Trip Report Tokyo to Tohuku and back - 2018

Tanuki

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It's pretty grim out there in the year of 2020; just when it looked like the gloom was receding we now have the doom in the USA.

I've been sitting on this TR for a couple of years and it seems now's the apt time for some joy and levity. It'll be mostly a photo essay with some paragraphs added later.

In short:
  • The plan was for three nights in the Akasaka neighbourhood of Tokyo, then catch the Shink from Tokyo to Morioka followed by the local train to Appi Kogen for 6 nights. Then back to Morioka for the Shinkansen to Sendai, followed by the local train and bus up to Zao Onsen for 5 nights then catch the Shink back to Tokyo - however best laid plans.....
  • We took the then new, JAL midnight flight Mel - Tokyo which was as usual an almost perfect experience. We were upgraded to Premium Economy which meant we were all able to have a nice sleep.
  • Immigration and baggage was a breeze, however the queue for the JR pass was looong and blew our schedule out by close to 2hrs. Finally on the NEX we reached Tokyo and Akasaka just in time for lunch and a draft beeru - heaven.
  • We chose Akasaka as we were looking for new area to stay in and the google machine showed good proximity to the sights, good transport options, plenty of food and good, diverse architecture. It did not disappoint on all accounts.
  • Looking for a room larger than the norm we found the Hotel New Atani which was built for the Olympics back in the day but had recently had a refurbishment. I highly recommend this place. https://www.newotani.co.jp/en/tokyo/
  • We spent the three days enjoying the sights, rambling the streets and sampling all the idiosyncratic culinary, audio and visual delights that Tokyo has to offer.


PSA. If you're planning on catching this Shikansen, or others in Japan, other than overhead storage this is the total available shared storage space. The trains were clearly designed for the business traveller so plan ahead and use Black Cat / Takyubbin if you can. I've struggled with a ski and board bag returning from Nagano Station, the local commuters were tolerant but that was 10 years so I don't know how socially acceptable it is to bring mega luggage along for the ride.
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Also, if you find yourself at Morioka Station drop into Aeron Coffee and Beer. It's a sweet little, locally owned place, highly recommended.
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Tanuki

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For those of you familiar with Tokyo I hope these pics bring back fond memories, for those who haven't been, here's a small sample of the craziness that is the megalopolis of Tokyo.

Here we go and coming in to land
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A rainy first night in Tokyo enhanced the aesthetics and the ambience. We found a nice sushi joint and a stand up Izakaya down the main walking street in Akasaka. Akasaka has two parallel walking streets chock-a-block full of eateries and knick knack shops.
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One of the main walking streets in Akasaka:
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Some public art up near Akasaka station:
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A stand up Yakatori bar where we had some delicious agadashi tofu and draft beer:
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Mother and daughter perusing the menu's:
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Crazy noise and lights room:
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Tanuki

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Ueno and surrounds, unfortunately the galleries and museums in the park were all closed.
My mascot
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Ueno Zoo fried chicken and Asahi draft
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Not sure what the issue is but I like the graphics and iconography
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Just chillin
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Caught her reflection
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Two dames admiring my daughter
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Yanaka Beer House
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Sadly all the museums were closed
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Somewhere in Yanaka
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Public Service Announcement at Nippori Station
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Significantly more craft brews available in Tokyo nowadays
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Firefighter manhole?
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A snack break for cold, grumpy and hungry 4yr old

Local Arch
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It is what it is

Another interesting, detailed shopfront that contributes the ambience and uniqueness of the street



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Tanuki

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We took a nice stroll through the Ueno Gardens and took our little one to the Zoo for the Panda's and the fried chicken. We then rambled through the back streets and the cemetery to Yanaka and the Cat Street for an afternoon snack at the Yanaka Beer Hall:
Ueno Gadens
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A Salaryman lost his way
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National Museum of Nature and Science
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The shopfronts of Yanaka & Cat Street - we wanted to return here after almost 10 years to see what has and hasn't changes and also to show our daughter the quirky shops and the alley cats. It doesn't disappoint as a destination.
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I'll add more words and pic titles later and finish this off tonight. I hope you enjoy - Tanuki.
 
