Archive for the ‘Ski’ Category

Abandoned ski resorts are everywhere in Japan! I never specifically wanted to go to one, nevertheless I ended up at about half a dozen of them on the way to other places; one of them being the Alpen Rose Ski Resort.

The Alpen Rose Ski Resort is (or rather: was) a nursery slope in the middle of a busy skiing area in northern Hyogo prefecture. It opened in 1965 under a different name and apparently without a lift. In 1970 a lift was built, extended to the summit in 1971. In 1978 the ski resort was renamed to Alpen Rose, before it was closed in March 2000 or some time in 2001, depending on the source. (Since an abandoned vending machine still has “collectible” Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace Pepsi Cola cans on display, the 2000 date is more likely, as the movie was released in Japan on July 10th 1999.)

After 13 years of abandonment and with the lower part of the ski lift gone, the Alpen Rose Ski Resort became one of those *haikyo* perfect for a break on the way to other places. After an hour or two in a car it’s nice to stretch your legs and take photos for a couple of minutes – in that case you don’t need a spectacular location that keeps you busy for several hours, just some dilapidated building with a couple of items and a landscape easy on the eyes.
Before entering the lodge I had a look at the surroundings – a little shack near the end of the former slope and a rather big foundation made of solid concrete; most likely the lower station of the now demolished lift. Not really much to see.
The lodge on the other hand was pretty nice, despite being partly collapsed already – and I guess the rest will follow soon, given that the building was almost completely constructed on pillars; especially the handful of guest rooms on the southern side. Partly covered by a crashed projecting roof and now exposed to Mother Nature were dozens of skis and skiing boots, right next to a Coke machine in decent condition. Next to it on the veranda was the already mentioned Pepsi machine and quite a few other items, like a Technics amplifier and a Panasonic hi-fi system – nothing fancy, but probably still working. The price list inside the lodge displayed rather steep, touristy prices. 350 Yen for a Coke and 800 Yen for curry rice would be normal prices today, but we are talking 13 years ago… Also definitely worth mentioning were the two snowmobiles right at the entrance, getting rusty and dusty.

The Alpen Rose Ski Resort was exactly what I hoped it would be – a nice break on a long car ride to the Sea of Japan. Nothing spectacular, but then again, not all of them can be like the *Abandoned Dynamite Mine* or the *Japanese Sex Museum*

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I planned to publish a video with this article, but Youtube seems to be a bit bitchy again on this computer – I will upload it most likely on August 26th.

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When exploring abandoned places you are barely ever the first to visit, mainly because you have to find out about them somehow, which means that somebody had to write or tell you about them – so pretty much the best case scenario is that you haven’t seen too many photos and videos about a location before visiting it. That applied for most spots on my *haikyo trip to Hokkaido*, which is quite unusual, but Hokkaido isn’t exactly popular amongst foreign urban explorers (or Japanese haikyoists…) since it is rather off the beaten tracks. Those barely spoiled locations are especially exciting to explore, since there is only little known about them – how to get in, condition, size, dangerous parts, security…
Whether that’s a good thing or not lies in the eye of the beholder. I like my explorations with as little surprises as possible, to be honest with you, but at the same time I favor locations that haven’t been photographed to death; preferably places that are in the middle of nowhere with not a soul within a couple of kilometers. About 75% of the locations I visited in Hokkaido I knew little more about than their names and a handful of photos before exploring them myself – but the Mount Teine Ski Lift was special and stood out of even that group. Before walking up to the *Olympic Ruins Of Sapporo 1972* I had a look at the surroundings via GoogleMaps and saw a ski lift with two photos of abandoned constructions – but they weren’t named properly and I didn’t even know if they were just misplaced and in fact part of the Olympic Ruins. It turned out that they were a separate location, but although I know its name now researching it wasn’t exactly easy.

When I was walking up to the Mount Teine Ski Lift (which most likely was part of the still active Sapporo Teine Resort) I saw an old bus stop sign of the JR Hokkaido Bus line, although the staff at the JR Teine Station told me there were no busses running; maybe an old sign that was never removed… Not worthless though, as the sign had the name of the stop written on it: 千尺. The first kanji is common – sen, one thousand. But the second I couldn’t read, so I took a photo to find out later. Now I know that it means shaku, which is a traditional unit of measure in Asia, not in daily use anymore in Japan; about 303 mm or almost one foot. So the place was basically called “303 Meters”, although the slope was actually much longer; about 2 kilometers to be more specific. To get to the top you had to use two different lifts and it turned out that the mountain station of the second left was in proximity of the former start of the Olympic Bobsleigh track before it was dismantled, while the *Olympic Ruins Of Sapporo 1972* were the goal – it’s all connected…
If you google the term you’ll end up with links to the Gosenshaku Hotel, a rather high end accommodation in the Japanese Alps, about 1000 km away from the Senshaku ski lift. If you do some more googling in Japanese you might stumble across two year old photos on which the rest house is in way better shape. Now almost completely collapsed it was in decent condition just 24 months prior to my visit – and several (now unreadable) signs revealed more information; sadly the Japanese guys hosting those photos didn’t care to write anything about the place. It seems like the full name was “Teine Olympia Senshaku Highland”. Unlike the bobsleigh ruins, this ski lift didn’t show off the Olympic Rings, so it’s safe to say that it wasn’t part of the official venues; even more so since according to the Japanese Wikipedia the Olympia Highland was established in 1974 and opened in 1976, four years after the games were held. Instead it was a skiing slope for the general public – with lockers, rental gear, food and arcade machines. The chartered shuttle bus service was stopped in August of 2001 and 15 months later Kamori Kanko bought the place (they also own Noboribetsu Bear Park and Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe near the *Tenkaen, Japan’s Lost China Theme Park*). And at that point I got lost a bit as I found contradictive information about combining two skiing areas, about places getting closed that still have active homepages, about areas that look the same, but have different names… Long story short: I still have no idea when Senshaku was closed!

