Learning to ski in Japan

Updated: Mar 11, 2018

Despite being used to snow since birth in Denmark, Philip and Sienna have never felt the white powder under a set of boards attached to their feet. The move to tropical Singapore 4 years ago, postponed what became a long lost dream of going on a cold, snowy holiday - and learn to ski! Follow the story day by day, as Philip and Sienna reconnect with the cold and the snow, and try the slopes for the very first time.

Welcome to Philip AND Sienna's story from Tomamu, Japan - being told, as it unfolds!

Content by Philip & Sienna Juul Nyegaard / Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul


DAY 1 - reconnecting

Day 1 actually started on day 0. We left late at night Friday to get a night flight to Tokyo and then carry on to Tomamu on a domestic morning flight. But before departure, we all had a very hard goodbye to say... Our 'little man', 'little C', everyone's favourite Chris was not going to join us on holiday for the very first time. It had been a very tough decision for our mum and dad, as they had even chosen the very family and children-friendly "Club Med" hotel, so that Chris would also enjoy a skiing holiday (without the skiing). But.

First he could not go in their "petit club" (age 2-3), then there wasn't a petit club (hotel is only 3 months) and then there was one after all. A lot of talk back and forth, but in the end the conclusion was, that being 20 months, the long journey and the purpose of the holiday, wouldn't really make Chris or us particularly happy. Compromises, bad conscience, baby-sitting with strangers and not being a family on the slopes, like we'd imagined. If you ask my mum it was a practical solution, if you ask her heart, it completely devastated her to leave our brother behind. Anyway, we are here now and Chris is with his best friend, Emily, our nanny, who knows him and his routines better then anyone else outside of our family... And hopefully he will not remember this absence from us for too long!


Off we went, thanking Chris on the flight, as we now had front seats with a bassinet we weren't going to use, but a loooot of leg room instead. Our mum was watching a film. We can't remember her ever watching a film, reading a book or sleep while Chris has been in our family. So, perhaps, in that respect it wasn't so bad he hadn't come.


When we landed in Tokyo, we could already feel the cold, and getting onto the next flight, it didn't take long before we were crossing the, yes, SNOWY mountains!! We were already excited, we would be in those mountains so soon, and for me, Sienna, it would be the first snow (that I remember, it was apparently snowy when I was 2 and we left Denmark) and for me, Philip, 4 years ago, that I remember building a snowman outside our flat in Copenhagen... 1,5 hours later, it was all there, in huuuuge junes as we landed.

A snowstorm had just passed the night before, so there were literally metres of snow by

the side of the road, as we made it up the mountain in a bus for another 1,5 hours.


By this stage, we were hungry, we kind of missed breakfast, and when we arrived at Club Med Tomamu, it had been 18 hours since we'd had anything to eat! Thank God for understanding staff and a very big buffet with everything on offer! Phew, then we were able to think again and see our great family room (with a cot and baby bath, arrgh) and then get dressed to do those angels and jump that powder we'd mainly seen from the inside of the bus. First, we signed up for our ski-school and tried out the gear we needed and then, it was time....!


It was so much fun, when we put our feet into the snow, it came up to our hips! We had to crawl through it, that's how many lawyers had built up over the past few days and sometimes roll to get out. Sienna did her angels, Philip the jumps, it was everything we'd hoped it would be and more, and we hadn't even started what we were there for.


Another big buffet meal, a hot shower and then to bed. We were extremely tired after only about 4 hours sleep the night before (night flight is only 6 hours), and we wanted to be ready and fresh for the big day! We seriously cannot wait...



DAY 2 - the test

We slept 12 hours, and if dad hadn't woken us up, we might still have been in bed, that's

how tired we were! But we got up quickly, excited about what the day would bring!

After breakfast we went to our lockers - they day before we'd prepared everything: our boots, skis, even helmets had their own place with names on, and after we'd signed in along with 50 other kids, all we had to was wait...


The skis were were placed outside by the instructors, the snow was still meters high from the day before, our dad was going to go on a special trip where they go 'of piste', but their was just one problem. Yesterday it was -2 degrees, today it was +2. And as many of you probably know, this means that the snow, is no longer like powder, but it turns into slush - and it's harder to ski. But, as we never tried either, we were just happy to get out and get it on!

It was one ski on first, circling to get the feel. Then two on and the PIZZA! First ploughing on the small slope and later on a slightly bigger one, where you'd go on a snow-escalator to get up there.

