Monday, February 22, 2010

Snowboarding near Kanazawa: Raicho Valley, Toyama Pref

OK the only thing to save you from mild depression whilst enduring a winter on the West coast of Japan is the fact that you can ski/snowboard every weeekend! I'm afraid I'm writing this post a tad late (over a week, eeek, i can't keep up) but last Sunday, Valentines day to be exact Maylee and I decided to drag ourselves out of bed at some ungodly hour to go skiing.

Japanese music on the ski lifts, brilliant idea!

There are quite a few ski resorts near Kanazawa, about a 40 min drive away (which I will write about when I've been) but we decided to get really adventurous and head to a resort near Tateyama mountain in Toyama Prefecture. (Tateyama by the way is the tallest peak in the Northern Alps 3,015 m to be precise so I thought the snow would be better and the resort higher)

The train ride up to Tateyama

Anyway we caught the 6.30 train to Toyama (40 mins) and made a quick change onto this teeny little train bound for Tateyama (60 mins). Despite being half asleep it was actually a really scenic ride up to Tateyama, the train chugged across huge valleys and cut up through the beautiful mountain forest and lucky for us it was a perfectly clear sunny day. The first sunny day we've had here for weeks!

Arrived at the tiny Tateyama station and had quick panic about what to do but the wonderful thing about being in Japan is that locals ALWAYS help you out even if they don't speak a word of Japanese.

Little bus station opposite Tatayama station

There's a little bus station office so we asked for "Ski resort" and were promptly given 3 leaflets. If you can manage "Ichiban iie ski no tokoro doko desu ka?" (Which is the best ski place?) which we did they will say Raicho Valley and quite literally take you to the bus (well we later found out theres only one bus that takes you to the 3 resorts) doing a daily loop.
All easy so far, we were quite surprised. This must be a right locals spot since the only other people on the bus were 2 old men with their traditional ski boots obviously going for a Sunday ramble.

Got dropped off at Raicho by which time all the locals were helping us and telling us when to get off.

The skiing area isn't huge to be honest but I think I've been spoilt with the French Alps a bit and was expecting a dizzingly high mountain and a ton of runs. Luckily Raicho Valley and (big breath...) Gokurakuzaka are actually joined up resorts (or at least we managed to do both by accident?!) so between the two resorts theres about 10 runs. Great for a day but don't book for a week.

Anyway, this was so exciting for me, my first time on a Japanese ski resort. How different would it be? Well hiring my board/boots was an experience not really sure how much the total package was (it turned out to be ¥2500- 17 quid for board/boots)

The guys in the shop were super super friendly (and insisted in having their pic taken- see above) not like those nasty grumpy French frogs we're all accustomed to! (they even give you a complimentary drink after) Day lift pass was ¥4000 (about 27 quid)

Board boots on and already cutting the circulation to my toes, sun shining, no suncream, pocket hand warmers in (the best invention ever, why don't they sell them anywhere thats cold?!) and we ready to go.

Ski slopes at Raicho Valley, Toyama Pref

The snow was absolutely fab in the morning and I was fine on the board despite getting a bit worried I was going to be terrible since I haven't boarded for 2 years. Like a duck to water I tell you!

The slopes were pretty busy but probably because it was a Sunday AND a beautiful day. The funny thing about ski-ing in Japan is that they play music everywhere, on the chair lifts and on the slopes. It's great! The only thing they don't do which I love so much in France is put the deckchairs outside of the restaurants. You see the Japanese don't care about getting a tan unlike us pasty Brits always desperate for a bit of colour.

My tonkatusu & curry lunch on the slopes!

Lunch time was just a joy. Japanese tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) with rice and a beer basking ourselves in the glorious sun outside and watching the skiers come down. (we found a picnic bench) Who could ask for more?

Chopsticks on the slopes!

After lunch we repeated a few more runs and then found a few jumps where we could watch each other crash and burn. Tried to ride fakey (opposite foot going down the mountain for all non boarders!) for a while but it tired me out so much. Brilliant day though and its made me want to go more.

We caught the little bus back to Tateyama station and after a few loops of the ski area he dropped us off. We were back in Kanazawa by 7pm exhausted and pulled muscles just kicking in. I have to admit I couldn't MOVE the next day ; )

Dying to go again but next time we'll check out Ichirino and Seta which are a 45 min bus ride out of Kanazawa, thats unless the snow melts away. Watch this space!

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