If you've ever been to Niseko with a little luck you will have had the pleasure of Mt Yotei's presence beaming down on the Hirafu Village and surrounds.
Mt Yotei's summit stands at 1,590m which isn't huge in mountaineering terms but it is the highest peak in the area and one that just begs to conquered.
Mount Yotei is an active strato volcano which most recently erupted back in 1050BC and lucky for us hasn't done a lot since!
Both winter and summer are a great time to take on the Mt Yotei challenge with summer being the most accessible time. Although summer doesn't have the adrenaline fueled descent to look forward to that winter offers it certainly has its own more tranquil rewards.
In summer the hike takes between 3 to 5 hours to reach the summit and although much less demanding then in winter it can still be a challenge and it pays to do it on a fine day as the trails are narrow and rocky in parts and become very slippery when wet. The descent is a bit quicker but is quite steep so hiking poles are strongly recommended. The route runs through pine and silver birch forest and alpine plants and flowers color the lanscape above the treeline. On your way up you may be greeted by a squirrel or 2, foxes are often spotted and don't forget to keep an ear out for wood peckers which you may catch a glimpse of in the trees.
During the winter if you or any of your group haven't been up Yotei before it is strongly recommended that you enlist the services of a guide, which Holiday Niseko can help you to arrange. If you are confident in the montains and have the necessary avalanche and touring gear the mountain is of course yours for the taking. In winter snow shoes or touring skis are essential as is the aforementioned avalanche equipment. The hike up with snow shoes takes most about 4 - 6 hours and of course the descent is just a few minutes depedning on how often you stop to take pictures.
The ride down can be a bit of a roller coaster with the top 3rd sometimes being wind effected and the bottom half below tree line almost always offering some aweseome turns. Once you reach the summit it will be hard not to drop into the crater which can offer some epic turns and is an experience in it self. Check this cool clip made by one of our 2017 - 2019 drivers Toby Coulter, what a day!
Summer is a time for celebration here in Hokkaido and every year the calendar is dotted with great events. Closest to home and coming right up we have the Kutchan Jaga Festival (2019-08-03) a celebration of summer and of course Kutchan's most prized and all important crop, the potato. This features scores of delicious food carts, local produce, spectaucular floats and processions and a fire works display.
Soon following the Jaga Matsuri is the Hirafu festival (2019-08-24) which features live bands, seated food tents and a very spectacular fireworks display to finish.
One of the last festivals of the year is the inaugural Niseko Autumn Food Festival, which has cemented its place as one of the final and most delicious festivals of the year. This festival even has a free shuttle running from Odori Park in Sapporo.
Festivals in Hokkaido are by no means limited to those above also well worth checking out is the seafood festival in Bikuni, The Iwanai Fireworks Festival (04 Aug - 05 Aug), The Sapporo Beer Festival (Jul 19, 2019 – Aug 16, 2019) and the Sapporo Autumn Festival (Sept 7 - Sept 30).
The Niseko United boasts some of the greatest tree skiing in the world thanks to ample supplies of powder and plenty of nicely spaced Silver Birch forest. It also has some incredible stuff above the tree line too and in this installment we will cover a little of both with a quick look at what the Annupuri Summit or The Peak has to offer.
When we refer to The Peak this is the highest point of Mount Annupuri (1308m) or The Niseko United Area, usually accessed via a slightly sketchy feeling single chair know by many as "the meat hook" or King Lift #4 . You can access this from either Hirafu via the The King Hooded Lift # 3 or The Hanazono Quad Lift#3. This will swing you up to the easiest starting point if you are looking to hike the peak.
Peak access is governed by Niseko Local rules, get familiar with these before you go - https://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/niseko/niseko-rules/ . Gate 3 gives you access to the Peak Hike and this being open is weather dependent. If the weather is bad and the gate happens to be open, if you are not familiar with the area you will probably best to leave it for another day as it is easy to get lost if you can't see where you are going.
The hike to the peak takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on your fitness level and remember if you drop in skiiers left you will have to hike out too. Neither one is too strenuous though and well worth the effort. The views are incredible and the terrrain that the hike opens up is awesome starting with nicely pitched open powder fields and leading into beautifully gladed tree runs.
If you want to get the best out of your peak experience get to the single chair as soon as you can in the morning as the peaks goodness is no secret. Although the secret may be out the terrian and snow is almost always incredible and it's still always worth a shot when the rest of the mountain hasn't seen snow for a few days.
Remember the peak is out of bounds and it is the back country and although easily accessible the usual precautions must be taken, which means riding with friends, taking avalanche equipment that you know how to use and preferably going with a guide or someone who has been before.
