Last weekend (a week ago now) we traveled to Mt. Naeba in Niigata prefecture for a weekend of snowboarding. We caught a shinkansen out of Tokyo just before 8:30am. A quick 90 minutes later we arrived at Echigo Yuzawa, where a bus took us from the station to our hotel/ski resort.
We quickly got changed, threw our stuff in a coin locker and rented some snowboarding gear. Shux tried skiing once years ago and didn’t have too much fun, and I figured I’d give boarding another try. Besides, it should be more fun if we’re both beginners. All set, we set of for the bunny hill.
First we learned how to strap the board on, try to stand up and slide down the hill in a controlled manner. There was a strong crosswind and it was snowing, making it difficult to see sometimes. The sides of your face, or any other exposed skin, grew cold really quick in these conditions. Nevertheless, it was pretty fun!
It’s too bad I cut the snowboard off in the picture…
After lunch the plan was to take a chairlift up and slowly work our way down the green run. We strapped into our boards, slowly made our way in line toward the chairlift. Shux and I were ahead of our three companions, and all of a sudden the resort employees started shouting something in Japanese, stringing a chain in front of the chairlift indicating it was closing. Shux and I happen to be the last two to be allowed to go up. I figured “We’ll take our time, work our way down, and meet up with the rest eventually.”
The weather had gotten much worse since our bunny hill session though. Once at the top, visibility was down to nothing. We literally couldn’t see people sitting 10 meters away. At first I thought “OK, this will take some time…” but after getting snow in my eyes (I didn’t have goggles) continuously for some 15 seconds I realized it was not a good idea to head down a run I’m completely unfamiliar with in these conditions. We caught the chairlift back down with the crew.
The weather stayed this way for the remainder of the weekend. From the pictures you can see we didn’t do any more snowboarding. But we did have a good, relaxing time hanging out around the resort’s shops, restaurants and pachinko parlor.
On Sunday we left the resort at 4pm. Our train was scheduled to leave at 5:35pm, so we had some time at the station to hang out. We grabbed some yakitori for dinner and saw a sake tasting room and food tasting buffet at an overcrowded store. When we got to the platform the earlier scheduled trains hadn’t left yet.
The inclement weather caused major delays. We eventually arrived back home a couple hours late. Because Japan’s trains are usually right on time, such a delay is regarded as an immense inconvenience. For any delays longer than 2 hours, the tickets are always refunded in full. That’s awesome! It’d be great if airlines did something similar…
All in all a somewhat disappointing weekend since we didn’t snowboard much, but still a relaxing and enjoyable break. We’ll have to go again when the weather is more hospitable.