Home' LOTL : May 2006 Contents 37
on runs, not a soul around, skiing first
tracks even though it’s already mid
morning. I pinch myself often.
For the beginner and intermediate skier,
Sahoro provides an easy transition
between levels. The groomed runs are
picture perfect providing the most
fun on the edge of each run where the
Japanese dare not go, meaning pockets
of powder in which to play. And no lift
queues. For the seasoned skier, Sahoro
can be skied in a day. The challenge
comes when the snow dumps overnight.
The same runs feel brand new under
fresh snow, and when it keeps dumping,
off piste provides both clear, and tree
runs in thigh deep powder that changes
Club Med offers its usual all
inclusive fare with three meals a day,
accommodation, lift passes and daily
group lessons. But the difference with
Sahoro Club Med is the ski instructors
entertain guests by night in cabaret style
shows, dine with them at breakfast,
lunch and dinner, and dance when the
disco is open. Who knew Romeo could
ski by day and line dance, Irish jig and
make a rabbit disappear by night?
It’s a bit like I imagine American
‘spring break’. Come bedtime and the
instructors descend upon the bar waiting
for guests, such as myself, to buy them
drinks. No doubt there are a lot of sober
instructors now I have left the resort for
I hate to partake alone.
Sahoro has served its purpose, providing
me with an appetite for Japanese snow
but Luke Hurford and Furano provide
the cream on the cake. An hour west
of Sahoro, this country town is known
as the belly button of Hokkaido for
its dead centre location on the island.
Three and a half years ago Luke jumped
on a bus at Sapporo. Unable to read
Japanese he prayed he was heading in
the right direction. The bus stopped at
Furano. What he first thought to be a
sleepy Japanese country town turned
out to be a snow sports Mecca. One
run down the slopes and he unpacked
his duffel bag and set up camp. I meet
the legendary Luke at Furano’s local 7
Eleven where he shouts me hot coffee in
a can. As the original westerner in town,
Luke finds himself followed regularly
by documentary crews and stalked
by journalists of the Japanese variety.
“There goes the crazy white man,” they
say as he throws himself off cliffs.
First timers to Furano need not despair:
Luke has set up Ski Hosting with
English-speaking hosts and offers a free
mountain guide service to help you get
round the hill on your first day. The
hill consists of two mountain zones on
which to play and night skiing is offered
daily. Translated? More time to spend
It’s not often a woman gets naked with
a man or woman within the first three
hours of meeting without alcohol, but
naked I get as we hike the volcanic hills
behind Furano. The locals have placed
an illegal pipe into the hot springs of the
town’s volcano, filling a rock pool in the
parkland with fresh hot water. Luke
takes me on a three hundred-metre trek
through shoulder high snow banks,
with a moonlight quick strip, and a
jump in water that is as fresh as the day
we were born.
As the snow falls upon our heads, our
bodies immersed in wet warmth, and
there is not a sound to be heard. This is
a truly natural Onsen, though redressing
in snow-laden clothes while naked is an
experience not to be repeated. For those
who like their modesty, nearby single
sex Onsens such as Ryounkaku, provide
change rooms and hair dryers for post-
Twenty four hours in Furano is only
just enough to taste the dulcet tones
of Karaoke in private rooms, Furano
cheese fondue at the North Country Inn
and drinks at Sol’s Bar for Miserable
Smokers (don’t ask).
My journey finishes at the hundred
yen store searching for Hello Kitty
earmuffs for my friends back home.
Instead I find myself purchasing bad 80s
Japanese bikini movies for Luke, which
I hand over in a paper bag feeling like
an overage stalker buying alcohol for
a minor. It’s yet another drawback for
Luke for being famous in a town that
knows his every move, and the only time
I have to stand in a queue.
Where: Hokkaido, northern island of Japan
Why: To ski dry powder with no lift queues
How: Australian Airlines fly to Sapphoro from
Info: Club Med Sahoro www.clubmed.com
Furano Tourist Association (0167) 23 3388
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