Snow i

Japan offers a fresh challenge for ski-savvy clients, writes Nick Savage

raised chopsticks to windburned lips and admired the spread of food on the table. The customary ski resort fare of schnitzel, spaetzle, burgers and chilli con carne had been swapped for an eye-popping array of sushi, sashimi and donburi, as colourful and fresh as you’d find in London’s most expensive izakayas, hauled from the area of the north Pacific that hems in the Japanese island of Hokkaido. As it turns out, skiing in Japan offers unique benefits. It might be a newcomer to the snow-sports scene, but

Japan offers incredible skiing. According to Kikuo Eri of Prince Hotels, the start of the 2019-20 season had been a “disaster” – even before the turmoil of Covid-19 – with the least snow for two decades. That being said, it was just as good as the snow I skied in Breckenridge, Colorado, during one of its best-ever years. Even in a poor year, Hokkaido offers some of the best snow on the planet, and for clients who want to skip the usual European resorts in favour of a holiday that combines culture, food, scenery and ski, it’s worth looking farther afield.


Japan may seem like a long way to travel to go skiing but there are a number of factors that make it unique. High-pressure systems from the Asian continent sweep eastward, picking up moisture as they reach the low-pressure systems of the Pacific and unloading it on Japanese mountains. Not only is there an abundance of powder – Niseko receives 14 metres of snow on average per season – but it is of an exceptional quality: cold, airy and dry, the celebrated ‘champagne powder’. Alongside this, there are several reasons that make


Japan an appealing snow-sports destination compared to Europe or the United States. The obvious one is the cultural experience. Japan boasts an incredible culture and its history, art and cuisine are like nowhere else in the world. Onsens (hot springs) are found throughout the volcanic mountain range and are a perfect balm for sore muscles and cold, dry skin. It’s also very easy to tie in a city break to Tokyo or Sapporo when skiing in Japan, or integrate skiing into a longer, culture-oriented tour.

Niseko receives 14m of snow on

average per season and it is of an exceptional quality: airy and dry – the celebrated ‘champagne powder’

It can also be a good way to save money, despite the long-haul flights. Renting a chalet in the Alps might be the biggest outlay your family makes that year, but lift prices in Japan are half the price of European or North American resorts, the cost of lodging is much less expensive, and amenities cost less in Japan. While Tokyo may be expensive, the rest of the country offers a value that many British travellers are unaware of. So, which resorts are worth visiting?

SKI CENTRAL Niseko: Snowboarding through the trees at Niseko

was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Shimmering, spindly silver birch had been fleeced with buckets of white woolly snow, with wide lanes between

² 10 SEPTEMBER 2020 35

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