Sunrise to Sunset Snow

Day by day, the hours of sunlight increase, which has always meant the hours of skiing does too. From 6:30 until 4:30, lifts are running and groomers are grooming, and on top of that, the sky keeps snowing. As of the 25th of March, we finally hit a season high with a sustained base snow depth of 310cm and rising. How does this happen you may ask? How is this possible in Okushiga? Well, I think it is fair to now say that the Siberian winds seem to have seemingly chosen favorites—as the Alps become evermore desolate, Okushiga Pow just becomes more pow… And with a change of winds comes a change in migration patterns guaranteed… Okushiga pow has spoken for itself!

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From breakfast to dinner, flowering edibles nourish our bellies to fuel our legs through the snowy mountains of Okushiga. Healthy living seems to be the mountain way as we gorge ourselves with only the best quality mountain food in Shiga Highlands. Our international staff brings authentic fine Japanese and French dining with all the in between snacks mastered and included for the hungry go-getters. And we are even given the freedom to create our own goofy breakfast dishes (bottom left).

When you think digesting food on top of more food is enough, we have to wakeup to mesmerizing sunrises casting light on layer after layer of fresh powder, just waiting to be sun struck, but those smart enough to hit the Okushiga pow in its softest form wakeup for the early bird chair to ski out as many fresh lines as possible before heading in for a hefty breakfast and maybe even nap. Ladies and gentlemen, it does not matter when you come, for the picture perfect snow keeps on coming.

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March Madness • 弥生の粉雪

Everyday we wakeup thinking that it is our last winter skiing and that it was time to put on the wetsuit for some spring slush, but every time that hint of warmth, crust, ice, or wetness baits us into the sad mentality of needing to wait another year for Japow, we just get completely dumped on. What is this madness? Climate change maybe…but at least that means more snow in 2017!

シャバシャバの雪もそろそろかな、と思う度に粉雪の吹雪きます2017年3月下旬の奥志賀高原です。

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After a solid 30cm of overnight snow, blistering winds have kept the powder untouched this morning, leaving powder packed pistes wide open for the few venturing over from Yakebitaiyama for one perfect run. Despite what the photo above shows in terms of conditions, visibility was not even a necessary factor when every turn was aided by equally weighted knee deep powder that left you with a taste of heaven and sorrows forgotten.

視界はお先真っ白になるときもありますが、膝まで浸かるモフモフの中を滑っているうちに、天気など気にならなくなります。

Regardless of the weather, evenings are full of craze and enthusiasm for magic, music, medals, and even marriage. Gwendal never ceases to impress with his singing and guitar playing as guests simultaneously admire and even take sneaky opportunities to touch olympic gold for their first time (without even needing to put in the hard work!) Meanwhile hordes gather for weekend magic as Fred and new guest star magician Sylvia put on never before seen duet performances for Okushiga guests! And even newly weds looking for and receiving a blast of excitement up in the Japanese mountains. With guests who have spent the winter season skiing all over the world, everyone is in agreement that March in Okushiga will bring nothing but the best snow at this time of the year. Time to go ski some powder—this is truly madness!

ラウンジに戻ればそこは、手品ライブ音楽金メダルついには結婚セレモニーなどで賑わっていて、グウェンダルは相変わらず歌が上手で、彼の金メダルを宿泊客は、これをチャンスとばかりに触ってみるのでした。

世界中を滑っているゲストの口々から出てくる言葉は、今年3月の奥志賀には最上質の雪が降り積もっているということ。

ラッキー・ライダーがひとりでも増えることが私たちの歓びです。

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The Birds and the Bees • まだ冬もう春

Cherry blossoms are blooming throughout Japan, signaling the turn of the season, and usually, the decline of snow quality throughout the region too, but not in Okushiga! The snow keeps on coming (another 20cm in 36 hours), well at least enough to keep us satisfied and the slopes in perfect skiing condition (see below), while the Okushiga trees stay unbelievable (as you can see from the photo above).

