are Airbrake XLs and they are the best goggles I’ve used so far. I use the Prizm Torch Iridium lens for about 85% of ski conditions and the Hi Pink for the remaining (mostly night). I also use a set of prescription inserts that I got from https://www.prescriptioninserts.com/ as I need glasses for distance vision. Changing the lenses is very easy but does require you to be indoors or in a gondola to do so as it gets a bit fiddly with the insert, hence I often stick with the same lens longer than I should.

The prizm lenses are outstanding though and I can’t recommend them enough, as long as the goggles fit your face. You should take your helmet to the store and try them on together to make sure they all work together on your head and face.
 
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Melskius

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Awesome trip report. Very valuable
info for our trip next month. Thanks so much.
 

Froff Life

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Loving your TR Spike! The detail you go into, from the skiing to the food, is incredible. Really looking forward to the Myoko leg of your trip as it's been 5 years since I visited the area and I'm keen to see how it's changed.
 
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Breakbeat

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The prizm lenses are outstanding though and I can’t recommend them enough, as long as the goggles fit your face. You should take your helmet to the store and try them on together to make sure they all work together on your head and face.
Thanks a lot, very helpful. Yes, I have been looking at the MOD3 MIPS or a similar helmet from Oakley. My Giro is now 9 years old, so it's definitely time for a change and I might as well get a helmet that works well with the (new) googles.
Thanks again. Much appreciated. :)
 
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elSpike

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Thanks a lot, very helpful. Yes, I have been looking at the MOD3 MIPS or a similar helmet from Oakley. My Giro is now 9 years old, so it's definitely time for a change and I might as well get a helmet that works well with the (new) googles.
Thanks again. Much appreciated. :)
We have the mips mod3s for our boys. All Oakley goggles with work with them due to the modular brim system.
 
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2ESki

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What I neglected to share was this little beauty!
Did similar that in January at Myoko, at a slower speed with deeper snow and snapped my ACL and tore my meniscus, watching that made me squirm :(:cry:
 

elSpike

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Did similar that in January at Myoko, at a slower speed with deeper snow and snapped my ACL and tore my meniscus, watching that made me squirm :(:cry:
If I could dislike this I would. Nope nope nope.
I’m sorry that happened to you but I’m currently at Myoko and don’t want anything to do with ACLs and meniscus injuries!
 

elSpike

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Day 11 - Transit Day to Myoko


One final view from the mighty room 503 balcony of Chalet Shiga.

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It turns out we chose the absolute best day to do our mid trip travelling with rain forecast at both Shiga and Myoko. We had sporadic showers through the night in Ichinose, with the occasional clap of thunder, but it really started coming down just as we left Chalet Shiga at 8.30am.

Checkout was as simple as saying Arigato to the desk clerk with a handshake and a parting gift having prepaid our stay.

While planning the trip I had figured we’d want to be at Myoko as quickly as possible to get a full days skiing in, so I booked a taxi transfer through Alpico and was allocated a Toyota Noah from Nozawa Onsen Kotsu. Ichiro was our driver and expertly navigated the wet and icy roads down from Shiga Kogen and on to Akakura with little fuss and minimal chatter. It rained pretty consistently on the drive over.

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A quick 70 minutes later, we arrived in Akakura Onsen and to our new home at the Refre hotel run by Jenn and Peter Johnson. I had already loved interacting with Jenn while we were booking, and they both were even better in person.

Even though we were super early Jenn had our room ready and proceeded to show us around and then up to our room.

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As you can see, the Refre is a little less “80s” than Chalet Shiga and has novel things like a toilet that I don’t have to sit on at an angle to fit my legs in, and a light in the entry vestibule.

We then headed 100m down the hill to Myoko Snowsports. I think this is the best organised and run ski hire We have ever experienced. You are immediately greeted on walking in, and it gets better and better throughout the process. They have obviously hired some enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and either pay them really well or give them heaps of time off to go ski, because they are all so cheerful.

Addy, in particular, took the time to explain their selection of performance skis and asked about our skiing styles and goals for the trip. He then suggested the adults and Mr14 all try the K2 Mindbenders in either 90-99 widths and varying lengths, matching up our individual likes.