I, Philip felt pretty confident, especially as I was told that I'd moved up to a new, more advanced class the next day. I, Sienna, thought it was hard, being the youngest in the class and falling over a lot, and making people irritated. But after a hot chocolate and sweet popcorn at the bar after a finished day, all felt better. We did 2x2 hours, so you can't expect to be pros, who knows, we might be the new Casper Dyrbye's! (Danish ski-guy who just entered the Olympics, despite the fact that Denmark have no mountains - I Philip, just did a project on him at school).


Mum and dad also went skiing, Tomamu isn't the biggest area, and because of the snow-rain in the morning, they had an easygoing day skiing the same hours as us, but also enjoyed it.

Club Med in Tomamu has quite a few things you can do besides skiing and loads of fun for us kids. After we chilled, we went to the big indoor swimming pool that has waves! But we'll tell you more about that one another time. But we love it here, so many kids and fun, all the food you can eat from the buffet, and every Sunday and Thursday night, a talent show where you can go up and perform in front of the others!

We're going to do 'Shape of you", or "Ghostbusters", we can't really agree - perhaps we'll do both! Ok. Goodnight from Japan!


DAY 3: The breakthrough

"I don't want to go skiing today...I don't want to go skiing today!!"... yes, they were my words (Sienna) and it's true, I really didn't want to go skiing. Philip had moved up to STAR1 - the higher level, and I was still a FLAKE - a beginner basically. But mum and dad made me go, they said "that's why we're here, and the more you learn, the more fun it becomes". Ok, so I did. And I had the same teacher, Huw, who is so much fun.

He made me laugh, and I quickly forgot that i was only a flake, and soon I was in the front doing pizza and getting jiggy wit it down the slopes. I actually did so well, that I moved up, just like Philip did, and tomorrow I will be STAR1!!


But of course....Philip moved up to.

So yes, I (Philip), had a great day, I love skiing and some of us did so well that we went up on the big hill with a chairlift and went skiing down the mountain! I made friends and had fun, and tomorrow I won't be wearing the pink bib anymore, I move on to the yellow - STAR1 !


And all while we were in ski school, mum and dad went off. They went in this gondola that ends up at the top of the mountain where there's a cafe where you see the view and get a hot drink and cook marshmallows by the fire! We were so jealous when we heard, but mum and dad insisted that they hadn't eaten any marshmallows, and that they would wait and do it with us one day...

In fact when I (Sienna) had finished ski-school, we tried to go there, but the gondola closed (at 3:30 already) right in front of us, so we went for a coffee next door instead.

Then I thought it would be fun to get the chair lift to the top and back, but then that closed in front of us...(4pm) and then I was upset. But mum saved the day, we went into the Petit Club (kids club for 2-3 year-olds) and borrowed these sledges and then we went sledging down the hill outside the hotel, it was so much fun and it went so fast!

Both Philip and I were happy now, I liked skiing now, and as if the day hadn't been goo enough, when we had dinner with some friends from Singapore, we'd bumped into, my instructor Huw sat down with us and had dinner!!


Apparently this is normal at Club Med, the ski instructors sit with the guests for lunch and dinner, and that made me happy, because Huw said that now I'd moved up, he wouldn't be teaching me again :-( That's what I thought anyway...





DAY 4 - THE MEDALS

We love our sleep at Club Med. We have a great big family room, where you can draw a curtain at night between us and mum and dad, if they want to read or work with the light on. And because we ski all day, we sleep so well, and getting up in the morning can be hard! There's also a lot of of fun happening with the other kids at "The Theatre" - the big bar/café area - at night, so we often get to bed late.

This morning we were both excited about our 3rd day of skiing though. And everything is so easy here. We have all our ski gear in the designated rooms and if we change teams, they even move it for you. Everything is in colours, so it's easy to see exactly what team you're in and this is also the colour the lanyard for your medal will be. Medals are given out Tuesdays and Fridays, and you'd be given the colour of the team you will be in the following day. So the question today was, what colour medal would we get??


Well, first nice surprise for me (Sienna), was that I was greeted by Huw in STAR1! Turned out he was teaching me again today after all! And all my friends from FLAKE2 were with me as well, so it was really familiar. And Huw even said, that we might get up on the mountain today, if we did really well!


STAR2 was great as well. I (Philip) was now in a yellow bib, and all time was now spent in the mountains! I was wondering whether it would be possible to advance to another level again in just one day? I guess I'd just had to see later on.