桜貝色の匂いを風が、日本各地に運んで来る季節になりました。
奥志賀高原はというと、数日前には20センチの粉雪が36時間で降り積もるという、春とは別の盛り上がりを見せました。
圧雪、非圧雪バーン共に、ぱーふぇくと・こんでぃしょん。

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With the spring solstice arriving soon, everyone around the hotel is getting slightly giddy for what is to come during the official turn of the season. Ski instructors and their students alike are in splendor from seemingly endless fun, from a morning and afternoon on the slopes, split apart by pizza and Uno for lunch, I do not think anyone could be more jealous of such a glorious day. But what about night?

春分の日が近づく中、ご滞在の方々、インストラクターの方々、生徒の方々など皆さま、奥志賀高原で迎える日々に胸を躍らせているよう。

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Olympic gold medal winner, Gwendal Peizerat, is here not only to enjoy the snow, but also to showcase another gold medal worthy facet… his singing! From watching him prepare during the day to setting the ambience at night, the hype is in the air, and we cannot wait for many nights of joy to come.

朝はゲレンデを
昼はピザとカードゲームを
夜は、突如姿を現した、オリンピック、フィギュアスケートの金メダリスト・グウェンダル・ペーゼラのカラオケを
愉しむ、1日。

The snow may be still falling, but the birds are already chirping and the bees are definitely buzzing. Spring is coming and love is in the air at Okushiga. When the sunrise snowcat tour brings you unforgettable views of tranquility along with a pink soul warming glow reflecting off the snow, how could you not feel the need to embrace something, someone, or really anything around while on top of the world?

色とりどりの日の色は雪に映し返され、
朝日と雪のおしゃべりは続く。

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To catch the first sunbeam!       日の出を山頂で迎え、ノートラック・バーンを滑って気持ち新たに  

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Today Okushiga Kogen Hotel had organized another amazing sunrise snowcat tour!  At 5:45 AM all gathered guests after the glass of fresh orange juice hit the road with the snowcat truck to conquer the mountain!

今朝の奥志賀高原はいつもと少し違って、朝の5時45分にホテル前に、白い息を吐きながら身を寄せ合うように人が集い、重たい睫毛をこすりながらオレンジジュースを飲んでいました。

向かう先はゴンドラ山頂、それもスノーキャット(圧雪車)に乗って。

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In Japanese tradition, the Sun is the symbol of Goddess Amaterasu, who is one of the most important gods in Japanese pantheon. That is why, apart from aesthetic considerations, catching the first sunbeam of the day has a very spiritual value. It is even more sacred to watch the sunrise from the mountain on the first day of New Year or from the holy mountain of Japan: Fuji-san.

朝日と聞いて、どんな匂い、色、風を想い出しますか。地球がもう一回りすることを告げる夜明けは、気持ちを新たにする力を持ち、新年は日の出を拝んだりします。

まだ優しい光を浴びながら、ノートラックのゲレンデを滑った後の心持ちは、唯一無二の想い出となって、貴方のこれからを見守ることでしょう。

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On the viewpoint up on the Yakebitai mountain guests had a chance to look up to the stunning view of rising sun above Shiga Kogen cordillera, drink hot chocolate and take photos.

あたたかいココアを飲みながら、少しずつ色づいていく景色。

時間の経過が染み込んでゆく瞬間。

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After the lofty moment of the passing sunrise, guests had a unique pleasure to shred the first corduroy tracks on the expert or forest run.

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Really nice way to start a day, am I right?

そんな一日の始め方も、悪くないですね。

One Way To Do an Okushiga Day

For those of you who are reading this blog and have yet to experience Okushiga Kogen, here is a brief snapshot of a day that could be yours, even though the true experience of being here is truly impossible to describe. And if you have been smart or lucky enough to venture out into our highlands, maybe you would like a little help remembering some of the happiest times of your life or being jealous of what could have been…Warning: it may have not been the most glamorous of days that could have been, but it sure was a great one!

