With many ski/boarding areas being over exposed by the expansion of media surrounding the ski and snowboard industry, many are getting jaded with the offerings in the west. Therefore, these enthusiasts have been looking east for inspiration and new places to attain that authentic powder day experience without having to dodge posers there just for the scene and the overpriced slope side real estate.
One place that has captured the imagination of many powderhounds is the Hokkaido ski resort town of Niseko in Japan. Located on the northern end of the Japanese Alps, it is one of the few developed places in the Far East where one can get an easy introduction to Asian ski culture.
To have an excellent first experience here, we have some words of advice for you, fellow snow sports pioneer! Heed them on your first journey to this fabled land, and you too shall become a convert to the unique experiences that Niseko can provide.
Learn some key phrases in Japanese
While many Japanese have at least a basic understanding of English, it is only polite to learn a few basic phrases in the language of the nation where one is a guest. Konichiwa (hello) and Domo arigato (thank you) are the ones you should know as a bare minimum, but to endear yourselves to the locals on the slopes, you should remember a few related to our wonderful sport. Shout Suki ni ikimashyo (let’s go skiing!) jubilantly when with newly made friends, Nadare o mita (I saw an avalanche) will help keep everybody safe, and Nama beer dai, kudasai (A large draft beer, please) is a must for those looking to have a rollicking good time after a hard day shredding the glades of Niseko.
Rent the fattest skis you can find … you’ll need them, trust us
With 15.11 metres of snow falling on its slopes in its peak year, Niseko gets some serious pow each and every year. With prevailing winds from Siberia sweeping across the Sea of Japan throughout the winter months, bucketfuls of continuous, powdery snowfall just dumps at an almost constant clip during this time, virtually guaranteeing face shots and knee deep snow at some point in your trip. With fat skis, you will float atop the freshly fallen white stuff, granting you an experience you just can’t have with normal racers.
Hit the Onsen after a day on the slopes
Being an island chain that owes its entire existence to the infamous Ring of Fire, Japan is laced with natural hot springs, or onsen, throughout the country, and the Niseko area is no exception to this trend. Expect to pay ¥700 for an average session, but modest dudes and chicks, be forewarned, as you will be expected to bare it all to get into the hot springs, and the baths are often sex-segregated, so your enjoyment of the hot water will have to be had without the opposite sex.
Sing your heart out – you’ll be in good company
Karaoke, despite being invented in the Philippines, has been seared into the consciousness of westerners by its popularity in Japan. It is a popular way for local Japanese to socialize, and after an active day on slopes, you’ll find plenty of eager singing partners to make you sound less off-tune than you would otherwise be. Plenty of sake will likely get passed around, granting the perfect end to a dream ski day on one of the world’s sickest snow destinations.
A ski vacation in Japan is unlike any other you’ll likely have in the world, making a must-do experience for serious powder hounds everywhere. Somewhere between first chair and last call at the bar the first day, you’ll also find that it is also an incredible opportunity for a cultural experience that could change the course of your life.