Niseko – The St. Moritz of Japan By Giles Hoff
If you were asked to picture the best countries around the world to visit on a skiing holiday, the chances are Japan would not turn up on the list. However, one Japanese resort that is earning nothing but praise from its visitors is Niseko – on Japan’s most Northerly island, Hokkaido – and it has become something of a sensation with serious skiers across the world.
A few people were in the know as early as the 1960s, and they nicknamed Niseko “The St. Moritz of the Orient.” More recently, the New York Times chose to adapt this to “Japan’s own St. Moritz” in a headline before heaping praise upon the resort.
Hokkaido is home to a number of world class ski resorts, but Niseko is unique among them with the rate it is growing. Each year, many more visitors from around the world are drawn to the unique skiing experience the location offers.
One of Niseko’s key draws is the vast amount of powder, naturally brought in on the icy winds of Siberia by local weather patterns. This makes for deep, reliable coverage and means it is relatively easy for guests to find snow that remains untracked. Especially popular are the tree runs amongst snow-dusted pines. As well as skiers, Niseko is also popular with snowboarders.
The scenery is also something that gets routinely singled out as a favourite point. The mountains have less of a rugged, imposing look than many other ski resorts; instead, they have a gentle, enchanting beauty. In the summer, hikers come to the area to wander among these picturesque mountains.
Off the back of Niseko’s popularity, the amenities that service visitors have flourished. A range of restaurants have sprung up over the years, offering all kinds of good food. Visitors to the area can also be accommodated in some truly excellent luxury resorts. Among these is the Hilton Niseko, where large suites command spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Add traditional Japanese touches, fine dining, and a spa which includes access to a number of hot springs, and the Hilton has developed a perfect complement to the area’s high-quality skiing experience.
An equally fantastic but more boutique option is the Green Leaf. Like the Hilton, the Green Leaf offers large rooms with exceptional views. On the top floor, suites occupy corners of the building where huge windows give 180 degree views. There are a range of fine dining options, and a traditional spa with access to a natural hot spring. The Green Leaf has a slightly more contemporary feel than the more traditional Hilton but when it really comes down to it, the only thing that can separate these resorts is personal taste.
Both resorts offer ski in / ski out, and you can share the facilities of one whilst staying in the other.
Another bonus is that there are 50 ski instructors at the Hilton alone, all English-speaking and 50% of those boast English as their mother tongue. So no language barrier issues here. The other major benefit of Niseko is the array of non-ski activities available, especially for children. In fact, children are generally catered for brilliantly, with activities including snow rafting, reindeer sledging, snow mobiling and snow shoeing. There is also a very good kids ski school, which has the added benefit of an early drop-off (from 8.30 am).
All in all, this is an unbeatable resort for serious powder hounds and families alike. At approximately £3,500 per person for 10 days including flights, private transfers, ski hire, lift pass and 5* accommodation, it really has to be considered, especially as it’s no further to get to than Canada or the USA’s major snow fields. Trust me, you will never look back!
Visit Japan through Savile Row Travel:
Address: 1 Market Place Mews, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 2AH
Tel: From the UK – 01491 575 987, and from the USA – 1-800-678-4196