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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Niseko (review)
    Posted: Feb/22/2010 at 5:15pm
PreambleTheres plenty of people who've been here, so there will be a thousand different opinions on this place. Some will say its trashy, overrun, tracked out garbage and that theres way better places to ride for powder. They are probably right, but i havent been to any of these places, so its not like i can compare it, all i can talk about is niseko as it was to me and how i found it, so that's what i'm going to do.

Where:Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Niseko trail map (best i could find)
or go here for pdf:
When:Mid February 2010 at the end of my 3 week Japan trip (i was pretty exhausted to be honest before i even arrived which accounts for a lot of my night skiing :)).
Who:I've had about 40 days TOTAL riding (this year included), so not too experienced. Meeting people with 100 days *this year alone* and a decade plus of experience really brought to home that i'm pretty much still in the realms of beginner/intermediate. I mention this so that when you flame me for being googly eyed in amazement at niseko you understand a bit more where i'm coming from.
Cost:5,500 yen per day. Seems expensive at first, until you realise a day pass lasts until 9pm and that the night course is EXTENSIVE. Overall, definitely a great deal. Plus you can drop the price by around 700 yen if you buy a pass to your favourite part of the mountain, (or you can just ride on an 8 hour pass for 4900 yen). Pretty much comparable to all the other major resorts in japan in truth.
prices
Snow Conditions: Day 1 and 2, Powder, day 3: tracked out powder. Day 4 slightly crusty tracked-out and sun affected powder. :) Basically powder, but spoiled Hokkaido dwellers probably have a 100 different words for it.
Resort Conditions:All gates open (though they tended to shut down around 2pm), all lifts running. Pretty much couldn't ask for anything better.
Resort Facilities: Go late and go hungry. Niseko is top dollar, so at the foot of hirafu are hotels. How i longed for some typical japanese trashy ski food while i was there, but unless youre happy paying 3000 yen for your dinner, you'll be probably eating at the combini or having to trek half way back to your hostel for some scran. It seems kinda annoying that a place that seems to really push its nighta doesnt have anything more extensive than a combini where you can grab something to eat. Still, combini price chuhi makes up for it! :D If there's one negative to niseko its pretty much the lack of nighta food.
Other Info:If, like me, you turned up at Niseko at around 9pm with nowhere to sleep because you had a Japanese rail pass (and none of the people you tried on snowjapan.com had accommodation available), make sure you get off the train at KUTCHAN. Do not for the life of you get off the train at Niseko. There's NOTHING at Niseko train station. I learned this, so you don't have to. Also, Ramblers backpackers seemed semi empty (its on the street just after Australia house to the right of Seico mart (if you're looking at it), going DOWN the mountain. Grab a map of the area and you'll find it, its above an izakaya (yabisomethingorother). Its also dirt cheap: about 3200 yen a night. There, now you don't have to suffer like I did! :)

Review:Niseko seriously blew me away. My preconception of Niseko was a nice big resort with a bit more powder. My preconception was way off. I mean, it was all that for sure, but what Niseko offered that i hadn't seen anywhere else in Japan was this: Freedom to ride where you wanted. Not just a blind eye to ducking ropes or hiking up past the top lift like you get at Myoko, but an actual explicit commitment to you going where you want.

To someone skiing in Hokkaido for a while, this may seem like a no brainer, and there are maybe hundreds of resorts with the same overall philosophy (only with less people, better lines and more interesting terrain), but to my Nagano filled eyes this was a revelation and it couldn't have come at a better time for me. The only ropes i saw in the entire resort were the ones at the very top gates (which are open until 2pm), and the ones stopping you killing yourself in the two valleys (plus the avalanche control area in Niseko village, which you can ride if you complete a FREE avalanche safety course run by the resort). (ETA: there are also ropes under a few of the lifts which I forgot to mention). So long as you stay within those cordons and you can pretty much go anywhere you like.

