Discovery Snow Seeker 2015
The Discovery Snow Seeker tour is designed for skiers and snowboarders who are at the novice to intermediate level, or for the stronger intermediates who are more comfortable on the groomed runs than charging through the trees. Advanced skiers and snowboarders keen to try a new location will enjoy the challenge of riding in amongst the snow monsters and some of the off-piste powder stashes.
With daily coaching sessions, this tour is about increasing and solidifying your skills whilst having a great time. If you wish we can show you the basics of powder riding and introduce you to some knee deep to waist deep powder.
Never skied or snowboarded before but always wanted to try? Then this is the trip for you - with coaches to help and guide you at every step along the way. We have taught many 'newbies' over the years, and in one week watched them go from novice to comfortable on intermediate runs!
In 2015 we are going to Discover an area of Japan that does not get to many Westerners, and so the Japanese culture abounds. Welcome to ZAO ONSEN, in the Yamagata prefecture in the Northern central area of Japan's main island, Honshu.
About Zao Onsen
As the name suggests, Zao Onsen is known for its numerous free public onsens dotted all around the town. Small winding streets full of interesting shops, restaurants and bars leading to a long flight of steps up to extremely traditional Japanese temples. If you ever wanted to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, then Zao Onsen is the place to do just that. The friendly people in the small village are always very welcoming to guests from overseas.
Above all else, Zao Onsen is known for the famous 'Juhyo' or Snow Monsters. These large Japanese fur trees become frozen early in the season and snow build up makes them looks like solitary monsters. This is your chance to ski right through them!
The mountain is large with 4 gondolas and 37 other lifts, there are enough runs to keep you entertained all week. The resort boasts a 10km long run from the top to the bottom - right through the Snow Monsters.
The mountain is ideal for Snow Seekers with 40% beginner, 40% intermediate and just 20% advanced. With over 880m of vertical drop across the mountain there is plenty for everyone. For those strong skiers and snowboarders feeling very adventurous, the option of a back country tour exists. If you are putting in turns on the intermediate Juhyogen Course, challenging yourself on the Hahnenkamm Course or enjoying learning on the Central Slope - there is something for everyone at Zao Onsen.
You can see a run-map of the mountain here.
"There is a real buzz watching someone have that break-through moment when learning to ski or snowboard. Their face lights up and huge smiles start. They look like they could conquer the world."
- Simon Kriss (Chief Mountain Officer)
About the tour
This tour has been designed with the first-timer to snow-lover in mind. A good mix of on and off snow activities, some great social activities and a whole load of fun. Come as a couple or come as a single, there will always be someone to ski with and someone to eat, drink and party with.
We believe in you enjoying your holiday your way, so you make the decisions about what you would like to do. Want a day off the snow to explore the town? No problem! Want a lesson? Great! Whatever you choose to do we are here to help.
For those that do want lessons, we will organise you into small coaching groups so you are skiing or snowboarding with people of a similar level - not too fast, not too slow. Our coaches will then work with you to correct old bad habits, and develop new skills in a sustainable way so that you cement the skills properly - from first time snow plough to advanced mogul skills.
The tour will depart Australia on Fri 30th January, or Hong Kong early on Sat 31st January. After meeting one of the DST crew in either Melbourne airport or Hong Kong airport, you will fly to Tokyo's Narita airport. From there we take a train into central Tokyo and then a shinkansen (bullet train) to Yamabiko station - a 2.5hr ride. From the station we will have a private bus to whisk you to the mountain around 40 mins away. You should be at the resort just after lunch on Sat 31st Jan.
Day One to Three - Sun 1st Feb to Tue 3rd. The first three snow days are about building your skills and getting comfortable with the new terrain.
The evening of the first ski day (Sun 1st) will include our now famous fancy dress karaoke night. Prepare to get dressed up and belt out a tune or three - some drinks will be provided to help you on your way.
Day Four - Wed 4th Feb. This is our off-snow day. We encourage all skiers and snowboarders to give their bodies a day of rest to recharge tired muscles. The morning can be spent sleeping in, exploring town or enjoying one of the activities available. In the afternoon we have organised for you to participate in the DST Amazing Snow Race! Great team based activity that tests your mind and body.
Day Five to Seven - Thu 5th to Sat 7th Feb. The final three snow days will be focused on growing your skills and pushing your boundaries a little. On the fifth day (Thu 5th) we offer a 'swap day' where skiers can try snowboarding and snowboarders can try skiing - totally optional of course.
The evening of the final day (Sat 7th) will see our Final Night Dinner occur. A semi-gala event with loads of funny stories from across the week enjoyed with great food, yummy warm sake and a few trophies to people who have gone above and beyond.
The tour will conclude with travel back to Narita and on-flights to Australia or Hong Kong. Hong Kong crew will arrive home late on Sun 8th, Australian crew will arrive home early on Mon 9th February.
The accommodation for Zao Onsen is a wonderful local pension called Puutaro. This lodge has a mixture of Japanese (tatami mat) and Western bed rooms. While one or two of the Western rooms have private bathrooms the majority, in typical Japanese style, share bathrooms on the lower floor. Each bathroom has a generous bath to soak weary limbs.
The great thing about the lodge is it's location. Right next door to both a ski rental shop and a very large public onsen with multiple heat pools, the lodge is also less than one minute walk to one of the three gondolas and three minutes walk to another gondola - loads of ski options.
The local convenience store is just a few minutes away, and lots of bars and restaurants are close as well. All in all, a great location.
What's included and what's not
Your tour will include trains in Japan, transport to and from the mountain, accommodation, breakfasts, lift tickets (gondolas and chairlifts), coaching sessions and many of the activities.
Your tour does not include airfares, travel insurance, ski or snowboard hire, lunches, dinners and drinks.
The cost for 2015 is HK$ 18,000 (AU$ 2,475) per person. This price excludes flights and travel insurance, you need to organise these yourself - or we can help.
There are a large number of activities and options available to you on every Discovery Snow Tour. Some we have included, others are at cost. A full list of activities are listed here.
You could have a stopover in Tokyo or Hong Kong on your way home or your way up if you like.
What you need to know
ATM machines are not common in ski towns across Japan (so bring cash for lunches, dinners and drinks). There are lots of restaurants, bars and convenience stores for all of your needs.
We have secured a deal on ski and snowboard hire which means you get a discount should you need to hire. For those without some good snow walking boots we suggest you hire those too - this town can get very snowy and it is not uncommon for 30cm to 45 cm to drop in one evening (so a pair of old jogging shoes just wont cut it).
"There is a real sense of accomplishment in helping someone enjoy their sport more. My favourite part of Discovery Snow Tours is helping people achieve that next goal, whilst having maximum fun. Skiing is not just about going fast or steep, it is about finishing a day exhausted yet exhilarated."
- Wayne Zantuck (Chief Ski Officer)
"Many people relate snowboarding to surfing or skateboarding and I disagree. I think snowboarding is closest to skiing. There are many skills that translate between the two disciplines. I like that Discovery Snow Tours gives you the option to try either."
- Ian Denford (Chief Snowboard Officer)