Have you ever tried cross country skiing? While in Niseko, Japan recently, I decided it was time to try. With so many great days skiing in Japan under our belt, it was easy to take one day out to try something new. As we drove up to the cross country course near the town of Kutchan, our guide Tadashi mentions that Saori, our instructor was once a national champion cross country skiier. Wow, no pressure to perform at all! I’m not an advanced downhill skier so it was going to be interesting.
We laced up our little booties and connected into our thin, thin skis, were given some pointers and away we went. There are two types of cross country skiing – classic, where the skis sit in grooves in the snow and you propel yourself along the track, or skating which is a bit more freestyle and you propel yourself from side to side. For the record, harder than it looks (and it looks funny!).
The track is about 10km long which took us about 45 mins to complete with photo stops and technique lessons. It was so relaxing, yet hard at the same time and I can see why cross country skiers are so fit. Saori mentioned casually that she used to run 60km some days in the off season to stay fit. Ah ha.
Hills were quite exhilarating – technique is to hop in the tracks, crouch as low as possible and push off and hold your nerve. I lost my nerve on one corner but to my delight so did Tadashi, so I didn’t feel so uncoordinated. I also totally messed up the track so it was no wonder he fell over after me!
After our lesson, we all went to lunch together, in the shadow of the mighty Mt Yotei. Some people visit Niseko for a couple of weeks and never see Mt Yotei, which is very close, due to it dumping snow all the time. On this day we were lucky enough to not only see it, but have lunch in the foothills of it at a place called Houzuki, an udon cafe run by Ito Katsuya, originally from Tokyo. At lunch I learn Saori is quite the go getter. She runs a business, N-Souls providing private childcare, maid and cooking services to guests in Niseko lodges, runs the cross country ski school and coaches a team from Tokyo University, has her own cross country ski magazine and is a Mum to the gorgeous little Clare.
I order the same dish as Saori and Tadashi, the cold vegetable udon noodles that are topped with tempura. It was divine. The cold udon noodles were rubbery (in this case that’s a good thing!) and had a dressing of soy, ginger, radish, lemon and spring onion. The tempura of sweet potato, capsicum, potato and zucchini is light and crunchy and divine when dipped in the dressing…aaah I’m craving this now!
Thanks to Tadashi Takehara for the photos, and SkiJapan.com for organising the cross country ski tour.