Christoph Sonderegger comes from Mathon and usually works at the Ischgl ski school. This winter, however, he was in Japan. He tells us here what it was like.
Huge amounts of snow, up to half a metre of new snow three times a week, and such light and powdery snow at that, ideal for deep snow skiing: when Christoph Sonderegger thinks of Japan, he always thinks of the snow. The man from Mathon spent three months in Japan this winter season, specifically in the Hakuba Valley in the province of Nagano. He’s been back in Paznaun for two weeks now, and we wanted to ask him what the difference is between here – and there.
“The snow is different from ours,” says Christoph. “The snow is much lighter, which is because it comes from Siberia, and then over the sea, so it is both wetter and also colder than our snow. This is what makes it so powdery.” Snow is also guaranteed, and if you go deep snow skiing, then it always goes through wild vegetation, too. There are always trees or bushes, and what the Americans prize as tree-runs are just part of everyday skiing in Japan. In addition, there are also a relatively large numbers of mogul slopes, and the black runs are not usually prepared.
“THE JAPANESE TEND TO BE GOOD, TECHNICALLY-INTERESTED SKIERS”Christoph Sonderegger
“The Japanese are good skiers,” says Christoph, “They don’t just ski down the slopes to have fun, they want to do everything right.” No one here just crashes down the mountain, and anyone wanting to learn to ski in Japan wants to learn to ski correctly, technically perfect and clean. He found it particularly funny that “the Japanese like to film each other when they’re skiing. Or record individual ski runs.”
The ski areas in Japan themselves can’t be compared with the Austrian ones, however, says Christoph. Hakuba Valley is more or less the core area for Japanese ski sports, this is where the alpine competitions in the Nagano Olympic Games of 1998 took place – Hermann Maier, the fall, we remember it. It consists of nine partially interconnected ski areas. There are a total of 135 lifts, only five of which are cable cars. And these are all rather old. The majority of the facilities were built in the 1980s when skiing was very popular in Japan. But the cable cars are outdated, the majority being, according to Christoph, old two-person chairlifts without wind covers, of course, and mostly without safety bars. The lifts often don’t interlock with each other, so to get from one chair lift to another you have to walk or push, and outside of high season, many of the lifts are turned off during the week. The lift prices, on the other hand, are far cheaper, costing around 40 euros depending on the ski area.
Christoph spent three months this winter in Japan, with three pairs of skis and a whole load of equipment. In the ski school, which is owned by an Australian for whom Christoph worked last summer in Australia, his clients were mostly Australians and Americans. Christoph: “But skiing in Japan is very international, lots of Chinese, Thais, Russians and, of course, Japanese come, too. Many come for deep ski snowing.” There isn’t much entertainment, however. There are only a few ski huts in Hakuba, apres ski or outdoor bars such as in Austria are totally unknown in Japan. Christoph: “The Japanese prefer to go to the onsen after skiing, the hot Japanese springs.”
If you want to read more about Christoph’s adventures, our friends at Mogasi visited him this winter in Japan.