I woke up, dawned my heat tech long underwear, and boarded the shuttle bus bound for Hanazono. I was going to ski for the first time.
I arrived at the resort and checked in with the rental counter. They pulled my reservation and started outfitting me for skis, pants, pole, and shoes. The staff at Hanazono is largely Australian. They must come to Japan seasonally on visas. They were very polite which made the whole process easy. When I walk in ski boots, I look hilarious. In ski boots, I walk heel to toe, but really exaggerated. Someone might have thought I had polio if it wasn't for the fact that other skiers looked just as stupid.
My volunteer Hokkaido JET instructor was supposed to meet me on the mountain at 10. He didn't arrive until about 11:30. While I was waiting, one of the other JETs was kind enough to give me some lessons in skiing. I went down the first hill (it leads to the ski lift) several times really easily. I was picking up skiing quickly. My "instructor" kept reminding me that I SHOULD have fallen by now. I hadn't. When the Hokkaido instructor finally arrived, I was stunned. He was wearing the costume of Hokkaido's mascot: Marimokkori, the marimo with a huge boner:
While I was busy laughing my a$$ off, he explained that he was going to wear this costume so I could find him easily on the mountain. And yes, if you are wondering, the costume came complete with a huge bulge. I looked over at the other Hokkaido JET instructors. They were ALL wearing costumes. One was dressed like Pikachu. Another was dressed like a deer. We are gaijin.
Thanks to an amazing episode of South Park, I already knew about the "pizza" and "french fry" stance in skiing. One is for braking and the other is for speed. I learned how to make turns and how to brake effectively from "Marimokkori." I practiced going down the steeper hills before making my way to the ski lift for the "real" hills. I was having a blast skiing. The JETs who wanted to try snowboarding were ALWAYS on the ground. They just kept falling over, which is why learning how to turn was so important. I needed to avoid crashing into clumsy snowboarders.
I started to develop a bit of an ego because I had taken to skiing so quickly. Don't worry though, the mountain was quick to humble me. The instructor and I went up the ski lift to the beginner's run, "Silver Dream." OK, um, it's a little steeper than I imagined, but alright. I got about 1/4 of the way down, then I had to stop. The next portion was STEEP. "Marimokkori" stopped next to me and said,
Marimokkori: Yeah, this shouldn't be here. This part is definitely not beginner.
Me: (pissing my pants) What??!! Is there any other way down?
Marimokkori: Good luck buddy.
This is the part where I started falling, a lot. In skiing, turning slows you down. However, while you are turning, there is a brief second when you pick up speed before the brakes kick in. This is the reason I almost broke my foot several times. Luckily, skis are built with an awesome safety feature where they fly off if twisted too hard. My foot would like to the thank the good people at Demo Ski Manufacturing. When I FINALLY past the steep part, I had a blast skiing the rest of the way.
After I finished "Silver Dream," I joined some Nara JETs for lunch at the lodge. Hokkaido is known for dairy products like cheese, ice cream, and chocolate. I ate pizza and it was delicious. It still doesn't quite measure up to American pizza, but it was close.
Part 3: Coming soon!