Oct 1, 2015

The Slopes of Akakura

Snowboarding is a lot harder than it looks, as contributing writer Denise Li finds out.

Prior to visiting Niigata prefecture, I had never experienced such heavy snowfall in my years of travelling so naturally, I was spellbound by the sight of snow the height of a two-storey building blanketing the landscape. It was as magical and beautiful as I had always imagined it to be!
After a red-eye flight and a fulfilling but tiring day of taking in the sights of Joetsu city, the warm, comfortable bed and luxurious bathroom at Akakura Kanko Resort & Spa were just what the doctor ordered for our weary bodies. The next morning, however, I found myself waking up bright and early as I was too excited by the prospect of trying my hand at snowboarding for the first time.
At around 7am, I opened my curtains to see that avid snowboarders and skiers were already up and on the slopes having their turn on the fresh, unmarked snow. The ski lifts were not even in operation yet!

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Ready and Raring To Go … Sort Of

Fuelled by a healthy breakfast, I was all ready to show off my moves (or lack thereof) on the slopes. A van took us from the hotel to the ski centre, which provides everything you could possibly need on the slopes – a waterproof jacket, pants, beanie, and of course, the necessary equipment.
My instructor and I trudged to the beginner’s area on the slopes, where I proceeded to strap my boots-clad feet into the snowboard. “Okay, now rock up on your heels to stand up,” advised my instructor, “And be careful not to fall forward.” Easier said than done. The process of standing up on the snowboard requires quite a bit of core strength, and although I regularly work out, it took several attempts for me to stand up without face-planting into the snow. That, however, was the easy part.
To move on the snowboard, you have to rock your knees forwards and backwards, similar to the motion of doing a squat. Sounds easy, right? Try doing it as you’re moving while trying to maintain your balance and steer yourself in the right direction at the same time! My instructor found himself having to come to my aid several times while I was doing this, so I would not crash into some unwitting selfie-taking snowboarders.
After an hour or so of falling and repeating the process, I could move short distances of about 10 metres unaided. But I was still having trouble coming to a stop, which you’re supposed to do by shifting your weight back onto your heels. I kept on falling backwards onto my buttocks!
As kids expertly zoomed past me on their snowboards, I asked my instructor how long it took for someone to learn how to snowboard properly. “The average person takes about two or three days, if he spends about four hours a day doing it,” came the reply. Four hours? I was already exhausted and soaked in sweat after doing it for just an hour.
I guess a lot more practice is in order… the perfect excuse to make a return trip to this gorgeous area, I reckon.

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