There is nothing better to ease away the aches and pains of an exciting day on the slopes than the saunas and pools available at an onsen.
The Grand Hotel has a lovely outdoor pool area where you can sit in a warm pool surrounded by falling snow.
Don't be put off by the fact that the site is in Japanese. Look up onsen etiquette and there will be plenty of help when you arrive to buy tickets, point you in the right direction.
Google map: bit.ly/zALYzj
BDL is a lodge for skiers and snowboarders based in Niseko Village on the island of Hokkaido. It offers simple comfortable accommodation including breakfast, its own restaurant and bar as well as a range of Backcountry guided tours that are all well priced. It attracts a mix of international punters and professionals alike.
The lodge is well linked to the resort free bus service which allows you to access some of the best snow in the world. Yes, the rumours are true, it does not stop snowing and it didn’t when were there. The staff (a mix of Canadian and Japanese) know Niseko like the back of their hand. They are also extremely helpful before you arrive and will offer you assistance with internal flights and transfers.
The backcountry tour packages they offer range from one day to longer trips in Niseko but also to Rusutsu and beyond. We did a day's guiding with Andrew, who took us through the back gates of Niseko for an unforgettable day of powder riding.
Once you have done all that you can return to the lodge and relax in their wonderful but strange massage chair!
+81 136 44 1144
Google map: bit.ly/qqpywa
Black Diamond Lodge
Higashiyama 24-3, Niseko-cho
Nearest Airport: Sapporo Chitose
Nearest train: Hirafu
If you like the finest Powder (15 meters average snow fall), quiet slopes, stunning scenery, amazing food, politest lift attendants in the World and natural hot springs to soak your tired limbs in after a day on the slopes then Niseko on Japans far north Island Hokkaido, is definitely the place to go.
Prevailing Siberian winds dump hugh quantities of the worlds lightest powder creating a truly powder heaven. So if you’re a powder hound and want quality snow then this is the location.
Three interlinked ski areas (Hirafu, Annapuri and Higashiyama) combine to create Niseko, Japan’s largest and best known resort. Because it is so far from Tokyo it is relatively quiet compared to the ski areas in the Japan Alps.
The terrain includes wide cruising runs fringed with snow-laden trees (silver birch woodlands), steeper backcountry descents accessed from gates hidden throughout the ski area and a long well designed Snowboard Park. You can hike to the top of the mountain peak for some mind blowing views of Mt.Yotei (extinct volcano that is perfectly cone shaped) and excellent off-piste powder bowl runs. And did I mention the extensive night skiing? Wow and haven’t even stopped for a bowl of noodles.
If your there for a few weeks I would recommend checking out nearby resorts of Rusutsu and Furano (which allegedly has the driest finest powder in the world).
Getting there: Fly with BA or Virgin direct to Tokyo (11 hours) and Hokkaido is only a 11/2 hour flight and then 2 hour bus transfer. Or buy a JR rail pass which can only be bought by tourists to use bullet trains.
Where to stay:
Best secret, I stayed in Annapurna hostel which is more like a rustic hotel. 2 minutes to lifts it is a beautiful wooden chalet with great cosy communal area with open fire place. Amazingly tasty traditional Japanese dinner of several courses prepared fresh everyday by the loving friendly owner who will also drive you to local Onsons (natural hot springs) every night. Best value around at Y5,300 (£40) per night with breakfast and mind blowing dinner. You can even do your own board waxing in the ski room. www.snowjapan.com/e/hotel/viewhotel.php?hotid=79.
The only downside (or upside) is that there is no ‘western’ night life in Annapurna village but for a few days I highly recommend staying here. Those after nightlife (with an Australian flavour) should stay in Hirafu the largest of the villages, where there is plenty of bars to choose from.
Top tips for Boarding Japan
• Bring your own gear – hiring is expensive
• If you don’t have your own gear then book ski and board rental before you get there. It’s a lot cheaper.
• Bring cash. Only post offices and 7-11 cash points work with foreign visa cards. Also tell your card company that you are going away. I have two days stranded with no cash.
• Most hotels and lodges offer discount lift tickets. It is better to buy two discounted tickets (3 and 4 day) then to buy a 7 day ticket from the ticket office.
www.snowjapan.com/ - places to stay and snow reports
www.snowjapan.com/e/hotel/viewhotel.php?hotid=79. My favourite accommodation
www.skisafari.com/Ski-Japan.aspx - information about the area
www.skihirejapan.com/home.php - renting boarding gear
A pension I stumbled upon earlier this year in Niseko, Japan.
Niseko is widely regarded inside Japan as having some of the best powder you'll find, and is quickly becoming Japan's worst kept secret abroad.
Hence my surprise when my friend and I rock up in April, bump into a friendly little guy with a whispy goatee who insists on us calling him Tohsan and his wife Kaasan (Dad and Mum) who gives us a beautiful huge log cabin meant to hold 30 people for £15 a night each with meals. He then kitted me out fully for another £15, gave us a lift to the slopes where we got a nice big discount for coming during the spring season.
We had the run of the place, the powder was still coming down in bucketloads and we ended the day with a home cooked meal from Mum listening to jazz, followed by a soak in the hot spring bath down the road. Job's a good 'un.
Turns out Dad built the log cabin with his bare hands. He's got the pictures on the wall inside to prove it!
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