Actually, while we're talking about growing up and weird senses of continuity, let's address what I feel is a pretty common sentiment among people my age.
"...because I'm a real grown-up."
"...Oh god, does that make me an adult now?"
"...Is this what adulthood feels like?"
This kind of stuff is usually prompted by doing something particularly childish, like buying Lego online. Or alternatively, something particularly grown up, like filing taxes online. Or something particularly adolescent, like spending all day online. And to be honest, it's actually starting to grate a bit.
Maybe it's a weird generational thing, and we are totally under-prepared emotionally and skill-wise for what lies ahead, but somehow I doubt it. Every single other human, in every other culture, has pretty much managed to figure this out. Well, okay. Not all of them. But I guess that's sort of the point. Nobody becomes a soulless robot as soon as they start paying taxes, and nobody arrives into this world totally clued in on how to do those taxes either. The constant, semi-ironic self-referential surprise that these turn out not to be the case for our generation, just like every other generation, is starting to get a bit old*.
We have this obsession with what adulthood actually means, and joking at how unprepared we are. And yet we spend our whole time as kids playing at adulthood. Why do we panic once we get there? You've spent your entire life to date preparing for this. Go out there and do the stuff you always pretended you could.
Because in all seriousness: We are grown ups now, and it is our turn to decide what that means.
* No pun intended.
So I turned 22 while I was away.
This is actually kind of a big deal, because I measure important life milestones with verses from Five For Fighting's One Hundred Years.
I'm not kidding. I heard, and learned to play on the piano, that song when I was about fifteen, and I distinctly remember how impossibly far away 22-for-a-moment seemed. There I was, stuck in between ten and twenty, and the next verse was just so far in the future that it wasn't worth contemplating. I couldn't imagine the person I would be at 22.
And now I am 22, and I'm the same person I was when I was fifteen. Not that I haven't done some growing up. But I haven't fundamentally stopped being - well - me, at any point along that continuum. And as a result I got to experience the strange sensation of feeling like 22 is ages away, remembering thinking 22 was ages away like it was yesterday, and actualy turning 22 all at once.
I think this must be what 'getting older' feels like, as opposed to the anticipation and excitement assicoated with 'growing up'. I'm sure all the actualy people experiencing 'getting older' will be chuckling to themselves right about now. Look at that 22-year-old, navel-gazing about getting old, they'll say. Don't worry, folks. My tongue is pretty firmly in-cheek right now.
(Though let's not even get started on the next verse, and the possibility that that person actually getting older is me in the future. When I was fifteen, 33 was not even a thing I could contextualise. It was an abstraction. Now I'm wondering where I'm going to be when I'm 33, and if I'm going to be feeling the same way. It seems impossibly far away.)
So this is what I look like to my lift ticket...
The ski passes at Niseko have a pretty neat feature. You can log into a website, and it'll give you all the data they've got about your lift usage for each day.
This is pretty cool, because - apart from the bit where all the lift names are in Japanese - it gives me a neat reminder of what I did, roughly where I went, how much I skied, and how long I spent on the mountain.
Here are some datariffic highlights.
January 23rd was really, really horrifically windy - but we gave it a try anyway. Once we got up there, we realised that there were only a couple of lifts open, and that we'd basically be alternating between skiing in utterly rubbish conditions and waiting in very long lines to get back up into those rubbish conditions. We sort of gave up after that. Not without clocking in though, which gives us that coveted 'skied every day' achievement!
January 27th was the other rubbish day. It rained that morning, turning to snow in the afternoon. And then we went night skiing which, though we could probably have picked a better day for it, was brilliant.
Our longest day in terms of time, and slope distance was January 24th, which was the day we headed over to the other side of the mountain. Our longest in terms of vertical distance covered was the 22nd, though. Don't ask me what vertical distance means - I'm not really sure. The 24th, 25th and 29th are equal highest altitude, probably because they were all at the top of the same chair.
The little ziggy-zaggy bits at the tail end of the day usually indicate where Matt and I stayed out after Dad had headed home. We stuck to the Ace Quad Lift for those ones, and if the graph is to be believed, did it slightly faster than we otherwise would. Well, than I otherwise would. I tend to get a bit more confidence when it's pure sibling rivalry spurring me on, apparently.
We also did a fair bit of back country stuff alone too, which included probably my worst stack to date. I came down into a bit of a gully, having left matt behind, and I must have caught my skis under something because I came off one, then came off the other, then did probably two decent front flips, crunched my head into the snow (it was the snow that crunched, luckily, not my neck) and came up basically okay but for some bruised pride. It was really one of those moments I was glad to be wearing a helmet.
(PSA: For the love of god, wear a helmet when you go skiing or boarding. We were waiting on some to become available for our first day, and I can't express how exposed and thin my skull felt under nothing but a beanie. Who cares if you look stupid. Wear a helmet.)