In my 4 days I barely ran an officially marked course. Indeed I can probably count on 1 hand the number of officially listed courses I ran, instead they were usually used as the connectors between various random tree runs or ways to get back to the lifts. For me, this was an absolute revelation and really had me excited to be riding again. Because you could go anywhere, you could just make up yoru own course, so there really was no need to play with the groomers, you could just follow the powder wherever the hell it went :)

A few random examples:
Pop out of the top of gate 1 head down through some trees, pop off a small drop, and BAM! you're playing in a natural halfpipe. :) Also, theres a run at the edge of hirafu, its well tracked, but about as wide as maybe two snowboards and snakes for 5 minutes down the mountain, to get it you just need to ride through random stacks of trees. I tried, but never found it again :) Finally, my absolute favourite run was at the top of the ace 2 quad. Head skiers right into the trees, go all the way to the gultch, then when you hit the rope, head through a few more trees and suddenly you're at a nice big powder bowl. Blaze through that, bounce over the official mogul field, then you're up under the lifts playing through the trees on the other side.
It's those kind of experiences that made Niseko for me, those little tiny acts of discovery and exploration that gave you a small taste of what its like to hit the back country. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting its actual back country or anything, only that it gives you that vibe and a little teaser of the more natural terrain and obstacles that you're not really getting on a normal groomer. This isn't the wilds of Hokkaido or anything like that (since even heading out of the gates at the top (the non-patrolled area of the resort) always felt pretty safe). But it was a definite taster of what's to come in the next few years and I'm honestly pretty excited by it.

Overall I think i hit Niseko maybe a year or so too early. Or maybe I just didn't stay there anywhere near long enough to really get used to it, either way it was a great place to learn some of the ropes and realise some of the things that are still a little out of my depth (drops, for example, are things I definitely want to work on next year, kept riding up to them and then bottling it :)). nevertheless it was the scene of some of the most fun riding I've ever had, and I honestly think its because it just let me go where I wanted.

...Oh, and I forgot to mention the powder. It's everywhere, literally everywhere, in fact it's so everywhere I didn't even need to mention it in truth, it's pretty much a given.

Anyway, here's some pics. Mainly night skiing, but I think I managed to get a couple of nice shots in the daytime too (excuse the size, facebook shrunk them all to crap size).

Skiers playing in the powder up near the top gates.


The view from the top of my favourite run on a bit of a cloudy night:


Wheeee! near the top again.


Mucking around in the trees


Annapuri summit


Twinkly lights ta the foot of the mountain looking at the nighta


Playing in the non patrolled part on annapuri


At the top of the ace 2 quad lift


Concluding remarks: I came away from Niseko utterly delighted. It really captured my imagination and set the bar much higher for the kind of experience I really wanted to have on my board. I can honestly think of no higher praise than to say that my experience at Niseko absolutely changed the way I look at resorts. I doubt I can honestly ride a normal resort again without feeling a bit penned in. As I said, my preconception of Niseko was a large powder resort full of aussies, the reality is a place that blurs the boundary between resort and non resort. You'll still feel like you're in a resort even when you pop out of the gates (which is the dealbreaker i guess for a few people), but you'll also feel that gentle nudge in the back towards a totally different world of riding and progression. For me, Niseko is the place where I honestly think I fell in love with snowboarding.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/23/2010 at 5:21pm
Yeah its a crazy place... 2nd snowiest Resort in the world..

You can Climb the peak and board or ski Crazy deep pow down the east face of Mt Annupuri in Niseko


Watch this video I shot with my headcam on Sunday..
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 1:41pm
i'm so jealous!!!! i'm going soon. i know it.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 1:55pm
r i d i c u l o u s.....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 3:02pm
I've spent almost a month there and have to say that it blew me away.  It's not a huge place but when you have the amount of snow that they have, it doesn't need to be.  I had a few days of chest deep (that's chest deep) freshies in the trees that was almost unrideable.

Most days you could find fresh tracks even if it hadn't snowed for a few days.  I've even done some knee deep runs on the groomed runs.

One thing you need to learn when riding Niseko, how to deal with face shots because you will get them turn after turn.

