We went on a ski holiday in Niseko Hokkaido during the school holiday. It was the first time we skied in Japan and I am pretty convinced now that we needn’t travel far for a good ski holiday. It took us less than 10 hours to get there, which is near compared to the nearest ski resort you can get to in Europe and in the States.
I have long resigned to the fate that holidaying with my male dominated household usually mean some kind of roughing out. For this time round, it would be skiing, skiing and more skiing! Just thinking of that, makes me tired already.
After having the boys stuck with me for the first 3 weeks since the start of the school holiday, I was ready to shove the boys to the Dad. They could ski all day for all they want and I was ready to do my girlie stuff but I reckoned I would be quite alone.
Hokkaido, the north island of Japan, is geographically located in the path of consistent weather systems that bring the cold air across the Sea of Japan from Siberia. This results in many of the resorts being absolutely dumped with powder that is renowned for being incredibly dry. Niseko is the powder capital of the world and as such is the most popular international ski destination in Japan.
It snowed almost everyday during our stay there and of course the boys were thrilled. There is nothing better than dry powdery snow. They would brave the snowstorm, overcome low visibility, chomp down on nori rolls on the ski slopes so that they could maximise the time spent skiing. I would roll my eyes and head off for my well deserved lunch break at a mountain top cafe, slurping down piping hot ramen and chilling out with a cuppa.
Yet I have to admit, there is no better place to be than on the slopes when a snowstorm hits, that is if the ski lifts are open. It would be too cold to be walking on the streets even with my warmest winter gear and staying at home would just make the day even gloomier. Even when you had to exert every ounce of your leg muscles, riding down the slopes, with adrenaline pumping, snowflakes on your face, well not exactly on the bare face unless you don’t mind risking frostbite, seemed like the best way to enjoy the harsh weather. The feeling can be scary yet surreal, kind of oxymoronic.
But with close to zero visibility, skiing down the slopes made me pukey sick and I had since added skiing to the list of sports that could cause motion sickness, which also includes wind surfing, gliding an unpowered aircraft, scuba diving and snorkelling.
Yes, I am the motion sickness queen.
So the first couple days of skiing went on pretty well. Marcus went to a full day ski school and Malcolm got to tag along with us, traversing different slopes. We warmed up muscles that we barely knew existed and I was surprised that my 10 year old’s energy level could outlast mine on the slopes. It could be because he was fitter, which was very unlikely. My conclusion was fun could negate all physical exhaustion, or perhaps I was the one using all the wrong muscles to ski in the first place! Ultimately, I think having gone through proper ski school with a certified instructor makes a difference.
We started with family slopes doing green runs and then the red ones. My husband led the way, followed by Malcolm. I was the fun spoiler, trailing behind, incessantly warning them to slow down, be careful and avoid the trees.
‘But tree runs are fun! Come, try some humps and jumps’ was what I got from my 10 year old. I had to remind him that I am 40 not 10! I am lousy at breaking fall, I’d probably end up breaking a bone or two! In an attempt to boost my confidence, he secretly told me that I actually went down a black, the one that I complained was too steep. I was right! That wasn’t a red! Why did I ever trust them?! but shhhh, it was supposed to be a secret between him and his Dad.
Yes, Mom was the scaredy cat.
But they were right, I did get bolder after doing the more challenging runs. An inflated ego and complacency is never a good match. We were checking out the other side of the mountain, it was a new run and we were almost reaching the ski lift that would bring us back where we came from, when the much dreaded happened.
I lost control and fell over. My right ski came off but my left ski didn’t clip off and landed me in an awkward twist. I heard my knee go ‘cluck’ and I thought, that’s it, my leg!
My husband managed to sit me up and I could feel the throbbing pain in my knee. I started to shiver uncontrollably probably due to shock and the body started to feel cold. There was no way that I could make it down and had to call for help.
First aid came in the form of a bright orange stretcher and 2 handsome Japanese men. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a snow mobile but come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t be able to make it down on a snow mobile in the state I was in.
I was wrapped in a blanket and zipped up in the stretcher and brought down the slope by the skiers holding onto the stretcher, one on each end. I couldn’t see a thing and didn’t know which way we were going. Occasionally they would talk to me to make sure that I was ok. There was no ventilation in that zipped up stretcher and I was expecting a rather bumpy ride but it turned out to be quite smooth. Inside the stretcher, the orange cover had became especially bright with the sun shining on it. I remember lying there, thinking to myself how long it would take to use up the oxygen, maybe it wouldn’t last all the way down.
We went to the A&E at a local hospital then, did the x-ray and found no broken bone. Yay! but I went home with a pair of clutches and the holiday was cut short. At the airport, I was given priority boarding because I was in a wheelchair. I could have limped all the way from the check in counter to the boarding gate, but it was just so much easier to be wheeled around in a wheelchair!
The orthopaedic that I went to confirmed that I had torn a ligament. It’s been more than 3 weeks and I am still limping. It will be a while before I could go back to my usual exercise routine. Boohoo.
And so that’s how I welcomed the new year … with a busted knee.