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Medgehog

Just how busy were Japanese ski resorts back in the late 80's/early 90's

Question

I hear stories of mad queues for ski lifts in the Japan ski boom years late 80s and the early 90s.

Are such stories exaggerated or was it as mad as it sounds.

And how come those queues suddenly disappeared?

Really curious about it all!

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How busy?  Very busy! 

I remember queuing 45+ minutes for one of the lifts at GALA. And that was even post peak boom period.

They must have been raking it in back then!

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I arrived in Niigata 'post peak boom' but weekends were still pretty crazy busy - a real contrast with recent years. I much prefer the later years myself but it must have been a shock for skijo seeing those numbers drop. I wonder if ski resorts thought it would continue forever, or if they knew it couldn't.

 

 

 

 

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I'm happy I missed all that. I don't like waiting 5 minutes for a lift  ;)

Seen some photos from the ski boom years and it looks absolute madness. Could hardly see the snow for the crowds of people!

 

 

 

 

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It was, indeed, very crowded. Lifts lines of 30~45 minutes or longer were routine on weekends. 
On the plus side, the season began earlier (and I'd say the conditions stayed good longer into spring) as I can remember pretty much always skiing at Nakazato, Park, Iwappara and similar low-altitude areas the first week of December (Naeba top lifts in late November) in the mid-80s.

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22 hours ago, Slippery Jim said:

On the plus side, the season began earlier (and I'd say the conditions stayed good longer into spring) as I can remember pretty much always skiing at Nakazato, Park, Iwappara and similar low-altitude areas the first week of December (Naeba top lifts in late November) in the mid-80s.

Good point. (And worrying too).

Season starts do seem to be later and 'spring' does seem to start earlier.

 

 

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At weekends:

Naeba: Before you got to join the ticket lines, first you had to get off the Highway/Expressway......simple? no way! At the exit there were often lines of cars which took 10-20mins.....no ETC back then! Then after making it as far as the ski area you had to find a parking space.

Zao: 2hrs for the main ropeway & that only took us to the middle area. Then 10-15mins of pushing and shoving to get on a single lift which allowed us to ski for about one minute. 

Niseko: On the main Hirafu run there were two lift companies operating, one on the right and the other on the left. So you had to make sure you returned to the side you had started from. It wasn't a question of joining the shorter line. 

Shiga Kogen: Friday or Saturday nights saw hoards of people heading there by overnight bus or train. Party! They staggered off the bus/train  and went more or less straight on to the slopes. There were so many people on Yakibitai  that we often had to ski a human slalom......on each mogul there were at least two people taking a rest.

Powder was considered dangerous so after a big dump of beautiful light Shiga powder the lifts did not open until all that nasty stuff had been cleared away. Moguls were mashed every night for the safety of skiers. Ah, the good old boring days! But at least on Zao we did start Nov 15 usually and finished after Golden Week.

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Those were the days.

Didn't experience the peak of it thankfully. I'm sure the ski resorts look back fondly though.

 

 

 

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Hi. Seeing 2 or 3 parallel chair lifts from the 80 ish makes me really wonder how bad it was back then. Was it really the economy that crashed it all, or were people in the end tired of being ripped off with slow service?

This, of course, brings me to a slightly off-topic question; Why on earth, in a rich country like Japan, they have not removed these old chair lift monsters? Of course, Austria with the brand new lifts is extream. But why is Japan extream in a backward way? Why isn't Niseko embarrassed with their old lifts? Niseko village with the cramped old Gondola. Appi has a good section, but the old center lifts are useless. Niseko Hanazono is building a monster big hotel, and they only have one 4 seat chair lift. Guess what queues they can look forward to. Niseko Anapurni's gondola is so slow it takes about 17 minutes to reach the top. 

I wouldn't be interested If it wasn't for the snow. But they have amazing snow and therefore I like to ski there with great new lifts please.

 

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"Seeing 2 or 3 parallel chair lifts from the 80 ish makes me really wonder how bad it was back then. "

I always find myself being rather puzzled when I see those too!  Though now often just one of the two is moving (can't quite recall where but have noticed in a few places...)

It was a 'boom', unrealistically popular. Booms are always a very fragile thing here in Japan.

 

 

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3 parallel chair lifts.   :lol:

I wonder, was that actually planned. Or just 'we need a bigger boat' kind of situation so they added another?  (Presumably the latter?)

 

 

 

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Thanks ShigaMac for the detailed memory. It must have been frustrating and I wonder how many actually returned to ski again? For example I can imagine that most people tried 1 or 2 seasons and then stopped. Hence, the business died?

In Sweden we had many t bar lifts next to each other. They were reasonably fast for the 80ish. Lift lines were kept to a minimum, but could reach 20 minutes to a max. then people would start complaining. I think 5-10 minutes was normal for a lift queue. 

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When I was in Naeba last month for Fuji Rock, the place we stayed at showed us tons of photos from the previous ski seasons and some showing the crowds from back when. It looked pretty wild. I was promised that it isn't like that anymore. (Phew!)

 

 

 

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