Monsters of Zao

The Monsters of Zao, where the world turns black and white.

We just got back from a weekend of snowboarding in Yamagata-ken to see the famous monsters of Zao. I went there once before, about four or five years ago, but I didn’t remember the courses at all. The snow was good, and there was lots of it, and some interesting runs. It’s nice to try out different mountains and courses, partly for variety, but mostly to practice different ways of boarding. For a two day trip, a lot seemed to happen, which is too much for a blog post unfortunately.

We got a shinkansen and bus to the hotel, where as usual JTB had booked the room incorrectly. What a surprise. We said we’d never use JTB again about two seasons ago, but we booked this trip at the last minute and took what we could get. Fortunately the hotel front desk woman had no problem in calling JTB up and sorting it out.

That kind of thing aside, Zao was pretty good – smooth snow on smooth slopes. The arduous bit was when we decided to go to the summit to ride down through the ‘snow monsters’, where the trees are caked in blasted snow in the winter, and they really do look quite eerie. The fact that it was at least minus 14 degrees (according to the thermometer in the cable car building’s entrance), and the wind was blowing snow really hard. We tried to take some pictures, but our hands just froze as soon as we’d take the outer-glove off to press the button.

The run down though was really good though, just the isolation of boarding in complete white, between these ten metre high pillars of snow against a snow filled sky was really interesting. Zao has some decent slopes for boarders, but it really is a skiers place. it also has more restaurants than any other mountain I’ve been to. we’d been recommended to go to a small ramen place at the bottom of the piste called “Daichan”, and it really did do a great house ramen – the omori bowl was huge, and the home made gyoza were the perfect compliment a cold day on the mountain.