Go to Myoko

I’ve had a few people get in contact with me after reading about my first experience skiing in Myoko with Nikki and my return to Myoko skiing with Charlie. I have written this know before you go guide answering the questions, sharing my experiences and to convince you to experience the soft deep powdery snow in Myoko.

My first time

I first went to Myoko with my friend Cara in December 2014. Our itinerary began in Tokyo, travelling down to Hiroshima and heading up back through Osaka and Kyoto to Myoko and ended back in Tokyo.

I arrived in Myoko feeling nervous and excited. We met the team at Myoko Snowsports, was fitted into a sit ski and the weeks plan were sorted. Nikki was my instructor and showed me the best of what Myoko had to offer.

Sit skiing in Japan with Kate Swain 

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Nikki & Kate PHOTO: Tim Barnsley, Myoko Snowsports

Kate Swain is a Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA) member who grew up in Tamworth and following her graduation from University in 2012 moved to Canberra where she lives and works. Kate became a paraplegic and wheelchair user at the age of five as a result of a motor vehicle collision. Kate recently visited Japan and skied at Myoko, located in Japan on the main island.

I fell in love with sit skiing the first time I tried it in 2008. In 2013, I had the opportunity to try it again and was convinced this was something I wanted to pursue seriously. In 2014, I enrolled for a sit ski camp at Perisher and followed this with a sit ski holiday to Thredbo. By this time I was seriously looking at making my first trip overseas a skiing adventure.

I had heard about great powder in Japan so the planning began. With the assistance of DWA I was put in touch with Tom Mitten and Tom Langtry from Myoko Snowsports. DWA actually lends a sit ski to Myoko Snowsports for the Japan skiing season. I locked in my dates and booked three full days of private lessons.

I hadn’t heard of Myoko and I was unsure of skiing in a small place however I was proven wrong! Being a small and quiet place meant I got to have an amazing time experiencing fresh tracks, first lifts, no lift lines and few people to share the slopes with.

Feeling nervous and excited the snow continued to fall while my Instructor Nikki, an adaptive instructor from Falls Creek, Victoria fitted me into the sit ski using wood which was cut to prop my feet, blankets and towels filled the gaps and everything was held in place with thick green tape. I was ready to ski!!

To help us we were lucky enough to have other awesome instructors Shannon, BJ, Jack and Mollie join us one at a time to help out because the Japanese Lifties were not used to seeing sit skis – nothing a bit of charades by BJ couldn’t fix.

The snow was deep and just like powder with plenty of fresh snowfall. We were on a mission to explore the resort and to find the best untouched powder. We rode the mountain and could see fresh untouched snow so we sent Mollie to see if it was possible for us to ski. Given the all clear, we set up and gathered some speed. After a slight jump, we were skiing in untouched, fresh, deep powder. We continued to ski as it got deeper and we began to slow down. The powder splashed onto my face and came up to my elbows. We came to a complete stop and Nikki called out as we were stuck. Mollie came to our rescue, stomping a path so that we could ski out. Powder days were so much fun.

This was a fabulous experience which helped my confidence not only at sit skiing but in being able to travel overseas. The Japanese locals were so friendly and helpful in helping navigate through many areas in Japan. I hope to return!

Skiing in Japan with Kate Swain was originally posted on the 8th February 2015 on the Disabled Wintersport Australia. 

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Nikki & Kate

Second time 

I returned to Myoko in January 2016 with my Mum. Charlie was my instructor and we had a great time bucketing through trees and into powder, and tethering on the long, wide runs.

Japan, Pow Pow, Tutus and more…Kate Swain in Myoko 

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Kate & Charlie tethering PHOTO: David Churchill, Myoko Snowsports

In January 2016, I was lucky enough to return to Myoko, Japan with a goal to be tethered and improve my use of outriggers. The sit ski fit out worked well last time so it was recreated; a block of wood was used to prop my feet, a towel and blankets kept me snug and filled the gaps, a blanket over the top kept me toasty and warm and straps held everything together and I was ready to ski!

I was looking forward to skiing with Charlie, who you may know from Falls Creek, Victoria. It wasn’t too long before trust was established between us and we were happily skiing in sync! Awesome instructors Jack, Matt, Sam, Mike and DWA Volunteer Claire joined us to help out.

As the snow continued to fall on the first day we left the outriggers behind and enjoyed the fresh powder. Charlie introduced me to his love of skiing in and out of trees and it was my job to ninja chop branches out of the way! As we continued to ski in and out of trees, Charlie lost a ski however we kept going until we fell deep into powder burying both of us! Looking like a snowman, I rested in the powder while Charlie hiked back to retrieve his ski before slowly making our way back out.

As the sun shone on the bluebird days for fun we added tutus to our outfits and worked on tethering. By day four, at Suginohara Resort where the runs are very long and wide, my confidence had grown and everything came together resulting in me enjoying some of my best runs being tethered.

