The difference between skiing Europe to skiing Japan? Where do I begin.
The rumours are true; I've never seen or skied more perfectly, powdery snow than the snow in Japan.
My skiing capabilities are fairly average and for that I apologise; Hakuba's notorious black runs were wasted on me and swerved in favour of wider, flatter ones. There's no shortage of red runs that connect seamlessly with blues, taking you on a tour around the mountain.
If you swerve a little off-course, which I dared to do for the first time, the snow is more or less untouched and more exquisite than my imagination had ever allowed me to imagine.
At the foot of Hakuba’s eleven ski resorts lies Wandano, a small village that plays host to the majority of Hakuba Valley’s skiers in the winter, and hikers in the summer.
We began our Japanese adventure at Happo One, a mere ten minute walk from our doorstep. Free shuttle buses are also available for those unwilling to walk in their heavy boots to the gondola lift that’s the gateway to the summit of the mountain.
There’s something magical about the ride up to a mountain you’ve never skied before; you can leave last season’s tumbles and wet arses behind as you ascend to new heights, all while imagining what awaits above. People in the village below become nothing more than tiny specks. As you climb higher, a frosty draft seeps into the gondola lift hitting your cheeks with a freshness that’s reserved solely for the mountains.
Someone once told me that skiing is just like riding a bike - I couldn’t help but picture my bike 3000m high, brakes failing and it soaring over the edge.
Now older and (somewhat questionably) wiser, I realise fear is the only thing that holds me back. I faced my first black run a few years ago but I can still feel the instantaneous heaviness of my feet, and the knots in my stomach, gluing me to that spot at the top of the mountains. The fear was debilitating. Yet here I am; I made it to tell the tale.
Finding my feet seems to take less time each time. On the first day, we were breaking for ramen before I knew it with more than a handful of successful runs under my belt.
By the end of the final day on the slopes, and one catastrophic but hilarious tumble down a slope later, I couldn’t imagine skiing anywhere else.
Japan > Europe.
All photographs were taken on my Google Pixel phone* and edited with Adobe Photoshop.