Niseko’s powder is hard to beat

Niseko’s powder is hard to beat

If you are thinking of skiing in the northern hemisphere in 2016 take a serious look at Niseko, Japan – it has the best snow and an uplifting cultural experience.

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Stunning light powder

Niseko - Hokkaido - JapanNorthern Japan has one of the best ski resorts in the world, Niseko. It’s famous for its  unusual snowfall of up to 16 metres of deep, fluffy powder.

The Snow

But it’s not just any snow. The cold air dries the snow making it light and that’s why it has the best powder. During the height of the season, the standard day temperature is -12 degrees celsius…really cold.

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A 16 metre snow fall can nearly cover the town

But you don’t get 16 metres of snow when the sun is shining so be prepared for grey, overcast skies with frequent snow falls.

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A near constant snowfall means the weather is overcast a lot of the time
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Sometimes the snow is just too hard to move

The ski facilities

Niseko is the largest of Hokkaido ski areas. With four interlinked resorts; Annupuri, Hirafu, Hanazona and Higashiyama there are over 2000 acres to ski, with 37 gondolas and ski lifts to get you about. It’s open from 8 30am till late … 9pm daily.

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Hanazono is one of four interconnected ski fields that jointly create over 2000 acres of skiable terrain

Niesko also has the largest lit area for night skiing in Japan but be weary, the night temperatures can get as low as -20 degrees celsius. Face masks are essential to prevent frost bite.

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A network of 37 gondolas and ski lifts get you all over the mountain

Accommodation

The main accommodation and entertainment village, Hirafu has a good range of apartments, pensions and hotel to meet all budgets.

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Finding the door to the apartment can be tricky

Food

On and off the mountain the food is affordable and delicious. A satisfying bowl of noddles and a beer can cost a little as $20, but the option of fine dinning is also available.

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Cooking our own dinner

Our favourites were the miso Raman noodles and pork curries, but there is also a great range of seafood. Being an island, Hokkaido is very proud of their fresh seafood.

Other ski fields close by

There are several other ski fields close by. I have skied at Rusutsu Resort which is a 40-minutes bus ride from Niseko.

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The view from Rusutsu spans from the Pacific Ovean to Mount Yotei

As well as the skiing, the Rusutsu Resort Hotel is worth a look. Its Disney approach will have you laughing as well as a theme park in the middle of the ski resort. Funnily enough, it is only open in the summer.

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The Rusutsu Resort has a quirky Disney theme
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This is the theme park at the Rusutsu Resort that lies dormant in winter

 Onsens

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Have an onsen every night you are there

One of the highlights for me in Niseko are the onsens. They are public baths with water sourced from hot springs.

It is a wonderful authentic, traditional Japanese experience with many of the old rituals still adhered too. There is an ‘onsen etiquette’ you need to know about.

First and foremost, you bathe naked, but thankfully the majority of them have separate male and female areas.

While it is not the norm for westerners, Japanese perceive bathing as a great social leveler and all revel in the anonymity that nudity allows.

Be mindful you wash yourself well before getting in the baths and keep your head cloth on your head. Take a lead from the locals.

Our favourite onsen in Niseko was the Yumoto Niseko Prince Hotel, right in the middle of the main street, in Hirafu.

Getting there

Air New Zealand have daily flights to Tokyo with connections to Sapporo, offering very reasonable airfares during the ski season. A bus ride from Sapparro Airport to Niesko will have you there in an hour, condition allowing.

 

 

 

 

Jane Jeffries

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