News - Sake, Sushi, Ski!
When you think ski holiday, what comes to mind? France? Italy? Austria? Maybe even the USA or Canada? How about Japan? On the northern, Japanese island of Hokkaido lies a veritable smorgasbord of skiing and snowboarding delights, in the form of Niseko, the powerhouse resort which spreads across Mount Yotei and the Annupuri ranges. A mere 2.5 hour drive from New Chitose Airport, Niseko is off the beaten track enough to still be referred to as ‘well-kept secret’. The wider area referred to as Niseko encompasses six individual ski areas; Hirafu, Higashiyama, Annupuri, Hanazono, Moiwa and Weiss. The main four areas; Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu and Hanazono are connected to one another and amazingly can be accessed with a singular ski pass.
For those in the know, Niseko – meaning ‘cliff overhanging a riverbank deep in the mountains’ in indigenous Ainu – provides some of the best skiing outside of Europe. The combination of the resort’s ‘Champagne powder’ and the world’s longest ski season – November to May - fused with the uniquely Japanese cultural delights of imbibing sake and gorging on delicious, fresh sushi makes Niseko a one-of-a-kind destination. Hyana Kim, snowboarding enthusiast and luxury traveller described the resort as ‘brilliant, Niseko offers such exotic culture, amazing food and literally the best snow I’ve ever boarded…and because its Japan it’s a million times more efficient than anywhere in Europe, things just work perfectly! Just get there before the rest of the world finds out!’.
Sold on the idea yet? Well wait! Let me tell you about the amazing back-country ski courses! These ski courses are illustrated on maps of the area, and provide some of the most perilous but challenging skiing and snowboarding. Sannozaka and Higashi One are two of the most popular, and although prone to avalanche, offer the more adventurous snow sportsperson a unique opportunity to experience some of Japan’s finest off-piste runs. Night skiing is also extremely popular here, with 2560 vertical feet of skiing lit by floodlights allowing you to quite literally ski the night away. Some of these runs traverse beautiful birch forests, offering more intrepid skiers the experience of deep powder in enchanted surroundings.
Forbes Traveller first acknowledged Niseko in its ‘World’s Top 10 Ski Resorts’ list in 2008. Since then the Japanese resort has rapidly appeared in all the most prestigious polls, including National Geographic’s ‘World’s Top 25 Ski Villages’, coming in at an impressive 10, in front of Whistler in Canada and Kitzbühel in Austria. Niseko’s growing popularity amongst the world’s skiing and snowboarding elite can be attributed to its consistently good snowfall – because let’s face it, it’s all about the snow man! High volumes of the lightest powder snow, fall an average of 575 inches annually – making Niseko the second snowiest resort in the world!
Niseko offers more than just snow sports, which if you’re like me, is crucial. As an avid fan of the ‘après ski’, this ski resort offers stylish bars and a Michelin starred restaurant in the form of Kamimura. Serving up an intricate fusion of east-meet-west fare, Kamimura is a must visit when in Niseko. To complete the ‘après ski’ experience Niseko-style make sure you book into one of the many onsens in the area. Whether you’ve been working your glutes on the slopes or just merely a fan of pampering, the onsen is one of Japan’s most essential experiences. Just be prepared to get naked with strangers!
Check out our first project in Japan, LOFT Niseko, a luxury residential development in the heart of Niseko.