Every ski trip is a year in the planning and this trip was no different. We started late January and didn’t finalise child-care until late November. We had the accommodation booked by mid-July. Even as a proficient trip-planner, planning this trip was TOUGH.
Accommodation options were tricky, either expensive self-contained or hotels far from the slope that didn’t look that nice online. Reasonably priced accommodation got snapped up quickly. Accommodation contacts took days to get back to us with price quotes and with a group of 35 people it was impossible to accommodate everyone’s wishes.
I wanted more of a Japanese experience, seeing my children learn Japanese language. I didn’t want an austere hotel chain. My husband wanted accommodation with an onsen, we didn’t want to be too far from the slopes either. And then there were the needs of the kids…
As mentioned in previous post , even though I’d begun communications via email with a ski school back in February, by November the same school was telling me there was no space available for my daughter. I think they’d spat this out in frustration after I kept saying no to their limited options which were:
A 2 hour private lesson for 170 yen ($200 Australian dollars). That’s expensive and means we hardly get a few runs in before we turn around for pick up. No thanks.
A 4 hour private lesson for 340 yen ($400 Australian dollars). That’s a lot of money for potentially a week of it. No thanks.
A whole day 9am to 4pm in daycare (a single room like a bedroom with toys, books and kids objects) but no skiing. That means no progression. No thanks.
The issue was that she might be just age three and a half but she can ski her little heart out all over the mountain. We kept being told classes were full. In desperation I called White Room Tours who were brilliant in calling every ski school contact they had to get our daughter a spot in a class somewhere. They even asked staff and friends if they were available to babysit. I got to the ‘I’ll take anything you have ‘ stage, therefore when offered 5 days of 2 hour private lessons with a competing ski school I tried not to think of the cost and booked her in!
With all the talk of lessons booked out and no places for my daughter, I turned up to the slopes of Furano picturing Perisher Valley front valley beginner area. , chock block with kids skiing everywhere, throwing snowballs and racing around. There really didn’t seem to be many kids around, besides snake lines of well-behaved Japanese school students wearing the same ski bib on their chests standing in straight lines in the middle of the snow run.
There was barely anyone on the slopes besides these groups, which were easy to avoid as they didn’t move much. There was barely anyone in the cafeteria. Barely any little kids, if any. I queried the ski school. They explained:
- This time of year is Japanese schools excursion to the snowfields time of year. Any available instructors were currently over on Honshu island filling surplus instructor positions. No classes available here really.
- Furano has a policy that no child under 6 rides a chairlift alone, so that made joining older kid classes (if they had any) impossible.
That explains it. We blamed each other and moaned for a day, then we got on with the business of taking turns doing the private lesson pick up and either skiing with our daughter or heading straight for the cafeteria, especially when she was cold or tired or both. If it looks like she had had lots of hot chocolates and lots of sitting around time or lots of playing with the drink vending machines…that’s because that’s all she could really do.
How was the private lesson?
Japanese people are overly cautious (I have a Japanese degree, I’m not racist, I don’t think I would take three years to study their language if I didn’t love all things about Japanese culture). Cautious private instructors just result in you having to show them a video on your phone taken that morning of how well your three year old is skiing all over the mountain accessed from the the top of the gondola so they don’t confine her to the magic carpet again, and again and again. Luckily, she got a female instructor and the same one each day so her little eyes lit up when she saw her instructor and was happy to be fussed over by an adult who wasn’t her mother.
What did we do with all the other kids?
We divided them into groups (total of 10 or 12 kids) and got a private instructor to ski with them 9am to 3pm which made it quite cost effective. And they might have had fun too! They had two days of snow boarding at the end of the trip to break things up a bit. In short, they had a ball.
They didn’t ski everyday. After 5 days they’d had enough, had improved out of sight and were ready to ski with the adults. We all took turns doing this. let’s just say that sipping hot chocolate is a very important activity. So is putting coins in the drink vending machines. Very educational. They all know the coins by sight and know how many tens it takes to buy a bottle of water.
I love Furano as a mountain but for families with little kids, unless you want t ski full time with your kids, have an au pair or brought your mother or mother in law it was not easy hanging in the cafeteria for long periods of time. Next time I’ll find closer accommodation so we can hang at home, or do it differently. A much better mountain if your kids are older. We are keen skiers who love to travel with our kids, I can only imagine how parents who are only so-so likes of skiers fare in Furano.
Then again, I guess they just don’t come. There’s always Hanazono in Niseko, Thredbo in Australia or Club Med, Sahoro if it’s an easier kids ski holiday you’re after. If you’d like to read about the babysitting in Japan so you can get out and enjoy the nightlife, please click here.
On a positive note, I have many great things to say about Furano in my next post so stay tuned. I just thought I’d give people a realistic heads up about the kids’ situation so you don’t turn up ready for a full day of skiing to meet with Disappointment, the guy who I believe mans the ski school front desk . I believe they call that expectation management, but that’s another story if you have another 5 minutes.