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Trip Report Rush's Nozawa Onsen trip report

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Rush, Jan 14, 2019.

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  1. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    Rather than trash Lady P's thread I thought I'd start my own. This was my second Japanese ski trip, the first was to Niseko in 2015 with mates. This trip had the added complication of bringing the whole family. Hence, I choice Nqzawa Onsen as it has a good English speaking ski-school and provides a complete cultural experience with plenty to do for the tourist, not just skier.

    After some dramas getting from Shinjuku to Iiyama (see this post) we arrived at Nqzawa Onsen in the afternoon of the 9th, at the tail end of the storm of the season.

    Views from our hotel room (close to the moving walkway to Hikage)
    (Remember to click through the Instagram links which have multiple photos per post)


    We pre-booked family ski rental at the St Anton rental place at Hikage.

    Looking back at the village from the bottom of the moving walkway
     
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  2. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    The next day was Bluebird with packed powder on all the slopes.

    After some short-lived tears of apprehension from my daughter we dumped the kids in ski school. She was quite worried about skiing in Japan, until I pointed out that chairlifts work the same all around the world and skiing is a universal language.

    I had booked a private lesson on the first morning for the wife and I, partly to get some local knowledge and to give my wife some pointers in deep-snow. This turned out to rather futile as most of the intermediate-accessible powder was tracked-out/groomed already, and the instructors aren't allowed to go off-piste (even in the sanctioned areas off Yamabiko) while in uniform.

    Still it was a great tour of the mountain and I got some tips about using my knees more to initiate turns. After a few laps of the Yamabiko pistes we tackled Skyline and then headed back to pick up the kids. I took a detour and headed down the black run 28 (Jumping) off Skyline which was pretty tricky in the chopped-up deep snow. The adjacent black run 27 (Grand Prix) was closed by patrol due to big glide-cracks (which also closed off most of the black run 31). It was fairly evidence that Nqzawa has plenty of in-bounds steeps. After lunch my son and I headed back to Yamabiko and skied it all day until closing. Heading all the way back down the mountain (via Forest trail) in the golden sunlight was a treat.






    One of the town's oldest onsens (the oldest?) is a short walk from the hotel so we decided to embrace the cultural experience.
     
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  3. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Waving at you from Tokyo, Rush!
     
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  4. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    The next morning the wife and I tackled Skyline again, heading back to Karasawa via run 43 (much wider and easier than run 42). I found about 100 metres of untracked powder near run 35. As I had booked a backcountry trip in a few days I was desperate to find my powder legs again and was hunting around like a rabid dog for any easily-accessible fresh I could find.

    I also had a few laps of black run 36 (Hachiman), again a challenge in the deep and soft chopped up snow.

    That afternoon I returned to Yamabiko with my son and I attempted to find some untracked in areas between the pistes. We skied home via the red Challenge/Utopia runs which would be marked black in any Australian resort. I poked my head over the top of Challenge-39 (the steepest marked run on the hill with a maximum gradient of 39 degrees) but decided to give it a miss this early into the ski trip. While my son stuck to the centres of the runs I again hunted around like a manic powder hound trying to make any untracked powder turns (I think I got two). Still, I was very impressed with my son's skiing which was coming along in leaps and bounds.
     
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  5. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    We are back in Tokyo from the 17th-22nd. What about you?
     
  6. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    We head to Niseko tomorrow for the next ten days, and we're leaving for Taiwan straight from there so not back in Tokyo.
     
  7. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    The next morning I played around in between the Yamabiko runs, trying to find some fresh tracks while not getting stuck in gullies and dead-ends. Skied the Schnieder black run on the way back to pick up the kids for lunch. In the afternoon the family mucked around in the Uenotaira snow park (both kids loved the rollers), and then my son and did a few more laps of Challenge/Utopia.

    Can't recall what runs I did on Saturday morning. This was the beginning of a Japanese long weekend and it was clearly apparent that the resort was going to be very busy. In the afternoon we found out how quickly the upper Yamabiko runs can be mogulled. Coming home from Yamabiko 5 was a real adventure. At one point my daughter was lying on her side on top of a mogul in the middle of the run, my wife was stuck in a backwards snow-plough at the side of the run, while my son was getting back into his skis after performing a double-ejection at the bottom of the mogul field. I had to revert to 'ski-guide' and led the family through the mogul field issuing strict and direct instructions, all the while while dodging traffic of Mt-Hotham-Salom-Gully-esque proportions. Perhaps I was naive but I never felt in danger as I do on Slalom Gully as the Japanese skiers all tended to ski in control and were quite polite.
     
  8. mannyk

    mannyk One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Nice pics.. being able to ski with your son is a treat for you both.. :thumbs:
     
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  9. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    Sunday was my backcountry day. I was a bit apprehensive as I still hadn't gotten my 'powder feet' back but luckily they came back fairly quickly. It was my first time on skins and I was really looking forward to it.

    After some warm-up runs on Yamabiko we turned off Yamabiko one for some avalanche rescue practise. Then back to the top, and under the rope for a quick run along the SE face off Yamabiko. Then my first ever skin back up the ridge line leading up to Aoki (1633 metres). Then a longer run below the summer road, before skinning back up to the road and into the resort for an early lunch.



    The lines we skied can be seen in that last picture, off the ridge behind the snowboarder who is walking along the road.
     
