My snowboarding trip to Nagano was great fun. I went with CIE students Josh, Joe, and Patrick, as well as our Japanese friend Shoji and Joe’s friend Joey (yeah, I laughed too) who is studying at Nagoya. We got to Hakuba (the area where our ski resort was) via night bus from Kyoto – 11pm to 6am. When we got there we found that they charged an early check-in fee for giving us breakfast, as well as various extra charges on equipment hire and insurance – a very efficient scam. However, having Shoji with us, we were able to negotiate in Japanese and the rental guy ended up giving us discounts on almost everything.
So we hit the slopes, after having travelled on a bus all night. I did pretty well on the beginners’ slope, and migrated with the others to the slope above. Coming down that one, I came a cropper and twisted my ankle pretty badly. I was forced to complete my descent very slowly. Fortunately, after dinner that night we went out to an onsen, where we soothed our various aches and pains.
Rather more unfortunately, after a slow start on the beginners’ slope the next day, I went up again the next slope, where I twisted my ankle again. This time there was no question of finishing the descent, especially as I injured myself only a few yards from the ski lift. I crawled back up there and explained my predicament to the staff. With my cack-handed Japanese (and Shoji’s help) we managed to convince the staff that I was in urgent need of rescuing. A very hot Mountain Rescue girl appeared from out of nowhere and told me that I’d have to be evacuated via the ‘rescue boat’. I was like “Rescue boat? That’s not covered by my insurance fraud!” (cf: Futurama), imagining a huge helicopter appearing from above. The rescue boat was actaully like a canoe on ski runners, that zipped up over the passenger. It was basically a body bag on skis, as I realised while frantically pawing at the zipped-shut canopy. What’s worse – facing a steep mountainside with an injured ankle, or being fastened inside a tiny space? I had ample to consider the question as I was speeded down the mountain. The first thing I saw when I was unzipped was my friends congregating to see what had happened to me (now you can see what they saw!).
I spent the rest of that day (our 2nd at Hakuba) resting up at the hotel with an ice pack on my ankle. Following that excitement, I took it much easier the following day. After trying the baby slopes, I returned to the slope where I’d twisted my ankle twice and navigated it without any further injuries, thanks to the zig-zag technique that Shoji had taught me the first day. By the time we all met up at about 4:30, we had a lot of stories to tell; we’d split up according to ability and gone separate ways on the mountain. We went to the onsen again, and finished up with a cold beer – the best way to relax after a day on the slopes. All in all a very good break, and I think I’ve caught the winter-sports bug, despite the lack of much daredevil black-diamond slope action on my part.