• Kyodo

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Amid concerns that the powerful quake that hit Nagano Prefecture on Nov. 22 will discourage skiers from visiting the area’s ski slopes this winter, officials in the village of Hakuba held a ceremony Sunday to pray for a safe season.

One of the sites hit by the magnitude-6.7 earthquake was Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, located at the base of Happo-One Ski Resort on 2,696-meter Mount Karamatsu.

The stadium, built in 1992, can accommodate 45,000 spectators and was used for the ski jumping events at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

“I’m going to promote the safety of our slopes,” Hakuba Mayor Masatake Shimokawa said during the ceremony to inaugurate the ski season.

About 60 people, including the resort’s operators, offered prayers for a safe season. The ceremony was initially scheduled for Nov. 23 but was postponed due to the earthquake the day before.

Authorities said that five ski slopes within the village will be open this winter, but due to bad weather only three were open as of Sunday. The remaining two will hopefully open by the end of the year.

The local government also reported that all lifts in the resort have been checked for safety, and that none of the facilities or equipment sustained severe damage in the earthquake.

According to local officials, the number of visitors to the resort reached 1.03 million last season.

Tomohide Ota, an official for the council of ski resort operators in Hakuba, said that some of the profits from about 10 slopes in and around the village will be donated to help victims of the earthquake.

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