For mum and dad is was also SCHOOL TIME! They were both excited as the the snow was really thick and powdery and the sun was even coming out. Japan is known for it's amazing snow, but the reason it's that good, is that it snows a lot - ie. less blue sky than e.g. the Alps.


But today, was great, so dad went on the advanced 'powder' team, where they go outside the skilanes and 'off piste'. Mum went on 'Club 4', which is intemediate - she hadn't skied since she was (unknowingly) pregnant with me (Philip), which means 9 years!


Dad was in heaven, he said that this ride was worth every penny it costs to come here. And mum too, although she had to give in to buying goggles. Here in Japan, sunglasses does not work, when there's a snowfall! She did both morning and afternoon classes and whether she advanced or not,


I'm not sure - but we were told and at 4:30, it was time for the AWARDS!

All the ski instructors were on stage and team by team, we all came up there to receive our medals. I (Sienna) went up with STAR1 and the pink bibs, but received a....YELLOW medal! YES, I'm in STAR2 tomorrow!

...and guess what, with Philip! So yes.. I (Philip) was a little dissapointed, but I had been warned that it's hard to advance one class every day, so hopefully at the award ceremony on Friday I will be a new colour!


It was fun to be on stage, everyone was clapping and taking pictures, so much fun here at Club Med! ...even though we miss our little Chris...


DAY 5 - THE SUN

Japan ski ares are known for the snow, and a lot of it. But with a lot of snow, it has to fall right? So what Japan is not known for, is the sun. Today, one of our instructors said: We have a day like this 1 out of 12 days. And today was that one.

It was also the day where both Philip and I were on the big moutain all day. Being "Star2" we got to take the big express chairlift and we went down the blue pistes all day.



We bumped into mum and dad on the way, and they couldn't believe that this was only our 4th day skiing. My instructor (Sienna), even said that I could move on to Star3 tomorrow - but not sure Philip will like his younger sister to be in the team above!


Perhaps it's because Philip like going fast, and I like getting down the hill, right. It's a girl-boy thing my mum says.

The sun was out today, and mum and dad were ecstatic. Not that we would know, but they said it was like being in Europe, but with five times the snow.



They both went to their ski classes and said they had 'their best day ever'. Mum learned to lean into the mountain, hold her poles in the front and not lean back.


Seems obvious to us, but she said she learned to ski 30 years ago, when the skis were very different, so ski school is just as useful to her as to us!

To enjoy the good weather and us becoming Star2's so quick, we'd arranged to meet with mum and dad at the gondola and go to the top of the mountain for hot chocolate and marshmellows after class.


But the gondola closes at 3:30 and if you're no skiing down, at 3pm. So while getting up there at 3:25, I, Sienna got colder and colder and more and more tired.

And of course, the café was closed. So we begged the gondola people to take me back down even though it was closing - while Philip and dad raced it down in the same time!


See Philip race in Stories Tomamu Highlights: www.instagram.com/tripsbykids


I was sooo cold and cried a lot. But the good thing in Japan, is that if you're cold, you have: the ONSEN.


Just across from our hotel is the huge swimming pool, but just behind it, is the ONSEN. A hot bath, where you have to go women and men separately and you have to take ALL your clothes off. You also have to wash yourself, like a lot. The Japanese like cleanliness, so you scrub and scrub and then enter the hot pool, that is outside, in the snow! I cannot tell you how amazing that is, after a day of skiing and being cold! Mum and I went back and forth, into the icy cold bath, then back in the Onsen and then back again... I felt like new again and was ready to attack the big amazing Club Med buffet!


Tonight we had dinner with our friends from the condo - we had no idea they were going, but Japanese Kyoko and French Mattias, live in the ground floor like us with their son, Taiki, who Philip plays with. And guess what, my old friend, Huw, sat down again with us for dinner! I missed him as my instructor today, but Rob was great as well. After our dinner, we all went upstairs in the 'Theatre', and guess what Huw, and loads of the other staff were doing French "Moulin Rouge" dancing on stage!


But we were all so tired, so at 9pm we went back to our warm big family room. Wonder what class I will be in tomorrow?


DAY 6 - THE SHOW

Star 2 is still good right? We both had a great time at the ski school today, but I, Sienna, was getting tired at doing it every morning and afternoon. Mum and dad offered that I come with them after lunch, and as I can now go on the big mountain

- I could! I'm plowing, but can almost go as fast as them!

