Sayonara Japan (But I’ll Be Back)

So the end of the season is now here @rusutsu. The resort closed on the 5th April. There are now very few people here and lifts and facilities have closed down – that ‘end of season ‘feel is definitely upon us all. Those that remain of my snowsport school colleagues are beginning to pack and make travel plans to their next destinations. Some are going travelling to Central Asia, some are travelling around Japan, whilst others are heading home to diverse locations across the world.

Some of us have Southern Hemisphere winters lined up, mainly in New Zealand. I’ll be heading to Whakapapa on Mount Ruapehu to teach there for the season, starting in June. Some of my colleagues are heading to Coronet Peak and Mount Cheeseman, a club field on the South Island.

The snow here has been heavy and slushy for the last couple of weeks of the season and the off-piste has been what newspaper snow reports describe as ‘varied’. That of course is a euphemism for ‘crap’! Or simply ‘OK’ if you look in the right places at the right times, for those in the know.

How has my first season in Japan been?

Well in terms of snowfall it has not been a normal Japanese winter. There has been a lot less snow than in a normal year. Only about 9 metres of accumulated snowfall. Yes, ‘only’ 9 metres! Normal is more like 15 metres! However we made do skiing more powder than I’ve seen before in any other winter ski season I’ve done. As regards to skiing icy slopes, well there’s been none to ski. Perhaps the occasional hard pack, but no real ice like you might get in Scotland for example.

My tree skiing has come on a long way, evidenced by experiencing nearly no tree related injuries. If you ski off-piste here you really have no choice but to like tree skiing.

The Japanese people have not disappointed either, being faultlessly polite and wanting to help you at all times. An example happened to me just the other day when I managed to leave my sunglasses on a gondola lift. I figured that was probably the last I had seen of them. But the next day as I was getting off the same lift, one the operators approached me and handed them over! This is even more amazing, as the previous day I had been wearing different ski gear! I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t happen at any ski resort other than a Japanese one.

Work-wise we had a lot of instructors leave at the end of February after the Chinese New Year holidays so March has ended up only being marginally less well paid than the other months. I should be going home with some decent savings. But certainly not enough to live off until next winter.

I’m planning to come back to Rusutsu next season all being well and I’m told the extension of my skilled labour visa should be fairly easy.

I’m now looking forward to New Zealand and teaching on a not completely dormant volcano! I hope it doesn’t decide that mid 2015 will be a good time to commence operations!

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Peter Marsh

BASI Ski Instructor

Peter Marsh is a British Association of Snowsports Instructors (BASI) qualified, Level 3, ISIA Ski Teacher. He’s been teaching since 1990 and has worked in numerous roles in the ski industry including as a Ski Teacher, Ski Shop Manager, Ski Holiday company representative, Piste Leader, Ski School Manager, Resort Transfer driver, Airport/Tour Company Liaison Officer and Ski Club of Great Britain leader.

Peter has worked in many places worldwide including Scotland, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and New Zealand.

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