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

elSpike

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Day 16 - Is this family ever not on holiday?

It strikes me that you may think day 16 of a holiday may be too much. Having lived through it, I can assure you it isn’t. I highly recommend it if you have the means. Narrator: Stop showing off and get to the report.

This morning didn’t quite live up to the potential of last night. There was a bit of snow falling as we drifted off to sleep, but it mustn’t have been for long at village level as not much seemed to have accumulated when we went downstairs.

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Leaning on our host’s largess once again, we jumped into one of Peter’s three vans for the short drive over to Suginohara, hoping to be on one of the first gondolas. This was not to be the case, as when we arrived at 8.15am, the gondola was already running, and there were already a not insignificant amount of people coming down the mountain. Maybe they run early on public holidays?

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The ride up revealed maybe 5cm of fresh snow increasing to maybe 7-8cm at the top. It’s not much but it was enough to soften the icy hard pistes a bit.

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The morning session was a lot of fun, with enough snow to make having wider skis worthwhile, though it was still a bit patchy at the bottom areas.

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The snow started falling and continued on and off again as we played in the limited powder while it was still there.

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About 10am the mist started to gather in bands at various altitudes, making the runs a little more interesting, and causing a little bit of congestion as groups tried to stay closer together than usual.

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We then decided to move over to the other side of Sugi and were greeted with wide open runs that were very fun to carve.

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There were still bands of mist working their way through too, but it didn’t take away from the great time being had by all.

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It felt like our mountain again after the craziness of Kanko yesterday.

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The summit chair (the one that looks like it has yellow coat buttons stuck on the side) rarely had a queue, but the temperature noticeably dropped when up there. Brrrrrr.

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With the pistes still carving well, we went to lunch early, hoping to miss the rush and return to the slopes while everyone else ate.

For lunch we ate at the little village near the base of the quad on the far side. I don’t know their names, but we went to the yellow wall one. We chose it as the two closer ones didn’t have meals for everyone due to dietary requirements.

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The menu looked good.

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The food looked (and tasted) better.

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After lunch we did more of the same, though the lower sections started getting sticky.

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By 2.30pm it started getting sleety and more of the lower areas had been badly tracked out. In particular the section in front of where the bus stop is was looking very brown and large dirt patches had been exposed. With the moisture and the dirty snow it started getting so grabby that it was time to head home.

A decent haul of runs for what is essentially spring skiing.

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While lining up for the bus it started really snowing with large light flakes, and continued for most of the afternoon. We saw at least 2cm on top of the roofs that were bare in the morning.

Even as we walked up to Lamber Jack 2 for another okonomiyaki dinner it was still falling. It’s eased a bit as I write this but there is still light falls.

Fingers crossed for a nice white blanket awaiting us tomorrow!
 

elSpike

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Day 17 - Groundhog Day!

Yesterday was so much fun, we essentially did it again, but more of it. Narrator: A bit like a Die Hard sequel.

The morning window view showed a decent lining on the neighbour’s roof.

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Down by the car we were greeted with brilliant blue sky and nicely dusted trees.

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We got a lift and discount vouchers from Peter again this morning, sharing the car with two other guys who were staying at the Refre as well. Luke, a fellow skier, and Brady, a 4 day old Snow Boarder with zero fear and an inexhaustible ability to fall over and keep going. “I can turn and stop, what else do you need?”

Sugi was indeed the place to be. Maybe 20 people were queued at the bottom gondola as we arrived at 8.15, and that theme of tiny numbers continued through the day.

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Other than fairly decent numbers of soldiers on telemark skis that were strapped to their combat boots, I doubt there were more than 1-200 people on the entire mountain all day. Runs were very empty.

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And, while the snow was patchy at times, there was a decent amount of clean lines to be found throughout the resort.

As I posted in the gear thread, these sort of conditions were perfect for the 99Ti K2 Mindbenders we have all been using. They floated when there was stuff to float on, and cut through the crud like butter if you drive them hard.

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One funny thing that happened early is Mr11 got inspired by all the other skiers who were doing a small jump on a ramp next to one of the quad poles and decided that he was going to do it too. He demanded that we video him.



I, of course, had to post it to social media immediately.

Narrator: You may notice that we have very few photos of Mr14 in these posts.
Mr14 loves to go fast.
Mr14 only wants to know which chair to meet at for the next run.
Mr14 has now started timing the interval between him reaching that chair and when we show up.
Mr14 is absolutely a 14yo!


