Snow, Fruit, and an Onsen

Maybe I do this too much?

The Latest Ski Trip - Zhao #3

Wade (did I mention I hang out with rock stars?) and I on our way to hit a jump-filled run at Zhao

That's right, we went back! I had a lot of people at the dorms giving me flack for never getting them out to go skiing, so when I was invited by the heroic Nori to go on another trip, I leaned on him a bit and invited a few (cough, cough) other people. In all, we became a group of right around twenty.

Count the gaijin!

Half of the group?

We went back to the ramen place and completely filled it up with our group. Well, there was one other, but more on the ramen place in a bit. I'm just trying to get a feel for how many people we had across.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

We also rented out every room in the lodge we were staying at, which came across much nicer than the last place, even though, realitistically, it wasn't. But at the same time, they didn't have any jerks trying to screw with us and weren't trying to put on a front about what they were.  They were a place right across the street from a ski lift, and they had a floor you could sleep on. They're cheap.

Squeezing everyone into a room at the lodge (but not into the frame of the photo)

Running Crew

So, as for the skiing itself, I've pretty much covered what the place is like in previous posts on it. Still, a few things to mention, like some notes on my running crew.

The first time I rocked with this crew, two of the cats were telling me how they were all into jumping, and wanted any advice I had on that. To be honest, I suck at jumps. Matt go fast, not up. Still, I was excited to see what they could throw down, and then bewildered when I first saw them boarding. I was expecting something more, finesse-y. Sorry guys!

Still, as the season has gone on, they've gotten way, way better. Both were hitting jumps at the actual park at Zhao, and when Sarah and I left the park she was keeping up with me just fine on all but the steepest stuff, where I would find powder stashes and bomb, whereas she'd have to navigate all the clumsy skiers down the middle. On the second day, we were joined by a fellow named Pieter.

Pieter and some other Europeons who don't matter

Aside: Eboshi

That's Pieter in the blue jacket, looking off to the left. Anyways, I first met him quite awhile back when we ate abura soba together. We had talked skiing, and finally went out together on a ski trip the day after I got back to Sendai after going to Kyoto.

I didn't have much to say about the place that we went and never ended up writing about it, so this will have to count. The snow quality that day was, really, quite crappy, and the runs were all rather meh. Thus, I ended up amusing myself by just bombing through the huge crowds, scaring myself more than the people I barely avoided killing by kicking snow up on them and skating by. When I met Pieter there in the afternoon, he was lamenting not having someone who could keep up, so we put each other through our paces. He kept up, horay.

Snowboarding Zhao

That one British guy and me

So, the afternoon of the second day at Zhao Pieter, Sarah and I were going vroom and she was keeping up. It was neat to see a friend get that much better that fast. Getting towards the end of the day, Sarah and Disa (cause she was there too!) went off to do some last-minute onsen dipping, so Pieter and I really started to go. In particular, I found a way to get under one of the lifts, so we went down a crazy-terrain powder-filled happy place.

There was one downside to the day. Far off on the side of one run, if you build the speed up right you can hop up a hill and then shoot down its very steep backside - it's not meant to be used, but it's there! One of the runs I was doing that on, well, I found a pipe buried in the snow.

Where did my board hit the pipe? I wonder...

Fruit fruit fruit

Pineapple and. annnd. annnnnnd! well, it's green.

We had lunch and dinner at the terrific ramen shop right by Sky Lift gondola. Lunch was just a few of us, whereas the big dinner group is photoed above.

They once again were kind enough to bust out the goods for us gaijin. The next photo gives an idea of what the fruit's like.

That's right, we're doing a kanpai (cheers) with fruit

Yeah, something like that.

Earlier, I mentioned there was another group of people there. Well, apparently they knew the store's mama-san pretty well, as they let us know it was her birthday. To make up for imposing on her on her birthday, Sarah ran and got a birthday present for her, and Wade did a nice little toast.


And then there was the best part of all

Midnight Onsen

It's not exactly easy to find on this map, but let's have a try.

Zhou 2013

The bottom of the slopes, towards the middle, contains lifts #3 and #31, written in green circles. The photo at the top of this post was taken riding 31 there, and our lodge was just across the street from the gondola at #3.  Found it? Good. just up the slope that those two go up is #30, and just left of that is what looks to be a bridge. Well, it is a bridge, and if you've been practicing your kanji you'll notice that the red dot attached to the bridge notes that there's an outdoors natural onsen that runs through there.
A picture of the onsen (kind of) taken from the bridge

Well, one of the members of our party was determined to go back there and enjoy a lovely dip. There were two problems with that: the place is halfway up a mountain, and more importantly, wasn't open, or better put, doesn't open. Is never open? Well, only a few days of the year can you actually use the place.

These problems didn't stop us.

A group of six hiked up the freshly groomed trails at night, strategically cleared snow and lay down jackets to create a place to change without having to do it in snow, and enjoyed one of the best nights that mountain has ever seen.

We were a bit down in a valley the natural spring had carved out and were snowed on the entire time. It was really something to just stand there, snow falling on your skin while your feet stay in the warmth of the water. When the conversation stopped, it was easy to just close your eyes, pretend you're alone on the mountain, relax, and listen.

Having my eyes closed, just listening to the falling flakes, the trickling waterfalls of the spring flowing down the valley, the distant groans of the wind and trees above the springs, will be the one memory of my trips to Zhao that I won't need to preserve on this blog.

Matt Enlow

Matt has a camera, a home on wheels, and this website
Down by the river