Archive for December 8th, 2010

Some of you may be surprised to learn that there’s a ski area not too far from Matsuyama. My friend Chise was kind enough to invite me to go with her and another friend of hers for the last weekend of the season, and she drove the three of us up in her minivan. I hadn’t been skiing in a long time, and we’d been trying to get a trip together for a while, so I was excited.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I knew it was the last weekend of a pretty small ski area (about the size of Ski Lee in Vegas, if that helps), so I was expecting slush, some bare patches, and some closed trails. I was not at all disappointed.

Don’t think it wasn’t fun though (despite the continuous light rain). It was neat exploring a new ski area, even though only one run of one lift was open. Also, Kuma Ski Land has been optimized for automated skiing, and they’ve done a pretty good job reaching that goal, so my geeky interest was piqued.

Of course I don’t have my skis here in Japan, so I used the vending machine on the outside of the main lodge to buy a ticket for a rental package including skis, boots, and poles. I’m glad I was there with a native Japanese speaker, because the process of buying a lift ticket was a little more involved than I thought.

The lifts are controlled by automated machines that read your RF tagged plastic lift pass. You touch your lift pass to a panel that reads it, and assuming it’s valid, opens the gate for you to get in line for the lift. Because it’s all handled by computers, they can sell lift passes for specific amounts of time, which I thought was a neat idea. Also, the electronic encoding of the tickets means less gaming the system. I’ve known people to print their own season passes for ski areas, and with a system like Kuma’s, you’d need something a lot more sophisticated than a nice scanner and printer to get past their electronic gatekeeper.

They also had a big group bingo game, which I thought was a neat promotion. Every lift ticket got you a bingo card, and prizes ranged from six-packs of beer to oven mitts (what I got), and I think they even had a Game Boy DS up there.

There are a couple of other ski areas in the region I’d like to explore. Maybe I can convince Chise to drive us out for a reunion tour. I’ll keep you posted. =)

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