January – On the piste

And so it was decided that we would take the family skiing this winter. Well, I say “we decided”, but to be honest my downtrodden husband didn’t really get much of a say. I acquired a week in a ski chalet in Niseko via a charity auction at a rugby ball back in the summer. Obviously my bid was carefully considered and had nothing to do with the copious quantities of free-flow Dom Perignon being served at the time.

In fact, it was a bid so carefully considered that I made the very generous winning bid even though the Teen Child will be unable to join us because the dates fall right when she’s attempting her IGCSE mock exams.

Ok, so not my finest mothering moment, but I did offer to head into her school and see if I could get a few exams moved around for her. There then ensued an Absolutely Fabulous-worthy scene whereby she assured me that her exams were very important and I assured her that I could “sort it”. And then she got quite cross.


So it will be just the five of us flying to Sapporo next week.

To be honest it’s taken most of the summer and quite a lot of the autumn to prepare for the trip, which is probably why we’ve never hit the slopes before now. I spent a lot of August, September and October quizzing other mums about snow gear and what the latest trends were, the merits of mittens over gloves and which were the best restaurants to book up. And then I forgot to follow up on any of it.

So November and December were a frazzled frenzy of racing to Decathlon and Stanley Market, mixed with frantic Christmas present buying and entertaining visiting relatives. All in all, I’m quite looking forward to hitting Hirafu village for a bit of a rest.

The sheer quantity of gear required has been quite mind-blowing. I spent my student years happily ‘chasse neige-ing’ my way down green slopes in the Alpine sunshine with my French boyfriend. And when it all got a bit tiring we used to head off to the bar at the bottom of the gondola for some apres ski. By mid-afternoon it was usually warm enough for tee-shirts and sunnies.

Japan, it transpires, is slightly more hardcore. Blizzards and white-outs have cropped up in conversation. Somebody else mentioned ‘thermals’, so of course I headed straight to Marks & Spencer where they were selling kids’ long-johns and legging multi-packs in a handy two-for-one deal.

“Ah yes, M&S, that world-renowned ski retailer,” says my husband sarcastically when I proudly showed him my haul. “I think they need to be proper ski thermals,” he adds unhelpfully.

“What are you talking about, proper thermals?” I retort. “M&S is VERY well-reputed for its thermal underwear!”

Anyway, the case is now full – fifteen sets of M&S thermal vests, a variety of Uniqlo tee-shirts, four pairs of Decathlon ski pants and jackets and a rather nice faux fur Spyder jacket and pants (by the end of December research for my personal wardrobe was all coming good and I was deep into online ski-shop territory).

But what I’m really worried about are the potential ski-related injuries. As a family, we don’t have a great track-record. Since arriving in Hong Kong we have notched up one broken wrist (the Tween Child falling off the school monkey bars); a broken collar bone (the Boy Child falling off the trampoline); two fractured wrists (the Tween Child tripping on the school steps and the Blonde Child also tripping on the school steps, but not at the same time); a broken arm (my husband playing soccer); and a broken front tooth (the Boy Child in a junk-related incident involving a bottle of bubble mixture and a rough tide heading back from the Rainbow one afternoon). We’ve even managed a broken arm surfing at Millionaire’s Bay – I know, if any family was going to end up with a broken limb surfing off Hong Kong’s calmest beach, it was us. And not to mention the Teen Child holding the dubious honour of being Ryze Hong Kong’s first ever broken bone incident when the trampoline park first opened a few years back. In a word, the odds for making it to Niseko and back without a trip to Kutchan Kosei hospital are slim – but I’m ever hopeful.

But whatever happens, it will be a holiday to remember. And if the skiing really does defeat us, there are always the onsens and a nice bottle of Dom Perignon. After all, it’s what got us there in the first place.