If you can’t speak Japanese or you don’t want the hassle of booking trains and hotels before embarking on a ski or snowboarding trip, there are people who can make the arrangements for you.
Beltop Travel Services in Tokyo has been organizing ski tours for non-Japanese speakers for the past 15 years. It specializes in guided ski and snowboarding tours to resorts in Hokkaido, including the Sapporo, Rusutsu Furano, Niseko and Tomamu ski resorts.
The Tomamu ski and snowboarding tour starts at 35,000 yen for a three-day, two-night package that includes round-trip airfare, accommodation and breakfast, transportation to and from the resort to your hotel and, on certain dates, lift passes.
For further information, check out the company’s Web site at www.beltop.com or call (03) 3544-0939.
The recently established Tabibito Travel offers three tours — The Yuki Yuki Club, The Last Run Club and Captain Yarndale’s Snow Camp — three times per season. The first two are for adult skiers and boarders, the third is a weekend trip for children. The company also organizes personalized tours from any starting point and arranges alternative modes of travel (for example, by bus) for those who want to save money.
For further information, see the Tabibito home page at www.tabibitotravel.com or call (044) 433-8819 or (090) 9534-3035.
Most ski schools offer classes in Japanese. Lessons in English are, however, available at a few resorts. Minowa Ski Resort in Urabandai, Fukushima Prefecture, has two outfits offering English ski lessons, the SIA and SAJ ski schools. Private lessons are 6,000/6,200 yen (SAJ/SIA); for two people, 6,800/7,000 yen; for three people, 7,500/7,800 yen.
Call: SAJ (0242) 64-3379; SIA (0242) 64-3845.
Sapporo Kokusai Ski School, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, Hokkaido. Private English lessons are 7,000 yen (2 hours, 12,000 yen); two to five people, 10,000 yen (19,000 yen). Contact: (011) 598-4505.
Sachiko Yamamoto Ski School, Kumanoyu Resort, Shiga Kogen, Nagano Prefecture. This school is directed by Yamamoto (an Olympic skier) and features several ski instructors who speak English. Several specialty lessons (taught in groups, max. 10 members) are offered in several categories, including racing (3,500 yen per half day/5,000 yen full day); extreme/free-ride (3 yen,500/5,000 yen); snowboard (3 yen,000/4,000 yen); and nature skiing (backcountry/ski-hiking) (4 yen,500/7,000 yen).
Private lessons (one to three people) are 12,000/20,000 yen for half/full day. Private group lessons (four to ten people) are 20,000/28,000 yen for half/full day. Make reservations two weeks in advance. Contact: (0269) 34-2609.
Nozawa Onsen Ski School, Nozawa Onsen Mura, Nagano Prefecture. Only one-to-one lessons are offered in English. One-day or half-day courses are 3,000/4000 yen. Reservations are required. Contact: (0269) 85-2623.
Naeba Ski Academy, Naeba, Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture. Owner Masayoshi Kashiwagi is also a former Olympian. Two of the staff here speak English while two more speak German. Group lessons are 3,000 yen for a half day; private lessons are 6,000 yen for two hours. Children’s lessons (elementary-school age and up) are 4,000 yen for 2 hours.
Make reservations on (0257) 89-2567.
UCDi Paddling and Outdoor School, Shinano, Nagano Prefecture. Run by Yoshiharu Ishikawa, this school offers lessons in backcountry telemark skiing. Lessons are offered from late December through March. Ishikawa is not a fluent English-language speaker but has experience teaching foreigners. Rates are 3,500/5,000 yen for half/full day. Ski rental is 3,500 yen. Make reservations at: (026) 255-5685.
Myoko Backcountry Ski School, Myoko Kogen, Niigata Prefecture. Another school specializing in backcountry telemark skiing. English lessons for all levels are available to individuals and groups Dec. 15-April 7. Full day 5,000 yen; half-day 3,500 yen.
For intermediate level and above, there are off-piste courses in the Myoko backcountry (9,000 yen), as well as several one-day guided tours at other backcountry locations in the area. For beginners there is a snow hike in the woods of Akakura for 7,000 yen (includes cheese-fondue lunch).