They have a great infographic showing their ski options and where they fit on the ability and style axis.

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At the same time, Mr11 was getting fitted for boots and having the nuances of fit and tightness explained with the same care and attention to detail as the rest of us. He really appreciated being spoken to as a skiing peer and how excited the staff were with his improvements in the Shiga lessons.

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I know it will be asked. The prices for their rentals are on the Myoko Snowsports website, and yes you can request specific skis at time of booking.

Once all that was taken care of and the skis were all safely put to bed in the Refre’s spacious drying room, we got a lift down to Myoko station on our way to spend the afternoon in Nagano. There was some indecision as we departed as the sky had turned a brilliant blue and it looked really good on the slopes, but Mr14 had specifically requested to visit the Zenko-ji Temple.

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As I have mentioned in previous reports and posts, the Nagano to Myoko train trip is very pretty and well worth doing. Tickets are ¥850 each way for adults and half price for kids, so pretty reasonable for the 40 minute journey. Unfortunately we had mixed weather with blue sky near Myoko-Kogen station and fog for the majority of the journey.

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It cleared up again as we got to Nagano, rewarding us with a wonderful 1.7km stroll up to the Temple.

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About half way to the temple, thoughts turned to food and we stumbled upon a great little Soba place with 4 tables and obviously run by a husband and wife combo. I think it’s called Kisshouan based on its Facebook name:
https://www.facebook.com/kisshouan/

The sobas were excellent and a very reasonable ¥1000 for the sets.

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They also bring out a jug of the dipping sauce to top up your cup before they bring out the Sobayu tea to add. It’s probably my favourite part of a soba meal. That umami taste of the buckwheat tea and the noodle sauce with the bite of the wasabi! Narrator: Stop it! You are making everyone hungry for sobas again!

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As we left with full bellies, the rain started to fall once again, and pretty much stayed as a drizzle for the rest of the afternoon.

The approach to Zenko-ji has been fairly heavily commercialised, with stalls selling everything from religious tokens, to souvenirs, to every second shop selling a different type of soft serve ice cream.

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The temple itself and the surrounds are just gorgeous though.

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Inside the main temple you can buy access to either each section individually or as a combination. We went with the ¥1000 combination but you can probably just do the main temple for ¥500 as the museum and main gate aren’t really worth it.
The main temple holds short ?services every 20 minutes or so but everything is in Japanese both spoken and written and you aren’t allowed cameras or phones so we couldn’t use google translate. This lead to probably the coolest part of the Zenko-ji temple.

Inside the main temple you take off your shoes and hold them in a plastic bag, and you are then ushered into the temple proper to either observe or take part in the service. You then are lead to a small set of stairs heading down. There is a single sign in English that says phone flashlights and light sources are forbidden, but no other indication on what is going to happen next.

I won’t spoil it for you, but it was one of the weirdest, unexpected, and upon reflection, one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had in Japan.

If you have the time, go do it.

Next we wandered the grounds and went to the museum. You can probably skip it as it’s mostly just photographs and stories on plaques.

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We inexplicably spotted a plastic cow and calf along the way too.

On the way out we stopped and grabbed a soft serve from the apple custard puff place.

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By then it was time to wander back so we took a slightly circuitous route through Gondo mall which was more to stay out of the rain than anything else.

We did spot some street art of the Milky girl. I love her smug grin!

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The return journey on the train was much the same as the one down. We did make sure to be first off the train at Myoko-Kogen and first in the taxi queue so as not to need to wait. Taxi from the station to Akakura is about ¥2000.

For dinner we went up the hill to Lumberjack2 which is just off to the left when you reach the end of the Main Street of Akakura (almost opposite the Akakura Onsen Hotel). They serve okonomiyaki for roughly ¥900 each with your choice of pork, squid, prawns, chicken or vegetables.

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After dinner we reinstated the Myoko tradition of Crepes from the best crape guy in the village. I talked him up last trip report, so you can go find al the info there. The crepes will be your reward for that effort. All others are mere shadows in comparison.

