In winter Hokkaido is famous for its deep powder snow – perfect for skiing and snowboarding. However, the deep snow tends to put off some skiers, especially those who are still trying to learn.
Fortunately, Hokkaido has various slopes, suited for both beginners and experienced skiers. This means that even beginners are able to experience the world famous Hokkaido snow and start a new hobby.
One of the initial decisions first-timers need to make is where to start skiing. There are several ski resort towns in Hokkaido, like Niseko, Rusutsu, and Kiroro, just to name a few. While the larger resort towns may offer more amenities, their slopes will have more people as a result. This means that there are longer queues for lifts and other services, and prices may be higher. Due to the high influx of tourists, the ambience in the larger resorts may be more of a mix between Japanese and Western. The smaller resort towns in comparison may have a more classical Japanese atmosphere and will have less people. Not only do you have less competition for services, prices may be less expensive than the more tourist crowded towns. Another thing to consider is if the resort will have a spa or traditional onsen to soothe the aches and pains away from a day of learning to ski.
It is strongly advised to rent equipment first. This allows you to test the gear first before committing to purchasing them. Ski equipment can get very pricey. The rental shop staff can also advise you on which gear you will need on the slopes.
You may be tempted to forego skiing lessons and just watch videos or read articles on how to ski. While this may work, it is highly not recommended. Most experienced skiers will advise beginners to take lessons. A teacher can explain the fundamentals, guide you in the proper forms, and offer corrections. An expert can therefore provide you with a solid foundation for learning the skill. A teacher also helps you in learning the skill faster and, therefore, you can have more time to enjoy your stay.
Most ski resorts in Hokkaido offer skiing lessons. If you don’t speak Japanese, check if the lessons are in English or other languages that you are conversant in. Some resorts also offer a discount to equipment rental and ski lifts if you purchase a lesson, so it is worth checking out.
One mistake that most beginners make is not to dress for skiing. Always check the weather forecast for the day that you going to be skiing and dress appropriately. Dress in layers as it is easier to take stuff off when you are on the slope rather than to go find something to put on.
Keep away from cotton as it can soak up moisture – either from the snow or sweat. Don’t wear jeans and instead go for nylon, waterproof pants. Scarves can get caught in the ski lift so masks are recommended instead.
Rest and Keep Hydrated
Beginners will sweat a lot – it’s because you’ll be picking yourself up more often. With the increased moisture loss from breathing is due to high altitude, dehydration can be a common occurrence. Make sure that you rest often and drink up. Hot drinks taste a lot better when you’re cold.
Stretch and Don’t Forget the Sunblock
While you may be excited to hit the slopes, don’t forget to warm up and do some stretches. Flexibility helps in preventing injury. And just because it’s cold does not mean you can forego the sunblock. It will be sunny and you may not feel the sunburn because of the cold.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Learning to ski is not easy. You will fall a lot. Don’t give up and pick yourself up. While you may not master skiing in a day, the experience will stay with you for a long time. Enjoy yourself and, every now and then, take a break to enjoy the scenery of a beautiful Hokkaido winter.