Ski @ Appi Kogen – Japan

Japan – one of my most loved countries in the world. For those who have not set foot in Japan, make it one of the destinations to visit in your lifetime. Experience the culture, soak up the nightlife, enjoy food perfection anywhere and anytime. I find the movie Lost in Translation extremely depictive. Today, I will feature my latest ski trip at Appi Kogen.

Where is Appi Kogen?
The Appi Kogen is located in the Appi Highlands in Iwate Prefecture, about 50km north of Morioka. From Tokyo, it’s 2.5hr on the Shinkansen Hayate to Morioka station and an hour’s bus directly to Appi.
appi map

Accommodation at Appi Hotel
The tower rooms are exceptionally large for Japan standards. Fret not about travel toiletries, you will very likely succumb to using those provided by the hotel. Ladies can also check out the vanity room in the Onsen area for a night of product sampling.
ski @ appi kogen hotel accommodation
Plus, be treated to this postcard view from the hotel rooms!
ski @ appi 2.5hrs on Hayate to Morioka from Tokyo

Skiing at Appi
APPI is located in latitude 40°N where world’s famous ski resorts like Austria’s Arlberg and USA’s Aspen are located. As such, it is uncommon to read about the quality snow here, or Appi being labelled as the St Moritz or Aspen of Japan. Best part, ski starts from early Dec and ends early May.
ski @ appi from Dec to May

Appi is significanly larger than the average ski resort in Japan – 282 hectares, 21 terrains and 45.1km of the total runs. It is a perfect place for beginners and intermediate skiiers who are looking to improve their techniques as slopes are mostly groomed, very wide, and less crowded because of its size.
ski @ appi wide slopes and runs good for beginners

Expert skiiers need not feel left out. There are a couple of black pistes from the summit, including light powder runs. Alternatively, enjoy the challenge of the moguls terrains.
ski @ appi Japan mogul terrains

Ski Conditions
Snowfall is adequate even for spring skiing. We enjoyed Appi’s well-known Aspirin snow (light and fine snow flakes) on the 2nd day of our ski trip!
ski @ appi aspirin snow fine snow flakes

Needless to say, there was amazing powder snow the next day, the sun was dazzlingly bright and we whizzed chirpily through the snow covered trees. In case you have the habit of evaluating the animal paw prints as you ride up the chair lifts, the ones in Appi are most likely fox tracks.
ski @ appi groomed runs enjoy skiing with friends

The summit is for all to enjoy
Enjoy the paronomic view as you take the gondola up to the summit. There are 3 black slopes down and the renowned 5.5km long green course which is popular with kids and family.
ski @ appi gondola to the summit

I am not an expert skiier, therefore my guts have limited pictures to only the groomed black run Hayabusa.
ski @ appi hayabusa black slope and yamabato green course

As well as a short video clip!

Dining at Appi
I loved all my meals – they looked good, tasted better, perfection. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Remember to also order an Appi beer!

Japanese restaurant – best meal
ski @ appi japanese cuisine appi beer sake

French restaurant – French cusine with a Japanese touch
ski @ appi french cuisine

Must try – Morioka reimen (cold ramen). Only available in Morioka; so delicious we ordered it at every possible meal.
ski @ appi morioka reimen iwate

Conclusion
Appi Kogen is definitely a resort for skiiers of all age and levels and lives up to its reputation of a powderhound. Enjoy a western and modern facade alongside the traditional and immaculate service. Staff here, including ski instructors, speak relatively good English therefore foreigners need not worry. The ski resort is self-contained and there is nothing much outside / around the ski resort. I would recommend a stay of 3-5 days to truely enjoy all faciliites. And by the way, Appi’s motto is “Don’t worry, be appi!”

For more information on Appi Kogen and ski packages, you can visit http://www.appi.co.jp/foreign_country/english/

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Ski @ Zermatt Switzerland

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Ski @ Zermatt – Switzerland

Welcome to Zermatt – the classic, charming, car free and picture-perfect alpine skiing village. Hailed as one of the most renowned world class resort and best places to ski in Europe, Zermatt offers Winter skiing from November to May (although the best time to ski is December to March) and Spring / Summer skiing from May to November. Yes, this is the only place in the world where you can ski 365 days a year!

How to get to Zermatt
Ski Zermatt Railway Train Gornergrat Furi Klein Matterhorn
Zermatt is easily accessible by train or car. From Zurich, it takes 3hr 35mins by train and 4hr 25mins by car. Alternatively, a connection from Geneva or Milan (Malpensa) will take 3hr 45mins by train and 2hr 45mins by car. As mentioned, Zermatt only allows battery operated vehicles, therefore those driving will need to park in Täsch (there is a multi-storey car park at the station), and then hop onto the Zermatt shuttle which is a 10mins scenic ride that runs between the two village every 20mins. In your decision making, do take into consideration that the Swiss rails are extremely efficient, spacious and immaculately clean, and that Täsch is quite a dead town.

