Though the last vestiges of winter may be over, in Japan it’s a different story. Ski lovers can be glad that Niseko and Hakuba in Japan abound in ten or more metres of the best powder snow per season. Just a red-eye flight from Australia, you could be feeling fresh to hit the slopes as early as the next morning!
So, the question is… Hakuba or Niseko? Well, we’ve done the hard work to suss out the best places to stay and ski in Japan!
During winter, Ki Niseko is nestled among tonnes of snow and frost at the base of the Grand Hirafu Resort – all you need to do is get up, put on your gear and hit up the snow. Despite its frosty corner, the boutique hotel oozes warmth and Japanese sophistication.
Clean, modern décor and airy interiors are definitely a theme throughout the rooms, with impressive floor-to-ceiling windows offering 180-degree panoramic views of the streams of skiers weaving down the mountainside. The one- and two-bedroom condos offer everything for a comfortable stay, with full kitchens, dining and lounge facilities. Moreover, a wine fridge, a selection of luxury amenities and Japanese-style wear ensures that the accommodation stays on top of their game.
But the best thing about Ki Niseko is returning to soak in a steamy hot, mineral-rich onsen. There are indoor and outdoor options, including stone rotenburo baths, saunas and plunge pools.
Hilton Niseko Village
Plonk yourself in more than 2000 acres of fresh powder snow at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, within the Niseko United ski area. Guests of the Hilton Niseko Village get to enjoy direct access to the mountain, with ski lifts departing straight from the hotel.
Each room has spectacular views of the mountains, but if that’s not enough, you can also just relax with a flick on the LCD flat panel TV. Free WiFi means you can keep your mates up to date with your trip, but if you’re all about getting the spa treatment, feel free to spend your evenings soaking in the outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) in snowy surrounds.
And If you’ve worked up an appetite after a day in the slopes, you’ll also be glad to know that the hotel’s Ezo Pub delivers hearty Japanese fare of prime beef, seafood, and much more. There’s even a karaoke bar and weekend DJs for those who truly want to let their hair down.
The Green Leaf Niseko Village
This cosy beauty is just waiting to warm up exhausted skiers! The Green Leaf Niseko Village is the place to shake off the snow and cosy up to a bonfire to watch the sunset. Alternatively, relax your muscles in a natural hot spring surrounded by pine trees.
For first-time skiers, allow multi-lingual instructors teach you how to pizza your way down the slope at the Niseko Village Snow School. But if you’d prefer to save yourself from stacking it spectacularly, snowmobiling, snow rafting or reindeer sledding might be more up your alley.
Each room has breathtaking winter wonderland views, and provide onsen towels, yukata (casual kimono) and Japanese teas, so you can wind down in style. To keep matters to a minimum, the hotel also has stellar skiing facilities including ski lockers, equipment rental, a counter for lift pass purchases, and ski and snowboard lessons.
Niseko Northern Resort An’nupuri
Cold-climate lovers will relish a stay at the Niseko Northern Resort An’nupuri. Whether you’re a seasoned snowboarder, skier or not, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained – try snow shoeing for a wintery hike, stream rafting or even igloo building. Those with the kids in tow can even drop them off at Kids’ Land for a fun session of sledding.
The rooms are comfortable and decked out in understated, but warm hues, while the bathroom is well-stocked with all the amenities you may need – like that toothbrush or all-important razor that you might’ve forgotten! But the main drawcard of the hotel are its facilities – get rid of knots with a relaxing massage at the day spa, chill out at the hotel’s own library, or take a moment in the hot spring and sauna.
Niseko Konbu Onsen Tsuruga Moku-no-sho
Apart from slaying mountains, the other thing you can do in Niseko is meditate to the sounds of the Niseko Anbetsu River, trickling down the slopes in the vicinity. This hotel is located at the foot of Mount Yotei and also enjoys all the benefits of the nearby natural hot spring.
The most eye-catching element of the modern ryokan is its simple and clean design, steeped in warm colours. The rooms go above and beyond expectations, with the basic twin rooms featuring a connecting living room as well as an array of thoughtful amenities. You never thought you’d find bottles of skin lotion, toner, hair gel, and face wash foam in a hotel bathroom, did you?
