This week the kids had Thursday and Friday off from school, so we decided to take a trip up to Nagano, about 4 hours north and west of Tokyo. We rented a car on Wednesday and off we went! The Hakuba area of Nagano is stunning - adorable and everything a ski-village should be. There were chalets next to the mountain, good apres-ski pubs, excellent hotels, and Japanese onsen (hot springs) all in a contained area near the mountain. You might remember that this is the area that hosted the 1998 winter olympics - and in fact, was hosting a world-cup event for disabled skiers while we were there.
Marc has been skiing since he was about 10 years old, so he enjoyed the experience from start to finish. He said the snow was excellent and the mountain trails were terrific. I, on the other hand, have just had my fourth skiing experience, so all I can say is that the beginner trails were nice and smooth! I don't love it, really, but it is such a fantastic experience and a new way in which to use my body, so I forsee a few ski trips per winter for a while.
The best part of the trip was the kids, though. Bailey took about 15 minutes to get his "ski-legs" back on after a few years, but he took off in a flash. The instructors at the ski-school at which we had the kids enrolled nicknamed him speed-demon. He and Marc spent Friday afternoon skiing together and Bailey kept up with him perfectly. Sydney was the biggest surprise! She took a lesson Thursday morning and went to daycare on Thursday afternoon because I did not want her to get over-done or overtired. Then she took lessons all day Friday. By Friday afternoon she was going up the chair-lift and skiing right down the mountain! In fact, on Sat. afternoon, she and Marc got to ski together - and she really was proud of herself. She did excellently and we were so proud OF her!
We stayed in a place called the Morino Lodge, run by a Canadian and a Scotsman who are total ski bums and they own the lodge to indulge their habits - skiing every day! Craig and Matt were both relaxed and happy people who genuinely want their guests to have a good time. They did everything they could to ensure it. We were staying in one of their tatami rooms so our "beds" were futon on the floor, but the room was quite spacious and clean. Breakfast every morning was nothing flash, but very filling coffee, toast, cereal and fruit.
The weather was absolutely perfect. Both days were "bluebirds" - perfectly blue skies and just about at the freezing level. The sun was so bright we had to wear our goggles to see properly from the glare off the snow. Saturday was snowy - almost too snowy to ski, but we all did a bit of it anyway. We came home Saturday afternoon after lunch.
After each day of skiing we went to a local onsen and relaxed. Onsen are traditional Japanese hot springs. Users take a full-on shower and then soak in the water which is over 100 degrees. The baths are separated by gender and bathers are in the buff. I swear, it is the reason the Japanese live so long - one soak and I can literally feel the stress melting off my body. After the full day of physical exertion the water felt incredible and made us ready for the next day on the slopes.
The whole thing was incredible and I'm so glad we did it. Enjoy the photos!!