A long weekend in the middle of February? What better to do than go skiing? For the past few days, I’ve been skiing up at Niseko, a resort in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. Niseko doesn’t have a whole lot of vertical or many scary steep slopes, like North American big-mountain resorts. What it does have, is incredible snow. The powder here is lighter, fluffier, and deeper than anywhere else I’ve ever skied. And it never stops coming! At this point, we’ve been here for almost 4 days and it has snowed on and off the entire time, the ‘off’ segments lasting for ten minutes tops.
My family has been coming to Niseko for years, seeing as it’s some of the best skiing we’ve done in Japan. While the weather is usually like this, I do have a couple photos from that rare sunny day to give you an idea of what the place really looks like.
It’s pretty beautiful up here when you can actually see where you’re going, but bad visibility is definitely a worthwhile price to pay for phenomenal snow.
At Niseko, since the number of difficult slopes is limited, our strategy tends to be find a good run and ski it over and over for an entire half day. My favorite slope here is Strawberry Fields, a powdery pitch that is technically out of bounds but is accessible via gate. It is really multiple runs in one. You can drop into the pitch in any number of places, each one presenting a new line. Dodging trees adds excitement as well as aiding visibility on pea-soup days. Here is the view from the top in the sun. Strawberry Fields Forever.
In accordance with the conditions, I rented big fat powder skis, or as I like to refer to them, pontoon skis. Although they don’t carve as well as my trusty Atomics, these Volkls were a wonder in deep power.
The Niseko clientele are largely foreign. The resort is especially popular with Aussies. At Hanazono 308, the best place to eat on the mountain, this is not an uncommon sight.
The app screenshot-ed below is called Ski Tracks. It tells you how far and how fast you ski. I highly recommend it. Yesterday was a very satisfying day. I went faster than I ever have before. At 81.7 kmph, I’m not far behind my dad’s 84.1. Lindsey Vonn’s 135 kmph is a little further off, but, hey, I’m over halfway there!