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2ESki

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Yeah , great photo's have looked at them 3 times now, com'on Crispy013 at least you got to go this year, Son 23 and I were going in April to check out castles and such for a couple of weeks, well that went to :crap: . Still hoping to do the trip next year as things are looking like opening up again :thumbs:
 
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Tanuki

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So, as briefly detailed in the OP the plan was to split the time between Appi Kogen and Zao Onsen. We chose Appi as we wanted to get as far north in Tohuku and still be able to stay in the resort or village and not commute on a daily basis. Zao was to be the antithesis of Appi and the Synthesis would be Tokyo.

Unfortunately, whilst at Appi, mother nature intervened in the form of storm which closed down central Honshu and ground road and rail transportation to a halt. The thought of catching a bus, local train, Shink, local train and another bus with all our gear and a 4yr old was not a tantalising one (Takyubin was not operating out of APPI) We learnt that there was no guarantee that any of the services would be on time, let alone operate, so it was goodbye Zao, we never knew you as you fade into the memory bank.

On the obvious upside, any storm that's heavy enough to shut down Japan's notoriously efficient and robust transport system is going to deliver the goods on the hills of Honshu and yes, yes it did. We almost 5 day storm with constant, varying levels of precipitation in the form of blizzards and squalls over three days then light constant snow for another three days :)
Now here's an incoherent, auto-generated movie - enjoy!:out::cheers:

 
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Tanuki

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After 3 nights in the oversized and plush room at the Hotel New Otani it was time get our planks on. We were out the door way too early to Catch the 8.30am SHINKANSEN HAYABUSA express from Tokyo Station to Morioka. Having never used Tokyo Station we arrived early to ensure we could navigate the labyrinth, but it turns out the layout is intuitive and was considerably easier to find your way than Shinjuku station. We had a nice breakfast in the 'eating street', grabbed some snacks headed for the platform.
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Tokyo Station
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Yeah, nah. But on reflection, yes. They were delicious.
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Good coffee and mini beverage.
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Just your average fare
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As good a reason as any to visit Misato Town - Fire Akita
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Views from the window en route to Morioka
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A random ski field just north of Sendai (from memory)
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We didn't know what to expect at Morioka Station but assumed it wold be similar to other similar, regional hubs. The station is neat and easy to navigate, has a great range of shops and really nice local produce section. I'd highly recommend planning on having an hour there if possible to stock up on the local food, beverage and trinkets.
Cute lockers at Morioka Station
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Waiting for the local train at Morioka Station. Catching the sedate and casual local train is my favourite mode of transport in Japan. Invariably they travel through some quaint countryside, maybe along a river if you're lucky, through a snowy gorge. The local train is also more convivial than the Shink or the metro and travelling with a little kid means the locals like to come up and have a chat.
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Waiting for the shuttle at Appi Station.
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A local lager and the view from the room.
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Tanuki

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Yeah , great photo's have looked at them 3 times now, com'on Crispy013 at least you got to go this year, Son 23 and I were going in April to check out castles and such for a couple of weeks, well that went to :crap: . Still hoping to do the trip next year as things are looking like opening up again :thumbs:
Man, I hope you get there soon. In five trips to Japan I've yet to see a castle.
 
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2ESki

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Man, I hope you get there soon. In five trips to Japan I've yet to see a castle.
Son and self did 9 days in Tokyo last year and now he's hooked :rolleyes: went to Odawara castle [I know re-con] and were both in love with the history, I'm going to re-book for next year late March in a couple of week's, hope it's all open by then :thumbs:
 
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2ESki

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So, as briefly detailed in the OP the plan was to split the time between Appi Kogen and Zao Onsen. We chose Appi as we wanted to get as far north in Tohuku and still be able to stay in the resort or village and not commute on a daily basis. Zao was to be the antithesis of Appi and the Synthesis would be Tokyo.

Unfortunately, whilst at Appi, mother nature intervened in the form of storm which closed down central Honshu and ground road and rail transportation to a halt. The thought of catching a bus, local train, Shink, local train and another bus with all our gear and a 4yr old was not a tantalising one (Takyubin was not operating out of APPI) We learnt that there was no guarantee that any of the services would be on time, let alone operate, so it was goodbye Zao, we never knew you as you fade into the memory bank.

