The Niseko Village Snow School offers options for everyone. (Photo courtesy of Niseko Village)

Fun With Snow, Sans Shovels, at Niseko Village

JANUARY 25, 2015

With all the bright decorations and festivities that came with the end of the year, we are all in the mood to escape our daily grinds and go somewhere exotic to celebrate the season they call winter outside the tropics. And where shall we go this season?

If you and your loved ones are still feeling a bit Christmas-y and want to play with a lot of snow, you may consider the Niseko Village in Hokkaido, Japan, this winter.

Niseko Village is a mountain resort at the foot of Mount Niseko Annupuri, owned and managed by the Malaysian group YTL Hotels — just one of their many resorts across Asia and Europe.

The 615-hectare Niseko Village is entirely blanketed with powder snow this season, making it ideal for winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

Doesn’t it all sound wonderful for your winter adventure? With excellent facilities and services, as well as Japan’s famous hospitality, it’s no wonder that the resort has been named as the Best Ski Resort in Japan for both 2013 and 2014 by the World Ski Awards in Austria, and become one of themost favoredwinter destinations in Asia.

The Jakarta Globe was recently invited to the Niseko Village to experience the best the premium ski resort has to offer.

Skiing

“In the past, [Asian] travelers looked to the west when they think of skiing or ski resorts,” said Francis Yeoh, managing director of the YTL Corporation.

“They talked about St.Moritz, holidaying in Aspen or buying a ski lodge in Whistler. Today, Asians are the biggest emerging group of skiers and everyone is talking about Asian ski destinations in Japan and SouthKorea.”

“Niseko Village has some of the best snow in the world and the best ski slopes comparable with the famous ski resorts of the west.”

Niseko Village boasts an incredible 18 meters of snowfall annually. The Manchurian winds blend in with the cold moisture of the Sea of Japan providing the area with snow among the driest and lightest in the world.

“It’s what they call it [the snow] ‘champagne powder,’” said Bobby Ralph, senior ski instructor at the Niseko Village Snow School. “The Niseko powder [snow] is probably the best in the world,” said the half English, half-Japanese ski instructor.

“It’s the driest, the lightest, which is good for soft landings and all the guys that do off-piste skiing.” The resort offers a wide range of ski terrains for every level of skiers.

“I’ll say it has very good terrains for every level of skiing,” Ralph said. “[There are] mixed slopes for every level, which is very good. We’ve got something for everyone.”

For beginners and newcomers to the Niseko Village, Ralph advises taking ski lessons at the resort’s snow school, so they can learn more about the ski ranges at the mountain resort and the skills needed to tackle them. There are 60 experienced ski instructors at theNVSS. About 40 of the mare native English speakers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The rest are Japanese instructors who speak very good English. The school also offers ski lessons for kids.

“We do take fromthree [years-old],” said the senior ski instructor. “The underfives normally do one-on-one [sessions]. We keep [lessons] short and fun.”

The ski lessons for kids last for about an hour.

For adults, the lessons are usually two hours. For experienced skiers who are new to Niseko Village, the senior ski instructor suggests going slow to take in the new environment.

“Check out the slopes, but start from the bottom and work your way up, so that you can get the feel of each part at your own pace,” said the ski instructor. The snow school also offers cat-skiing for advanced skiers, skiing on the fresh powder snow of the Niseko Village first thing in the morning.

“The first ones are the luckiest,” said Ralph. “[The snow] is all fresh and puffy, so you can turn back and see your turns [on the snow]. It feels good.” According to the ski instructor, the best months to ski in the Niseko Village is from mid-December to February.

The ski resort also offers a myriad of other exciting winter activities for nonskiers, such as snow mobiling, snow-rafting, snow shoe guided tours and reindeer sledding.

“The reindeer come around Christmas time, from Dec. 20 until the New Year,” Ralph said.

After-ski activities

You will surely be famished after all the skiing and fun activities at the ski resort.

Niseko Village has a shopping a dining area catering to interests off the slopes. The dining and shopping complex of the Niseko Village, just a stone’s throw from the NVSS, is designed to resemble traditional Japanese houses, with dark timber structures, lattice windows and narrow walkways lit with lanterns.

At the Village Patisserie, guests can sample a wide array of dainty Japanese cakes, pastries and chocolate drinks, while at the tapas bar “Two Sticks” they can enjoy live music entertainments, stiff cocktails, sake, world-famous Sapporo beer and Asian light bites.

Those who love fresh seafood will definitely adore The Crab Shack.

The seafood-market-inspired restaurant offers Kaizoku-yaki, a traditional Japanese “pirate’s barbecue” style of seafood, in which abalone, crab, scallops and prawns are grilled in front of you. Avid fans of Japanese food will adore the sumptuous offerings at the Yang Shu Ten. The restaurant, which translates literally to “The Best Fisherman,” serves the fresh produce and seafood Hokkaido is famous for, including sushi, tempura and teppanyaki.

At this time of the year, they also serve the naturally sweet and delicious Japanese melon at the end of each meal. The Niseko Village is also a haven for shoppers.

The iGate Ikeuchi shop, offers an array of high-quality sports apparels and outdoor gears to enjoy yourwinter holiday. And ladies wouldn’t want to miss the exciting collection of locally made beauty and fashion products at the iZone Ikeuchi store.

For souvenir hunters, there’s plenty of adorable things to take home from the Otaru Taisho Glass Palace. All the beautiful glass beads, cups and lamps in this store aremade by renowned glass artists from the nearby town of Otaru and would make nice keepsakes for friends and families.

If you’re tired fromall the skiing, shopping, dining and nightlife, why don’t you do like the Japanese do and unwind at the onsen a natural hot spring bath?

There are two onsens at the ski resort, found at the Hilton or the Green Leaf Niseko Village.

Both offer indoor and outdoor natural hot water baths with beautiful panoramic views. The outdoor bath at the Hilton boasts a serene pond shimmering with colorful carps.

The Green Leaf option features a natural rock pool, surrounded with snowen crusted tall pine trees.

At these onsens, you can easily kick back and meditate on the natural beauty all around you, as your skin soaks in all the minerals from the hot bath.

If the rigourous outdoor activities have left guests needing a healing touch, the Wakka Spa at the Hilton offers a variety of unique mind-and-body treatments inspired by the indigenous Ainu culture of Hokkaido.

Transport and accommodation

The Niseko Village is quite easy to get to.

From Jakarta, you can take any connecting flights to the new Chitose Airport in Hokkaido.

From the airport, there is awide selection of transportation choices to reach the Niseko Village, ranging fromtrains, coaches, taxis, limousines and rental cars.

The average travel time is around two hours, depending on the weather conditions. There are two hotels at the ski resort — the Hilton and the Green Leaf Niseko Village.

Both are owned and managed by YTL Hotels.

Recently, the group has also launched its newest accommodation, Kasara Niseko Village, which is a collection of townhouses designed according to the Japanese traditional design of machiya, or townhouses.

At the first phase of development currently, there are eight townhouses available, with a total of 42 planned for the Kasara Niseko Village.

These eight fully-furnished town houses are now available for both rent and purchase. Each townhouse has three bedrooms and a tatami room, which can be converted to a futon bedroom.

Each townhouse is approximately 246 square-meters and can easily accommodate six adults and two children.

For more information, visit niseko-village.com

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