The first day of the Hokkaido Snow Travel Expo 2014 in Niseko started with breakfast. At first I just saw the Japanese breakfast and I was trying to figure out what to eat when I spied the Gringo breakfast options. After traveling for so long, scrambled eggs and bacon were just what I needed.

Japanese Breakfast in Niseko

We met in a conference room and listened to speakers tell us about the area and what to expect for the next few days. We sat on chairs that had our country’s flag attached. There were a total of 3 Americans including me. After the speakers, we were broken up into teams and did a “team building” exercise. I know many corporations do these, but I don’t have a lot of experience here. We were given bibs of matching colors and went out on the snow to begin to get to know each other. Our task for the morning was to make ice cream. I was on team Hanazono which is named after one of the ski resorts in Niseko. Daisuke and Rhett were our leaders and we quickly introduced ourselves.

Daisuke going for the goal

We were handed our “tools” which consisted of a jar with liquid, two bowls, tape and bubble wrap. We were instructed to make a tight ball with all of this as we were competing against each other to make the best ice cream. We quickly built our ball and bound it together tightly cause if our ball exploded, we were out right away. We were given another tool, an Atomic ski without a binding. Who knew there were so many uses for the latest Atomics? This ski was to be used to move the “ball” across the snow, around a flag and back. Let me tell you, this is harder than it sounds and required a bit of physical strength and exertion. We really got to know our team members quickly at this point, Josh was out running on the snow in his leather loafers, Tel had already established himself as the group comedian and Junli was the only other girl, so we had to bond together. We had 10 minutes to move the ball enough to get the ice cream to turn into ice cream. We were also being judged for our teamwork, ball handling, getting around the gate, etc. When the timer went off we pulled the ball apart and amazingly enough we had great tasting ice cream. We found out at the end of the night that our team had won second place and we were all awarded a bottle of Sake with 2nd place and an ice cream cone on the label! This was such a great way to connect such a big group of strangers. I recall many years ago when teaching skiing in New Zealand at the Remarkables Ski Field. The Ski School Director Edie Young had all of the new instructors from all around the world go out on the hill in cross country gear. It was absolutely hysterical, Austrians, Swiss, Swedes, Americans, Canadians, all Level 3 or higher instructors struggling to stay upright. We bonded immediately and just like this one in Japan, was a very successful team building exercise.