Another pattern to look out for is the one-two-three starting at base and ending around 1000m. That't the Hanazono lift system, which is three chairlifts in a row in a different area to where we were staying, and the only way to get back from there is to catch all three up to the peak and ski back down another set of runs. Australia day has a pretty decent example of one of these.
You can even see when we went for lunch. They're the bits around midday wit a much shallower gradient. Obviously since the system is tracking lift rides, it doesn't know that we stopped, so it looks like we slowed riiight down and just took a verrrrry long time on that run.
I'm not sure how it figures out when we finished though. You don't have to tag off the mountain, so maybe it just takes your average speed and assumes you do that down to the base of the lowest lift. It looks to me like that's what's happening, actually, and I guess that's a pretty reasonable assumption.
We did some comparisons against Dad's ski tracks app, actually, and generally the assumptions it's making seem to hold up. Obviously all the lift bits are correct, but the estimates for vertical and slope are all within about 10% as well, which gives me some confidence in talking about my favourite bit:
We spent an hour every day on lifts, and about ten hours on lifts in total, which is longer than the flight I'm sitting on to write this. If you put all of those lift rides together - and were willing to sit there for the requisite ten hours - you would pass the Karman line, putting you officially into space.
Now that's some cool data.
Gratuitious plug to http://skiline.cc, who are responsible for this data wizardry. You'd get even more bonus points if you let me export it to a spreadsheet, or had the lift names in English, but kudos all the same.
I just got back from night skiing and it is unbelievably freakin' cool.
(It is also, according to the novelty size thermometer at the top of the chairlift, incredibly freakin' cold, edging out somewhere slightly colder than ten below zero.)
The mountain is all lit up with these gigantic stadium-style light poles, and there are a couple of chairlifts and a gondola that keep running until about half past eight. For context, it gets dark at around five-ish. So on a good day, you'll get three hours of skiing in after the sun goes down.
Everything looks different after dark. Familiar runs that you've done before in the light become unknown. There are shadows everywhere - sharp, unnatural shadows from point sources, not the fuzzy diffuse ones you get from the sun shining through a cloud layer. The snow is harsh and beautiful and somehow manages to look even colder.
It looks, I reckon, a bit like the surface of the moon.
It's quiet, too. Not just not-busy, although it certainly is that. It's actually physically quiet too. I had a chairlift chair to myself on the way up, and the only thing I could hear was the the wind howling through the chairs coming the other way, and the gentle swooooooooosh - silence - fwapswooooooooooosh of a snowboarder jumping something somewhere below.
A lot of times I was the only one on my chair. Or the only one on my run. Sometimes, if it weren't for the grinding of the chairlift poles, I could've been the only one in the world.
Normally I guess this would give you first dibs at tomorrow's fresh snow, if it was falling heavily. It was actually falling today, but we'd had a bit of rain earlier so everything got harder and slushier as you got down. By the bottom everything was pretty crusty and compacted, which made the first couple of turns of lighter, powderier stuff at the top of the lift on the way back up all the more refreshing.
This is all probably incredibly dangerous. Never mind the fact that I enjoyed it so much that I did my first solo runs - possibly ever - when the other guys went home (it was very cold). It was patrolled though. And I don't think there are any wolves.
I'm not into the whole 'do X before you die' thing, but seriously. If you ski or board, find somewhere with lights and do some sliding after dark. Preferably before you die. It's absolutely incredible.
We were doing a bit of back-country skiing, and I happened to have my phone out when I spotted this guy.
This is a pretty cool example of a cap cloud forming over Mount Yōtei. Cap clouds form when there's a layer of warmer, moister air that is forced upwards by the slope of the mountain. Where it starts to collide with the cooler air at the top, the moisture condenses out and a cloud forms. The nifty thing is that while the cloud looks like it's stationary over the top of the mountain, the layer of air from which it's forming is actually still moving. Like... hmm, like a Mexican wave staying in one spot while everyone keeps running forward. How's that for an analogy?
Sometimes you see really dramatic examples where there's just a single solitary cap on a lone mountain, but in this case you can see a sort of trail behind it, which I would guess would tell you which direction the wind is moving.
Because Mount Yōtei is an (apparently active) volcano, there's another type of cap cloud that could potentially form over it from the ash plume and associated pyrocumulus clouds that come with a volcanic eruption. They form for a similar reason, only the layer of air is being pushed up all at once by a jet of hot, deadly volcanic gas. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), Yōtei is unlikely to erupt while we're here.
And now director, if you will pan down and to the right, we'll have a look at the reason I happened to have my phone out.
Which just goes to show that even the best of us stack it sometimes, and that's not always a bad thing.