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Tomorrow we will probably get the combined Kanko/Onsen ticket and go see what damage the rain did. The forecast has some hope for some snow tonight but as I look outside there is nothing falling yet.
 
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hotsaki

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Excellent you made it .For future reference there is a special fare to Nagano and back.A return fare that is discounted.Also Lumberjacks Two is actually Lamberjacks Two.Have not been able to find out where Lamberjacks One is.But I love One.Boy that sounds weird.
 

elSpike

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Excellent you made it .For future reference there is a special fare to Nagano and back.A return fare that is discounted.Also Lumberjacks Two is actually Lamberjacks Two.Have not been able to find out where Lamberjacks One is.But I love One.Boy that sounds weird.
Good tip on the return ticket.

Restaurant is definitely “Lumber Jacks 2”
https://m.facebook.com/nakamurayamyoko/
 

Froff Life

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Myoko Snow Sports is an amazingly run business, their quality of ski gear is fantastic and service always delivered with a smile. Keen to hear how you all go on the new Mindbenders!
 
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Tonester

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This infographic is a great idea.
Interesting that there are no "beginner" skis. A clever bit of business sense, right there!
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Ozgirl

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What are they like with the womens specific ski's you only mention you and your sons.

I was devo when i went to Whis on a 45cm day and they had no women adv ski's at all - disappointing for a 'world class resort"
 
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elSpike

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This infographic is a great idea.
Interesting that there are no "beginner" skis. A clever bit of business sense, right there!
175859_3e3a95a1108421b0af8d7c9bf939d711.jpeg
They have Elan beginner skis but don’t show them. That’s the “performance” menu.
 
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elSpike

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What are they like with the womens specific ski's you only mention you and your sons.

I was devo when i went to Whis on a 45cm day and they had no women adv ski's at all - disappointing for a 'world class resort"
To be honest I hadn’t even considered that there would be men’s and women’s skis. I thought there would just be skis that cater to different heights and weights etc. My wife is on the same K2 Mindbenders as the boys.
If I search for K2 women’s there a stack on that list that Myoko Snowsports have.
https://k2snow.com/en-us/c/skis/womens-skis/

That said, if there is a specific ski you are after they reply to email very quickly.
 

Tonester

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To be honest I hadn’t even considered that there would be men’s and women’s skis. I thought there would just be skis that cater to different heights and weights etc. My wife is on the same K2 Mindbenders as the boys.
If I search for K2 women’s there a stack on that list that Myoko Snowsports have.
https://k2snow.com/en-us/c/skis/womens-skis/

That said, if there is a specific ski you are after they reply to email very quickly.
That info graphic has women skis identified. I can’t see the info too clearly as I’m on my phone at present.
 
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Ozgirl

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Coolies! I don't need them. Was asking for other women.

After my Whis experience I will never travel without my gear again.
 
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elSpike

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What are they like with the womens specific ski's you only mention you and your sons.

I was devo when i went to Whis on a 45cm day and they had no women adv ski's at all - disappointing for a 'world class resort"
To be honest I hadn’t even considered that there would be men’s and women’s skis. I thought there would just be skis that cater to different heights and weights etc. My wife is on the same K2 Mindbenders as the boys.
Collies! I don;t need them Was asking for other women.

After my Whis experience i will never travel without my gear again.
The little circles beside each ski denote men and women.
 

japower

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A bit late to this tread. Just spent a good hour reading through this awesome trip report. Brought back fond memories of Shiga from 3 years ago. (Haven't gone to Myoko.) We also stayed at Chalet Shiga and rented from Snowcan, and to avoid that long bus ride, we stayed at Shiga Palace at Yokoteyama for 1/3 of our ski holiday. There's a Snowcan branch at Yokote BTW. The scenery at Yokote was truly amazing, one that I'd never get tired of looking at. (Another great view that comes to mind is from the coffee shop at the top of Tangram looking out towards Myoko.) Looking forward to reading the rest!
 
