Hello and welcome to the first blog post of the winter from the team at Niseko Winterlab! Whether you’ve already booked yourself a holiday in Hokkaido, or are still contemplating it, we thought we’d let you know why you should hop on that plane and get yourselves on the Japanese slopes immediately.
With the snow already piling up across the mountain, we can't wait for the lifts to be fired up so we can get out on the slopes. In our eyes, Niseko is the best resort in the world. But why do we all choose Niseko, year after year?
When we talk about Japan in terms of skiing, the subject that comes up over and over again is the quality and the amount of snow. For all of you out there who have yet to visit Niseko, we assure you that the rumours are true! Last winter, we got 986cm of fresh, dry snow throughout the season. It’s so fine and fluffy, you can’t even make a snowball out of it: for any powder hound out there this is a dream come true! This, however, is beneficial to everyone on the mountain - it also makes it far easier for beginners as they have more grip on the snow, you don't have to deal with ice, and you’ll have a bit more cushioning when, only occasionally, going head-over-heels.
In Niseko, the main pistes are flood-lit and are kept open til past 8pm. It is a beautiful time on the mountain, with beautiful birch shadows cast across the snow; it creates an almost romantic feel on the mountain. It’s also the perfect time to try new tricks and techniques, with hardly anyone on the mountain at this time. If you want some quiet time on the slopes, or space to try out that new 360, cruising through illuminated trees and glowing snow, then night-riding is for you!
A good resort needs more than just great quality snow though. Don’t worry, because Niseko has you covered. When you are finished on the mountain you are looking for two things: relaxation with friends and good food (maybe a cold beer). For the ultimate downtime, you can always find yourself an Onsen. Onsens are volcano springs, which pop up all over the Hokkaido area and provide the perfect place to unwind after a hard day on the slopes.
Onsens are public baths in which everyone is welcome and some even allow alcohol to be consumed inside. They are usually split by gender and have an inside and outside area. The outdoor pool at the Iroha Onsen, just down the road from where we live in Annupuri, has you feeling you just stumbled into Narnia! A word of warning to the more conservative of you, the baths have a strict no clothes policy so be prepared to get your birthday suit on!
Finally we have to talk about the incredible food and nightlife Niseko has to offer. There are a number of amazing restaurants offering up options from Ramen to Yakitori and Sushi to authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas. Hirafu even offers the only Michelin starred restaurant, ‘Kamimura’ which offers French cuisine (but will be fully booked a couple of weeks prior so you have to be quick if you want to get in). There are other great places to eat and drink, such as ‘Luckyfingers’ in Annupuri, headed by NY-based chef Yoshio Shinohara. His unique brand of Japanese-New York fusion, includes signature dishes like his Tokachi Beef with Yoichi Whiskey Sauce, which is without a doubt the epitome of melt-in-the-mouth! There is, of course, a multitude of little Japanese-run places here and there, all waiting for you to discover.
That’s all for the first blog post on 2016/17 and we hope to see all of you out there honing your skills and having the best snowy holiday possible!!
Milo (Head Coach) and the rest of the Winterlab Team