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August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Zao Mama

This is a true story and one I’ll never forget. My most recent trip to Zao was full of pleasant memories this time around, but I clearly remember two and half years ago, here at this same place, skiing for the first time, and drunk, I had a major accident.

The visibility at that time, and time of day was zero.   How I wound up getting into this situation was from sheer boredom.  I got tired of seeing my best friend and my girlfriend skiing so effortlessly in zigzag motions down nice powdery slopes all day. While they were off enjoying themselves I was stuck with the little five year old first time skiers who hated me because I was so big and dumb looking.  I remember getting cussed out by this little five year old brat that I accidentally knocked over when I had crossed over into his path on the kiddy slope. I fell over on top of him. Then he dug his little cute head out of the snow and for a moment I though he was going to cry but he didn’t , instead he looked over at me with those pouty lips and called me all kinds of names then he got up and continued skiing while leaving me there on the kiddy slopes all alone and bested by a five year old brat.

Finally hobbling down, and full of frustration, I grabbed a beer. And then a surge of confidence came over me and I thought that I should just go for the big slopes. At first I tried to call my gf, but there was no signal at this elevation. As I was walking out of the restaurant I saw a ski lift with a giant blow up doll of Winnie the Pooh next to it, which I immediately thought was another kiddy lift. So, I jumped on it without reading the sign. The lift ride to the top was about 20 minutes long! I knew there was something wrong. 

At first, early in the ascent I could hear laughter and merriment from beneath my ski lift. But then the higher I went the stronger the winds howled, and then sounds of merriment turned to shrill screams and whimpering sounds, of course by this time there was no visibility as I could barely see my own skis from the lift chair. Then it dawned upon me that I had made a great mistake! This was the advanced slalom course for the advanced skiers and Olympic trainees as everybody at the top was sporting body suits except me!

 A body bag for me would’ve been more like it.    Anyway, the ski lift operator was  not corporative and had refused me a ride down which was partly due to my poor Japanese ability.  Plus the howling winds made it impossible for him to hear me.  He just smiled at me and pointed to the slope with that all too familiar Japanese head nod and smile, pointing me to my doom, approvingly.

The ice burn stretched about 30 meters from the top of the slope, so before I could try to adjust my goggles my skies took off from underneath me and I must’ve fell for what seemed like an eternity. My knees buckled from underneath me, popping ligaments, the right ski fell off and then finally I spun out over the side of the slope. I was in a state of utter shock and helpless as dozens of skiers skied by, no one could see nor hear me! I could barely hear myself talk because of the howling winds. The cold started penetrating my suit to the point where my body started shivering and I could feel wetness settle on my skin. The howling winds increased and then I knew I was in danger. There was still no cell phone signal. My hands were freezing to the point where they became numb. My legs were completely immobile because of ligament damage. I was in excruciating pain.  

Finally, a Jukujo came up from behind me and removed my mask and was immediately taken aback! She said,” you are too far away from home, what are you doing up here alone boy!” Wow! Of all the screams that no one could hear she heard mine and I was saved that day. I wasn’t able to speak because my lower jaw was frozen numb from the cold, so I had to grunt and smile.

Soon, a team of seven rescue skiers came along and carried me off this dreadful winter mountain. I never saw that Jukujo again, but she saved me that day. She actually did ski with a purse wearing a fur coat, no shit.


  1. Nice pic on top. Got cold just from looking at it!!

  2. Thx SQ, liquid courage strikes again. Just throw caution to the wind and go for it, eh?

    Chris B, Thanks. Cold it was!



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