Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thunder Run: Hit the Slopes in Summer

Over the past few decades, attendance at ski resorts in Japan has steadily decreased. To maximize profits, creative ways were sought to generate profits in the off season. Hokkaido's Rusutsu Resort built an 8 roller coaster strong amusement park. In Aomori, local favorite Moya Hills introduced their 'Green Season.' While nothing more than a scattering of playgrounds and tennis courts, they have something unique to offer.

"What goes up..."
 Hermann Maier said, "Ski racing, especially downhill, is a dangerous activity and there are many accidents. It would be really too bad to lose everything because of a crash." Now imagine plummeting down the slopes, but instead of blanketing snow beneath your feet, there's asphault.

Say こんいちは (konnichiwa / hello) to Moya Hill's ヒルズサンダー (Hills Thunder). Built in 1998, riders manually steer 3-wheeled carts down a 1,546 meter (.96 miles) long paved path from atop the chair lift all the way to the bottom at the club house.

The Course
All riders must first climb the hill in a trusty chair lift. Once your helmet is securely fastened, you unsecurely place yourself in the cart of your choice. Then you are instructed in Japanese, which for those who don't understand, it provides a great opportunity for photos. Basically you're told to pull back to brake, and to never never never put the cart in neutral (unless you want to fly). Then it's up to gravity to push you down.

The open air and single seat car provides the ideal thrill. Though, I'm not sure this would be legal in the states, for it's a lawsuit waiting to happen. While generally safe, it's not uncommon for beginners or speed demonds to run off course or flip over.

Hills Thunder is based off of a Roller Luge built in 1986 in New Zealand that boasted 600,000 riders in 1996 and in the following year received a "New Zealand Tourism Award." (Credit: Moya Hill's website). Obviously, Moya Hills wanted to emulate their success. Whether they were successful or not is up to their bank accounts, but judging how Hills Thunder has continues to remain in operation for 13 years, I'd put a check in the win column. Though the true victor are those who get to thunder 117 meters (384 feet) down the hill!

Adults: 1 time - 500円, 3 times - 1400円, 6 times - 2600 円
Elementary Students / Seniors / Disabled: 1 time - 400円, 3 times - 1000円, 6 times - 1800 円
1 Adult w/ a child under 140cm (55 inches): 1 time - 700円, 3 times - 1800円
*円=Japanese Yen (as of 06/09/11: $1 = 80円)

Daily: 10:00 - 17:00
*HillsThunder is closed in the case of rain.
*Opening/Closing date depends on the weather. Typically it will open to the public after all the snow has melted in May.

Unless you have a car, your only viable option is to take a bus. A taxi would cost more than 5000円, and walking would take around 3 hours. Click here for Moya's bus schedule in addition to a map showing the location in relation to Aomori station. (日本語/Japanese only). Please note that bus times are infrequent, so plan accordingly. If you don't speak Japanese, simply print out the bus schedule and at Aomori Station's Visitor Center / Bus Terminal. They should be able to steer you to the right bus. Don't worry about the return trek as there's only one bus to take and it will end up at Aomori Station.

For more pictures and information in Japanese please consult the official website.

It's such a funny comfort to see Japanese businesses make the effort to provide English.
By the way, is HillsThunder soon to be an Olympic sport?


Jon said...

This looks AWESOME!!!! I wish I had known about it earlier.

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