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Tempted by stories of epic amounts of powder and accessible off piste areas a group of us made the trip out to Niseko staying at the excellent Gondala Chalets in Niseko Grand Hirafu. Sadly we'd chosen a poor snow season and whilst they'd had fresh snow before we arrived the off piste areas were soon tracked out. Day three was a bluebird day and its telling that it was one of the quietest days in resort. Apart from some of the Japanese, it seems few people are there for the on piste skiing, which is pretty limited, but would actually be pretty good for beginners and families.
Of the four bases around the mountain Grand Hirafu is by far the biggest with a good choice of bars and places to eat to suit every budget. You won't find ski in/ski out here, and beware long walks to the lifts, There are a few places to eat on the hill, but more choice at the bottom.
On our last day we took a guide and went to Kiroro, about 40 minutes away. There were still fresh tracks to be had, so if you're going it's well worth looking to move around if you want to find the best conditions.
First time to Japan and Niseko for 1 week of skiing. The weather constantly cycled through cloudy to overcast to snow to blue sky before repeating. I don't think there was a single day when it didn't snow! I was lucky as we didn't suffer from any visibility problems or excessive wind closing the lifts.
The snow kept coming through out the week and if you like powder it was perfect, the dry snow parts before you offering little resistance. Not overly busy so at times we could be the only people on the run and going over virgin snow. Plenty of off piste going through trees and down gully's. All the black runs are left ungroomed which was different to Europe.
Night skiing is available on certain parts but by that time we were hungry and needed to soak in the onsen! Apres is varied in the different resorts on the mountain, cash only.
If you love powder i would highly recommend, and if you don't then this would be the perfect place to get a taster!
This was our 3rd visit to Hirafu and the town has improved leaps and bounds since our first. Although we are only mid level skiiers, it doesn't take an expert to recognise fantastic powder. Before we emigrated to Oz from London, we were used to European skiing - but here the snow just keeps on falling. As previous reviewers have stated - the lifts are rather old and many are open. But the options for tree runs and bowls are many.
Japanese skiiers and boarders, both the young and the very old are kind, polite, respectful - all something not found in Europe.
Hirafu bars/restaurants improve every year - there are so many new ones each time we return. Most of them now take Credit Cards as well. Depending on the exchange rate, which varies considerably every year we return, the lift passes are great value and the on piste restaurant food is great value and quality - although you need some time to work out how to get your food.
If you haven't tried Niseko, you are missing out.
Niseko should be on the radar of any powder hungry skier. I spent 8 days in Niseko and 3 in Rusutsu and the conditions did not disappoint. It snowed almost all of the 8 days in Niseko, every day a powder day and the snow is the driest and lightest you will ever ski. Because of the amount of snow falling the tree runs were the order of most days and they are the easiest tree runs you will ever ski with good pitches and lines to be found, you are also well catered for in the various mountain restaurants. The lift infrastructure could do with a bit of an update but it really is the snow you are here for. The all area lift pass is one of the cheapest i've come across and the resort of Hirafu is a well contained village and a shuttle service is provided to get you to and from the lifts from your accomodation. There are plenty of restaurants offering all the usual Japanese fair and it's probably slightly cheaper than european resorts. When the sun finally does show itself it is one of the most scenic ski resorts, Mt Yotei has a very commanding presence and is a spectacular sight. Rusutsu is also worth a visit it has fantastic wide pistes and some of the 'under the rope' territory is amazing. If you stay here the accomodation side is a bit Disneyland but there is definetaly enough skiing to keep you occupied for a good few days.
Best powder skiing in-bounds anywhere in the world on 4 interconnected resorts, with the best on-mountain food we've eaten. Very organised Ski Japan tour company, together with the amazingly polite & helpful locals make it very easy to love skiing in Japan. Great mountain for skiers & snowboarders of all abilities.
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tour operators in Niseko
- 10% discount for Ski Club members
- The largest independent ski operator in the UK. Featuring over 140 catered chalets in superb...
- Ski Independence
- 5% discount for Ski Club members
- Ski Independence is one of the UK's leading tailor-made ski specialists offering the best hotels...
- Crystal Ski Holidays
- £50 discount for Ski Club members
- For us, the mountain is everything. We love it as much as you do. Since 1981, we’ve been finding the...
Where to Ski and Snowboard 2016
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