The Danes define hygge as something akin to eating Christmas dinner in a cabin with your family while it snows outside beneath a double rainbow. I love this word, and there is no counterpart for it in English. It’s a level of coziness and comfort that surpasses language, I think, and it’s exactly how I felt in Niseko.
On my second full day, I moved from my hotel in the boonies to a log cabin with everyone else. It was comfortable, considering there were five of us sharing space. There’s some unparalleled feeling I get when I’m in a cabin in the mountains with good company, a little fire, home cooked food, and everyone sitting around together. I think I would describe this as hygge.
The other obvious perk of the cottage was the fact that I could walk from it to the mountain and not get stuck in the ski lodge waiting for a shuttle.
I’d purchased a 3-day pass and had really made the most of it by Day 3. This was the longest consecutive stretch of days I’d ever spent boarding, and it was both invigorating and painful. Hobbling down the stairs in the morning, I felt like an old crone.
James, who worked as a snowboarding instructor in France, was a bit speedy for me, so I spent most of my time with his cousin Robine, whose company on and off the slopes was absolutely stellar. She is one of those people who is so full of joy and laughter and joie de vivre that it’s impossible to not feel sunny around her. I would also say that she and I are on a similar standard when it comes to skiing/snowboarding.
On our third day, I decided I would do a box. This has been a goal of mine for ages now, because I feel like boxes are both a little bit badass but also the easiest option in a terrain park.
By the third day, I’d mustered enough confidence to do it, even as pieces of my snowboard were falling off left and right. On the first day in Niseko, my right toe cap snapped off. Later, the clip on the back of my right binding disappeared. Just before I attempted the box, I noticed the clips from my back left binding sitting in the snow. Each afternoon, I’d hand some new part of my board over to James, who ended up ordering new parts for all of us – his bindings had also snapped off when he got there, possibly due to the transition from Manila humidity to icy Japan air.
He assured me it was safe to board without the toe cap – it felt no different, really – and the binding clips on the back didn’t do much anyway, so I felt ready to tackle the box.
Robine and I approached the terrain park, where we ran into Zach, who was doing 360s and jumps off of some terrifyingly icy ramp parallel to the box. Robine and I planted ourselves at the top of the hill leading down to the box. From here, it looked relatively harmless: a long stretch of wide, hard plank.
As we deliberated, small children soared by and deftly flew over the box, some even doing fancy turns along the way.
“This is actually a harder box,” Zach told me between his Olympian 360s. “There’s a gap between the ramp and the box, so don’t clip your board. There’s an easier box up higher.”
“No,” I told him. “I want to do this box.”
Robine was on board with going after me on her skis, so down I went. It’s helpful for you to know that my concept of speed – much like my perception of depth, which I’ll explain in a moment – is severely warped. As I flew down the hill toward the box, I imagined I was traveling at breakneck speed, Shinkansen-fast. In reality, it was possibly average, old man in a wheelchair-fast. I turned a little to slow down, glided gently up the ramp and onto the box – and then came to a complete stop.
Behind me, I could hear Robine laughing hysterically as I tried to stay standing, doubled over in my own laughter. I nudged myself to the end of the box where I fell into the snow. I thought it was hilarious. You’d probably have to be there.
Robine came over next, looking not unlike the deft children on their skis – and then she fell off, losing a ski in the process. I really can’t tell you how hilarious this was to both of us.
Determined to nail it, I ran up to try it again. With a little more speed – emphasis here on ‘little’ – I popped over the ramp, rode the edge of the box to the end, and landed easily in front of Robine, who had been filming the entire thing.
There was great cheering from us and Zach, who was waiting very patiently a little further down – until Robine scrolled to the video and noted that it cut off just as I was approaching the box. Oh well. It felt good, and I had witnesses.
After some frustration before lunch – where I hit a long flat green and thought it would be faster to cut through the trees, which led nowhere, so I had to unbind my board and then chase it down a hill as it glided away from me, and then climb back onto the trail where Zach told me it actually was downhill and not straight and I learned I have troublesome depth perception – the rest of the day panned out quite well. It was our last day on the mountain, so we made the most of it and boarded until the lifts closed at 4:30.
Cold and soaked through – the snow was a lot slushier today – I was grateful to return to the cabin’s warm interior, a toasty shower, and a delightfully steamy hot pot to round out the day. The whole afternoon/evening was one of those moments where you wonder if life gets much better.