Occupation: Pro skier, Ski Product Designer, Ski Racing Coach
Accomplishments: Former Skier on the Swiss Ski Team (Alpine - Giant Slalom and Slalom)
Michael von Grünigen achieved his first victory in the Giant Slalom event at the FIS Ski World Cup in Veysonnaz in January 1993, and stood as a top racer for ten years, becoming annual champion in Giant Slalom again in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2003.
After retiring from ski racing, he has been active as a skiing gear designer. His influential products serve all kinds of skiers, from racers to on-piste skiiers.
Location: Yuzawa Town, Niigata, Japan
[Interview] Naspa New Otani Yuzawa
[On-Snow Photo] Naspa Ski Garden
What's a bit different is that, in Europe, there are landscapes around the slopes, but in Japan there are often lanes through forests.
There are lots of steep slopes, good slopes, interesting slopes, and a variety of different slopes.
Regarding snow conditions, in Europe we are more accustomed to producing artificial snow, so the slopes are fairly hard.
But here in Japan there is more natural snow, and I think that powder snow plays an important role here.
In Europe, when people go on vacation, they often go to one place and stay there for a week or ten days, and then they do all kinds of activities from that location.
I think that the ski areas here are perhaps not so large, with many bunched together in one place. But there are many different ski areas, and the distances between them are short, so one can definitely try out and experience four to five different areas in possibly one week.
This is another very interesting feature here, and one may also be able to experience different types of snow.
There may be one region with more powder snow, another region might be higher or lower, there are different kinds of snow, and there may even be slightly different cultures, with different lanes, and that’s a whole other experience.
Here in Japan I observed that everything is generally well-organized. At the lifts, for example, there are always people who help carry the skis and take care that people don't fall, and so on.
I also observed that you can actually come in just your jeans by Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yuzawa, and then you can rent everything, including shoes, clothing, skis, etc., and 30 minutes after getting off the train you are already on the ski slopes.
Buy a lift ticket and be right on the slopes – it’s great.
In summary, I'd say that a sightseeing trip to Japan is really very interesting.
There are many places to visit, many different impressions, and it’s all well-organized.
It is definitely worth the trip for anyone who wants to experience something new, such as experiencing a new culture, a new type of skiing, different slopes, different regions, and even different types of snow. I recommend it highly.