Here is the only non-chairfie phot we have of Mr14 for the entire day.
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Anyway, back to it. The runs remained pretty well clear all the way through.

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We essentially lapped the lower quad on the left side of the mountain all the way through the morning. There are so many varied ways to go from the top of this chair to the loading point.

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The views remained spectacular.

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Lunch was repeated at the yellow place from yesterday with essentially the same food Narrator: Groundhog Day duh. With the exception being Mrs elSpike having a soft serve, rather than a hot chocolate, for dessert. (Details are important)

As we exited the restaurant from lunch, we looked back and could see far off onto the distance. “What’s that diamond resort?” Asked Mr11.

It was Yokote and Ichinose, as clear as could be! 60ish km away. Love this Japanese mountain air!

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We miss Shiga already.

For a couple of hours after lunch we skied together, but by 2pm the boys were getting tired, so we packed them off on the bus home while we stayed to do just a little more.

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Unfortunately we then started spotting small hordes of minions and due to Sigi’s more intermediate terrain, they were rarely upright for more than a few turns.

Added to this, the most started coming in, so we decided to start heading home ourselves around 3pm.

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We caught the 3.30pm bus back to Refre, and soaked in the Onsen good and proper after completing our biggest day skiing yet!

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Almost 52km of skiing and just shy of 10km of vert. I bet I feel that in the morning.

But, that big a day may mean that we might have a pretty cool milestone to share in the season so far summary that I’ll wrote on the train back to Tokyo tomorrow afternoon.

That’s right sports fans, tomorrow is our last skiing day for this trip. The stupid real world is about to catch up with us. Booooooo.
 
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blueandwhite

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He’d want me to say that his park skills aren’t all bad!



Nice work! Which resorts in Myoko are best for park stuff out of interest Spike? I'm not talking the real big stuff, just the small to medium stuff, boxes, smaller jumps etc. If the conditions aren't great it's good to know where we can have a bit of fun in the park. Some resorts we've been to elsewhere in Japan have had nothing at all, others have had heaps.
 

elSpike

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Nice work! Which resorts in Myoko are best for park stuff out of interest Spike? I'm not talking the real big stuff, just the small to medium stuff, boxes, smaller jumps etc. If the conditions aren't great it's good to know where we can have a bit of fun in the park. Some resorts we've been to elsewhere in Japan have had nothing at all, others have had heaps.
Sugi has the biggest and best on Mt Myoko. If you can’t find stuff you like there you aren’t trying.
 

elSpike

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Day 18. The final day.

That’s right sports fans. This is the final instalment for this trip report. Narrator: Finally...

Once again, the peek out the window didn’t do much to inspire.

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But a final hearty breakfast at Refre Hotel left us in good spirits to tackle the day. We packed up our luggage and stored it in the downstairs room before pulling on the boots one last time and making our way to Kanko and Onsen for the morning.

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With no new snow we didn’t expect there to be too many eager beavers but a small, but healthy, line still formed behind us as we waited for the first lifts at the bottom triple of Onsen.

It was still a very pleasant ride up the hill with such a blue sky and clear air.

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I even managed to snap a quick pic of Mr14 before he shot off ahead.

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Needing just a little more vert for something pretty cool that I’ll y’all about later, our plan was to go to Kanko early and do a few laps on the main slope.

Thankfully the gondola line was non existent today so it was straight on and up.

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That ride revealed just how thread are some of the runs were looking. Myoko desperately needed a top up soon.

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We did have the hill essentially to ourselves for almost the entire day. The only exception being the ever present Army groups (this time some very beginner groups on the lower runs) and the occasional school group of minions. Easy enough to dodge.

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Around 11am we’d had our fill of Kanko and made our way toward Onsen, choosing a route that would take us over some of your favourite pistes.

I also took the opportunity to fill up on a Boss Black, probably my favourite vending machine coffee.

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I haven’t taken too many sign pictures this time as I covered most of them, including the warnings about how much search and rescue costs per hour, in last years trip report, but this one was new and gave me a chuckle.

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I think it’s the idea that there is a low risk cliff out there.

The last few hours, we spent some time touring around Onsen, again looking for our favourite runs and generally have a relaxed time.

Occasionally there were bands of fog and cloud, but they passed pretty quickly.

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And then the blue sky would return.

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By 1ish it was time to say our fond farewell with one last turn down the section we call “first tracks”, drinking in the ski and the feeling of the skis under our feet before unclipping and walking up to Myoko Snowsports to, very reluctantly, return our skis.
More on the skis later too.

