Spoilt in Japan

We are incredibly spoilt here in Japan. Snow keeps on coming at regular intervals, often daily. A rare occurrence recently was four days of sunny weather. Which personally I really enjoyed, but there was much discontented grumbling about poor off-piste conditions in the instructor locker room.

Was it bad off-piste? Hell no! But it’s amazing how quickly your expectations of bottomless powder all day, every day take hold and nothing less will do!

Work wise I did OK in January which is typically is a little quieter in the ski instructor world, after the peak season weeks over Christmas and New Year. Fortunately, for me, many of my colleagues chose to ski and drink rather than work, so I did pretty well.

Skiing in Japan

Early February was generally very quiet for the ski school so I had a bit of time off and went to ski with a friend in Niseko. The lift system in Niseko is a real hotch potch, as different companies own different parts of the lift infrastructure. So there is a lot of going up to get across the mountain and as each company developed its lift system separately there is no real logic to how it works as a whole. I liked the terrain there which is often steeper than in Rusutsu. But a day pass was 7400 yen, about £41 which is pricey for Japan – also snow quality on piste was not as good as Rusutsu, probably owing to the greater number of skiers there and the off-piste was totally tracked out less than 2 days after a good dump. I enjoyed my visit and will go back, although I will be picking my days carefully!

Recently I had to sit the Ski Association of Japan Instructor exams. What did I think of them? Well not a lot to be honest. The exams are over 1 day, with training in the morning and the exam in the afternoon. The first exam, level 2, includes short parallels, long parallels and stem step turns. Yes you read that last part right. I had not done a stem step turn at this point for at least twenty years! Even then I was told by a trainer we would do them for a bit of fun as they were a very old technique and had not been used for anything for a very long time. This turn is still in the Japanese teaching progression and is apparently taught between plough turns and parallel. Though I’ve never seen anyone here use it. No wonder.

The second exam, level 1, included shorts and longs again plus skiing a bumps rut line and a forward variable side slip! On each exam you got one run on each element which is marked by three examiners. We had to wear numbered bibs and a whistle was used to summon us down the run. My main emotion after passing each exam was ‘good, I don’t have to do that again’. They were and will always be, the cheapest skiing exams I’ve ever done, at about seven and nine British pounds each! And if you don’t pass you don’t pay!

Anyway, a bientot

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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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