Most Northern Illawarra residents are big fans of the sea-change, but one local family has flipped that.
They’re taking a ski-change!
Wombarra’s Harper family has switched surf and soccer for snow and sushi, buying a lodge in the Japanese ski fields.
The Harper family has been commuting between Wombarra and the mountains for several years, fuelling their love of snow sports. In fact, Son Shay is a State Champion snowboarder.
Dad Tony says they’ll share their time between here and the popular ski region of Hakuba where they’ve bought The Balls Deep Inn- a set of self contained villas that come with the free use of a car, giving skiers access to the nine resorts in the valley.
“Our family has stayed at BDI for the past four years,” says Tony, “building a strong love of Hakuba and the surrounding areas, and a solid friendship with the previous owners. I was looking at buying a lodge in the town and made a couple of offers that weren’t successful before doing a deal with the previous owners Paul and Kanako, who were looking to move on and do something else.
“I’ll be on site over winter but the villas operate all year.”
Tony says there’s a lot more to Hakuba than Happo One. “The cars open up ski areas that are less populated, such as the local and deserted Kashamayari. They also give guests easy access to the Snow Monkeys and Matsumoto Castle.
Tony says so far it’s been a fantastic learning curve- starting with the food! “I’ve spent hours lately wandering the aisles of Big Supermarket, completely out of my depth in most of them,” he laughs. “I’ve been experimenting with Japanese snacks and lollies – some of them are more savoury than you might think!”
Getting set up has been a massive education for the family. “It’s very challenging,” says Tony. “We’ve had to organise bank accounts, buy cars and get registration and insurance sorted, and deal with myriad other issues, especially as I can’t speak the language! I’ve been able to buy roof racks for a car and keep myself fed via Google Translate but as good as that app is, it’ll only get you so far. More lessons are planned for the off season!