A rather honest journal entry, giving insight on when things don’t necessarily go your way on a ski trip in Japan. By The Modern Explorer contributor Lachlan Henry.
I should probably say ‘Falling [in the] snow’. Well that’s what this is about. Taking a plunge into the fluffy champagne powder that explodes with a puff only your limbs are in all kinds of unusual positions creating a hip-hop dancing snow-angel. Lovely. Ok… now minus the champagne… and the fluffy snow and anything remotely angel-like or heavenly about my version of this situation.
It had been a pretty rough day up on the slopes – wind, rain, sleet and everything in between that just didn’t make Niseko all that appealing to slide in. Travelling with a group of boys, sitting inside the hostel all day cooking the good old Japanese gyozers didn’t suffice as a fully appropriate pass-time (There is only so many you can eat and I burnt my finger on the stove). Well lucky for us there was a nice, icy jump next to the hostel that had been made for days like this one, so what else was there to do but try to scrub up on some trixxxx (tricks – I say it like that because of my lack of a repertoire when it comes to jumps… you’ll soon read why). The [suss as fuck] jump began with a ramp that would have been about 3-4 meters high, which you had to climb and then somehow clip in without falling off the back. It was so suss. Just suss as… Suss stuff. So once you’re finally strapped in there’s no turning back.
Ok that’s a bit dramatic. But the weight of expectation seems to increase when your standing in the open air and your mates below are encouraging you to try that 360 just one more time. What’s the worst that could happen? Well for me it resulted in flying sideways through the air doing the windmill arms, which ended in the sound of one loud snap in my left ear. Something snapped and it wasn’t my skies. Well, a Broken left clavicle later and this was probably the most impressive hip-hop dancing snow angel I’d ever created.
So after a trip to the hospital on an icy road with a pommy driver talking on the phone (is that even allowed anywhere?), I was sitting in the waiting area of a completely Japanese speaking hospital about to get an X-ray to see what the damage was. Take note – when you’re in Niseko, make sure if you need to go to hospital, that you injure yourself before 5:30pm… because their ‘emergency’ department doctors go home then… HUH?!?! Lucky for me I was able to scrape in and see a doctor who didn’t do anything but show me how fucked up my shoulder was and said I needed to go home. Then they tried to put a strap over my shoulders, which I thought was some kind of Japanese tool used to snap collar bones back into place. So I went deaf and my face went green – I thought this was going to be the worst thing since the word ‘lol’ was used in daily vocabulary. Luckily it wasn’t that bad and it turned out to be a pointless bit of foam that covered the mutated bone area….lol.
A hefty medical bill later and I’m being asked to go home for surgery. I think the point of this whole story starts now, so thanks for reading this far in… but it’s only just starting so I’ll cut to the chase. Insurance companies. For the love of god pick the right one… not the cheapest one. Following the accident, it took me three days to be on a flight home after their medical examiners could “review the situation” and “sort out what is appropriate”. Well if I don’t say so myself, my X-ray states, “that looks rather fucked up and that the patient needs to get the fuck home”. So finally after two nights attempting to sleep up right I get a phone call from a lady apart of the not-to-be-named insurance company telling me that I finally have a flight booked for me leaving at 6am the next morning from Tokyo. Fantastic. Great. But unlucky that Tokyo is on a completely different island to the one Niseko was on?! So I said, “Oh cool, but how am I getting to Tokyo?” After a moment’s silence as we mourned her dignity, she finally had to ask me… “So where is Niseko?” – Bitch pleeease. You’re probably in front of a computer… its called Google Maps. Maybe that would help rather than asking the boy who’s just had to make his best friend rub soap under his smelly arm pits in the shower.
“Alright so I’ll get back to you” – at this point I would have probably done it all myself and would be in theatre under the knife. Finally at 10:30pm the night before I get another phone call. A driver had been arranged to pick me up from the hostel and take me to Sapporo airport and I was to be given not one but TWO economy class seats the entire way home… yeah sweet. Not sure how two seats in economy is going to help me… Business class was all I was willing to accept from the possible orangutan that was helping me. But fine, I needed to get home.
From bad to worse, next thing I know I’m sitting on a plane from Sapporo to Tokyo, no seat next to me… Rather a European couple that thought it was a fantastic opportunity to produce and amazing performance of P.D.A (Public Display of Affection). Alright, I’m getting dramatic again.
Next stop Tokyo where I was required to find the Qantas desk and get a print of my boarding passes… so I wait in a stupidly long line… because I think that’s all they do in Japan, and as I get to the front, I’m told – “You’re in the wrong terminal” – holy godfather. So back I walk, to the OTHER terminal… no assistance at all. Just me, my dysfunctional left arm and the piss on my shoes, which I could just do nothing about. It’s sometimes a two armed job ok ladies.
After a bus ride and a loss of lollies because of a dodgy fucking plastic bag… I was at the Qantas desk. I just had to plead for an upgrade to the really attractive Japanese service desk women – showing them my X-ray they seemed so sympathetic towards me. So they handed me my ticket and BAM I was upgraded… or should I say further down graded to row 71J. As far as I’m concerned not many planes have more than 70 rows… and even if they did row 71 wouldn’t have a chance of being in the fucking business class section. Probably on the fucking wing instead.
So I board the plane, and as expected, my seats couldn’t get any further back… oh but I had a seat next to me so it was fine. If you didn’t catch the sarcasm there it was completely not fine. Luckily I was offered to have my meal service first… then the Steward offered me a scotch and coke to knock me out. This was great. So I had two or three to knock me out… so there I was partially drunk trying to eat my meal with one arm. It was fucking lasagna. Try that with one arm when you’re hammered.
So I finally make it off the plane and I’m home. And two days later I’m under the knife getting a metal plate and one massive scar on my left shoulder to remind me of the ridiculous antics that I went through after screwing up an attempt of a 360.
Moral of the story – Don’t go skiing in Japan? No way. Japan is awesome. People, food, scenery and my god the snow – Its spectacular. Just go with the right people and you’ll get through it. As much as it sucked, breaking my collarbone taught me a lot… and it taught me especially that insurance companies MATTER… but you just need to choose the appropriate company for the type of trip you’re going on.
Just one last tip for those who may become injured in the snow and need cover… you were on a main run… nowhere else.