My husband & son had long dreamed of skiing powder in Japan. Us girls, being bigger fans of the Apres offerings, weren’t so sure! However Boxing Day 2016, we headed to Niseko via Tokyo for 6 days skiing. Japan experienced a late season that year, however a few days before we arrived, it started snowing and did not stop until the day we left!
We chose to break up our trip with a stopover in Tokyo. The stopover seemed like a good idea to break up the long trip from Sydney where all flights to Sapporo involve one or more stops along the way.
You have a number of choices as to how you travel from Sapporo to Niseko, however, we aimed for convenience and chose to fly (it took around 1.5hrs each way). Once we arrived in Sapporo we were greeted by a representative from Ski Japan. I would thoroughly recommend booking through Ski Japan who ensured our whole experience was made easy and enjoyable (BTW, they have no idea I am writing this). We boarded a bus which took around 2.5 hours to get to Niseko. The coach was warm and comfortable and the heavy snow-fall and gorgeous scenery made us glad someone else was taking care of the driving!
On arrival Ski Japan representatives met us and escorted us to the gorgeous Yuki Yama apartments. The apartment was spacious, modern and in a fantastic location. It comprised 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. The building featured a secure drying room and was easy walking distance to restaurants, cafes, bars, the lifts, onsens, supermarkets and the Ski Japan office where we were able to hire movies (great for the kids after a long day on the slopes).
The Apres offering is limited, particularly when compared with Europe or America, but more than Thredbo or Perisher! There’s quite a few great places to go – fun pubs, lovely restaurants and cosy cafes.
There are a five separate resorts: Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, Hanazono and Moiwa within the Niseko area. Most are independently owned resulting in a large number of ski schools being offered. Our kids are too big for ski school now, but we did hire a guide and wished that we had booked him for more days. He was actually an Aussie (as are most of the people who work there) named “Sven”…believe it or not?! He did a great job of showing us the mountain all morning, then the afternoon the boys headed for some of the more more treacherous spots whilst my daughter and I hit the Village. The Hirafu shuttle bus runs between resorts, but can take quite a long time as it is a big mountain. If you can handle skiing back to your accommodation, you would most likely get there quicker.
Also, in case you were wondering, yes it’s cold! Wear quality gear, good thermals, a balaclava under your helmet and don’t be afraid to use foot/hand warmers if you are susceptible to the cold!
Here’s some tips to help you enjoy your Niseko stay;
- Order your skis in advance from Larry Adler. Not only are they all ready to go when you get there, but you can leave them at the Larry Adler office which is conveniently located right near the Ace Family Chair lift. The other advantage is that if you want to change ski styles or give snowboarding a go, they will take care of you (once again, none of this is endorsed, just our experience!).
- Book your guide well in advance. In busy periods, the demand far exceeds the supply, so get in quick and book as many days as you can, as they do a great job.
- Book your restaurants well in advance. Once again, in peak periods the best restaurants book out quickly. Our favourite for a special evening was Niseko Barn.
- Enjoy an Onsen while you are there. Be prepared to strip down to your birthday suit and slink into a dark, steamy bath with a towel balanced on your head. But don’t worry if you are shy, boys and girls pools are separate. Great for kids too. My 11 year old daughter and I went together and saw girls younger than her playing with snow on the side of the onsen pool and having a great time.
- Ensure you either have excellent grip on the bottom of your shoes or purchase grip foot. They clip onto the bottom of your shoes and stop you from sliding all over the place!
- Enjoy eating-in too. There’s nothing quite like chilling out, watching a movie while the snow buckets down right outside your window. The supermarkets are well stocked. My family are gluten intolerant, and we had no problem buying bread and other gluten free groceries while we were there.
- Get out on the slopes early! Sometimes it takes a little while for the fog to clear, but first tracks and no queues were a great start to the day.
As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in Niseko, please share them in the comments below.