It is also important to check the weather and avalanche reports before you go -
Avalanche Reports - http://niseko.nadare.info/
Enjoy the ride!
It has never been easier to access Niseko from all over the world with greater numbers of direct flights coming to Chitose every year. We thought we’d take a look at what’s on offer at Flight Center from some of the more popular departure points accross the world.
All flights departing Friday Jan 10th, returning Jan 19th.
As you may know Holiday Niseko don't book flights but we we can take care of your transfers once you've landed in Chitose all the way to the door of your accommodation!
~ Flying from Australia? Check out these beaut deals.
Get here quick with ANA, this flight will have you on the ground in Chitose in just 12 hours and 50 minutes and it’s an overnight flight so all going well you’ll get some sleep. Listed at $2,176 this gem could see you enjoying lunch at Green Farm on the Saturday.
Get here cheaper with China Air, this flight takes a bit longer and you’ll be lunching in Taipei rather than Hirafu. But she’s cheap as chips, listed at just $1530 return and easily doable 17 hours travel time.
~ Flying From Hong Kong? Get here in time for dinner!
Book today with Cathay Pacific and you’ll be getting in a solid weeks skiing and with a 09:10 departure time you’ll be in time for dinner at Rin at 20:00 listed at just $8,058.61 HKD
~ Flying From Honolulu ? Deep powder awaits..
Non stop on the way home with ANA and Hawaiian Air. Listed at $1,062 USD this is a 14 hour journey with a stopover in Osaka. You’ll arrive at Chitose around 10pm so best to grab a little shut eye and an Onsen in one of the convenient and well priced airport hotels before coming up to Hirafu on Saturday morning.
~ Flying from Singapore? The early bird gets the best snow and the best deals!
Leaving SIN at a brisk 05:55am you’ll be grabbing a sushi snack at Chitose by 15:00 before jumping on the 16:40 resort liner bus to Niseko. Listed at around $946 SGD
Holiday Niseko still have some great accommodation options open at the dates above too so if are keen to see what’s available get in touch today!
There's nothing much more exciting than visiting a ski resort for the first time and just imagine visiting a resort in Hokkaido Japan for the first time, wow!
You will have no doubt seen the photos, watched the videos and even heard the vocab with phrases and hashtags like Japow, Japanuary and many more that will, with out a doubt, have you frothin' ! After a seemingly endless summer (or winter), you are here in Niseko, standing at the base of the Hirafu Gondola, fresh after a comfortable sleep in your Holiday Niseko arranged accommodation and staring up at snow caked trees and runs. The big question you have is where to go?
Niseko United is a big ski area with 3 gondolas, 30 lifts and thousands of acres of skiable terrain plus further incredible front, side, slack and back country opportunites. The area is made up of 4 connected resorts Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri and each one of these have there own secret pow stashes. We're not going to tell you them all but we'll shed some light on some of the gems, starting with Hirafu. Hirafu can be seen as the center of the Niseko area and leads the way in terms of accommodation, shopping, restaurants and bars and if this wasn't enough it is also one of the funnest places to ride with a great mix of terrain and of course plenty of awesome tree skiing.
Need pow fast? Take the Ace Quad / Center 4 quad straight up, strap in, head skiiers right and you're on your way to Hone or Super Ridge. Drop in early for some great steep tree runs or stay on the traverse to the ridge and choose your line down from there. These are some of the best inbounds steeps you'll find on Hirafu. Alternatively you can keep traversing accross the bowl to where the trees begin again and here's where you can usually find some awesome pow stashes even late in the day. Always stay skiiers left of the main ridge and keep in mind there is a creek at the bottom, especially early season!
Don't miss Miharashi! If you've started from the Hirafu Gondola when you get to the top walk down the stairs and turmn right, walk up the hill 50m and pick your line down. From the top of the ridge heading skiiers left will take you into some great trees and you will come out about midway down the Family Course, heading right into the open slope will take you to the areas name sake run, Miharashi. This is a great wide open run and pretty epic if you are the first down but if you've partied the night before and missed the first gondola stick to the treed side for some of that hangover curing cherry cherry pow pow you came for, yeooow!
Thinking of a new set of gloves for this winter? Great idea! Gloves are an essential item in your Niseko ski kit and your choice in gloves can make or break a days skiing here. The options are as you would expect seemingly infinite but for Niseko, the number 1 factor you should take into consideration is unsurprisingly warmth, for you and of course the tiny hands of the little ones! Glove styles abound but the go to for Niseko especially for the kids is the classic Mitt. Mittens won't let you down and although you may lose a little dexterity once you've enjoyed the warmth mittens provide you'll never go back.
Useful points to consider when buying gloves for Niseko -
Are you planning a trip to Niseko and wondering how you will get around?