I may have woken up a bit late today, so breakfast was skipped, but all in order to make it up the mountain on the first chair at 8:30. With the sun already blazing, presenting a 360 degree panoramic view into the horizon, many a picture was taken, even one using the panorama function on the iPhone—the opportunity was just too tempting!

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Despite the lack of sustenance in my belly, my legs and body were already awakened by the cool clean air and the non-stop picture perfect views. It was almost dangerous to ski because the views were unbelievably eye-catching, maybe too eye-catchingly distracting. Someone, like myself, could forget where he or she was going— I definitely nearly lost it a couple of times!

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Shredding through the perfectly groomed slopes, swishing and edging, trying to find that perfect feeling that comes close to flying, I found myself at the park. Taking a break to asses the options / actually mustering up the courage to get up and jump, I found myself admiring the demo skis rented from the hotel. Couldn’t help it, because they felt good and definitely made me look good at the very least!

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Then into the trees of the Okushiga Valley we went. Between the Yakebitaiyama #1 Gondola and Okushiga Gondola, there are countless lines with everlasting powder and trees to dodge, which never ceases to please and challenge even the best of us! There seems to always be room to improve… such is the beauty of the sport.

With tired legs and the feeling of a day well spent, I naturally gravitated towards the comfortable couches in the lounge, where a warm fire, food, snacks, and plenty of drinks were had thanks to the international staff, who knew my needs and even sent me secret messages in my drinks? Or maybe I had too many…

Glimmers of Sun, Heaps of Snow

Don’t let the weather report fool you, for the 5 to 6 cm that is consistently forecasted is definitely adding up to be much more. Layer after layer, the mountain is now pure soft joy—any piste gives you a chance to create your own art. Any remnants of sun-crusted snow has been buried deep beneath the surface, untouchable by ski or snowboard alike. From beginners getting used to powering through the knee deep snow, to advanced carvers testing their agility through swishy turns, guests are putting themselves to the test. Powder skiing is no easy task after all!IMG_4084

When we continue to cherish what we imagine as the “last” snow day, we just keep getting more, and it’s mid march! Though there are always the usual early birds, one can tell that some usuals on the mountain are getting lazy with later starts. But as the days get longer, Okushiga Kogen is going to work in tandem with the beauty of the Spring solstice—We will be opening lifts on the mountain at 6am for the early birds eager to catch the purest and freshest part of the day.

On this day last year, snow depth was at 85cm and we were still open for skiing; today we are more than 200cm above last year’s snow depth, and of course, we are open as always…but what a difference! Temperatures are staying low and we are expecting more snow over the next week, so if you feel as if it is too late to get that ski trip in, it isn’t too late to come to Okushiga. With our high altitude and a healthy snow base, there should be no fear of booking a spring trip, it will be well worth it—lift operating hours will be longer than ever afterall.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day with Champagne Pow!

As predicted, it was a glorious day at Okushiga Kogen Resort, where we had a rebalancing of our 10cm loss of snowmelt with 10cm of soft and dry angel dust—the snow gods perhaps alluding to a much greater need for women’s rights and equality, which ultimately means greater happiness for all.

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Being a very international hotel and resort, we continue to set a precedent of welcoming women and men of all backgrounds, whether one comes as a guest or staff, the multicultural and diverse atmosphere that the combination of the two creates is one of comfort and inclusivity without discrimination. As a whole, we stand as a feminists who do all that we can to promote equality and understanding among all travelers who visit.

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With another sun blazing day after an evening of snowfall, we all can have a fresh start with fresh tracks, but also a fresh mindset and mindfulness towards the inequality that still exists throughout the world, in order to help be apart of the positive change we want and need to make now and in the future.

Here at Okushiga Kogen Hotel, we would be nothing without our girls Oku and Shiga! IMG_4054

How about you?