With some friends from overseas (who have never seen snow before) coming over for some pre-Christmas skiing it was time to try the Japanese ski experience from a tourist's point of view. With a car, our own equipment and a season pass it is not something we know much about, but the good news is that it is fantastically easy.
We contacted Snow Country Instructors based in Yuzawa to arrange a ski instructor and snowboard instructor to get the newbie kids and adults up to speed. Their service extends to much more than ski lessons as we received lots of information about which resorts were open, which would suit the needs of our friends and what coupons and discounts were available around the town. By the time we were finished we'd booked rental equipment with a shop that included a free shuttle to and from the resort every day (a great service), lift tickets with meal coupons attached, and best of all, a 30% discount off lesson fees due to a pre-Christmas ski school special. A 30% discount buys lots of hot chocolate on the mountain for people used to a warmer climate.
The lessons themselves were conducted by a couple of British instructors who have both worked in resorts around the world. Watching them do their stuff it is obvious that these are guys who really enjoy what they do. They were great fun to learn with and they soon turned some initially unwilling teenagers and nervous parents into smiling fans of skiing and snowboarding. Everyone made quick progress and thoroughly enjoyed the lessons. So much so in fact that it was decided to go for more the next day. It was impressive to see the kids learning not just technique, but also how to conduct themselves safely on the slopes, (and also which meal was the best bet among the various lunch choices.) The adults too had nothing but good things to say about the instructors, especially the mothers!
It is always a good idea to get a good grounding in a new sport, and a lesson from an experienced instructor is the best way to start. A couple of other more accomplished skiers in our group also had a quick brush up and came out of their session with a few small pointers that made a huge difference. We'd recommend the instructors from the Snow Country Instructors without hesitation. Great company, and they made everyone feel right at home in the mountains.