See Sienna ski at www.instagram.com/tripsbykids and pictures from this day on the STORIES HIGHLIGHTS.

They also said that we'd try the marshmallows and hot chocolate again at the top of the mountains by the gondola! (remember first time gondola closed, second time, café was closed?). I was so excited, finally I'd be bbq'ing marshmallows!...but... you would think it wasn't meant to happen, because as we finally got up there, they only accept cash. And we, did not have cash. Ok, nevermind, we'd run down to the café in the mountain then. And that was cozy too, bonfire, cozy sofa, mummy ordered cake and coffee, they said yes to card - we were ready! BUT. They had misunderstood her - only cash. Hmf.

Back to Club Med, up to the theatre, where there'd always be an array of cakes, pancakes and free hot chocolate. And I had to be there for 4pm for the researhals of the big show tonight anyway. We got Philip from ski school and we were both excited to be performing Ed Sheeran tonight - but as it turned out - it was not solo performances, but a big group show! So we'd rehearse in our age-groups and boy/girl. But I, Philip, wasn't having it, I didn't like it so I quit. I, Sienna, wasn't really sure either, so after the rehearsal i decided I didn't want to do it either.

Instead, Onsen time! Hot bath and ready for biiig buffet dinner (again). And at the dinner, a mini-club lady came and asked who of us were ready for the show and we both refused. The lady looked a bit disappointed, and all of a sudden I, Sienna, wasn't sure either. I talked back and forth with mum and then decided, YES, "trying new things" is what we're taught at school, so I jumped up, ran after the lady and she took my hand down to mini-club to get dressed and maked-up.



1,5 hours later it was time. All parents and kids not participating were waiting by the stage. And then it started. First it was girls 7-8 yrs, then 4-5 and then it was us - 6 yrs! We all wore Indian dresses and our dance was to a Beyonce song and I was right in the middle and front of the stage! Everyone was clapping and looking and taking pictures - and after we'd finished the bigger children came on stage too and did their performances.

At the end we were all on stage - also the kids who'd not performed, for a big group photos. Confetti came down and all the kids club teachers were bowing, as they'd organised it all.

But the party wasn't finished - we were all told to go to the window, and there were 10 ski-instructors with red torches skiing down the slope - it was so magical! And as we turned aroudn, Rio, the family mananger and Merlin, chef de village, were in the bar with a giant tower of glasses, champagne, chocolate fondue running down a tower, popcorn, drinks, music.... they were counting down, talking and everyone were very excited! but we couldn't do anymore. It had been a long and exciting day and we were zonked!...

Bedtime, tired from skiing the mountains, bathing the Onsen and performing the stage - trying new things make you tired right? Good night.



DAY 7 - THE CRISIS

It’s amazing how quickly it can change here and perhaps also, at this time a year - great skiing one day and the next day, rain. We looked out and the snow did not look good, so we decided that this could be our ‘be-at-home-and-relax-day”. We had a long breakfast, went back to bed and played ipad and chilled and then, off to the Mina mina beach!

Well, it’s not technically a beach, but it looks a bit like one, and the water does turn into waves every half hour. We had fun, also in the jacuzzi afterwards where we were hanging out us the family.

But jacuzzi wasn’t quite as good as the Onsen. - so we waited until 12 when it opened, and mum and I (Sienna) were so lucky to be the first, so that mum could take photos of where we clean ourselves and the actual bath.

It was fun to be there at daylight, and fun to take the cold snow and melt it in the water - although I’m sure you’re not meant to.

We came back just in time for lunch, and there we talked about whether we should try it out on the slopes this afternoon or not. It was obvious that a lot of kids hadn’t gone out today, and the one’s that had, had gone back in quickly.


But then we met James. James actually taught Star3 (and as you know we’re Star2), but he said he’d like to teach us anyway and that we’d most probably get a solo lesson after the soggy snow experience for most kids this morning.

And as we went to get our gear, about 8 ski instructors were waiting for…no one. Out of the whole kids club of about 70 kids, we were the only one’s to go skiing this afternoon.

We were wearing the green bibs (Star3!), but still no poles - you only get those when you are actually Star3. And to get out to the snow, dad had to carry us through big pool of water - the ice had melted so much and made the entrance into a swimming pool!

Mum and dad didn’t even go out that afternoon, they just stayed in and read and chilled. But to be completely honest, we probably both had a secret mission with this class…we wanted to get to Star3 before the medal ceremony tonight - none of us wanted another yellow medal.