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elSpike

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A bit late to this tread. Just spent a good hour reading through this awesome trip report. Brought back fond memories of Shiga from 3 years ago. (Haven't gone to Myoko.) We also stayed at Chalet Shiga and rented from Snowcan, and to avoid that long bus ride, we stayed at Shiga Palace at Yokoteyama for 1/3 of our ski holiday. There's a Snowcan branch at Yokote BTW. The scenery at Yokote was truly amazing, one that I'd never get tired of looking at. (Another great view that comes to mind is from the coffee shop at the top of Tangram looking out towards Myoko.) Looking forward to reading the rest!

Great info. Thanks!
 

elSpike

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Day 12 - Akakura Onsen and Akakura Kanko

The Refre Hotel was just as cosy and comfortable as the previous picture made out. We all woke refreshed and excited for our first Myoko skiing day.
The window offered a pretty grey and uninspiring view with no new snow to report and a hint of drizzle that was pretending to be sleet.

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Undeterred, team elSpike made their way down to breakfast on the ground floor and were greeted by a very different spread from the one found at Chalet Shiga. Jenn and Peter put on a marvellous breakfast with eggs to order, toast, avocado, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, chia seed pudding with fruit and yoghurt, cereals, T2 teas and pots of steaming coffee. Most of us opted for poached eggs on vegemite toast and we left a little heavier than we arrived.

Eager to get going we dressed and headed down the hill to the ticket counter at the bottom of Onsen, just across from the post office. We opted for the combined ticket (Kanko and Onsen). Do note that Myoko uses paper tickets so you need to remember to bring your ticket display holder things, unlike shiga which uses electronic gantries, with tickets that can be tucked in your glove pocket.

We then took the sad little covered travelator up to the first lip, noting with a little trepidation that there were steps up to the travelator where last year the snow was level with it.

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The ride up the first triple chair was a mix of “hey I remember this” and “oh no there is way less snow”

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The fog stared to close in as we got a little higher, dropping visibility significantly.

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The snow was a crevices icy base thy was showing rain damage everywhere. Each run was like being on one of those wooden and metal fairground roller coaster, the vibration running al the way up your body and threatening to loosen a few teeth along the way.

But still, there was fun to be had. Any snow beneath the planks is better than a day at the office!

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We did a few runs on the upper part of Onsen, getting the feel for the Mindbenders skis we had rented as best we could. I took a photo of the snowpack condition before we crossed over to Kanko in hopes that higher up the mountain would be better.

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Riding the hooded quads up the Kanko side revealed some much better groomed pistes and slightly more snow the higher we got.

That said, there are still plenty of brown patches all over the place, no matter the elevation, but the section from beside Kanko hotel down to the gondola station was especially bad.

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The reports were true, Myoko needs another foot or two of snow as soon as possible.

Around 10 we stopped in at Heste Restaurant, just below the top gondola station, for some hot chocolate and a snack. It’s quite pricy for an “all you can drink” cup for ¥450 that you fill from the Japanese equivalent of an instant Nescafé machine. Heste did have some interesting lunch options like spicy ramen for ¥1200. We didn’t eat lunch there but will consider it for next time.

While we sat inside the temperature began to rise with the twin blessings of opening up the visibility, and softening the snow to make it much more enjoyable.

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From about 10.30 through to when we finished about 3.30pm the snow became slushy and very springlike.

Our skis really shon in the mucky conditions, the Mindbenders series being incredibly light, while having that titanium reenforcement so they could cut through the piles of goo. The 99s has a slight edge over the 90s when it really hot slushy but the 90s were most at home carving their way down the soft pistes at speed.

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Just before lunchtime I was recognised Narrator: His pants were recognised by a bloke named Andrew who lurks on the forums here. He thanked me for writing these posts and said that he and his family were heading to Shiga in a couple of days. It was nice to have that interaction. I wrote these mostly to give back to the community that helped (and still does help) us when we’re we’re first starting with this sport, and it’s always a great feeling to know when others get that same support from me. So Andrew, you are my first random spotting on the pistes and thank you for the kind words.

We lapped the gondola and the quad to the top of Kanko a few more times before we crossed over back to Kanko along the very pretty link course off Champion A. Note that Champion A is a very accessible “black” run that is provably only black because it is ungroomed.

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We took our lunch upstairs at Montanu, the restaurant at the bottom of the Kumado No. 1 Quad (where the night skiing is).