The Playground
There are three main ski areas at Zermatt – the Sunnegga, the Gornergrat, and the Klein Matterhorn. All three ski areas soar to at least 3,100m and there is a a total of 250km of varied terrain runs to explore! Plus, the highest and longest run is 2,200m and a good 13km from Klein Matterhorn to the village. Blast it is! Make sure to pace yourself.
Zermatt Switzerland Ski Mountain Area Piste Map
Top Elevation: 3,820m / 12,500 ft
Base (Village) Elevation:1,620m / 5,250 ft
Vertical drop: 2,200m / 7,250ft
Marked Pistes: 245km
Beginner 23% / Intermediate 44% / Expert 33%
Longest Piste: 13km
Snowboard facilities: 2 parks and 2 halfpipes

The ski mountains are well built up and offers an extensive range of 73 Mountain Railways and Ski-lifts including 34 surface ski lifts, 17 aerial cable cars/trams,14 chair lifts, 6 gondola ski lifts, 1 rack railway with 18 railcars and 1 high speed underground cable railway. Guess that probably explains for the pricier ski pass here. As a gauge, the winter ski pass for 5 days in 7 for All Zermatt is CHF344 and CHF387 for All Zermatt and Cervinia Italy.
Ski Zermatt Matterhorn Hook Chair Lifts Gondola Glacier Paradise Cervinia Express

Top of the World
One of the best gifts is the abundant of snowfall at Zermatt which guarantees impeccable ski conditions, particularly during the winter season. The 360 panorama on a clear and sunny day is spectacular and akin to the 10 times better than the Jungfraujoch experience.
Ski Zermatt Breuil Cervinia Valtournenche Italy Switzerland

Do check out the weather conditions before you set off. You will not miss the board at the gondola station at Klein Matterhorn and the Sunnegga Railway that highlights all the open lifts to help plan your route of advancement.
Ski Zermatt Breuil Cervinia Valtournenche Italy Switzerland Winter Holiday Vacation

For the advanced skiers, there are virtually endless off piste options, high cliffs, deep powder, the expert terrain in the Sunnegga and Gornergrat areas and the moguls on Stockhorn and Rote Nasse. Plus, there is also heli skiing!

Up Close and Personal
Meeting Klein Matterhorn is very much subjected to weather conditions. A friendly local told us that he had been skiing in Zermatt for 6 years, and this was the first time he finally saw the iconic Matterhorn!
Ski Zermatt Matterhorn Swiss Alps Peak Paramount Pictures

Spoilt for Choice
Zermatt boasts an amazing collection of more than 50 bars and restaurants on the mountains. You can enjoy anything and everything here. However, as the saying goes, cheap is not good, and good doesn’t come cheap. Do prepare resources as you and your partner stop over for some hot coffee and donuts (~CHF20), enjoy uberlicious pasta on the open terrace (~CHF 50 incl. drinks), or perhaps indulge in a romantic fine dinning bon appétit as you overlook the Matterhorn (ka ching ching ching). Remember to also keep cash handy as some of the smaller rustic bars may not accept cards.
Ski Zermatt Cafes Restaurants Bars Mountains Pasta Cervo

Know your Limits
We witnessed 2 helicopter rescues within one afternoon. Some of the intermediate runs from the top can be narrower, bendy and of course, a gradient that will not disappoint its coded standards. While there are safety ropes along more dangerous pistes, I do not recommend you test the E = MC2 theory, and instead be very careful to select the appropriate level of route(s).
Ski Zermatt Rescue Helicopter Air Zermatt Professional
As a guide,
Green run – beginner
Blue run – intermediate
Red run – advanced
Black run – expert (equivalent of a double black diamond run)

Ski into Cervinia Italy
It is truly surreal to ski across the international borders into Italy. Crazy insane!! Here’s how you can ski across from Zermatt into Italy.
Step 1: Make your way to Testa Grigia.
Option a: Take the Klein Matterhorn Gondola, walk through a tunnel, and then ski to Testa Grigia
Option b: Ride two two long t-bars from Trockener Steg to Testa Grigia
Step 2: Connect from Testa Grigia into Cervinia
Option a: Take the Gondola to Cervinia
Option b: From Testa Grigia, either ski left to Cervinia via the Ventina Route 7, or right via the Plan Maison Route 6 (which is the easier route)
Route 6 will also lead you to Chalet Etoile (the #1 restaurant in Breuil-Cervinia on tripadvisor). Do note that most cafes in Italy only accept EUR.
Ski Zermatt Switzerland Italy border Mountains

The Italian mountains are not as sophisticated as the Swiss Alps, however snow conditions remain fabulous. Cervinia is less crowded and offers magnificently groomed long beginners and intermediate runs which makes it a relaxing switch from the Swiss Alps.
Ski Zermatt Breuil Cervinia Valtournenche Italy Switzerland Beginner Intermediate Skiers

Take in the stunning landscape as you cruise along the wide and perfect practice grounds of Highway Run 7 which stretches on for 11km. White on white has never looked so good.
Ski Zermatt Breuil Cervinia Valtournenche Matterhorn Paradise Swiss Alps

Conclusion
Zermatt is probably not ideal for the faint hearted novice, but is definitely a wonderland paradise for intermediate and advanced skiers. Zermatt is also a lifestyle, and not the most suitable for those on a budget. For those on the right permutation, I recommend a stay of 5-7 days to fully cover and enjoy the spectacular mountains. Alternatively, take a luxurious 2 week vacation to truly explore the extensive terrains, at your own pace and choice of weather. The beauty of Zermatt, is that even though it is one of the more expensive ski destinations, as much as the price tag stings, I reckon that once you have tasted its sweetness, you will plan to re-visit at one point or another.

Useful links
Zermatt Tourism Board http://www.zermatt.ch/en
Ski Zermatt http://www.ski-zermatt.com
Swiss Rail http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en

Book your hotel now – low rates @ booking.com
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Ski @ Appi Kogen Japan