The run was fun, coming back, less so. I (Philip) made it to Star3, but Sienna didn’t. She was so upset, she’d really been counting on it - and thankfully mum came down, just as James had told us. But she was in tears for a long time, up until she got her slush ice and pancake in the Theatre.

James came up to mum and dad, he felt awful for not giving us the same star, but he said that going from 2 to 3 is quite hard as you need to be able to run with your skis parallel and when you’re only 6, having the strength to do that, is tough. Of course for Sienna it was hard to understand, that we wouldn’t be in the same level, now we started skiing at the same time. We got our medals, and I'll spar you the photos - let's just say we don't look equally happy...

The good news was, that mum and dad let us have ‘free dessert’ night, as it was our last night. So after dinner we were allowed as much dessert as we’d like - and there was SOOOO much good stuff. You can tell Club Med is French, because their cakes, pancakes, bread and cheese is as good as if you were in France! And with a bit of sweet (again), things were not so tough anymore.

And apart from food, another good distraction, are the shows. Last night of entertainment, and tonight it was the staff who was performing. They did a lot of dances, also the GM, Merlin joined in on everything (as with everything else!) and in the end, all us kids came up on stage and did the chicken dance, it was so much fun!

There was a party after, but it was 10pm and for us who normally sleep at 7:30 and don’t spend the whole day skiing, we were tired. And I (Philip) wanted to do a last class as Star3 tomorrow, with POLES.


DAY 8 - THE FAMILY TRIP

Today was our last day in Tomamu, but because we weren’t leaving until 4pm, we could actually get a whole day of skiing in. We got up early to pack, ski gear on, last breakfast and last morning at ski school.

The sun was out full beam, no new snow, but the most beautiful day we’d had in our week here.

Mum and dad skied together in the morning and after our last lunch, we moved our suitcases to another empty room where we’d be allow to shower after skiing, and went out, for the first time, skiing as a family.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and mum was of course clicking away with her camera, while we showed both everything we’d learned. Apparently we were so good, that mum and dad brought us up on the “powder lift”, but haven’t really thought through that it might be a little challenging for complete newbies like us.

A few tears, Sienna up on daddy’s back, but we made it down. However not in time for us to get the gondola up and get the marshmallows that we’d attempted to get so many times… But to be honest, we were so full from lunch, and breakfast, and marshmallows from the night before, that I think it can wait until our next time to Tomamu!

Also….we raced up to the theatre before departure for snack pancakes and cake and stuffed our pockets for the journey…so we shouldn’t be missing out on sugar much…;-)

I (Philip) am not good with these things. Having made so many friends, having had so much fun and saying goodbye…

We jumped on the bus, drove for 1-2 beautiful sunsetting hours to Obihori airport, another flight to Tokyo for 1,5 hours and then the nightlight to Singapore.

It has been the best trip ever, but we really miss our little brother now and we can’t wait to cuddle him and feel his chubby cheeks. He’ll be so excited when we come home tomorrow morning and get to spend the day with him!


TRANSPORT:

Flight Singapore-Tokyo 7,5 hrs.

Flight Tokyo-Obihiro 1,5 hrs.

Bus: Obihiro Airport - Club Med Tomamu hotel, 1,5 hrs.

Same applied for the return.

REASON: We'd prosponed going skiing as we'd moved to Singapore and thus far away from snow and skis. However, our eldest being 6 and 8, we wanted to make a go of it, and had heard that Japan is great for beginners because of the broad pistes, many beginner slopes and lots of snow.

ITINERARY: March 2018,

PRICE: Club Med is not cheap, but in the costs you have to remember that you don't just get your room, but also all food, drinks, kids club, ski pass and ski lessons (incl. for adults). Also,if you're flexible, it's worth looking at your timings - we cut our costs in half by going 2 weeks after Chinese New Year, which had been our original plan of departure.

PRICERANGE: Club Med is not cheap, but remember that your room, all your food, drink, kids club, skipass and ski school (incl. adults's) is all included. Have a good look at the time you go too, au

STRETCH: 8 days and 7 nights.


PHILIP & SIENNA: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ (but get a spa!)


Hotel: Club Med Tomamu: https://www.clubmed.com.sg/r/Tomamu-Hokkaido/

(Note, Club Med have 2 resorts in Hokkaido)



The Final edited story of "Learning to ski in Japan" will have additional and HIgh RES. photos as well as video - until then, make sure you also check out www.instagram.com/tripsbykids for more pics and highlight stories.

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