Night life was ok.  And it was very cold.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 4:49pm
I just got home from there and agree that you are spot on with the powder everywhere! I love it how you can get to a few different resorts just by taking a couple chairs and traversing around the mountain range.
The park at Hanazono is amazing going through the pipe, into the jump line and then down to the rail garden and even strawberry fields always seemed to have fresh lines well into the afternoon. The funny thing is its just like being at home where it seems 80% of the people at Hirafu were Australians. I guess its payback for surfers paradise!
I agree with the food at some spots were expensive like at the bottom of some gondolas like at the Hilton but the buffet there was drool worthy!
A few of the other places like Hanazono i could get a coke and noodle bowl for about 1000 yen. Thought that was reasonable but i usually jsut made my lunch. :)

Did any of you guys travel a bit further past Annapuri to Chisenupuri? It is this small one chair resort and i think for the whole day there was about 50 people all up there. It is on an army base and you can see the soldiers practising their skiing its an awesome little spot. Plenty of tree runs with insane powder, groomers never got choppy and awsome ridge drops only a 5min hike from the trail. Best thing was you get a free lunch with the lift ticket! Only employees on the hill seemed to be about 5 lifties with no one else around. Have some videos and photos form there i will sort through and put up soon.

The best day for me was at Rusutsu down the road. Was blue skies all day (pretty rare for Japan) and had the most amazing powder lines just off the grommers. That theme park there just looks so odd with the waterslides and rollercoasters everywhere. I guess they need something to keep the tourists there through summer.

You are spot on with the comments about the gates where you can just go do your own thing and not feel like you have to stick to a certain route. I also have fallen for that part of the world enough to been keen to learn a little more Japanese and do some work over there. I seriously is one of the most amazing places to ride.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 4:51pm
now they got HAMMERED! 
shakazulu12:(2:15PM) Nyle (Giftedhands) gets really big and turns green when angry.


BAAHAhahahahha
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 4:55pm
Rusutsu is awesome.  I spent a couple of days there.  Awesome runs just out of bounds.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 5:17pm
How stunning are the views of Mount Yotei from the summit. Can see the ocean from one side then you turn around and there is this massive volcano!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Feb/27/2010 at 7:18pm
must get to japan next year.

You've got exactly 15 minutes in CO after a storm to fresh before it's tracked out..

Unreal that you can always seem to find fresh there...

God bless you japan powder whores..
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/02/2010 at 5:12am
Niseko is alright but skip the loud obnoxious gaijin and go somewhere better. Sapporo Kokusai, Rusutsu, Kiroro, or even Sapporo Teine. Niseko is tracked out, crowded and icy most of the time. On top of that everything is overpriced. The bars are sketchy and Hirafu is just plain weird. It doesn't even feel like it is in Japan. I went there a lot last year and my best friend lived and worked there all season. This year I had to skip the trip, but, everyone said it was wind blown ice. You can get deeper, fresher powder elsewhere, if you duck a rope or two.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/11/2010 at 10:16pm
I missed out this Feb. Def going to be there in December.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/12/2010 at 3:47am
That's pretty damn rad.  Thanks for posting up and sharing!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/25/2010 at 6:41pm
do they light up the terrain park at night as well?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/25/2010 at 6:44pm
i dont think i even saw the park im afraid. I was too busy dotting in the trees. It wasnt really a park adventure for me im afraid.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/25/2010 at 10:14pm
Awesome - so do I go back to Nozawa next year or try Hokaido instead
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar/25/2010 at 10:30pm
I loved nozawa, but its a totally different thing. For me its not even a debate, aside the two days i spent in nozawa, i consider every other day i didnt spend in hokkaido a waste. Hakuba was fun, but mainly because i know a few people there. I was also really lucky with my timing (it got puked on the week i arrived in japan). Zao on the other hand left a massive ugly taste in my mouth. COuld be fun, but wasnt really for me.
Niseko on the other hand (which was a last minute "ah shtook it! i should get the most out of this railcard even if ive nothing planned and its the chinese new year") was a spectacular success. And if you want something more sedate, theres loads of places all over hokkaido to go play in. It will genuinely blow your head off. Nozawa, as i say was genuinely fantastic, but its a totally different ride and massively different scale. Next year ill be spending my entire vacation in hokkaido and probably basing myself at niseko.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/08/2010 at 5:42pm
I did a working holiday up at niseko and got a lot of riding done during that time. It's great place, with access to three (and a half if you count hanazono) resorts from just one mountain.

