I’m pretty sure the concept of snowshoeing is that you use the contraptions on your feet to elegantly glide across untouched snow. For a non-skier like me it’s an opportunity to play in the powder without the risk of losing limbs. It looked and sounds pretty simple and it is – as long as you don’t fall in.
When faced with deep, powder soft snow there is a temptation to dive straight in. Bum-first I launched myself into the snow that felt as soft as cotton wool. I performed the obligatory snow angel, ran the silky wisps of snow through my fingers and then I tried to get back up.
I may be here until Spring.
What I’d failed to fathom as I’d flung myself into deep, deep, endless snow was that something that’s soft to land in is equally soft when you try to stand in it. I managed to manoeuvre my ungainly snowsuit clad torso into a seated position but every time I tried to use my hands to push myself up as I just fell deeper into the snow.
I rolled around, clutching at different parts of the snowfall to try and find a sturdy surface to grip to but it was hopeless. My goggles fell off in the process and were nearly sacrificed to the snow – along with me.
Our host, who had clearly done this more than once, instructed me to roll onto my knees and trying launching myself up that way. Somehow, after an embarrassingly long period of time, I got my feet behind me and started trying to fling myself into a standing position. I failed. It took 3 men, deep breaths and a massive heave ho to get me back on my feet. I decided not to be a snow angel again.
Despite fearing I might be left on the mountain for months I loved my first experience of snowshoeing. As a ski virgin I was unsure of what sort of fun a ski resort could offer me (aside from the après ski, of course!) but Grandeco Ski Resort in Tohoku taught me there’s heaps to do at a ski resort even if you don’t ski.
After surviving the snowshoeing, next we tried sledding (I nailed it if you count mounting the embankment as ‘nailing’), snow rafting (no fear of failing at this one – you simply sit in a raft and let a mad man on a snow mobile drag you around) and snowmobiling (I didn’t drive out of concern for the safety of everyone at the resort).
As I expected I enjoyed the après ski at Grandeco a lot too. The resort has an onsen where you can bathe outdoors in boiling hot spring waters as you watch the snow fall on the rocks around you. It’s a wonderful way to warm up after all that rolling around in the snow and will keep you feeling toasty for hours afterwards.
For dining you can choose between European and Japanese cuisine – I went for Japanese curry for lunch and then enjoyed the French degustation menu for dinner.
All the generous sized rooms have mountain views with some overlooking the ski slope directly. The softness of the powder here makes the resort popular for first-timers and oldies as there is less risk of injury. For me, the great selling points were the range of activities for non-skiers and the fact that this resort is just a few hours by train from Tokyo (it’s 260km north as the crow flies) . To reach the resort you can hop on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Koriyama and then take a local train to Inawashiro Station. The resort has a shuttle bus that will pick you up from there. As we were staying at Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi, directly above the train station, the whole journey took about 3 hours door to door.
The resort is situated in an area north of Mount Bandai that is known for its heavy snowfall and long seasons often extending into May. It’s a great choice for Aussie skiers who want to combine their ski holiday with a trip to Tokyo but, as I learned, it’s just as much fun for newbies who want to roll around in the powder too!
Disclosure: I’ve travelled to Tokyo and Fukushima (where Grandeco Ski Resort is located) as part of a project with Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own.