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.
Like something out of a Lord of the Rings novel, the mountains loom large in front of us. Shrouded in cloud they appear other-worldy; a playground for monsters and fairies and grand adventures. And it is adventure we are seeking, although hopefully more of the snow and skiing variety and less of the mystical creatures sort.