On the obvious upside, any storm that's heavy enough to shut down Japan's notoriously efficient and robust transport system is going to deliver the goods on the hills of Honshu and yes, yes it did. We almost 5 day storm with constant, varying levels of precipitation in the form of blizzards and squalls over three days then light constant snow for another three days :)
Now here's an incoherent, auto-generated movie - enjoy!:out::cheers:

Movie won't play for me :(
 

Tanuki

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What?! Not even Matsumoto?
Nice pics btw. Must visit Yanaka next trip. Looks quirky.
Not even, we're philistines. Yanaka is great, you can spend a whole day there and meandering through Ueno Park, the museums and then finish for dinner at Ueno market.
 

Tanuki

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So let's kick of the meat and gravy section of this report with a new video and my initial, simple thoughts about Appi Kogen.

Sailer A is named after a pioneering Austrian skier who frequented Appi, @Ramenman knows a bit about him. Sailer A is one the few designated powder / ungroomed runs and has an open tree run to the skiers right , however the trees to left have a better fall line and pitch. Sailer A, as seen in the vid has a great pitch and consistent fall line that tapers out to the bottom with a typically long run out.

This was my third run of the morning after five consecutive days of a huge storm. You can yesterdays tracks as only about 15cm fell overnight.

At the time my Initial thoughts after an afternoon on the hill were (check's notes):
Pros:
  • no crowds, no lift lines
  • good pitch and length of runs
  • very good, consistent fall line riding
  • easy access with little traversing
  • superb grooming, probably the best I've ever ridden on
  • well planned lift layout
  • potential for excellent tree skiing on par with Rusutsu but without the natural gullies (limited but expanding every year)
  • enough terrain for a 5 day stay
  • Good to great on mountain food and bev (as usual in Japan)
  • excellent area for kids (ski school was great for out then 4yr old daughter)
Yellow is one of the then existing tree runs, the red is part of the new expanded area.
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Mt Iwate with a local field on it's lower flanks
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Looking down Kitsutsuki a Skiers only run. 2km with a max 28 pitch. The snow was glorious and about as good as it gets on groomed packed powder & minus 7C.
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In the smaller tree run area about to drop into the small bowl next to Yamagara run. A few tricky terrain traps were present even in this small, easily accessible area.
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Cons:
  • some long run outs on flat terrain, sorry boarders.
  • not enough tree skiing permitted
  • some lifts don't run during the week, they mostly, duplicate other lifts but not in all cases
 
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Tanuki

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Looking down Hayabusa, length 3k and 30 degrees.
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Our first on mountains snack - delicious
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Snow from a previous storm. Still cold and cold.
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The evening news talking up the approaching storm
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'
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Walking with my daughter to the brand new onsen and roternburo. Although it's new, it has the authentic feel through design and ambience. Lots of different baths of different sizes and temps, both inside and out. Siting in a steaming onsen whilst snow falls on your head is pure joy.


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PMG

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Tanuki

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Alright, challenge accepted. Next trip to Japan is gonna be based on skiing near Castles, but still not visiting castle ;)
 

Heinz

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Sailer A is named after a pioneering Austrian skier who frequented Appi, @Ramenman knows a bit about him.

He was pretty handy. He won gold in Downhill, Giant Slalom & Slalom and by decent margins at the Olympics at Cortina d' Ampezzo in 1956. Then spend quite a bit of time in Japan especially Zao Onsen. He was extremely popular in Japan in the 60's making films. He was involved with the design on Appi Kogen. Has runs named after him in several areas.
 

PMG

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Alright, challenge accepted. Next trip to Japan is gonna be based on skiing near Castles, but still not visiting castle ;)
Tricky but probably can be done.
Btw, that looks like Hachimantai Shimokura in one of the pics above. We've never actually seen Mt. Iwate from Appi. It's either been snowing or just low vis.
 
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Tanuki

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Tricky but probably can be done.
Btw, that looks like Hachamantai Shimokura in one of the pics above. We've never actually seen Mt. Iwate from Appi. It's either been snowing or just low vis.
Yep, we didn't see it for five days.
 

Donza

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We've only done two..
But, although its not a castle...
We really thought Tōdai-ji in Nara was cool .
Very very impressive
 
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PMG

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We've only done two..
But, although its not a castle...
We really thought Tōdai-ji in Nara was cool .
Very very impressive
It's massive. I knew we'd been there, just couldn't remember when. 2009. Crowded aye?
Sorry Tanuki, no more derailing your thread. Keep the pics coming.
 