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They have various donburi and snacks that you purchase at a counter just as you enter, and then take the tickets into the restaurant proper and hand them to the cooks. Prices are all roughly ¥1000-¥1300. The oddest thing about this place is just how much mayonnaise they put on everything.

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They also have one of those soft serve sodastream machine things where you put a capsule of ice cream in the machine and it magically spits out a soft serve cone. The have vanilla, chocolate, or mixed.

Once we were done with lunch, we collected most of the runs that were available at Onsen, having a lot of fun on the two runs off the kumado no. 4 triple.

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By just after 3 we were done for the day and made our way down the track towards the ticket counter, veering off near Resort Hotel Alp which put us just up the street from the Refre! Nice.

Even though the snow was not especially great, we still managed respectable numbers and saw pretty much the whole of the two resorts pistes. We will do these two again before we leave, hopefully with a little more snow.

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After depositing our skis in the drying room we took an Onsen and then hung out in the lounge with the other guests before dinner time.

I always love walking in Myoko. It is always very pretty at night.

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Diner was at Shiro, a Gyoza restaurant near the top of the Main Street on the left side.

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Shiro serve a variety of main meals and Japanese tapas style sharing plates but their main call to fame is their gyoza. We ordered one of each variation and came away rating the boiled gyoza the best, but still very impressed by the fried and deep fried l ones.

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I really liked that they had dietary information all through the menu. It helped us, with our weird dietary stuff, immensely. After consuming so many dumplings we rolled ourselves back down the hill, stopping for a quick crepe along the way.

Tomorrow we will do either Sugi or Ikenotaira (probably Sugi). If you are over that way, be like Andrew and say hello when you see my pants!
 

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fennekeg

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Great trip report, keep it coming!
We then took the sad little covered travelator up to the first lip, noting with a little trepidation that there were steps up to the travelator where last year the snow was level with it.

Seeing as that's your youngest in the picture, what's the ceiling height there? Would someone 1.95m tall be able to stand up straight?
 
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elSpike

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Great trip report, keep it coming!
Seeing as that's your youngest in the picture, what's the ceiling height there? Would someone 1.95m tall be able to stand up straight?
Eldest is 187ish and was fine in helmet. I’m guessing 195 will be a little stooped but fine.

Well, the ice cream capsule thingy is going straight on my list of things to try!
ElSpike, have you seen any interesting Kit kat or Pocky flavours?

We haven’t seen any Kit Kat or Pocky flavours that we haven’t seen before Narrator: Team grape pocky for life! But we have found these Noir cocoa sticks at the shop next to Villa 101 that were amazing. We haven’t been able to find them here in Akakura yet. Crunky biscuits were pretty good though.
 

Sandy

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Well, the ice cream capsule thingy is going straight on my list of things to try!
ElSpike, have you seen any interesting Kit kat or Pocky flavours?
I've been collecting Kit Kats over months, mainly cheap ones at my local DonKi (Don Quijote). You can get min Kit Kat bags of 12 for 198-238yen. I have the following flavours:
- Cherry
- Strawberry
- Green tea
- Roasted tea
- Party icecream
- Orange
- Chestnut
- Sweet potato
- Sakura & roasted soy bean
- Wasabi
- Banana
- Grape
- Melon
- Peach
- Dark
- Cherry & almond

LOOK in the local supermarkets
 

sn0wbunny29

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Narrator: Team grape pocky for life!
Yes, those are good! I can sometimes get them in a local shop here along with blueberry ones.

LOOK in the local supermarkets

I will be looking. We have a couple of nights in Ueno with a Seven Eleven practically next door!

Wheels up 3 weeks today!
 
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elSpike

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Day 13 - Suginohara

I’ll say it again, the Refre Hotel really knows how to put on breakfast. We again were treated to the now ultra high standard that will no doubt have us leaving with work to be done on the old scales when we get home.

We’d decided on going to Suginohara last night and were planning on catching the 8am bus across. Peter insisted on taking us and another couple of guests himself though so at 7.50 we al piled into one of his cars and more red over there.

