17 Ways To Slightly Improve Your Ski Vacation In Japan Without Really Trying
Inspired by the list of 100 Ways To Slightly Improve Your Life Without Really Trying, we’ve created our own version for skiers and snowboarders traveling to Japan, but with only 17 suggestions.
But we want more, and we know you have good ones. Submit your suggestion here for the chance to be featured in our reader edition.
Use the Black Cat luggage service (Yamamoto Transport)
There is nothing worse than lugging heavy suitcases and ski bags around a crowded train station with family and kids, especially when everyone around you seems to be moving lightly and quickly. Japanese travelers (and discerning internationals) typically use a “Ta-Q-Bin” service to move their luggage from the airport to the hotel or from one hotel to another. Yamamoto Transport, often referred to as Black Cat or Kuro neko, is the most used and generally offers next day delivery (or even same day for some locations). Learn more here.
Ski without your phone for a day (or more)
The Guardian’s article was important for moving away from phones (eight of the 100 suggestions involve phones, or lack thereof), and we agree with the sentiment. Spend a day on the slopes without music, business calls, emails or social media and truly unplug. You will be more connected to nature, more aware of everything around you… you might even strike up an interesting conversation on the gondola.
Soothe tired muscles with a daily onsen
Slip into a very hot, mineral-rich onsen, close your eyes and feel the tension in your muscles begin to ease. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the onsen culture of Japan, then you’re really missing out – a post-ski onsen is akin to mulled wine in France or a Jägertee in Austria. It is a must for après-ski.
Get on the first chairlift / gondola of the day
Avid skiers and snowboarders pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to ski cat or heli-ski, with the goal of skiing in fresh powder and getting the first runs. You can do the same for the price of a lift ticket and a little patience. It’s worth it in every way, and it’s really not that difficult.
Try curry soup in Hokkaido: the ultimate winter dish
A controversial dish, perhaps, but we think Hokkaido curry soup is the quintessential winter dish – a warming and often spicy soup-like curry mixed with a variety of meat and vegetables (the recipe may change depending on location). If you’re skiing in Japan’s northernmost province or, better yet, passing through Sapporo (the home of the dish), be sure to stop for some curry soup and a cold beer. It will make your life better!
Buy your ski boots with an expert shoemaker
There is nothing that ruins a ski vacation like ill-fitting boots, and the best thing you can do to take most of the risk out of the equation is to have a boot installer assess you and your feet. put on a suitable pair of shoes. The tricky part is actually finding a good person. We have revealed some secrets of dark art in this article.
Try a new one konbini snack every day
from Japan konbinis (mini markets) are a culinary gold mine, and it’s worth being a little adventurous. Avoid the temptation to pick the same thing every day and instead eat variety, the spice of life.
Take a lesson, even if you are a good skier / snowboarder
Beginners will gain tremendously by taking a lesson with a pro, but we challenge intermediate and advanced skiers to sign up for a private lesson or lesson. You are never good enough at improving your skiing, and you will likely learn more about the resort than you would on your own.
Buy a cold Asahi from your ski instructor
And that brings us to our next point: buy a beer or a coffee for your instructor. Instructors are often a source of local knowledge, and the small gesture is usually greatly appreciated and can yield local tips and advice. Ask them where they go first on a powder day (at least worth the price of a beer…).
Book your room with a traditional futon / tatami configuration
There is something about sleeping on a futon on a tatami mat floor that is totally rejuvenating, especially after a long day on the hill. We’re not sure if it’s the tired muscles or the onsen before it, but we’ve had some of our best sleeps on this traditional Japanese setup. At the very least, it’s a quintessential Japanese experience that you won’t get anywhere else.
Take a day to get away from it all on a small local hill
There are over 500 ski resorts in Japan – over 100 in Hokkaido alone – and many are smaller resorts with just a few ski lifts and a single restaurant / resort. Often times you’ll find these pint-sized resorts around the corner of the larger ones (Kutchan’s Asahigaoka Ski Resort near Niseko United, for example). These places are often the heart and soul of the local ski community, with very low prices to boot. Take a day or even an afternoon, you won’t be disappointed.
Mogul skiing (especially in spring)
Japan is rightly known for powder skiing, but anyone who’s spent an entire season in the snow will tell you that spring (or even earlier) is for mogul skiing. Japanese skiers tend to love moguls, and in addition to the naturally formed mogul fields you will often find a single row on the side of groomed slopes which can be a lot of fun. Try it if you are up to it! Or take a lesson (see above).
Warm up with a hot drink from a vending machine
Japan’s vending machines are famous, and at ski resorts they are becoming a popular spot for anyone looking for a quick way to warm up their body. The choice of drink can be vast and very personal! A can of hot coffee? Soup Corn? Milk tea? Hot lemon? Yes please…
Ok, so this one doesn’t necessarily fit into the ‘without really trying’ category – you’re definitely going to sweat – but if there’s a place to try ski touring for the first time, we think it’s the one. Japan. Many large skis are practiced below the treeline and as a general rule the avalanche danger tends to be lower than in Europe or the United States (note: the dangers are always present and you will need to ‘an experienced and qualified guide if you are new to the backcountry). Plus, cool slopes in Japan’s famous powder snow are almost a guarantee.
Reserve your place on the shinkansen
Anyone who has spent any time standing on a crowded shinkansen during peak season will tell you this is a no-brainer. Spend that little extra on reserved seats… trust us.
Take a pair of ice cream tongs
In case you haven’t heard, there is a lot of snow in Japan and the streets can be as dangerous as the ski slopes on occasion. Unless you have a super sturdy pair of snow boots, avoid a trip to the emergency room and get a pair of inexpensive ice grips to clip to the soles of your shoes.
Try a limited edition beer / a kit kat / an ice cream
Japan is the undisputed land of limited editions of food and drink, whether it’s ice cream, beer, or kat kits. So, again, head to the konbini and treat yourself to a snack or drink that you won’t get anywhere else in the world, and probably never in Japan again.
Think you have a better suggestion? Submit it here for the chance to be featured in our reader edition.
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