Growing up on the East Coast, I rarely experienced a powder day firsthand. When we were lucky enough to see a storm produce face-shot-worthy snow, temperatures would likely rise just enough to cap off all the white fluffy precipitation with a light sprinkle of rain. Then, an inevitable overnight freeze would turn every slope into a literal downhill skating rink (East Coasters, you feel me?).
As the years ticked on, my deep love for skiing never wavered, nor did my constant pursuit of powder days. I found myself living in the heart of the Rocky Mountains with access to some of the most legitimate skiing Colorado had to offer. I was satisfied, or so I thought, until I laid eyes on a mythical land in 2007 at the premiere of Level 1’s Realtime, in a segment that filmed in the “Land of the Rising Sun”—Japan.
Tanner Rainville, Richard Permin, Dan Marion and Sean Decker appeared on screen gliding effortlessly through shoulder-deep pow, sometimes completely disappearing from view under the massive amounts of snow. It was inexplicably deep, as if Ullr turned on the faucet and simply forgot to turn it off (for reference, an average season in Niseko yields nearly 46 feet of snow). Although seemingly unattainable, Japan was immediately added to my bucket list… life went on.
Fast forward to present day—Japan’s popularity has grown exponentially as word of its generous snowpack has continued to spread through ski films, magazine articles and social media. Now a major destination for those seeking out their own ski experience of a lifetime, each January and February, our social media channels are inundated with images and videos of those plundering deep snow while simultaneously taking in Japan’s rich culture. I had always assumed those skiers simply had the resources and connections to allow them to circumvent the unavoidable logistical nightmare of such a journey to a faraway land.
Turns out, I was wrong…
Thanks to websites like Kayak and Momondo, booking a flight to Japan is simple. Planning a ski trip to a foreign, relatively non-english speaking country on your own, however, is not so easy. And no, designating a member of the group as “Trip Leader” to a country that neither you, nor any member of your crew has been to before, is not the solution. Trust me, I experienced this first hand on a personal trip to Japan in 2016. While the overall experience was incredible, the added stress of the unknown was a constant.
What is the solution, you ask? Consider Ski.com’s guided trip options in southern Hokkaido. With over 47 years of travel booking under their belt, the glorious humans at Ski.com will handle the full 360-degree logistics of your trip—whether you’re traveling solo, or with a big group (as I was this past January). They’ll take care of booking your flight (you can also do this separately, if you so choose) and then prepare a custom tailored itinerary for your trip. Less is more ladies and gentlemen, especially when it comes to ski vacations on the other side of the globe.
Ski.com’s guided trips cover all the bases:
Airport transportation to and from the hotel:
The moment you step off the plane in Japan, the confusion quickly sets in as you navigate your way through herds of exhausted travelers. Luckily, I located our driver in baggage claim holding a sign with my name on it. Relief poured over me, as nearly all postage signage was in Japanese. Thankfully, the transfer was all lined up by Ski.com, allowing me to relax a bit after my overseas flight.
Seven nights lodging at the Green Leaf Hotel (includes breakfast):
With unobstructed views of 6,227-foot Mt. Yotei, the Green Leaf is located at the base of 4,292-foot Mount Niseko Annupuri. The hotel lies in the heart of Niseko Village and offers access to both indoor and outdoor onsens and an outdoor thermal pool, should you want to enjoy a Sapporo Classic or two with your crew.
Six days guided skiing in Niseko:
There are countless benefits to having a guide while skiing in a foreign land, especially when it’s snowing so hard the trail signs are completely covered. They are extremely knowledgeable, personable and they’ll prevent you from getting stuck on long traverses, a commonplace in Japan. There are a lot of guide services in Niseko, and some of them have better reputations than others. The guide can make or break your trip, and Ski.com has vetted the guides and only sets people up with the real deal.
The guide also provides transportation to and from resorts in southern Hokkaido, which is necessary to chase storms. As close as the resorts in the region are to one another, cloudbursts can sit above one area and drop 20-plus centimeters of snow while a neighboring resort may only receive a dusting. Don’t get caught with your pants down, spring for a guide and don’t forget to tip!
Editor’s note: a significant sampling of guides are not only badass skiers, but also pack a heavy Australian accent. Should you be traveling with your wife and/or significant other, be sure to keep them at arm’s length at all times.
Welcome / Farewell Reception & Group Dinner:
For those traveling solo, the welcome reception provides an excellent opportunity to link up with other adventure seekers on the trip before hitting the slopes. By the time the farewell reception comes along, chances are you have made a few once in a lifetime memories, and lifelong friends.
Hokkaido is like no other ski destination in the world. The friendly locals provide a deep rooted cultural experience, while their landscape serves up a truly breathtaking aesthetic to your stay… and don’t forget the plentiful powder snow. It’s never too early, or late, to make this dream your reality.
If not now, then when?