Our area in Niigata-ken got some snow and ice from yesterday’s icky storm, but Yamagata’s mountains got FEET of snow!! The drive over and up made us feel like we were traveling through a winter wonderland. I’m sure you can imagine me periodically screaming “WOW THIS IS GORGEOUS!!” Thank goodness for the maps of Niigata and Yamagata the past predecessors left in my apartment, because we were basically able to get there with no problems (only had to stop and ask once). From 113 to 13 to 14 to 12, and 2.5 hours later we saw a ski slope, lift, and parking lot, pulled over and couldn't hold our excitement in any longer!!
We quickly found out that Zao Ski-jo is one of the biggest parks in Japan. To start, the lift tickets are touch-and-go-cards to get you through the turnstiles. The first lift we took up from where we parked the car was coincidentally the biggest of all the lifts (the kanji for it is 大森: big jungle). A rail AND a hood came over us after we got on and it took FOREVER to get up, which was fine because the run down went on and on and on!!! Seeing as this was our first snowboard of the season, we headed down the easier-looking routes. The snow was powdery and perfect the whole way down, but we ended up in a completely different spot than we had started. No worries, we still had a few hours left and took this as an adventure to find our way back. The other lifts were slightly smaller, not covered, and shorter. In order to get to higher ground or to another part of the mountain range , we essentially had to ‘transfer’ lifts. “I think next time we should take 25 to 23 to 27, and that should get us to the top where we can work our way all the way down, look for signs, and maybe ask someone.” 27 took us ALL the way to the top. We could feel the temperature dropping by entire degrees Celsius, and were engulfed by the clouds. It was a pretty steep and hazy slide down, but after looking for the big jungle kanji and asking a few people we made it!!
As with every good ski day trip, we ended it with a delicious meal in Shibata. We met Colleen (佳鈴) and Jon for Thai food at the Cruise Diner and warmed up with the help of spicy curry and hot coconut milk tea.