In addition to that, you can even choose from the Japanese or Western-style rooms, with some boasting their very own open-air or cedar bathtub.
Being snowed in has never been so much fun! At Shiki Niseko, you can practically wake up to flawless metre-high mounds of snow lining your full-length windows. With rooms so spacious and modern, you won’t care how cold it is outside. The fully-furnished luxury apartments satisfy the eye with panoramic views of the surrounding Hirafu resort hub.
Whether you wish to dine in style or cook up a storm with the freshest Hokkaido produce, the foodie in you is covered, with a supermarket, a deli and even an on-site Michelin Star restaurant available.
But if you want nothing more than to experience the adrenaline of the slopes, then the powder is all yours!
The Vale Niseko
Bathtubs have never looked so good…
If a priority for you is finding a good soak in snowy surrounds, look no further. The Vale Nikeko is as romantic as it is a skier’s best friend, not only giving you the chance to toast to your lover on a cold night in, but also the chance to ski-in and ski-out as you please.
The Vale Niseko offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from fully-stocked apartments to luxury hotel rooms, complete with oversized stone tubs in designer bathrooms. Heated coat racks ensure that your ski gear stays toasty and prepped for skiing, but during your downtime, make sure to immerse yourself in the steaming onsen or the outdoor heated pool.
Hakuba Onsen Ryokan Shirouma-so
Looking for a traditional experience to pair with your visit to the slopes? This ryokan combines traditional wooden furnishings with modern Japanese style, complete with minimalistic décor designed to clear the mind.
Authentic tatami mats line the floors, while elegant shoji screens open up to reveal stunning views of the Japanese Alps. It’s the perfect way to be Zen in your comfy yukata.
And the best part? A ryokan experience wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the local specialties, of course! Eat like a local with quality home-cooked meals. Your host, Okami-san, dishes up regional delicacies such as Hakuba pork, traditional purple rice and home-made pickled veggies.
The family-run Koyuki Hakuba is an authentic stop for any seasoned traveller. Meet the Swiss-Japanese family who run the B&B, Kyoko, Markus and Selina, who speak Japanese, German, Swiss German and even sign language! That way, you can even forget about having to use gestures or broken descriptions to communicate…
The rooms are furnished simply with thick futons, tatami mats, shoji windows and low furniture. Though your accommodation may be thoroughly Japanese, be prepared to be surprised in the mornings with a freshly prepared Swiss Continental Breakfast of breads and spreads!
Koharu Resort and Suites
Your alpine life is complete with the cosy Koharu Resort and Suites, located in the region’s beautiful Wadano no Mori area. The apartments come fully-furnished with a kitchen, washer-dryer, and a flat-screen TV. It’s also great for small families and groups, with one- and two-bedroom apartments available.
Crafted in low-key luxury, the rooms are decked out in warm wooden tones – perfect for a cosy night in after hitting the slopes.
The hotel is nestled at the foot of the Japanese Alps, ensuring that you get the most out of your time – whether you’re a keen skier or snowboarder!
These lofty and minimalistic cabins will make your inner designer swoon. Incredibly light and airy, the apartments consist of a floating staircase, high ceilings and fresh, whitewashed walls. Crisp linen and floor-to-ceiling windows brighten up the room, and the views of snowy branches swaying in the breeze are enough to send you into a meditative state!
Each of the villas boast an impressive 100-square-metre floorplan with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living and dining area.Up to eight people can stay comfortably and enjoy the range of modern features, such as the English-language TV channels, heated bamboo flooring and iPod dock. Otherwise gather around the fireplace for an old-fashioned game of Uno.
The villas are situated at the foothills of the Japanese Alps and are only minutes away from the country’s best ski resorts – ten of them actually! It’s also within reach of a choice of restaurants, bars and onsens, ensuring that you stay warm and well-fed long after you’ve returned from the ski fields.
So which do you prefer – Niseko or Hakuba? Comment below!