Although the Hirafu village is compact and relatively easy to negotiate on foot or with the aid of the free village shuttle Holiday Niseko has another solution for you - book a property that comes with a vehicle.
Properties with vehicles offer superb value when you take into consideration the cost of a rental vehicle and best of all a van allows you the freedom top explore more resorts, restaurants and must see attractions. They are also the answer to any supermarket worries and allow you to drop the kids off at ski school at your convenience.
As if this wasn't enough, consider the fact that the greater Niseko United area is made up of 4 resorts ( Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri) all of which are no more than a 30 minute drive from Hirafu. A vehicle gives you the freedom to start your day at any one of these resorts giving powder hounds the best chance for first chair and for for the more adventurous there are 2 more fantastic resorts 1 - 1.5 hours drive from your accommodation - Rusutsu and Kiroro.
Feel like a day off the slopes? Try the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi ( don't forget your desiganted driver!) just 1 hour from Hirafu.
Getting hungry? A van gives you the freedom to dine in neighbouring towns such as Niseko and Kutchan. In Niseko you might like to try Niseko Brewing http://www.winedineniseko.com/niseko-restaurants/niseko-brewing and in Kutchan, the excellent Nihon Bashi.
All of the vehicles on offer are late model 4WD Hiace Regius vans that seat up to 9 passengers, are equipped with English navigation and of course snow tyres.
So what properties come with a van?
Himawari - A value concious option located in Kabayama, just 2 minutes drive from Hirafu Village.
Ikigai - One of our most popular properties loctaed in peaceful St Moritz and less than 5 minutes drive to the Hirafu Gondola.
Kabayama Townhouses - 4 x 4 bedroom townhouses all of which come with a van and are just a couple of minutes drive from the village.
Kabayama House - A beautiful 3 bedroom stand alone home tucked away in a peacful corner of Kabayama. Again just a couple of minutes drive from the resort.
Koho - Located in the lower Hirafu Village this classic alpine chalet comes 3 bedrooms and bathrooms and is tastefully furnished.
Mountain Butterfly - Another 3 bedroom property that enjoys the peace and tranquility of the St Moritz area and fantastic Mt Yotei views.
Shiki & Koyuki - 4 x modern 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhouses located away from the hustle and bustle in Izumikyou 2. The van will have you at the gondola in just minutes.
Ori - Where James Bond would choose to stay! This luxury super modern 5 bedroom home sleeps up to 18 guests and is located in the Lower Hirafu Village.
Yoteiyama House - A spacious 4.5 bedroom home that comfortably sleeps up to 12 guests. The van will have you to the lifts in minutes.
If you'd like to know more about any of these properties or you have any questions please feel free to contact us anytime (email@example.com).
Significant snowfalls this winter began early to mid December and with them came very cold temperatures that kept the snow in incredible condition until the second half of February when the storm cycles slowed and settled weather remained.
Many thought this would be the last of the powder but come mid March the tap was turned back on and ever since we've been enjoying some great snowfalls from week to week.
First up more ripping turns from Shimamaki Snow Cats with classic March blue skies and fresh powder to boot.
Now if that wasn't enough to wake the green eyed monster here are some more epic turns from Central Hokkaido, wow!
Finally the greater Niseko snow community celebrated the life of Sam Kerr with the annual send it for Sam fundraiser.
The event was once again a success and we will look forward to the next one in March 2020!
Planning a trip to Niseko next winter and wondering when to come?
The short answer of course is anytime! If you are after a little more detail have a look below.
Hirafu is usually the first resort to open and shcedules it's opening day around the 24th of November, this is dependent on weather conditions and snow fall.
The remaining resorts that make up the Niseko United, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono then usually open within a week of this.
So what can you expect when you arrive?
Shimamaki Snow Cats is said by many to be one of the best cat skiing operations in Hokkaido. Run by Black Diamond Tours they provide access to some incredible terrain and of course acres of bottomless powder.
Combine this with its unique oceanside location with incredible views of the surounding peaks and the Sea of Japan you have an experience not to be missed.
If this wasn't enough just imagine a 2 day tour with a Japanese Ryokan Style Hotel stay, onsens and an incredible dinner of freshly caught seafood and locally sourced ingredients.
Ready to go yet?
There is a feeling of solitude and serenity quite like no other in the mountains here, without another soul in sight, except of course your highly experienced guides and most importantly a Snowcat full of your friends.
If you have a booking with us and are interested in booking Shimamaki Snow Cats please contact your Holiday Niseko agent today.
If you don't have accommodation booked, now's the time the snow in Febuary is incredible in Niseko and beyond, don't miss out this year!