Japan has become a must for ski and snowboard enthusiasts across the globe. Here’s a little taste of what awaits for those privileged enough to visit the mystical country in the east.
My name is Julie and I was lucky enough to visit and live in Japans best powder location: Niseko. With Snowminds I was sent to to Hokkaido, an island in northern Japan. From the village of Grand Hirafu the opportunities are endless. Skiing can start at 9 am and end as late as 9 pm. This meaning that fresh deep powder snow is on the menu for both breakfast and dinner. When the snow at the resort is tracked out there are plenty of other options in the search for powder. You can tour up the volcano, ski into the crater, take a guided snowmobile tour, or even a snowcat-tour in the open backcountry. You won’t have to worry about lifts or crowded pistes, just the deep powder snow right in front of you. A part from this Niseko is just 2-3 hours away from other world-class destinations such as Rusutsu and Kiroro -in other words: the options are endless.
Throughout a season you experience a lot of different snow conditions. I came to a realisation very early in the season; there are A LOT of powderhounds coming to Niseko to chase the light deep snow. So if it’s snowing outside you need to be prepared to get up early.
My wildest night over 4 months in Japan still stands out like it was yesterday. It was our weekly day off in January and a group of us had taken a trip to Rusutsu (a ski area 1 hour away from Niseko). Rusutsu is a slightly steeper resort with slightly less snow compared to Niseko. We came to the ski area, put on all our gear and quickly headed towards the pistes. We had loads of fun with small drops and great tree runs. After roughly 7 hours of intense skiing we headed back towards Niseko and were prepared for a trip to the local onsen. This plan was however quickly dropped when we saw what awaited us back in Grand Hirafu -the whole city had been covered in white! There was at least half a meter of snow on the parked cars and the slopes were basically empty. So we immediately scratched our spa plans. Our day of skiing could not end now. Sure, we were tired, but we knew what we had to do. We clicked our skis back on. One trip up the mountain couldn’t hurt that much, right? Well, JAPOW! Four hours later we finished the day with sore legs but full of energy. The adrenaline pumped through our veins after experiencing some of the wildest evening champagne powder, with snow completely burying our knees. That night I went to bed with a smile that probably reached both my ears.
Be prepared to break some rules, and have ski patrol right behind you. Venture away from the ski area: It is worth all the money to hire a guide that knows Niseko. There are, as I mentioned, a lot of powder-seekers so try to take different paths and stay away from the wellknown touristed areas. Seize every chance you get, there is always good snow -you just need to know where to find it! And remember your pocket dictionary -it’s a lot more fun to travel in a country where you can communicate with the locals.