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We were so quick we arrived a solid 20 minutes before the first gondola. Not even the ticket counter was open yet! A few minutes later they did and we used a voucher that Peter provided that got us Adult tickets at ¥4000 and students for ¥3600. As Sugi is run by Prince, kids 12 or under ski free so Mr11 got his usual free ticket.

We then joined the queue for the first gondolas and made it on maybe the 4th one up the mountain. Sugi has some serious length on its courses so the gondola has about 3km to travel. It takes about 13 minutes up which is pretty good speed. Exiting the gondola we were greeted with about 15cm of pillowy soft snow spanning the entirety of the 3.5km run back down.

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We then spent the first couple of hours lapping the runs off the gondola, finding untracked parts until about 10.30.

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At about 10.30 Mr11 took a bit of a tumble after taking on a snow drift a little too aggressively.

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Sometimes all you need is a hug after getting a shock. and sometimes you need a Açai Banana Smoothie from the cafe at the bottom of the Sugi gondola Narrator: The smoothies cost ¥600 and when you buy one for Mr11 you also need to buy one for Mr14.

I also started experiencing some pretty intense pain in my right foot, at this point, that continued on and off throughout the day. I’m putting it down to a pinch from something to do with my socks or a change in how they were going on, as I had no problems in Shiga for the past 12 days. I had to keep taking off my boot and massaging the outside of my foot, which would bring immediate relief. It was strange. Will see if it continues tomorrow.

We then made our way over to the other side of Sugi and up to the summit.

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We had some fun on the summit runs but the 32° black on the right as you exit the quad was pretty torn up before the snow top up so it had become a bit of a minefield of ice moguls under the powder. Not my idea of fun.

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Ski patrol had closed off everything on the left side of Sugi, including the park and the runs down to the little collection of restaurants, so only the Gondola and the hooded chair to the summit were running. Getting hungry, we returned to the base of the gondola and went upstairs to the main lunch restaurant.

they had the typical fare of Katsu curries and cat food on rice and the like, all of which were between ¥1000-1300. They did have waffle cone soft serve Narrator: not the capsule kind, the normal machine kind so 4 of those were purchased and consumed as well.

We then attempted to burn off some of those calories with some more runs with the pistes offering iceyness at the top, fog in the middle and slush at the bottom. A real tour of skills and challenges.

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There were some magical moments throughout the day.

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There were patches of drizzly “snow” that was very wet as the afternoon wore on so we decided to catch the 2.30 bus back (¥500 per ticket one way. Any stop to any stop).

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Once home we took an Onsen and went to relax in the lounge before dinner.

I also took the opportunity to pop over to the Red Warehouse to drop off a small gift to Nic and his family who ironically landed in Singapore, roughly the same time we arrived in Shiga.

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For dinner we managed to sneakily get in to Udonno-fu, a unique experience in Akakura run by an older couple in what looks like the basement of your crazy aunt’s house.

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They serve massive pots of udon soup that are Japanese comfort food. I highly recommend the Special and the squid ink ones.

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The boys both wanted a crepe so we stopped off there on the way home and now we are in bed, ready for another comfortable night.
 

snowgum

A Local
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May 4, 1999
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Excellent report (day) - can't wait until the 6 Feb flight. Just a few more top-ups would be great!

Food is looking superb too! :emoji_fork_and_knife::redwine:
 
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elSpike

I am a Meat Popsicle
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Day 14 - Ikenotaira

I might be a bit of a broken record but Refre breakfasts are the best. We leave each morning with full bellies and that lingering flavour of a great start to the day.

This morning we made our way to Yukibancho Blanco, a ski rental place about midway up Main Street to replace Mr11s googles that kept falling down in the middle of runs. His previous set lasted through both his brother and him so I’m pretty sure they owed us nothing in the end. We got him a set of Oakley Flight Decks with the Prizm rose lenses (same as Mrs) and the perfect giggle sock for someone who goes by the family nickname “Panda”

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Our gracious host Peter once again made himself available to drop us off so at 8.15 we made our way to Ikenotaira. We used their great offer of a family of two adults and one child for less than the price of two adults (¥7700 vs ¥4000 each adult) to get our tickets and lined up for the first chair, maybe 12 people back from the front of the queue.

