Hokkaido offers some top-rated skiing gems in a treasure box that includes hot springs (onsen) and volcanoes amidst a cultural experience of culinary flavours and Eastern traditions in the land known for karaoke, karate, origami, sushi, samurai and sake. This trip was never going to just be about the skiing.

The next day I somehow find myself even higher still, simultaneously clutching my seat for dear life while whooping in excitement. Pascal (paragliding pilot extraordinaire) and I are flying high above the snow, circling and turning and spinning and generally acting like excitable puppies let off the leash.

Starting from 3300meters at the top of Pic Blanc above the iconic French Ski resort of Alpe D’Huez, descending 25 kilometers to the valley below. 2000 competitors battle through qualification to make it to the 200-rider race down the ski slope and mountain.