Upon the invitation of a friend, I decided to give my first try at skiing.
Need a lift?
We drove upto Mt. Jeans located in 那須。I thought my 20 years of skating on inlines and ice skates would be helpful. The biggest issue with skis are the fact they are rather long. Skates are typically short and about the length of one’s foot. However, I found out the hard way that skis and skates are two different worlds. About the only thing from my skating ability that translated was my balance. I could balance well enough. I just could not turn very well. The snow-plow technique translated very well for me as I use that to slow down on my inline skates.

Geared up!
I watched the kids for a short while to see what they were doing. Then I quickly moved on to trying some moves of my own. I understood the fact that skis rely on “edges.” You need to pivot your lower body to either side for small turns – similar to ice-skates. And like skates, the single most important skill to learn is stopping. I know how to hockey-side on skates. So that helped a tiny bit on skis. But, I didn’t feel comfortable on skis just yet.

I practiced a few rudimentary moves for a half-hour before my friend Suzuki-san suggested that we go up the easy course. I managed that course well enough. He seemed to think that I was picking it up quickly. But, I felt that I needed more time and practice. Shortly afterward, he said we should try the intermediate course. At the time, I was a bit tired and hungry but thought if I could just take my time and go slow then it would be okay. So, I went with him.

We met up with another friend, Shyu-san, and had lunch at the top of the intermediate course - everyone choose curry. I still felt tired. It didn’t help that I had not slept the night before. Nevertheless, I jumped onto my skis and attempted a cautious decent on the slopes. I seemed to do okay for a short while. But at some point, I tried to pickup a little bit more speed. I tried to snow-plow in order to slow down, but it wasn’t working. So, I tried to maneuver into a hockey stop. The details at this point are a bit fuzzy. I face-planted my head into the snow and flipped. I landed very hard onto the right side of my back. I couldn’t breathe! I had to fight myself to breathe. Eventually, I could gasp some air. My legs miraculously were not injured. But my right side was very painful. I had a difficult time moving my right arm. I noticed that my left boot was off and attached to my ski. That boot was slightly loose, but I didn’t think much of it as I normally keep my skates slightly loose. Suzuki-san had been watching me on my decent. He told me that my crash was spectacularly wild. I could only imagine as I had everyone’s attention. I tried to get up, but the pain was difficult to bear. A short while later, ski patrol came by to assess the situation. They ended up carrying me down the slopes via a sled. The clinic at the bottom wrapped up my right arm and strongly suggested that I visit the hospital for X-ray scans. They released me a while later.

At this point, I was tired, beat up and probably dehydrated. I sat in the lunch room with a view to the slopes. Suzuki-san picked up some hot お茶 for me to drink. I drank a little before I collapsed onto the floor. I vomited a bit on impact. My head was dizzy and painful. I ended up returning to the clinic where I had an express ride to the hospital. The ride took almost an hour as the closest hospital was ill-equipped to scan my upper body for broken bones and head trauma. Hours later, I was delighted to hear they found nothing serious. I was dehydrated, fatigued, and bruised.

The lessons learned: make sure to get plenty of sleep before hitting the slopes. Next time, take the four-hour ski school. Take your own gear. Don’t rush to areas above my skill level.  Pay more attention to fatigue and rest when needed. Don’t forget to drink water! Don’t ski within 30-minutes of eating.

Despite my tumble, I do plan to get back up onto the slopes again. But not until next season.
The drive to 那須

For more information about Mount Jeans, visit their website: http://www.mtjeans.com