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The weather was a classic bluebird day, with crisp clear air and visibility to the horizon. The ride up revealed a few areas of the piste that needed some snow, but the groomers had done a decent job moving what was available to a pretty high standard.

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Once at the top of the first lift, we decided to do a few runs on the lower section before heading higher. It was super easy to keep getting first tracks when the pistes were so icy that no one left any tracks! It was hard and very fast.

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By about 10.30 everything had softened a bit and the pistes started running really well. Ikenotaira usually has some undulations in its runs, but because the cover was so sparse it was a regular roller coaster, resulting in some spectacular air and some high speed wipeouts at times.




Around 11.30 the temps started to climb toward 0 and some pretty cloud banks started rolling in.

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About that time we stopped for a quick toilet break and a drink from the vending machine at the bottom of the hooded quad, where I found a sign indicating the open lifts and runs.

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Pretty much everything was open so we made a beeline for the left side runs. It has some slower romance lifts but you can usually get a decent speed up racing down the relatively tame inclines over there.

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By 12.30 The crowds had started to really fill the car park so we broke for lunch at Effe’s which is at the base of the first pair. The guys there used to have a van on the open area before the chair last year, but have moved into a building for this season.

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They serve incredibly tasty kebabs and a fairly wide range of great beers (all ¥500). The guys in the kitchen genuinely care about the food they prepare and went out of their way to ensure everything was perfect. I really rate their restaurant. Do note that they only take cash ( and only ¥1000 paper bills) and that the restaurant is toasty warm.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent alternating doing laps of the left side and top to bottom runs, with the boys deciding to stop a little before us.

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We caught the 2.40 bus back to Akakura and once again were reminded why we don’t particularly like boarders in Japan. Narrator: Thank goodness we had that experience in Fall last year where boarders were amazingly talented and considerate. I really think this is a Japanese boarder issue. Because of this, we were forced to stand in the footwell of the bus.

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We managed to book one of the Onsen at the Refre for ourselves so I snuck my phone in for some quick pics. It’s one of the nicest lodge Onsen s we’ve ever had the pleasure to bathe in.

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The outside Onsen are a little cooler than the inside.

Dinner tonight was the Set menu at Samurai, the sushi/shashimi restaurant under “the address” on the Main Street. It was the first night they were open as they were waiting for their chef to arrive. We managed to catch up with some very long term family friends (Pete and Jenny from PERTH who we also caught up with at the Drop inn bar in Madarao last year) and some new friends we had just met. It was an outstanding meal and well worth the price.

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Of special note, they well and truely looked after me with my dietary needs and went above and beyond. Love that wonderful service.

It was snowing lightly as we walked back home. Fingers crossed for a little more than the forecast is showing. We definitely need it.
 
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elSpike

I am a Meat Popsicle
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Jul 28, 2015
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Day 15 - public holiday crowds.

I’ve been waking up at 4am on the dot for the majority of the time we have been in Japan, and today was no exception. I have previously joked that we become like retired people while skiing but this is getting a little too real.

The sky was depressingly clear as I did my usual check out of the window.

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Mt Madarao clear in the distance and the barest crust of snow lining the roof next door. Ugh.

Outside was no better, revealing 1cm of accumulation on the driveway. It was going to be another rather fast and icy morning.

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We stayed close to home today, as the boys were looking forward to the afternoon off, so we got half day tickets for Kanko for them and full day whole mountain for us adults. Narrator: They should have got Onsen half days

The ride up the first chair showed some promise, with the trees again sporting a little more accumulation on their branches.

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Our first run down Kanko’s lower front course was very pretty and much softer than the first day we were here.



Very relaxing but not very exciting. A few more laps of that before it got chewed up and we headed over to Kanko’s main slope.

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There was already a queue for the Hooded quad that takes you up to the top of Champion A, which foretold what we were about to face.

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As we crossed over on the connecting trail past the Maple restaurant, we encountered a whole stack of novice skiers, along with a slew of faster riders zig zagging between them. It was chaos.

