Makado Ski-Jo

[Julie]

During our first drive into Noheji, 6 months ago, my supervisor gave us information about the features of the town where we would be living for the next year.  On that balmy, summer day, with the sun making us squint and the humidity making us uncomfortable, he told us about a ski lodge called Makado.  It entered our sleep-deprived minds and exited again, lost among the array of new phrases to memorize, mannerisms to remember, and taboos to avoid.

Makado, a ski lodge in the nearby foothills, continued to resurface in various conversations with the locals and visitors who had become familiar with the area.  As soon as people found out that we were born and raised in Alaska, they thought for sure that we would be right in our element with some skis fastened to our boots at the top of a powdery slope.  Last Sunday, however, was the first downhill skiing experience for both Taylor and me.

View from the top. Mutsu Bay in the background.

Although I was able to gear up a bit before hand with some new snow pants and nice winter gloves, we had to rent the skis and boots.  When we asked how much it was going to cost, the very helpful attendants told us that all local teachers rent for free.  As we were finishing suiting up and adjusting our straps, we discovered that local teachers also get a free lift pass.  We were able to enjoy the whole skiing experience for free!  We will be returning to Makado frequently.

We met up with some friends, three fellow ALTs, and one of them graciously walked us through the basics:  how to put on the skis, how to take them off, which hill to start out with, how to properly squat, lean, and shift weight while turning.  We learned the most important technique right away:  the snow plow.  As a beginner, this is the best way to slow down, stop, and stay in control.

Taylor and I had different approaches to learning how to ski.  As I looked around at the other skiers around me on the bunny slope, mostly families with children in grade school, I thought it was going to be no problem.  I tried to make a diagonal run, couldn’t stop, tried sitting down on the uphill side of my skis, failed, and ended up tumbling downhill once until I came to an abrupt halt on my stomach with a great view of the downward slope in front of me and my legs in an awkward position behind me.  After I settled down my giggles, I was able to wrench myself back to a standing position, only to fail on my turn and be sent on another fast run that ended up with me in a pile of giggles once again.

Taylor, still near the top of the slope, was inching along, apparently choosing to sit down every couple of meters to gain control. He did not have any fast paced crashes, but gradually gained confidence as he scooted along.

On my third diagonal on my first run, with our volunteer teacher coaching me along, I finally got the hang of the snowplow turn.  It was (mostly) smooth sailing from then on.

With a brief break for a warm lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon caught up in a pleasant cycle: up the lift, down the slope, up the lift, down the slope.

Here are two videos for you to enjoy.

Click here to see the rest of the photos.

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