My friend Tetsu Miyazaki runs Utrek International Exchange Center, a non-profit organization that fosters cultural exchange and international understanding through a variety of activities. For example they send Japanese kids to homestays abroad and welcome foreign kids for homestays here in Japan. One of their annual activities is the Snowbird Ski School, held in late March at Kumanoyu Onsen in Shigakogen, Nagano (Japanese or English). This year will be the 31st time the Snowbird Ski School has been offered.
Snowbird Ski School is a package deal including transportation from Shinjuku, accommodation and meals in the onsen hotel, and instruction for 61,800 yen for elementary school students or 63,800 yen for others. A 4-day lift ticket at Kumanoyu costs 12,000 yen. Equipment rentals are available for 8700 yen. A chartered bus departs for the resort at 8 AM on 25 March from Shinjuku station and the return trip will be on the evening of 28 March. If you prefer to go to the resort yourself, you can probably negotiate a small discount on the package price. Miyazaki san always assembles an enthusiastic and interesting group for both the on-slope and apres ski activities.
The Kumanoyu summit is at 1950 m and gets lots of snow; there should be plenty of the white stuff there well into the spring. There are always many skillful instructors on the team, including fluent English speakers. All instructors are certified by the Ski Association of Japan or their own national ski organizations. The year my family joined, we had superb lessons from Hugh and Dolly Armstrong, the parents of an Olympic gold medalist. My only regret from that trip was that I had no more chances that season to practice my much improved skiing techniques. This ski camp is appropriate for everyone who wants to ski, ranging from those who have never tried through to experts. Kumanoyu is one of the few resorts in Japan that does not permit snowboarders.
If you want join this terrific trip, please contact Snowbird Ski School (New State Manor-1130, Yoyogi 2-23-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0053; Tel 03 3370-5335; Fax 03 3370-5365; Email info[AT]utrek.org) for applications and more details. Reservations and payments must be received no later than 12 March.
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