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The only bonus was that visibility was so good that you could not only see Tangram, but Shiga Kogen was visible further behind that, Our beloved Ichinose Family clearly defined.

At one point I was cut off twice, narrowly avoiding both potential collisions, only to have a third, out of control skier cross the front of my skis and clipping my face with their flailing arms. To put it bluntly, it was dangerous.

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We finally made it to the bottom of the Kanko Gondola at about 9.30am, only to be greeted with a line that snakes out of the building and back onto the piste. There was a second line, maybe 40 people long, lining up at the ticket counter.

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This queue took 25 minutes from the point of us joining to us sitting down on the gondola. With another 10-15 minutes ride to the top it was a chronologically expensive proposition.

Instead we lapped the upper quad a few times before finally giving up and heading back to the other side.

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We did manage to find one clear bit of snow in one of the middle runs heading back toward Onsen, but it only remained clear for that one run.

By 12pm we had well and truely had enough, so using the same route we used last time, following Champion A to the got track that joins to Onsen at its highest point, we skied down to the main Onsen plateau to find some food.

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Narrator: translation; this run is for rental skis only.

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Looking down from the piste it appeared that the crowds were prevalent at Onsen as well.

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Due to Yodel Lodge being overly full, we made our way over to Piste restaurant but found that it too had a pretty large queue for both the ticket machine and the food collection once you have your tickets. But we had a secret weapon.

https://apps.apple.com/au/app/putmenu/id1031884894
I assume there is an android version too but I’m too lazy to find it for you.

There is a new app this year called Put Menu that Onsen has embraced that allows you to order food from the app, and pay for it using major credit cards. There are signs all over Akakura Onsen but I’m not sure many Japanese people have embraced it. The secret power of this app is as soon as you place your order it pops up on a tablet behind the counter, and suddenly your order becomes the highest priority for the kitchen. You just wait for the app to alert you that your order is ready and you walk to the front of the food queue and collect. We saved at least 30 minutes of lining up time.

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I highly recommend it if you plan on having lunch at one of the Onsen piste restaurants.

After we finished lunch, the boys half day tickets had expired so we dropped them back at the hotel and we then spent some time collecting runs at Onsen, that remained only chaotically busy.

Riding up to the highest point of Onsen, we again noted that they have not done anything to the netting under the chair since last year. I guess the positive is that if you fall, you’ll probably die, rather than just causing a whole stack of pain. On the negative, it will probably hurt the whole time you are dying.
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By about 2.30 the crowds started thinning out, but the snow had again softened and the light had gone quite flat, so we did a few more runs before heading in about 3.30pm.

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For dinner we went up to Lodge Hunter at the top of Main Street. It has a bit of everything on the menu; Japanese pub fare, sukiyaki, a delicious misu salmon steak and a fairly tasty tempura rice bowl with shrimp and vegetables. Everything is the usual ¥1000-¥1500. They do take bookings for tables if you want to lick in a 5.30-6.30pm start, but it reverts to first in best dressed after that.

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It started snowing ever so briefly as we walked back to the Refre, so the temps are right, we just need some moisture. We are keeping fingers crossed that the forecasted top ups happen, or even better would be a magical unforecasted half a meter. The pistes really needs it now.
 

Ozgirl

Part of the Furniture
Jul 5, 2007
15,813
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That app does look cool!

But yeah... dangerous cutting off and expensive ticket purchase (vs run time) Don't come to perisher! LOL
 
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blueandwhite

One of Us
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May 26, 2016
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Spike me old mucker, I think I can safely say that I'm not the only one around here who's hoping beyond hope that you check in on this thread at the end of the day with tales of all day pukage and general snowmageddon. Not likely I concede, but hope springs eternal for all of us...
 

Kimski

One of Us
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Jul 13, 2010
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I’m loving your report ElSpike :)

How would you rate Shiga Kogen conditions / snow compared to Myoko?
 

elSpike

I am a Meat Popsicle
Ski Pass
Jul 28, 2015
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I’m loving your report ElSpike :)

How would you rate Shiga Kogen conditions / snow compared to Myoko?
Due to current conditions Shiga > Myoko. In a normal season they are similar with Myoko having more surprise massive dump days.
 
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