We spent the first day of 2017 in captivating Niseko. It is known as the best ski terrain in Japan, located in the southern peninsula of Hokkaido, 2 hours and 30 mins away from the Chitose Airport. All i can say is, Wow! It really is a winter wonderland! Being from a tropical country, I was staring in awe as i watched the snowflakes fall gently from the sky. I sort of questioned my existence because I have always thought of myself as a beach bum, but after seeing Niseko and learning how to ski, I think it’s worth to give snow a chance. lol. The last time I saw snow was in the US more than a decade ago, and I don’t remember the snow being as beautiful as the snow in Niseko. When we were there, it was snowing every day, and the voluminous fresh snow was gorgeous and powdery! If the Philippines has the best white powdery sand, then Niseko has the best powdery snow!
Being in Niseko during January is like being in an entirely different country! Most of the people working in the ski resorts – the ski instructors, shuttle drivers, employees in the ski rental shops were all foreigners. The ones we met are originally from Australia, New Zealand, and London. It was really unexpected since we came from Tokyo, where communicating in English can sometimes be a struggle.
We stayed in a lovely Chalet at the Country Resort, about 20 minutes away from Upper Hirafu where most of the restaurants, convenient stores, and bars are located. Chalet Country Resort is not a ski in/ski out location, and shuttles arrive every hour from Hirafu. It might be better to just rent a car so you can go around at your own pace. Our chalet was clean, comfortable, and beautiful! Spacious enough for our family of 11! It even has its own onsen!
Skiing is definitely my favourite activity in Niseko. We chose skiing over snow boarding because the former looked easier to learn. We rented our gear and equipment from Rhythm on the main street of Grand Hirafu and had a half day lesson with a private instructor from Go Snow to teach us how to ski. It was so fun and addicting!!! You must first learn how to ski slowly and do the pizza plough or snowplough, which requires you to make a V shape on ice while skiing down the slope. Prepare for some tense butt and leg muscle action! Our instructor said our group learned quickly, so the next day, we went to the family lift for some huge mountain slope action! It was a bit scary to go down at first but super fun once you get the hang of it! I can’t wait to go back!!! I love the rush I get from skiing down the slopes!
We also had a snowmobile experience in White Isle Snowmobile Park. Our snowmobiles were classic models, the ones with pull start ropes to start the engine. lol. We went snowmobiling for about an hour and the view was spectacular! Imagine pristine white snow that fades into the horizon, beautiful bare trees all around, and fluffy snow!!! We made a stop over somewhere in the middle of the mountain and had time to play around with the fluffy snow! It was beautiful, definitely an experience ticked off this tropical girl’s bucket list!
Niseko is such a good place to visit as a family, kids and adults alike will love it there! I suggest staying in Niseko for about a week so you can relax, ski, snowboard, and do all the winter activities that you want, 3 days were definitely too short for us. I suggest making restaurant reservations ahead of time during peak season because most restaurants are small and have very limited seating. Other families hire a Japanese chef for a night to prepare a sumptuous meal in their chalet! Sounds like an experience to me! Next time (yes, it’s a place where “next time” is a must) we will definitely stay longer, and perhaps stay in a ski in/ski out place and try snowboarding! Niseko, you are all sorts of wonderful – we will see you again someday! 🙂