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?

 

A Dusting in Time

Guests and staff alike lived like true mountain people for a morning without free flowing water. In return, we all got a taste of the freshness of snow liquified by the fire and drained into our bodies—it is rare that we get to taste the nutrient rich bliss of unadulterated H2O. IMG_3990.JPG

As always, life goes on in the Oku mountains, albeit with more mineral rich blood-flow…from work to play, Okushiga Kogen continues to be the hustle and bustle where constant activity, exercise, and mountain food munching occurs. Meanwhile, sunny days and blue skies bring the natural progression of snowmelt, photos, but most importantly, the much needed goggle tan, so everyone back home knows that we could not have been doing anything but having a great time in the snow during our hiatus from civilization.

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This week will undoubtably be glorious for those who listened to the weather gods and decided to travel up to Okushiga, as the magic (or Fred’s magic) of snowy evenings provide a perfect layer of fresh snow to reset your favorite lines day in and day out. Post-lunch skiing in the clouds of snowflakes does lower visibility, but all in lieu of the next morning’s sun, which has been trending towards sunny skies and glistening snow. If you are a reasonable distance out, I think it is worth the trek up. March conditions don’t get much better than this!

Oh What a Night

Day in and day out we ski, we lounge, we eat… but that sometimes is not exciting enough! Fresh tracks with red tips skimming through the snow just seems to fuel the body with a vigor that continuously craves more excitement. Especially living in Oku’s highlands, we spoil ourselves with the expectation of an even better day every next day until our back to “real” life wakeup call—but does this Oku craving for more ever stop?img_3955

With an expected 20cm of snow to come in the next 36 hours, it is hard to say that it does not keep getting better here, but where is the surprise when we just seem to expect and those expectations seem to be met? Life may be too good but where is the excitement?

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If you are not getting enough on the mountain, the lounge seems to be the heart of the hotel—from the delicious selection of Japanese, French, and good ol’ classic apres ski munchies available next to the warmth of the fire, you now have the chance to test Allan behind the bar!

As a regular at the lounge bar who needed some additional entertainment and perhaps a devious urge to throw the bartender off guard, I decided to name an ingredient—matcha, and requested for Allan to conjure a delicious drink using matcha as the base flavor. I chose matcha since this is Japan and it is a delicious ingredient in nearly everything except for alcoholic beverages…or so I thought.

The next thing I knew, I was gulping down a matcha cocktail that blew expectations out of Japow! Brandy was the next test, where he made an apricot-like cocktail that refreshed the body and soul, while the mind and tastebuds were tricked into thinking it was a light drink in the moment, the next thing I knew, I was happily in bed awaiting the bliss of sleep. It was barely 9, I was missing Fred’s magic show, and I had forgotten to take a photo of the delightful drink…I wonder why 😉

The next day of skiing felt slightly more challenging, but during every fall, I couldn’t help but chuckling at my failed attempt to trick up Allan—it was a pleasantly surprising night at Okushiga Kogen Hotel. New challenge: trick Allan up with a cocktail ingredient!

Pure Fun in the Sun

With yesterday’s short but necessary snowfall throughout the highlands, blistering winds held up morning lift operation times of Okushiga Kogen resort, but that left the afternoon open to fresh tracks in the sun. Since Okushiga Kogen is North facing, that means we get the most snow in the area, but also means that our snow-faces are more susceptible to strong winds—ultimately worth the snow and definitely worth the brief wait as shuttles were provided to Yakebitaiyama gondolas in preparation for the afternoon at Okushiga!

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With the weekend upon us, new guests arrive bringing about a fresh buzz of excitement for the mountain air, snow, and relaxation in the hotel. Meanwhile, excitement and activities continue to thrive from day to night at the hotel lounge! Can’t wait to meet and excite a new selection of avid guests looking for some fun in the sun!

Hina Matsuri, the Girls’ Day!

Hina Matsuri is Japanese Doll Festival, celebrated every year on March 3rd. It traces its origins to the Heian period custom called hina-nagashi, which means “doll floating”, the Hina doll was set afloat on a board and sent down a river to the sea. That symbolized taking troubles and bad spirits away with them. Coincidentally, Girls’ Day is also celebrated that day. It is a special time to pray for the safety, welfare and luck of girls. On this occasion, most of the Japanese families display a set of ornamental dolls (hina-ningyou) on special, covered with red carpet, stairs-shaped platforms.  They represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians in traditional robes of the Heian period. Even though, normally dolls connote with fun, those are not made for playing. They are displayed before March 3rd just for admiring, but they should be pull in not longer than three days after the holiday. It is a superstition that if dolls won’t be hidden, a daughter can become a spinster.800px-hina_matsuri_display

There are also special dishes, prepared for that holiday, which includes various types of sweets. A colored hina-arare, bite-sized crackers flavored with sugar or soy sauce, a hishimochi, a diamond-shaped colored rice cake, chirashizushi, rice flavored with sugar, vinegar, topped with raw fish and different ingredients are often eaten. Also, the customary drink for the festival is shirozake, a sake made from fermented rice.                    Girls have lots of fun that day. Like little princesses in their festival kimono, they celebrated it, playing on girl’s parties organized by their parents, eating sweets and obtaining gifts!

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Do you have and if so, how do you celebrate Girl’s Day in your culture?

Best wishes for girls all over the world from Okushiga Kōgen Hotel!

Text: Martyna Gawel

Photos: Wikipedia

Revitalization of Japow

With a spur of sunny days brings blue sky’s and panoramas of the Highland Mountains. It has been the ideal climate for perfect family photos and infinite angles and views of Japan’s “alps”. From drinking hot cocoa during our sunrise snowcat tours to sunset by the lounge fire, happiness continues to permeate through the area.

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Unfortunately, countless picturesque days brought about warm weather that has brought down base snow depths by 20cm on average, from 300cm to 280cm. BUT there is and has never been a reason to worry, for the snow gods of Japan always live up to their prowess- a hit of overnight snow has reached replenished the lost 20cm, and still continues to fall!

 

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The sun may be hidden and visibility may be low, but powder is guaranteed with the sun expected to come tomorrow. So spend the day out receiving free facials or spend it in the warmth of the lounge playing boardgames or catching up on work. Fresh Japow is back!