  10. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    After lunch we tackled some serious stuff (I guess it's always the case in guided tours that they serve up the easy stuff first to check the skill level). We exited the resort along the Uenotaira snow park and skinned along a ridge before tackling a steep drop-off with tight trees. I resorted to combat skiing including a kick turn and sliding down between the trees. Thankfully this formidable beginning opened up into a beautiful gully where the whole group got loads of fresh turns.

    We then skinned about 275 metres up from the forest floor back into the resort. We were meant to then catch the Kandahar chair and ski off the back to Mushiu (the next village along the road) but we ran out of time.
     
  11. Hyst

    Hyst Enjoyer Ski Pass: Gold

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    "Rush's Nozawa Onsen trip report"

    Looking forward to the onsen pictures. :whistle: Remember - you always see nice ladies on the adds. :fishing_ubb:

    Leality is slightly different! :headbang:
     
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  12. Lady Penelope

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

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    I thought Kandahar was closed to all but those in race training? Those groomed steeps look so tempting. Great pics, and some validating comments about the steep runs (the Challenge black part was where I had an early stack with skis left uphill).
     
  13. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    You can load up the Kandahar chair as long as you don’t ski down the run!
     
  14. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    So windy today they shut the Nagasaka Gondola, Skyline access chair and Uenotaira chair during the day. Skiing up on Yamabiko was challenging.

    After lunch they opened the Kandahar chair to the general public. Great skiing on a long black groomer.

    Ventured down to watch the fire festival with the kids, now watching it live on TV in our hotel room as we pack.
     
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  15. Lady Penelope

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

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    Damn! I wish I’d known that!
     
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  16. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    This morning it was just the boy and I. We were leaving today but I decided to book a private with one of his group instructors who really helped my son's skiing come along in leaps and bounds.

    Estimates for overnight snow were about 20 cm. Unfortunately it was so light and dry that you pretty much sunk right through it and hit the hard surface underneath (i.e. dust on crust, although 'dust' is perhaps not reflective of the actual depth of fresh). The instructor decided to take my son down Skyline as a first step into powder immersion. I took a detour down Black #28 (Jumping) which looked awesome, until you started skiing it and realised you were skiing the same hard and icy bumps as yesterday, but with a deep, light and fluffy topping. The extra snow did help with speed control however.

    After the lesson we decided to do one more run, and we tackled Schneider/Utopia. My son had done it in a lesson a few days earlier, but this time it was with fresh powder. While Schnieder was another example of dust on crust, Utopia did offer some genuine 'bottomless' powder turns in amongst the chopped-up snow. It was thigh-deep for me in places and my son had an absolute ball. Quote "skiing powder was the best experience of my life."

    Sounds like we have another convert.




    After that we caught the taxi back to Iiyama. We are now back in Tokyo.

    All up today's snowfall in itself wasn't powder heaven but it will help reset the base for Friday's follow-up snowfalls which should make for epic conditions for those lucky enough to ski them.
     
    #16 Rush, Jan 16, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
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  17. Rush

    Rush Pool Room

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    Back in Australia now. It seems the trip was too successful. I'm looking for further backcountry options for the next trip (perhaps Hakuba?) or looking at some Hokkaido resorts I haven't done (Furano, Tomamu).

    But the wife was so enamoured with Nozawa as a perfect place for a 'casual intermediate' to hang out and enjoy when not skiing, as well as being very easy to take kids to/from ski school, that I don't think she wants to go anywhere else.

    First world problems.
     
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  18. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    IMO your family would like Naeba
     
  19. nickdos

    nickdos Hard Yards

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    Nice write-up. My family and I were there for the week of the fire festival as well. We were staying very close to the Nagasaka gondola which got massive brownie points from the wife and youngest. I was expecting Nozawa to be more crowded than it turned out to be - I think my "crowded" meter is set a bit "high" after only skiing during school holidays in Oz for the last few years. Longest lift line wait was 10-15 min first thing on the gondola. I didn't try to get first tracks (which requires getting a spot in the gondola line very early) due to skiing with wife and kids, which was fine. We visited the snow monkeys mid week (to give the youngest child a rest) and that morning, I skied from early to noon on my own and probably had the best runs of the trip (snowed heavily the night before).

    The family loved the mountain and the level of runs was well suited to my intermediate level kids and upper intermediate wife. I found the runs a bit boring after a few days. The major issue was the decent black runs were no where near the blue runs (with a few exceptions off Skyline) and as we tend to all ski together, there were few opportunities to tackle harder runs for myself. This contrasts with Thredbo and Perisher where there are more black options on the same lifts as blue runs. Its also a bit frustrating that most of the black runs are not groomed and were very hard packed when we arrived. After a couple of good snow falls they were much better to ski but you get tired of moguls pretty quickly when skiing on 100mm waist skis (not to mention I don't ski moguls nearly as well as I did 15-20 years ago).

    This was our first Japan trip and felt Nozawa was a great choice for our family, especially as we were there for fire festival and got to see the snow monkeys (which we loved). We only skied 5 days in the end, which was enough for just Nozawa. We spent another 6 nights in Tokyo which was also amazing. I was worries we should've tried to see other cities but glad we didn't as there was still plenty of things we didn't get to in the end.
     
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