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Night-time skiing in Niseko

5th July 2011

Russell Pierce from Elliott & Turner Travel Associates writes about his 12-day skiing holiday to Japan in 2009.

My Japanese skiing adventure kicked off with Korean Air, who provided a very pleasing travelling experience. The price and service of Korean Air were both fantastic. Our fare included an overnight stay in Seoul with accommodation, transfers and meals all provided free of charge. The timings of both departure and arrival were very convenient.

Niseko is a town in Hokkaido, Japan, famous for its fantastic skiing. During my time in Niseko I stayed at a friend’s house in the lower part of Hirafu Village, but there are numerous high quality accommodation options that are well worth the money.  The best area is the upper half of Hirafu Village, which has easy access to restaurants and the lower chairlifts. For real ‘ski in, ski out’ accommodation, the Alpen Ridge and Snow Crystal are both luxurious and conveniently positioned. All budgets and accommodation styles are catered for in this area.

I never thought I would finish two weeks of skiing and still be eager for more, but Niseko provides so much variety that it’s impossible to get bored, regardless of whether you’re a skier or snowboarder.  The snow here is possibly the driest and most abundant of any ski resort in the world. Night skiing in particular is not to be missed. I’ll never forget the surreal beauty of skiing late in the evening under bright yellow lights, watching the snow fall lightly and Mt Yotei glow pink in the sunset. Lifts generally operate until 9pm so there’s plenty of time for a night session after a day of activity elsewhere. The ‘off piste’ skiing (outside of the resort areas) in Niseko is world-famous and definitely worthwhile if you get the opportunity.

When you need a break from skiing, there’s plenty of other great stuff to keep you busy in and around Niseko. There are numerous ‘onsens’ (hot spas or springs) to visit in the Niseko area. Bathing in an outdoor onsen during snowfall is definitely an experience not to be missed. There are also many beautiful restaurants in Niseko, serving the finest traditional Japanese cuisine with typical Japanese service and hospitality. There is even a bar made completely of ice. The nearby coastal areas provide some beautiful scenery and also decent surf for those daring enough to embrace the ridiculously cold water. There are also some fantastic seafood markets along the coast where you can fill up on beautiful fresh seafood for a very good price. On a clear day, I’d recommend a hike up to the summit of Mt Annupuri. You’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding areas including the beautiful coastline.

The resort area is best accessed by road from Chitose airport, about two hours away. As a ski destination, Niseko is unique in that it is not all that high in altitude compared to many comparable ski resorts, yet it still receives massive amounts of snow every year without fail. This means you are guaranteed a great skiing holiday without the worries of altitude sickness or acclimatisation. A ski holiday to Niseko promises so much – adventure, relaxation, luxury (if you want it), excitement, and of course, culture. The best time to go is between mid January and mid March when the snow is driest and coldest. The AUD-Yen exchange rate means excellent value for money for Australian travellers.  If you’ve been daydreaming about your next skiing adventure, look no further than the wonderful land of Niseko.

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