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Tanuki

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This was filmed on Yamabato which at 5.5 km run is the longest in APPI. It's a long cruiser that's not a designated powder run, however you float it where you can find it. There's a good café half way down.

Some scenery from around the resort
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After two nights at the buffet for dinner we chose to take the free shuttle bus into the local town for a walk and some dinner. The resort is proactively attempting to integrate Hachiamati town into the resort and they offer free shuttles during the day and night and have trips to the local ski fields and places of interest. I hadn't seen this at other bubble era resorts like Rusutsu or Tomamu where they want to trap your dollars in the resort . I think it's a good initiative but no nothing about what motivates it.
We got dropped of near the supermarket where we purchased some gloves, snacks for the room and some local whiskey. Jeez, they really dig whiskey.
We had planned to walk into the old town for dinner but it was way too cold for that and our Lil Bub was hungry. Fortunately the supermarket was a hub for some local izakaya and road houses.
Mega Whiskey
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Good gloves available for a bargain,
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Local beers for take away
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The dinner venue - outstanding mixed menu Izakaya. This is directly opposite the supermarket. The food was delicious and cheap, the hospitality was quirky and friendly and the ambience tatami and perfectly local Japanese.
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On another night I ventured into town on my own after hearing rumours of a small house that had a single chef who made famous sushi and ramen - go there if you're ever there.

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Tanuki

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Good vibes in Hachimantai. Still very rural, though not too far from civilisation.
Indeed, we were constrained by our then 4yr old and the intense cold of the storm, otherwise we'd have go in for dinner more often.
 

Tanuki

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Looking down Sailer Long, 4km long max 26 degrees. Sailer long and the surrounding runs face east-ish are were more protected during the storm.
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Tree zone at the top

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Hayabusa run in the centre.
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Looking down at Second Appi Second Run which they descrive as 'wide open piste with two steep drops on the way'. This lift never ran whilst we were there.
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Some night skiing pics.
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Heading to the new onsen.
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Tanuki

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Here's a selection of some of the food available around the resorts. In general the standard is as you'd expect in Japan = nice, cheap and easy food at the food halls, perfectly presented and prepared food at the buffets and excellent dining at the specialty restaurants.

This is the new Korean BBQ above the newly opened onsen.
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Nepalese curry at the Nep[alese restaurant in the main centre.
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Cake and coffee on the mountain.
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The Sacred Apple
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The main food hall near the base of the Gondola. Lots of great, tasty options.
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The blue is the then existing tree run, the red the new. The blue had short, limited runs but with a good pitch and well spaced trees. The red in the centre had a great, consistent fall line but tighter trees. I assume they thinned them out once opened last year.
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Yellow existing, red the new tree area. The red area extends further down below the ridge. Excellent skiing, most bodacious. Large well spaced, snow monster tree at the top and denser, tighter trees lower down.
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Tanuki

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I'm generally not a fan of night skiing but assume I'll do it more as my daughter ages in the target demographic. Couldn't resist in Appi though as there was copious amounts of fresh powder on offer and a reasonable slope to ride (rather than a dull green run that I've usually encountered) Night skiing runs from the base on the Shirakaba and Kakesu runs - at least in 2018. In true APPI style they conduct a thorough, fastidious groom before nighta commences but leave plenty of slope side powder to ride. Sadly I can't find any vids of the skiing - grrrr. Lost in the mega drive somewhere.
 
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Froff Life

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I'm generally not a fan of night skiing but assume I'll do it more as my daughter ages in the target demographic. Couldn't resist in Appi though as there was copious amounts of fresh powder on offer and a reasonable slope to ride (rather than a dull green run that I've usually encountered) Night skiing runs from the base on the Shirakaba and Kakesu runs - at least in 2018. In true APPI style they conduct a thorough, fastidious groom before nighta commences but leave plenty of slope side powder to ride. Sadly I can't find any vids of the skiing - grrrr. Lost in the mega drive somewhere.
I fell in love with night skiing at Niseko, where the runs are long enough to make rugging up in the cold so worth it. Visibility is often much better at night if it's snowing too under the lights, such a magic experience!
 

Tanuki

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I fell in love with night skiing at Niseko, where the runs are long enough to make rugging up in the cold so worth it. Visibility is often much better at night if it's snowing too under the lights, such a magic experience!
Yeah I've heard about the Niseko night skiing - I'd be up for that.
 
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