So there I was, on the side of a mountain, crying. Not the dainty, elegant tears of a damsel in distress, but the ugly, embarrassing crying of a terrified child who just needs her mom. Luckily, I have the best husband on the face of the planet, who let me have it out and get over myself enough to strap my boots back on and get with the program. Oh, wait a minute. I should explain exactly how I got here.
The night view from the room in our Shiga Kogen hotel.
I am a beginner skier. I was a little over-confident in taking on the slopes of Shiga Kogen, the mountain where we stayed in Nagano. And I definitely wasn’t ready to admit I was far behind the rest of the group when it came to my ability to strap two thin boards to my feet and fearlessly fly down the side of a snowy mountain. I wanted to be just like everyone else, who had skied growing up and knew how to gracefully glide down the frosty mountainside, but my experience was more like terror at the idea of lack of control, combined with relief only coming once I relaxed a bit and let myself go. Emotionally, this was especially difficult because when you’re traveling the world, the last thing you want to admit is that you’re not having fun. But hey, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you, right?
I had skied a few times in the past, so I wasn’t brand new, but I definitely wasn’t ready for much more than the green circles. I was relatively successful in my couple of runs on the first day, and had a blast doing a few runs during night skiing sessions. I wasn’t the worst skier in the world!
On our second day, I put on some boots that didn’t fit exactly right in the ankles, but after already slowing everybody down trying to get the right equipment together, I pushed forward, telling myself the pain wasn’t that bad. After only one ski lift, I needed to get back down the mountain with the help of a patrol because there was just no way my ankles could hold up if I actually tried to ski back down. I did meet an awesome Japanese PhD student who spends her weekends patrolling the mountains particularly to help English-speakers like myself, but I cost us a couple hours of skiing in the morning by the time we got down to the lodge and took a shuttle over to our home base to get some new boots.
Once the matter was settled, I was ready to give it another shot until we tried to take on a red square hill (clearly a great idea) and I totally wiped out. I didn’t recover well, hence the tears and the realization that I don’t think I could find a better person in the world than he who was willing to wait out my hyper-emotional crash. Thanks to J’s patience and encouragement, I eventually got down the green run after picking up my gear and walking to the other hill, and spent the afternoon enjoying myself even though I was weaving through all of the ski-schoolers and probably boring my expert-skier husband to death.
Our time in Nagano was really amazing despite the aforementioned situation, and we were able to catch a lot of great footage on our little GoPro cam. I have been working hard to learn some video editing software that will work with the right file formats, which is why it took me so long to get this last post up for you all.
A quick, 90-second overview of our weekend in Nagano:
If you’re looking for a good place to stay to ski in Nagano, Hotel Khuls is it. With (basic) equipment rental included in your room price, as well as a restaurant on site and ski in/out to a popular lift on the Shiga Kogen mountain, this place is really hard to beat. You get a traditional Western-style bed, which is not incredibly easy to find in a ski resort around Nagano, a few good meals, and easy access to the slopes.
It wasn’t a warm beach, but between the rush of city life in Tokyo, the exotic animals in the snow, and figuring out how to achieve balance, we really couldn’t have asked for a better trip. The okonomiyaki meal we shared for Ryan’s birthday was a great way to close out our time together.
Enjoying a meal of okonomiyaki, a pancake full of meat and vegetables with savory noodles. Notice the little girls behind J, who were just enthralled by the rare Western visitors to the local restaurant.
After a few shared Shiga Kogen beers and a trip back to Tokyo on the Shinkansen bullet train, it was time to say sayonara to Japan after a fantastic weekend with some friends.