Destination: Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Champagne powder. The holy grail for skiers around the world. Sure you can get it at Steamboat, Utah and Whistler but for the serious stuff plus a fascinating cultural experience those who ski and ski well head directly to Niseko, Japan.
It might not have the same height or number of runs as Switzerland or Austria but Niskeo makes up for it by having the most copious snowfall in the world; 11 metres of the white stuff during an average winter. The combination of storms flying in from Siberia and moisture from the Sea of Japan creates some of the best powder in the world.
Niseko is made up of four interconnected ski resorts: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and An’nupuri. Mount Yotei dominates the view from almost every corner; it’s often referred to as Yezo Fuji for its similarity to the more famous Japanese mountain.
Traditional ryokans, Japanese inns, make for an incredible experience and you should certainly book a dinner in one of them but for pure luxury you can’t go past the many exceptional hotels and chalets.
Kimamaya by Odin
This design hotel would make a great place to come with friends and occupy all nine rooms. Set in the Hirafu village the Kimamaya is also home to The Barn bistro offering top quality French cuisine and an excellent wine list.
Right in the heart of Niseko village these three-bedroom luxury townhouses are superbly outfitted with every indulgence including traditional Japanese wood baths, personal concierge, complimentary driver and lift tickets delivered to your door. The one-hour private ski instructor and guide on your first day is the icing on the snow cake.
Ten luxury lofts of one to five bedrooms make up this boutique establishment. Suiboko has an industrial style tempered with warm textures and touches of Japanese design. The views of Mount Yotei are simply stunning.
There is no lack of dining options in Niseko with an inordinate number of Michelin starred chefs opening up shop in the resort. There’s everything to satisfy all cravings from French fine dining and top-notch sushi to perfect après-ski comfort meals.
This is project by Michelin starred chef Hiroshi Nakamichi, one of Japan’s leading experts in French cuisine. Here he and Chef Sinichi Sugaya serve a menu of seasonal, local produce using French techniques and Japanese flavours. The result is sublime fine dining in a beautifully designed room. Nakamichi also has the excellent French restaurant Asperges nearby.
Three Michelin starred Chef Michel Bras runs his Toya Japon restaurant from the Windsor Hotel. The menu and ambience is French through and through; exquisitely executed dishes and impeccable service. Go for the degustation to get the full experience.
Headed up by Australian trained chef Shinichi Maeda, An Dining presents high-end traditional Izakaya cuisine. In style, it’s reminiscent of tapas with small plates accompanied by sake or wine. An Dining takes this traditional bar food up a few levels. Go with friends so you can try everything.
Do – Onsen
Niseko is scattered with onsen – traditional Japanese natural hot baths – from pure luxe to old school. It’s nude communal bathing but all onsens are gender segregated and your muscles and mind will love you for it.
Ki Niskeo Onsen
This new hotel has two onsens open to the public both with gorgeous indoor and outdoor stone baths and plunge pools. The mineral rich water comes direct from a mountain source right next door.
This onsen has a spectacular view of the mountain. The natural water here has a very high level of carbon dioxide making it an excellent post ski tonic to improve circulation.
Green Leaf Onsen
One of the few naturally formed onsens, Green Leaf is picturesque and serene. Snow falls onto the surrounding pine trees as your mind and body fully relax into the 40-degree water.