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When I open my eyes it is dark all around. We are surrounded by walls of glistening snow on the side of the cute little lanes windy through the quaint ski town of Nozawa Onsen. We have travelled five and a half hours from Narita Airport, by road on a superb two lane freeway, the long engineered tunnels increasing the nearer we get to the mountains. We are on a ski familiarization trip and there is excitement in my bones!

Our bed for the night is a Ryokan set amongst the steamy, snowybackground of Nozawa. “Onsen”means“Spa” or “hot pool” and in the morning we discover we are emersed in a little town with Public Mens and Womens Onsens on every street corner. Outside the shops are bamboo trays cooking dumplings in steam boxes and outside our Ryokan is a very tempting foot Onsen - a concrete trough to soak your feet as they emerge from your “torture chambers”-ski boots! Add a can of Japanese beer and it is perfect but a very difficult spot to move from.

We fluke two picture perfect days of skiing-the groomed runs measure up to anything I have experienced in North America. Snow covered white birches and Lawson Cypress trees line the runs. There are no queues! The views are spectacular. And it was a very short walk from our Ryokan to the moving carpet which glides up to the main lift and rental area. Yoshimi our guide from Nagano Tourism races away from us in two wicked turns to the bottom of the run. The boarders and the skiers jostle for position. When it is time to have lunch and complete our hotel inspections I have great difficulty taking my skies off. I am like a child-oh Yoshimi - just one more run please!

The choice is Endless. The snow is HUGE. There are no crowds. The culture abounds. Feel like a new ski experience? When do we leave?

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