The main three are:
Hirafu(plus hanazono)
Higashiyama
Annupuri

Hirafu is the one famous for the aussies, and is the biggest in terms of area and town. Higashiyama is where I was based. Its centred around one hotel (the hilton) and is therefore targeted towards the more luxury travelers. The higashiyama part of the mountain is smaller than Hirafu, but has a treasure trove of terrain, in particular it has a great natural valley which is F'ING awesome to ride. I swear i could never get sick of it.
Annupuri is great, particularly for its night skiing.
Hanazono is a small resort located just off hirafu, and its where the park stuff is located.
All of these resorts are accessible by taking the gondola to the peak. In fact, i got so carried away riding that i ended up in different resorts all the time.

One thing for sure about niseko is that it is essential that you explore. The groomed runs are great, but the real fun is found when you go off trail on any of the resorts. There's literally hundreds of things you can find.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/08/2010 at 5:44pm
oh, and props to the opening poster for a great review with great pics
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/08/2010 at 10:38pm
How do you need to spend at Niseko per day for everything, ie. food, accom, transfers, lift pass etc?
 
I know everybody has different comfort levels with regards to accom / food but I'd be probably looking at pretty simple stuff - I'm there for the snow!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/09/2010 at 2:02am
theres a combini (convenience store - open this thread and you even get to learn essential japanese!) at the base of hirafu, so really you can go with a couple of onigiri (rice triangles) with YUMMY ume (plum) inside. theres actually more, but i love ume onigiri. Basically, theyre about 120 yen, so theoretically, grab a couple of them and a chu-hi (alcopop) and thats what 500 yen a day for lunch. As i said theres some cheap accomodation. theres a couple of backpackers, ramblers for one, and if i had the map of the other id mention its name but i forget now. Both will set you back around 3000 yen a night if its short stay, and even better rates for longer stays. Not sure what you mean by transfers, but youre literally at the mountain so if its buses, nothing if youre in hirafu. Basically, a 7 day week might set you back around 70,000 yen if youre frugal to around 100,000 if youre getting wrecked every night. It can go as low as 50 or so if you buy tickets in advance and secure longer term rates on accomodation i reckons. Hope this helps.

And andyooi, spot on about leaving the trails and doing your own thing! its exactly what i loved about the place.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/12/2010 at 4:50pm
I was there for about 10 days and here's my thoughts. I'm from Australia so the experience was absolutely foreign to me as we don't really get that soft white stuff other people call powder here

Pros

- Powder. Epic amounts on/off piste
- Very central town (Hirafu) with some really good/cheap accomo 
- Mountains are very big. Transport/lifts to other mountains is quite easy so you're not stuck in the bottleneck at hirafu

Cons/stuff that i found irritating 

- Hirafu is littered with drunken clowns
- It dumps hard. I've never seen so much snow and visibility can be testing at times
- If it doesn't dump (which is rare) and is a sunny day (very rare) on piste runs are very icey. When I was there there was a massive cold front so the sunny day we had was -15 degs lol
- Windy as a mofo ! Lifts closed early about half the days we were there
- Restaurant food in Hirafu is overpriced and not particularly good
- The central Quad lift in hirafu is insanely busy in the morning as it is the bottleneck

All in all was an awesome experience. A must do for anyone who has the opportunity to. Next time i'll check out some of the other resorts in Hokkaido
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/19/2010 at 8:21pm
This Is all great stuff thanks for posting it, i'm heading to Niseko in January 2011 for the month with a bunch of mates we cant wait to go, we've booked a house in the village n our entire trip cost us around $6000 each that includes lift pass air fares transfers and our accom so we're pretty stoked!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/19/2010 at 8:32pm
thanks for the info guys thinking of heading to japan end of this year
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/05/2010 at 11:32pm
yeah, partly im just looking for an excuse to bump this, BUT.

If youre going to niseko this year or EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT and planning on spending about 20ish days riding, then you NEED to do this:

30% all mountain discount season pass for 104,000yen

You are in no way bound to actually buy it. And you can pay for it any time between now and January 31st. All you need to get the 30% is a return email dated this month :) All you've done is told them your name and email address in august. Thats it!