I have a new love for the bi ski and being tethered!

Japan, Pow Pow, Tutus and more…Kate Swain in Myoko was originally published on 5th February 2016 on the Disabled Wintersport Australia Blog. 

Adaptive Lessons

Myoko Snowsports borrow a sit ski, tethers and outriggers from Disabled Wintersport Australia each season. Benefits apply for DWA members. There are quite a few friendly English speaking adaptive instructors too.

Myoko Snowsports can also sort out clothing and helmet hire, lift passes, transport and other advice including places to dine.

What it’s like to be in a sit ski and ride the powder

Myoko is a small traditional Japanese setting. The best and almost only thing to do in winter is ski and enjoy the snowy mountainous views.

The snow is deep and very soft. I enjoy being bucketed through trees and into powder, then adding outriggers and tethers on the wide runs. There are no lift lines and the slopes aren’t crowded with plenty of space to practice turns.

Chairlift rides 

Sit skis aren’t common in Japan and the lifties aren’t used to seeing sit skis. It can take a bit of charades to convince the lifties how to load onto the chairlift and that it is safe. Once it’s been done once then it’s sweet and they are happy to see us return to their lift.

Some chairlifts have hoods. Hoods help keep you warm and dry from snowfall.

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Nikki & Shannon loading Kate onto the chairlift PHOTO: Cara Kajewski

Gondola rides

I had my first Gondola ride in Myoko in January 2016.  The doors aren’t wide and it’s squishy inside. I was lifted into a gondola and enjoyed the views with Charlie as we rode to the top. Sam went in another gondola with the sit ski. When at the top I was carried onto a bench and the sit ski was unloaded. We setup the sit ski, I was strapped in and we were skiing again.

Travelling to Myoko

I fly with Japan Airlines JAL on a direct flight from Sydney International Airport to Tokyo Narita Airport. It takes just under 10 hours.

It can be tricky to get from Tokyo to Myoko. The transport has changed each time I have travelled to Myoko. The cheapest and quickest way is by train. Myoko station is not wheelchair friendly with many stairs but I have heard reports of plans for a lift with the increase in tourism. It can be arranged to be picked up from Myoko station by your accommodation.

Where to stay?

Amy from Japan Snow Access found Hotel Central to be the most accessible accommodation on our budget. We were given descriptions including photographs and measurements upon request. Wheelchair access has improved with each visit.

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Bedroom window view PHOTO: Kate Swain

The entrance has a few stairs outside and then a few more inside. These can be slippery especially after fresh snowfall. I have to be top and tail lifted up and down these stairs.

The reception, common rooms and dining are split into multiple rooms. As you enter there is the reception desk and a large common area. Off the common room is a short steep ramp into another common area and just off the reception desk is a ramp into the dining area. There are plenty of tables at standard height and a buffet style breakfast with Japanese and western style options available. A spot for dinner can also be reserved and it’s quite a Japanese feast.

There is a lift and a short push to individual rooms.

The Bedroom is a decent size with a section for Japanese style sleeping and western style section with beds. A wheelchair can’t go on the Japanese style area. It has a small tv, room phone and a small table with tea making facilities. The western style area has two beds quite close together. I can’t fit my wheelchair between the beds so get into bed from the end and crawl to where I want to sleep. There is also a cupboard for hanging clothes and a dresser with a mirror for extra storage. It is best to keep the room tidy for easier access.

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Inside a bedroom PHOTO: Kate Swain

The Bathroom inside the apartment is small with a toilet. I can’t fit my wheelchair inside. In the bedroom is a sink with a wheelchair able to fit underneath.

There is a private onsen (bath) that can be reserved. I requested a plastic chair to sit on. The hallway leading from the bedroom to the onsen isn’t heated so it’s best to be quick!

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Private Onsen PHOTO: web

Keeping warm 

It is colder in Japan so extra layers are required. You don’t want to have any gaps that will get filled with snow.

We add a blanket to my sit ski to provide extra warmth and protection.

Heated warmers are great and readily available in Japan. Stock up! I like to wear one in each mitten, and a few stuck in-between my shirt layers.

Getting around

It is tricky to push a wheelchair in Myoko due to the hills and snowy ground. I try to push as little as possible on snow. I arrange with Hotel Central and Myoko Snowsports to be driven when needed including to the slopes each morning and to dinner each evening.

Dining

There are many delicious places to eat at in Myoko without having to pay a fortune. It’s best to check if there are stairs, if toilets can be accessed and if a reservation should be made.

Where there’s a will, there is a way!

I am light and don’t mind safely being lifted in my wheelchair by two people or top and tail lifted without my wheelchair. Sometimes this is the best and only way.

Research, plan ahead, book early, and enjoy Myoko with friends and family. Ask if you want more information.

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Charlie & Kate tethering PHOTO: GoPro
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