Thursday, January 6, 2011
Nozawa Onsen Pt. 3: the slopes
If you want to ski or board from dawn to dusk, by all means stay at Pension Schnee, which is on the mountain and a short walk from where you can rent your equipment and buy your lift tickets and take a gondola up to the top.
To go to Nozawa Onsen the village -- it's very charming -- from Schnee you need to take the moving walkway, or the "Yu-Road," which is just like the rolling sidewalks you see at airports. Only it stops operating around 4:30pm, so unless you want to walk uphill on packed snow for 15 minutes after an evening out, it's the pension's bar/restaurant for you. Which is fine, a cozy spot with an extensive drink and snack menu.
The whole setting is idyllic, really. We've skied in a few places around Japan -- Hakuba, Yuzawa/Niigata, in Hokkaido just outside Sapporo -- and I must say that Nozawa Onsen was the prettiest, with its many tall pine trees with branches sagging under enormous clumps of snow...
The area saw some heavy snowfall while we were there, which made for some nice and soft and fluffy-powdery conditions. The weather was wild, actually, shifting dramatically all weekend long. You'd have clear blue sky/bright sunshine/great visibility one minute, dark gray overcast sky /heavy snowfall and chill the next. The swings, so regular and extreme, were unlike anything I've ever experienced on a ski slope anywhere, no kidding.
On Sunday we took a few hours off from skiing/boarding to check out the town...
It's a pretty steep descent
shops on main street
Lunch at Wakagiri featured a full range of local cuisine: ramen, kappamaki, tempura and tonkatsu. And a menu we could read!
I ditched the group before they had a chance to order dessert and found myself in a "paper dolls and origami" shop. Proprietress Silvia, originally from El Salvador, makes some pretty cool dolls out of washi paper:
foot bath on the corner
On Monday morning we had a couple hours to spare before our train left, so the boys went to a public onsen for a free soak (they had to use Terry's jeans to dry off because towels were not provided and we didn't think to bring any) while I wandered around and ultimately found Memorial Hall. It was then I started to understand what the upcoming Fire Festival was all about...