We awoke to Bixby alarm telling us it was snowing so opened the curtains and she was right, it was snowing. In fact it didn’t let up all day, just the intensity from light to dumping.
A nice cooked breakfast at the hotel then we were on the 815am shuttle bus to Iwatake Ski Field. I think we must have taken every street as it took 45 minutes to get there. The bus was chockers with these flip down seats that fill the aisle when all the other seats are taken.
The snow was coming down hard but there was no wind so it felt not too cold but it was 4C. One thing about Japan, once you turn 50, you become a Senior and get reduced lift tickets. So we were going to get 2 adults (Y4400 each) and 2 seniors (Y3900 each) when the girl said it is cheaper to buy a package with 4 adult tickets so instead of paying Y16600 we payed Y14400 which worked out at Y3600 each.
First lift up was to the top of the mountain in a gondola. Looked great out the windows with the snow falling then half way up the fog came in as well and visibility was down to 50 metres. When we got to the top the visibility dropped to 20 metres.
A green run to warm the legs up was chosen but due to poor signage and no visibility we struggled to find it. We found a run that we thought was it but as we were headed down, jumps and slides appeared out of the fog. We were in the terrain park. It wasn’t too bad if you dodged the obstacles so we kept on this for a while. There was no one else on it so the lift was our own. The lifties have little straw vrooms and sweep the powder snow off the seat before you sit down. Very civilised.
It was time for a break and hopefully allow the fog to lift. It even wasn’t easy finding a 2 storey building on the summit but got it in the end. The fog ws getting worse so we headed down to where the fog wasn’t too bad and did a lot of 1 km runs including some through the trees.
In the afternoon the snow was still heavy and the fog didn’t lift and we headed back up the top following behind other skiers and getting to know the humps and bumps and got in some long 3.3km runs.
We called it a day around 3pm but missed the shuttle so hung around until the 4pm shuttle which didn’t take the same route back as most of us were going to the same hotel so he dropped us off first then dropped off the others.
It was then time to try another Japanese experience, the onsen. Oak Forest Hotel has their own onsen and it is very much traditional. That is there is a male and female onsen and it is very much naked, no bathers. If it is OK for the Japanese then it is OK for me. You walk through the door to find a changing room / locker room. You place all your clothing in a locker, take the key then take your little 30cm x 30cm towel into the washing area.
First thing is to sit on this little stool thing with 10 others doing the same, rinse off with a bamboo container of hot water and then wash your body all over. Rinse off all the soap and then you can go into the “bath” which is like a large spa pool without the bubbles. Mineral hot water is constantly coming in from a pipe and the water temperature is 39C. You cant see a lot in here because of the steam from the bath and from the showering. As I have a cold at the moment, the steam wasn’t doing my lungs too well, so it was time to venture out into the outside bath.
I grabbed my little towel, not too worried about modesty at this time, opened the door and bang, it was below zero so the cold just hit you. Lowering into the water, it felt hotter and it was, 41C. The best part was that the snow was falling on your heat while you sat in the water.
When I got to 35 minutes, it was definitely time to get out. It was back into the showering area to rinse off then to the locker room to dry off and put the Yukata (casual kimono) back on and head back to the room.
I then got into the shower and turn the cold water on to try and lower my body temperature. One good thing about the onsen is that my back, knees, thighs and calves did not have any aches. I will be back in it tomorrow night.
The hotel provides a shuttle to eating spots at 6pm each night. We asked the driver for a suggestion and he said Samurai Kebab so why not. It was in a basement of a building and it was like a sports bar but instead of wings they did kebabs and variations of it. The meals were cheap, plentiful and tasty. The kids even did a 3 litre Heineken beer tower. It was a good night out. There was no shuttle back so it was a kilometre walk back up the hill with snow still falling and the roads icing up. There were a few slips but no injuries
It wasn’t a bad days skiing given the conditions with 13 runs for a total of 24.07 km and additionally 7874 steps.