Looking to escape to a winter wonderland this festive season?
While it might seem out of place for a country that’s summer-bound all year round, there are a good number of Malaysians who love to ski and snowboard. One of the few destinations that are a hit amongst locals here? Hokkaido, especially since its ski resorts are some of the best in the world.
Sure there are many other popular locations on the other end of the world, the US, and Canada being two, but closer to home, Japan’s Hokkaido offers equally impressive dry and powdery snow that makes for one of the best holiday experiences in the world, especially if you’re into winter sports. Besides, what better way to end a long ski session than with some piping hot oden and a soak at the onsen?
The ski season in Japan generally runs from mid-December to mid-March, depending on snow conditions. We suggest skipping the peak holiday season in December if you can and booking your flights and ski resorts for next year. If you’re ready, strap on your skis, we’re taking apres-ski chic to Hokkaido this year.
The best ski resorts in Hokkaido for a magical winter wonderland:
(Hero and featured image credit: Gabriela Ceja on Unsplash)
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Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort in Niseko that’s popular for its fine, powdery snow. The locale is the choice property for those looking to be situated in the hubbub of a busy ski resort. It also has the most-developed facilities in the area, with a good selection of snowboard and ski rentals, plus the most options for lessons with an English-speaking instructor in both group and private formats. Besides the stunning slopes, the base at Hirafu also has a kids’ snow park area for little ones to go snow-tubing and build igloos and snowmen.
(Image credit: @nano.yoga via Instagram)
If you’re a beginner skier or snowboarder and you’re still learning the ropes, you might want to skip buying the combined lift pass for all four Niseko ski areas (which includes Hirafu, Hanazono and Annupuri and Niseko Village) and save a couple of yen by getting the lift pass just for Niseko Village. It also has the option of group lessons with an English-speaking ski or snowboard instructor, making it a great option for foreign holidaymakers.
(Image credit: @nisekovillage via Instagram)
If you’re coming with the whole family, then you have to make Hoshino Resorts Tomamu your choice. The locale comes with a 80-metre wave pool, swanky restaurants and a bountiful of activities apart from the ski area, so a multi-night stay here would be a good idea. As for the skiing terrain, it offers a variety of beginner areas, a couple of intermediate slopes, and a few advanced runs with off-piste skiing.
(Image credit: Hoshino Resorts Tomamu)
Sapporo Teine is made up of two areas, Olympia and Highland. The former, which was once the site for the 972 Sapporo Olympic Games bobsled category, has great mellow slopes for beginners. The latter, however, features some of the steepest in-bounds terrain in Japan (1,000 metres above sea level, in fact!), and you’ll be able to ski down with spectacular views of Sapporo and the ocean. While Sapporo Teine might be good for beginners and advanced skiers, intermediate-level powder hounds might want to give this place a miss.
(Image credit: @sapporo_teine_official via Instagram)
Whether you’re on your skiing “L” plate, or you’re an experienced skier, Rusutsu Ski Resort is an amazing choice. Here, adventure seekers can expect an average snowfall of 13 metres, and the slopes offer great off-piste and tree skiing too. The dry powder makes skiing through the slopes a breeze, and we love how it’s relatively uncrowded compared to Niseko.
(Image credit: @rusutsuresort_official via Instagram)
Prince Snow Resorts consists of two zones, Furano and Kitanomine. The 28 trails cater to all experience levels, with slopes that have a long history of serving as the venue for global alpine skiing tournaments. At the base of each area, two ski-in ski-out hotels are also available on the property, serving as a pleasant respite after a long day. Did we mention there are hot springs near the ski area too? Count us in.
(Image credit: @shinfuranoprincehotel via Instagram)
This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia Singapore