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  1. We'd been planning to try to hit one of the summer slopes at some point (Marunuma or GALA), but the weather has been completely uncooperative so far this year, with rain every single weekend that would have been possible for us. With a typhoon dashing hopes yet again for this weekend, finally figured heck, let's try one of the Snova indoor slopes and see what it's like. We hit the one in the Mizonokuchi area of Kawasaki, a bit off Route 246, imaginatively named Snova Mizonokuchi-R246: The entrance is on the second floor, at the base of the slope. Windows to the right offer views of the happenings on the slope, though they are half frosted over, so can't really take a decent picture through them: After buying your ticket and going inside, you go down a staircase to the left to get to the entrance to the slope. Go through a couple of doors, and a blast of cold air hits you. It's kept at about -3 degrees. Definitely want a jacket and gloves. Looking up from the bottom, there are 3 zones. To the far left, the halfpipe: To the far right the 平バーン, which is basically a bunny slope, where they sometimes set up boxes and rails. Check the calendar for how this area is laid out each day. Today there was just a box near the top: In the middle is a kicker: Against the far-right wall is an escalator, reached by a short staircase: That old We're riding on the escalator of life song kept going through my head... (still is): There is also a carpeted ramp to the left of the halfpipe that one could hike up if feeling gnarly -- at risk of getting face-bonked by someone taking air off the lip. I declined the opportunity. The 'snow' is pretty dry, not at all wet or slushy, and even pretty soft where piled up after the kicker. Under it is a rock-hard ice layer: The ice base has apparently been built up or maintained over a long period, and is almost black with dirt in places: A mini quarterpipe ramp at the bottom of the 平バーン: Top of the escalator: Looking down from skier's top left: Looking down the halfpipe: Snow maintenance on the kicker: There was a range of people there, from an obvious first-timer shouting for help all the way down the bunny slope, to some really seriously talented kids (and I mean little kids, maybe third graders by the looks) who were tearing it up on the halfpipe and kicker. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of them at future Olympics. Most visitors seemed to be there to train or practice skills and tricks. Quite a few camps and lessons seem to go on there. I found the halfpipe tougher than I expected, and the kicker more manageable and enjoyable than I had expected. But what really kicked my butt was that stupid box -- I couldn't do anything but ski straight-line over it without slipping and crashing. Really need to figure out what the trick is for rotating on those things. (I suppose a sense of balance would help.) Anyway, we had fun, and came back surprisingly tired. Ended up getting a decent work-out, it seems. All in all not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, and forget that it is summer.


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SnowJapan.com is the independent guide to skiing and snowboarding in Japan and has been online since 1999.

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