A few days ago I finished my ski instructor job in sugadaira. The experience was great. I became a better skier myself and I met some interesting people. I was also encouraged to find that everyone can ski. No matter how bad a kid was on the first day, by the third day they could zip down the slopes. Helping a kid learn a new skill was pretty cool.
I also realized that there is a certain type of abnormal Japanese person that becomes a ski instructor. These "mountain people" don't conform to society's norms and basically do what they want. I decided that I like these people and sort of fit in. Everyone has a unique story and everyone is accepted – we were all just mountain people who loved to ski.
After I finished teaching, my friend Greg and I snowboarded every day. The first day we hit the slopes early, went to a hot spring, ate a slow Italian lunch, took a nap then played chess by the fireplace in the evening. Pretty close to a perfect day if you ask me.
Then yesterday some Japanese ski instructor friends and I decided to climb Nekodake, a 2200 meter peak right behind sugadaira. We strapped on our snowboards and started walking from the top of the lift with snowshoes. Hiking in snow with a board strapped to you back is tough. We made it to the summit in a couple of hours though, saw a shrine, ate our food and decided to head back before we got too cold. Since it had snowed over 40cm over the weekend, the powder was amazing. Our 2 hour walk was depressingly short on a snowboard.
We got down and were just waiting for the last person – a lady in her 40s to finish up. We thought nothing of it and threw snowballs at each other for a while, until 15, 20, then 30 minutes passed. We called her cell phone and got through – she had taken a wrong turn, got stuck in deep powder and was slowly fighting to get back to the main slope. She didn't know how far she had gone down and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. She said she was still warm but at -10C we didn't want to let it get dark. After deliberating for almost an hour, alerting ski patrol and calling the police, another guy and I decided to go out on snow shoes and try to find her. We didn't think she was very far from the road and thought that if we yelled loud enough she might hear us, which is exactly what happened. She had gotten herself back on track and was skiing down when she heard us yelling. She was almost in tears when she saw us and sincerely said she felt lucky to be alive. It was a pretty intense and exhausting, but still a great day.