All I know is that it was exciting walking up to the Senshaku area as I had little to no idea what to expect. While Sapporo itself was still basically snow free the 150 meters of additional elevation and not being in the city anymore made a difference of about 5 to 10 cm – just enough to be fun without being annoying. Of course a car was parked in front of the entrance upon my approach, but I decided to ignore the guy and just walked straight up the hill. I also ignored the mostly collapsed building to the left and had a quick look at the dilapidated ski lift to the right – being all by myself and already rather cold I refrained from climbing that death trap and made my way up the mountain to take some photos of the towers and to take some ultra-wide angle shots of the whole place. Up there I found a big cart with several ropes connected to it, probably used to transport goods up the mountain, though I didn’t find any information about it, even during the research I did for this article. While taking photos of the wagon I heard some wild noises that didn’t sound too friendly. I didn’t see any animals, but I wasn’t exactly eager to have any confrontation, so I grabbed my video camera and walked back down the hill. The video ended abruptly when I turned down the camera as soon as I saw a man standing between the lift and the rest house – preemptive obedience, Japan’s unofficial motto. It turned out that the guy didn’t mean no harm and just had a look himself, but it was good to stop anyway since him walking through the video several times or even talking to me wouldn’t have been good either. Obviously he wasn’t eager to talk to me… and left before I was done taking more photos of the ski lift.
The former rest house was in horrible condition and I only spent a couple of minutes exploring it – because it looked more dangerous than interesting, and because the sun was already setting behind Mount Teine and I still had to walk up the mountain to see the *Olympic Ruins of Sapporo 1972*

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The Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope is an abandoned ski resort near the top of Mount Hiei on the border between Kyoto prefecture and Shiga prefecture. Famous for its Enryaku Tempel and the Kokuhoden Museum this holy mountain was once thought to be the home of gods and demons in the Shinto belief system. Interestingly enough the predominantly religion on Mt. Hiei has always been Buddhism. The monk Saicho founded the Enryaku-ji in 788 as the first outpost of the Tiantai / Tendai sect and it remained the Tendai headquarters till this very day, although it was famously destroyed by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 to vanish the rising power of the local warrior monks, killing about 20,000 people (including civilians) in the area. The temple was rebuilt soon after and is one of the main tourist attractions in Shiga prefecture today, accessible via two cable car lines, several beautiful hiking trails and a toll road for cars, motorcycles and busses.

Along the “Kitayama East Course” lies the Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope, probably the most visited haikyo in all of Japan. On an average day during the hiking seasons in spring and autumn you’ll never be alone in the area as people are constantly passing by – about half a dozen hiking trails meet here and a close-by cable car station, serving the longest funicular line in Japan, attracts hundreds of people a day. Most hikers barely notice the abandoned ski lift and ski slope, hardly anybody peeks through the broken windows of the gear rental store or has a look at the undamaged closed restaurant. Why wasting a thought on that ugly stain when the surrounding nature is of such beauty? Because beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and though the ski resort on Mount Hiei was rather small it nevertheless offers a few neat angles now that it is abandoned.

Wanna know some facts about the resort? Okay, this is what I was able to find out: The Mt. Hiei Artificial Ski Slope was opened in 1964 and on November 1st of 2002 the newspaper Kyoto Shimbun reported that the ski resort was closed for good after a hot summer in 2000 and a way too warm winter in 2001 – followed by a year of temporary closing; which explains why both the restaurant and the rental store are still stocked with all kinds of items. In the almost 40 years of operation the already mentioned facilities welcomed customers for both a summer and a winter season. In winter a combination of natural and artificial snow (provided by a snow gun) offered fun for the whole family, in summer grass skiing was the business of choice. A lift transported guest for a distance of 170 meters so they could enjoy the pretty short slope of up to 200 meters with a vertical drop of 38 meters.

Oh, before I forget: The nearby “Garden Musem Hiei”, a flower park, once was an amusement park with a haunted house, a small Ferris wheel and a viewing platform, but I guess it was converted quickly enough to never been considered abandoned.

And that’s it for now from Mount Hiei. For now, because the ski resort was actually my second urbex trip there and my fourth or fifth overall – I really like Mount Hiei! Next time I’ll take you there I’ll either show you an abandoned rest house on a steep slope or a mysterious construction I’ve never seen anywhere else on the internet…

(If you don’t want to miss the latest article you can *follow Abandoned Kansai on Twitter* and *like this blog on Facebook* – and of course there is the*video channel on Youtube*…)

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