Dec 2013 – Jan 2014
As much as Australia is known for its beautiful beaches and endless sun, many Australians also love the snow. Australia does have a handful of snow resorts but even on their best seasons, they aren’t much to be desired when compared to other countries. The snow fall is sporadic and can be decent, but it usually comes in flurries and then just as quickly melts away. The cost for mountain passes, accommodation and gear hire (if you don’t have your own) adds up quickly and often it is those who live close to the snow fields or those who want to do a short, trip such as a long weekend who end up heading to Thredbo or Perisher. Those with a little more cash usually take the short plane trip to our neighbour New Zealand. New Zealand does tend to have (in my professional snow judging opinion) more consistent snowfall than Australia, but even then, seasons vary and costs are still quite high. The next best option, and my personal favourite for snow is Japan. It’s comparable on price, has amazing food, an interesting, unique culture and history to explore and the sheer amount of snow is beyond description. (YouTube Japan powder runs for confirmation)
As a born and raised Queenslander, I had never experienced snow before I headed to Japan with a group of friends. Snowboarding was something that always caught my attention and I reasoned (foolishly before I learnt how to do it) that it was similar to surfing, which I can do. I realised that I was wrong shortly after falling off a ski lift and holding up the line as they dragged me out from underneath. The appeal of traveling to Japan was more that just the soft landing for my butt while I learnt how to snowboarding. I hadn’t skied or snowboarded before, and was quite excited for the trip.
To cut costs, I borrowed a snowboard and bindings from a friend’s sister and put it in my partner’s snowboard bag, while I took a suitcase. I purchased outerwear online to make it cheaper, after trying on brands and styles in store at Snowbiz (Australia’s primary snow gear company) to see what brands fit (Australian gear is very overpriced and has limited colours and patterns. Of course, this is problematic for a semi-fashion conscious girl like me). Even with the airfare, (also bought while on sale – make sure you check the terms and conditions for any block out dates) our budget allowed us a longer stay in Japan for almost the same budget when compared to the Australian resorts. The time of year suited us better to take holidays as well (Dec-Jan is season for Japan). So why not go overseas instead?
Japan’s ski pass prices vary depending on which mountains you go to, or whether you opt to get a three mountain pass versus a one mountain pass, but mostly they vary from AU$50-70 per day. Australian passes are often more than twice that! To fly from the Gold Coast to Tokyo takes about 9 hours. Japan’s runs are definitely not the longest and the mountains not the largest, but they are some of the most fun and they have great parks, if that is your thing. They cater to all levels with great beginner slopes topped by plentiful powder which saved some serious bruises. The snowfall on average is 13 meters per season and it is not uncommon to get dumps everyday of 20-40cm or more, with snowflakes the size of 20c coins. Bluebird (sunny) days aren’t super common, so buy/pack appropriate lenses for your goggles. However, we managed to get 2/3 bluebird days per 15 day trip.
More information on Japan to come including packing, accommodation, recommendations and onsen etiquette. In the meantime, check out some of my photos to get you excited.