Travel Japan: Skiing for the first time in my life

I have zero knowledge of the actual act of skiing.

Sure, I know what it means based on the dictionary, and I’ve seen tons of photos and videos of it, but I really didn’t have any first-hand knowledge about it up until I tried it one weekend in Japan.

Traveling during winter in Japan opens up the possibility of having to go on a ski trip with the locals. When I first wore those heavy, metal-clad ski boots, my world was opened into a place totally foreign to me. There was a mixture of excitement and fear. Nothing ever prepares you into¬†lifting those heavy ski boots. Oh wait, there is, and it’s never skipping leg day in the gym.

The Takasu Snow Park, located in Gujo City in the Gifu Prefecture, is a ski/snowboard resort that offers the powdery white slopes of Mt. Dainichi, part of the Ryohaku mountain range. It is a 2-hour drive from Nagoya Station, but it can take longer especially if you get stuck in traffic because of the huge number of travelers going to the UNESCO heritage site of Shirakawa-go.

To know how to get to Takasu Snow Park, read it here.

ski gifu cars

Parking lot at the snow park

Since it’s my first time to ski, I had to prepare for it. For instance, I had to buy gears that will protect me from the cold including heat-generating innerwear, thick and waterproof jacket, gloves, bonnet, goggles, muffler, etc. It might be very expensive to buy all at the same time and you can’t even be sure if you’ll wear them again so in that case, you can also opt to rent.

On the way to the snow park and even right inside the snow park, there are rental centers from which you can borrow gears including skis and snowboards for a fee.

If you’re renting the whole package (which includes the ski/snowboard, ski jacket and pants, gloves, goggles, bonnet, and lift ticket) for a day, that will cost 16,400 yen (about P8,000). It is quite pricey so make the most out of it.

As a first-timer, I was told that it was easier to ski than to snowboard, which is why I decided to take the former. However, it really isn’t that easy. I can compare the learning process to riding a bike for the first time. You try to learn how to balance, you fall down several times. You can get bruised along the way.

A tip on renting the ski boots, make sure that you get a size that is right for you and you don’t have to overdo it by wearing two socks. That was my mistake. I wore two socks on both feet because I was told it would be very cold. The first 2 to 3 tries of wearing and walking with the ski boots, I felt like not going through with it. There was a numbing pain in my feet and legs. I was able to fix it by removing a pair of the socks. I was able to survive even if I was just wearing regular socks but if you can get those wool socks then that might be better in protecting you from the cold.

One thing that’s stuck with me on this experience and I can’t say this enough, the ski boots are really heavy. Even if the planks are off, walking with the ski boots on will require so much effort. But hey, this is coming from someone who tried skiing for the first time. The ski boots might be more manageable as you get used to wearing them.

I’m trying to fake a smile in the photo above. I realized I really need to build my leg strength. LOL.

For newbies, there is a ski/snowboarding school where they will teach you the basics.

ski gifu teachers

My ski teachers telling me how to step from left to right, and catching me when I slide down

Since I was traveling with locals, they were kind enough to teach me the basics such as the proper form, how to wear/remove the ski, how to take a step with the ski on, what the ski line is, how to break when your sliding down, and finally how to ski even though it was just a short way down. The last one was the fun part! I can just imagine how fun it can be once you really get the hang of it.

We did the ski training in the morning and I was able to slide down, albeit a short one. I learned how to go up the slope taking one small step at a time. I didn’t know how tough that was before but it was tedious.

Then, we had a quick lunch because training can be tiring. I was already feeling the pain on my feet, legs, and knees so taking a break was more than necessary. They said that curry was the best dish to be eaten at the ski resort so I had a plateful.

ski gifu curry

There’s a lot of rice on this plate. Perfect for all those times I fell down on the snow.

After lunch, we went back and tried again. Doing something for the first time can really be difficult. Just imagine I was sweating a lot in -8-degree weather under all those clothes.

Another fun part of the ski experience was just building a snowman. We don’t have snow in the Philippines so getting to build one is awesome. If you want to build your own, don’t forget to wear gloves.

ski gifu snowman

Built a snowman in my own likeness. Balalala..

Right before leaving, it started snowing hard in the park. We returned our rental and drove back to Nagoya Station.

I did not manage to ski for the entire day and on the more difficult slopes but hey, it was my first time. And who knows, maybe I will return to the snow park with stronger legs. And maybe, I will even try snowboarding.

I need to hit the gym again and keep working on my legs.

We’ll hit the snow again someday…

Personal tips for first-time skiers

  • Keep yourself warm. Make sure you wear heat-generating innerwear (wink wink¬†“Heattech” top and leggings).
  • Goggles, bonnet, and gloves are your friends. Earmuffs too, if you want to wear one. To be safe, sunscreen is also recommended. Goggles are a must because when the sun is out, it can be blinding. Same with sunscreen, you can get sunburned into a crisp. The other stuff are added protection against the cold.
  • You don’t have to buy the expensive gear like the ski jacket and pants, and the board, you can rent from the snow park.
  • Like everywhere else in Japan, there are lots of coin lockers where you can leave your stuff when you go skiing.
  • Always err on the side of caution. If you’re not confident on a certain slope, there is a beginner slope you can try learning (and stumbling) on.
  • Bring extra clothes. You might not believe it but learning how to ski even in negative-degree weather can break a sweat.

Have you tried skiing? Share with us ski tips!