Image by Michael Holler
It’s no longer a secret. Skiing in Japan is profound but so is skiing in the United States. That said, there are some definite differences in culture, terrain, and snow. Here are six differences between skiing in Japan and skiing in the United States.
“Experiencing differences is crucial to the human condition. Especially when that difference is over the head, blower powder.”– Ernest Hemingway
1. Size Matters: Although the mountains in Japan are not as tall as some in the United States, steep mountains do exist. The highest resorts in the country top out around 7,500 feet the mountains but they deliver with gargantuan amounts of snow and varied terrain. If you’re looking for steeps, the Hakuba region on the south island delivers chutes, spines, and massive faces. If playful terrain that receives 595 inches of stable snow annually is your thing, head to the north island of Hokkaido for Zen-like tree runs and pillow stacks that will leave you saying arigatou. In the end, The States win the vertical battle but the Japanese win the snowfall battle easily.
Which amount means more?
Photo Courtesy of Flickr: lazysupper
2. You Don’t Poach Hot Tubs in Japan: In Japan, Hot Tubs are close to being banned as a cultural faux pas. Instead, the Japanese enjoy the penultimate form of relaxation, which is the onsen. An onsen is a Japanese term for hot spring. These hot springs are surrounded by minimalist stone and wood décor that denote their Zen backgrounds. Also, unlike the hot tub experience in the States, you shower pre-onsen and bath butt ass naked around other butt ass naked people.
After soaking, let the minerals seep into your skin for untold medical benefits. Not only do onsens make even the best spas in the world look busch league, they usually cost between 5-10 dollars to use (500-1,000 yen). In the end, paying 5 bucks sure as hell beats looking over your shoulder at the Four Seasons for incoming security that will inevitably ruin your vibe.
3. Surgical Masks Not Buffs: Stepping off the plane into the Tokyo Narita Airport, thousands of people wash by and at least half of them are wearing surgical masks, which became customary during the 2002 SARS panic. So unlike the buff in mountain towns, you’ll find surgical masks instead. Some Japanese skiers and riders even wear them on the hill, which is pretty sick…
4. Buy the Ticket: Take the Ride. Skiing in the United States is a quiet, often reflective experience unless you find yourself at the ski hill on April 1st. Alternatively, skiing in Japan can sometimes feel like you bought a ticket to Six Flags. PSA’s blare over loudspeakers in an extremely complicated foreign language and it’s annoying. In addition to the PSA’s, getting on lifts is dangerous. Many of the chairs are equipped with bubbles and the bubbles automatically come down, crushing tall and unaware dudes/chicks in the process. Be advised.
Image from huffingtonpost.com/travel-leisure
5. The Après Is Different: The Japanese don’t designate “Après” bars like Americans do. Mostly, their bars are tucked away and don’t have the sprawling, sun-drenched porches like the ones in the States. That said, Sapporo Classic tends to flow like wine everywhere and if a bar has the Hokkaido-only beer on tap, stick around for 5-10 rounds. Sapporo Classic on tap may be the most refreshing beer in the world.
6. No Safety Meetings: With legal marijuana clouding Colorado ski areas, it’s a bit of a shock to arrive in Japan, where everyone is clear eyed and skis in control (*except for the Aussies). Apparently, weed is extremely illegal in Japan and finding some green is damn near impossible. I’m not one to say that all the Jeff Spicoli, Stateside skiers are out of control but the vibe is way less reckless than at say… Copper Mountain on a Saturday. So pull your head out of the jar and go ski Japan to clear your smoky head.