On Saturday, I went skiing with another ALT (L) and a Aiko, Japanese friend from cooking class and several of her coworkers. L and I had figured we would go someplace close by, but the Japanese people had A Plan that involved driving over to Gifu, a neighboring prefecture and about an hour and a half away. They drove though, so I didn’t really care. (We did have to get up to leave by 7am though.)

I had all these plans, where I was going to wake up and make myself a real breakfast, and then that didn’t happen. I woke up at 6:50 when Aiko sent me a text saying “I’m coming to pick you up now!” and of course I freaked out and threw on some clothing and was out the door.

It took a long time to actually make things happen. (Everything in Japan seems to take a long time.) I guess maybe part of it was that these other people were all friends, so sometimes they would stand around and chat – we rearranged ourselves in cars at one point, so that fewer cars were driving, and that seemed to take … a while.

At the mountain, I rented skis and also a snow suit – I really just wanted pants but they came as a set. This turned out to be very smart: it was cold on the mountain, and I really needed the two layers of pants. Also, I ended up falling down a couple times – and also deliberately sitting a couple times – and my jeans would have been soaking wet and miserable on the long drive home.

So it turns out that L can’t really ski. She’d only been one other time, hadn’t had any lessons, and the person who took her before had a sort of tunnel vision about the difficulty of skiing (that apparently I sort of share) that led him to take her right up to the top of the mountain without any sort of preparation.

By tunnel vision, I mean, I forget that when I was five I had actual lessons and moderate amounts of practice at skiing, and that even though now I am shit at it and haven’t gone in years, I know how to Mostly Not Fall, and Turn, and Stop Moving. I forget that skiing is sort of like riding a bike both in that you never really forget how and also that it is not remotely instinctive.

Which is to say, the first run of the (actually really long and nice) bunny hill had me zoooming down the slopes and then wondering where my friend was, while L was falling all over the hill because she was freaked out about the speed. Fortunately, Aiko had stuck with her – had also taught L how to ride the lift, which I meant to do except that then I got separated. (L was very timid about it at first, even just the lift. But that changed as she got more confident.)

L had this .. “technique” where she would ski across the slope, realize she was going too fast or that she had reached the edge, and would deliberately fall. Then she would lift her skis up so they were pointing the opposite direction, and ski to the other edge…. where she would fall again. Deliberately. And flop her skis over.

She didn’t like the speed she got when turning, or something – because you have to point a little more downhill, and you go a little faster, and she felt totally out of control. But Aiko was pretty good at coaching her, and I would pester her not to deliberately fall down because that’s just REALLY EXHAUSTING even though she wasn’t going fast enough for it to hurt much (especially because it was usually deliberate). I stuck it out with her on the bunny slope all morning, though after a few runs we sent Aiko off to the rest of the mountain because frankly, Aiko is a lot better than either of us. (She also is a snowboarder – this particular mountain was mostly boarders. Which was good, really – I think boarding runs are generally less steep than skiing runs, unless you’re talking about half-pipes.)

After lunch, I left L on the bunny slope alone, and went halfway up the mountain with the rest of them. I requested we pick the easier section.

So, I should mention here: this was a real mountain. I mean, it wasn’t crazy difficult or anything, but I don’t think I’ve been skiing on a proper mountain since I was five, if then. (I’m basing this on other people’s distain for the skiing available in Michigan.) And going down the intermediate slope wasn’t exactly too hard, I mean, I made it down. But it was long. It was really long. I think one run took me half an hour, though we stopped occasionally. Everybody did, it was like “Hey, instead of moguls (this cannot possibly be the proper spelling) we’re going to scatter people around as hazards! DON’T HIT THEM.” (Mostly I managed to stop on the edges, but other people just plopped down in the center.) I fell three or four times going pretty fast, which hurt – it’s been so long since I’d been skiing, I forgot how the skis catch in the snow and sort of wrench your legs about from the hip socket. Not hard enough to hurt myself, or even to lose a ski (actually, I may have lost a ski once, I forget now) but enough to give you a jolt and make (me, at least) just a little nervous when I start again.

I realized about 30 seconds into it that L had been completely smart to stay where she was – I’d tried to pester her into trying coming up with us, but she would have fallen a lot. And painfully.

So anyway, I made it down, but I was exhausted: from the long run, from the falling, from the skiing before lunch where I was trying hard to go slowly to stick with L. (Going slowly actually seems harder than going fast, you’re fighting physics the whole way.) I declined to go back up the mountain and rejoined L on the bunny slope – and let me clarify, here, the bunny slope was not a rope lift type, it had a proper chair lift and was a lot longer than any other bunny slope I’ve ever seen. It was more like an easy, green circle slope than a bunny slope, but it did have some tiny children getting lessons on it. (Plus the requisite lounging skiers/boarders just chillin’ in the middle of the slope, both of which added a measure of hazard as we were forced to avoid hitting them.)

By the end of the day, L was doing pretty well – she managed to get down the easy slope without falling once, even on the steeper start which she found very nerve-wracking.

We didn’t stay too long in the afternoon – we left about 2:30. The others went to an onsen, but L, Aiko and I drove home.

I ended up taking a bath in my tiny half-tub, which was nice except for how my knees always hover up around my chin when I do that. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and if I go again (I’d like to, but it’s a little expensive, between the skis and the pants and the lift ticket it ran me about $100) I’ll be a little more adventurous about going on the harder slopes. (Though it would be good to have a Japanese person with me again, as there were two options half way up the mountain and I had no idea which was easier.)

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