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Then it was one more dip in the Refre’s Onsen and a final pack down of our gear which thankfully all seemed to fit back in.

Peter dropped us at Myoko Station in time for us to catch the 3.30pm train to Nagano. As is the way of things, it started to puke down with snow on the drive out of Akakura village!

The local train is still a very pretty line, even as the snow turned to sleet closer to Nagano.

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We connected with the Asama 628 Shinkansen that departs at 5.09pm from Nagano. I really like this Shink as it has a very important addition.

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Luggage area! This one is at the front of Car 10 but I’m pretty sure all of the reserved cars have them.

So. In summary, how did team elSpike do on the skiing front.

Looking at the numbers, we definitely gave it a red hot go.

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588km of skiing in 17 days, and a massive 102km vertical decent. That’s the number we were chasing today. We can say that on this trip, we skied down from space. Narrator: space is recognised to be 100km above sea level We were pretty chuffed with that stat!

I’ll do another summary of Myoko like it did for Shiga later too but for now, thanks a lot for following along, for sharing your comments and encouragements and for following along with a family of ski mad tragics.

Until next trip!

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elSpike out.
 
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elSpike

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Ok. I did promise. Sorry for the delay, here is my summary of Myoko:

The Skiing and the Snow

Myoko really didn't put on it's best showing while we were there, the combination of this weird season, and the lower altitude of the Myokan resorts meant that the skiing was always going to be variable. That said, we did get in some great days, and at no point, other than that first transit day, did we choose not to ski. The individual resorts all have their own pluses and minuses, but I think Sugi is the winner for our level of skiing ability, and how we like to ski, but I really do have a soft spot for Ikenotaira with it's undulating rollers at the top and it's wide open greens at the bottom.

Sugi definitely has it over the other resorts due to it's elevation and the fast quad taking you to the top.

Refre Hotel
We booked in to Refre hotel mostly out of wanting to be close to the bus stop, but as it turns out, that wasn't really needed in the mornings and so many other qualities endeared it to us. Peter and Jenn (how Aussie is that couple name?) have set themselves up an incredibly welcoming environment that instantly feels like home. They have about 9 or 10 rooms in the whole place and a fantastic lounge downstairs where most of the families congregated each afternoon/evening before and after dinner. The breakfast spreads are great. Lots of choices and probably some of the best prepared poached eggs I've ever had. Peter or one of the staff was always willing to give us a lift wherever we needed to go (we mostly just took him up on the offer to drop us at the resort each morning) and nothing was ever too much trouble. Their rates were very good value as well which was a bonus.

The best test of any accommodation is whether you would go there again. We definitely will if at all possible. You should too.

Restaurants
Myoko, Akakura in particular, has a plethora of restaurants for your evening meals. We really didn't find any we didn't like. Most of them are entered on the Main Street up the hill and the T at the top so a wander through the village will turn up lots of options. Year to year, we saw a couple of newer 'bars' near the top of the hill, doing western pizzas and the like that always seemed to have room early, so if you are pressed for options they will probably do the trick.

Our first advice in Akakura is to book ahead of time if you can. Especially for the more popular places. If you can, take a walk on your first evening and pop in to the places personally to make bookings. We find the personal touch to sometimes get a booking where a phonecall might not. Your accommodation can help with bookings as well if you prefer.

Some places to call out:

Udon-no-fu - A quirky basement restaurant run by an older couple. They serve incredible udon hotpots, and if you are lucky they will share their expansive collection of weird and wonderful sakes. It's what I imagine going to a Japanese grandma's house would have been like.

Shiro - At the top of the hill on the left side. you go down some steps and there are two restaurants. One is all about chicken. the other is Shiro, a Gyoza place that has maybe 6 tables. We literally ordered one of every gyoza plate. So so so good.

Shibata - just across from The Address hotel. Fantastic vegetarian options as well as the usual Izakaya style menu and a wonderful host. Seriously. I really enjoyed the agadashi tofu here.

Restaurant Samurai - Under The Address hotel. This year they are doing a set menu with two sittings. It's something like Y4000. Treat yourself. You won’t regret it.
 
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elSpike

I am a Meat Popsicle
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Another big thanks from our family too. Your report was invaluable and I regularly found myself referring to it when we were in Shiga Kogen last week for restaurant and terrain tips. Love your work.
Glad you found it useful. Feel free to add any restaurants or terrain tips I missed too!
 
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