Sunday, January 29: We left our hotel in Tokyo at 7am, walked a block to the metro to the train to the bus to Tokyo Narita International Airport for our flight to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, the north island of Japan. Once we landed, we took the Hokkaido Resort Liner another 3 hours to the Grand Hirafu Welcome Center, right at the base of Grand Hirafu ski area – 70 miles at 30 mph through the mountains, including a pit stop for snack and bathroom break at the Japanese version of a truck stop, where the specialty was local tempura mushrooms. We arrived promptly on schedule and were met by a young kid from Poland with a van to drive us the 100 yards to our hotel. Ten hours later we had arrived, in search of legendary Japanese champagne powder.
Niseko is a collection of 4 ski areas, all interconnected, each with its own village: Grand Hirafu – the largest town and where we are staying - Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono. You can purchase a ticket for one individual resort or the Niseko All Mountain Pass. For 6300¥ (~$56) for an 8-hour day pass, the All Mountain pass is a bargain.
Monday, January 30: By 9:30am, we are on the slopes with our own boots and rental skis and grumpy. The conditions are marginal. Packed powder, crud, some ice. We find a tiny stash of powder, but we had just flown half way around the world for EPIC powder. We ski the day, but I am not having much fun and it is obvious. We call it quits by 3pm, have a soak in the onsen – the Japanese have après ski down! – izakaya dinner (grilled meats and veggies) and an early night.
Tuesday, January 31: It snowed a little overnight. About 2” are on the ground outside of the hotel and it is still flurrying. Ruben swapped out his skis for a pair of K2 Coombacks at Rhythm Rental and we are in better spirits. We decide to take the chair to mid-mountain and take a run down before heading up towards the top. Once off the chair, I just start laughing. The snow is up to my knee! How did 2” at the base turn into a foot at mid-mountain?!? We had found EPIC Powder and proceeded to crush it off-piste for the next 4 ½ hours until we hit a wall. It’s 3:30pm and still snowing. Tomorrow should be another great day in Niseko. :-)