Thursday, February 29, 2024

Parting moments in Japan

 With just over a week until I flew out I headed down to Rusutsu. I like skiing Rusutsu as it's not particularly steep and has nice well spaced trees to ski through. I'd booked three nights in the village of Rusutsu in a tiny hostel, and another 2 nights in a pod hotel in Kutchan.

When I contacted Aki, a friend at Niseko, to let her know I was coming down, she asked if I was joining the Rookies training. News to me I checked it out, emailed Dean, and before I knew it I'd signed up for a 3 day course of training with Josh.

Over the years I've done heaps of training with Rookie Academy, but recently haven't had the chance to do more than the in house training offered by Cardrona. Not that I have any complaints about the free training  or my trainers, but this year I was determined to try and find more time to work on improving my own skiing by booking some weeks with Rookies. So this little 3 day course was just what I needed.

I knew half of the people in our group already, a mix of skiers working towards level 3 or trainers certification. I voiced my concern that at a couple of months shy of 60, whether passing a level 3 exam was even an achievable goal for me. I'm extremely thankful that Josh took that on board, and rather than make my focus exam related, we reframed my goals into achievable tasks that would move me closer towards becoming the sort of skier who could achieve that level.

Changing the focus was really helpful, because training towards a level 3 exam is really life consuming, and I've been struggling over the last few years to see any improvement in my technique. Watching younger skiers progress quicker than me was really feeding my self doubt, so reframing my goals allowed me to relax and just work on one thing at a time, mainly turn shape and better lateral balance on the left leg, which has been my achilles heel for so long.

I hadn't skied West Hill before, and was surprised to find seriously steep, albeit short, runs that really tested one's technique. The snow was fantastically grippy without being icy, so you could really trust it and push the boundaries a bit. We also got to watch the top Japanese skiers, who were there training for the technical skiing championships being held the following week.

Over 3 days we worked on medium radius, short turns, and bump skiing, or more accurately skiing those very scary ziplines that take no prisoners. Josh broke it down into achievable steps, and whilst the others were all successfully crushing them by the end of three days, I was at least now giving them a go. My previous approach had been to avoid them like the plague!! I consider that progress...

With lots of video taken, and appropriate feedback, I made some big improvements over those three days, but most importantly I felt better about my skiing and my ability to progress. I talked to Dean about goals for training this NZ winter, and he suggested perhaps looking at other options for sitting my level 3 rather than NZSIA, which is the most technically rigorous. The oldest person to pass a NZSIA level 3 exam was my mate Paul at 52, and he only just scraped through on his fifth or sixth attempt. But in the end, the real goal is me becoming a better skier, and is doing another exam actually necessary??

Whilst at Rusutsu the others, who all worked at Niseko, moaned about how bad Niseko had become. Too crowded, tracked out by 10am on a powder day, scoured faces by the recent winds etc etc. I had bought a 25 hour pass for Rusutsu, and even after skiing the day before the course, I still had at least 6 hours left to use up.

I drove to my Kutchan accommodation after the course, but Aki herself was planning to attend some training at Rusutsu the next day. So, instead of skiing at Niseko, I drove back to Rusutsu, where I was not only able to catch up with Aki, but also spent the morning skiing with another Cardrona colleague and his family. In the afternoon I headed over to East Mountain, where the new snow that morning had softened up the off piste and I got a whole lot of tree runs in as well.

With my time in Japan rapidly coming to an end I drove back to Asari, dropped off the hire car, then packed and cleaned the house before taking the train to the airport for the flight back to Australia.

I'd managed to get a business class flight, via Taipei, from Sapporo to Sydney, enjoying some very tasty food and fully flat bed for the overnight segment through to Sydney. Unfortunately my ski bag didn't make the connection in Taipei, so I boarded the bus down to Canberra minus a good chunk of my luggage. Which was a bit of a problem, because I only had 2 days before heading off on my next trip!

That's next!!!

But here's a few pictures from the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Not quite as big or grand as previous years, but still pretty impressive.

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