Hows about that then kids?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/06/2010 at 7:25am
thanks for the heads up. ill be sending them an email. just in case i spend a lot of time there.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/06/2010 at 7:46am
sounds great!
hopefully i'll be able to hit it up this year... i've been itching to go for awhile now..
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/07/2010 at 1:44am
that's a good deal.  i am planning to go to niseko but not for that long
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/07/2010 at 4:01am
Excellent deal, but shame Moiwa (my fav resort in Niseko for pow) still isn't included. Actually that's probably a good thing, cause I like Moiwa uncrowded :)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/09/2010 at 2:12am
Awesome Review, really helpful. i'm thinking of going over to Niseko in January if i can get the money, would love to shred that powww
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/11/2010 at 6:27pm
zhenjie. how does moiwa compare to hirafu in terms of size and terrain? also, is there a park there?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/11/2010 at 6:47pm
wow. looks good. im always astounded by shots of resorts in australia and japan because of the trees there. looks almost alien to see trees like that on snowy mountains, so different than the states.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/11/2010 at 6:54pm
That's beautiful. We are looking to take a trip there next year!! (fingers crossed)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/11/2010 at 7:20pm
wow. looks good. im always astounded by shots of resorts in australia and japan because of the trees there. looks almost alien to see trees like that on snowy mountains, so different than the states.


You think thats sick, you should see zao man. I'd LOVE to do a write up for you, but i had a shitty time there and it was only for two days. I mean, if it was awesome then id write up, because 2 days of fun is nice, but i know a LOT of people love zao, and my review would be overly negative and not do it genuine justice.

But i'll link you to this thread because the photos are BEAUTIFUL.

Zao Onsen, Yamagata trip report on Snowjapan - MUST SEE!!! SERIOUSLY!!! :)

And ill steal two of the photos just so you get a bit of a teaser. :)





If anyone else wants to do a write up of it, i'd love to read it though. If i was there for longer i know i would hae fallen for it, but the first day, if you dont know where youre going can get shitty.

Lets just say: 1. Massive flat parts, followed by 2. Crappy expensive lunch, followed by 3. Ridiculous gondola queues up the top, and followed by 4. The worlds most unexpected and annoying queueing system at the bottom gondola where you had to take a ticket and THEN WAIT for an hour and a half to use the bloody thing.

(So we walked to the other gondola and vowed to stay away from that side of the mountain (the side with the snow monsters). Unfortunately, thats what zao is all about, so although the rest of it is sorta fun, and it has lots of awesome terrain to play in, it felt like i wasnt really getting my zao experience).

If you KNOW about the whole queue thing at the bottom, and you KNOW that theres a really long crappy flat bit up top to get to that side of the mountain, then youre golden. You can prepare in advance. If you dont, and you expect to just hop in to the gondola, youll get a nasty surprise :) Maybe i should spend next year exclusively at zao as a penance :)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/14/2010 at 10:06am
i know this has been said in a thread elsewhere, but wheres the best place/site to book domestic flights from tokyo to sapporo (haneda to new chitose). what would be the cheapest airlines during January/ February?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/16/2010 at 3:41am
You actually live in japan dont you? hmmm, then i think your one shot at a really cheap flight is the birthday deal. I dunno if it still exists, but i remember that jal i think it was had this deal that if it was within a week of your birthday, you and 4 mates could fly anywhere in japan for 10,000 yens. Outside that your genuine best bet is to find a japanese mate to start doing all the wingdinging for you. Theres some bargains as well in newspapers, but again, if you cant wingding, you aint getting them. And watch out for foreigner price inflation. Airlines have been caught several times quoting higher prices to foreigners. Sorry, never really flew domestically, so thats the best ive got for you :)

If youre cioming from outside japan though you can get a 12,000 yen flight easy peasy. I think i quoted the website in thsi thread somewhere with the details.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/16/2010 at 5:12am
from the pictures, i have never seen that much snow... Are you sure Zao was crappy?  There must be something good if there is that much snow...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/18/2010 at 8:29am
zao is stunning, it has some fantastically diverse terrain (and arguably the hardest mogul field in japan - saw one dude try it, wiped and slid from the top right down to the bottom :) It was a good 100 or so meters of pure hard pack steep. His mate was killing himself laughing :)). There IS something to do, but you know how it is, if your first day blows so hard that you cut yourself off from one side of the mountain entirely (arguably the most impressive side), then its going to have a knock on. If i was there for 5 or 6 more days i would have gotten over my huff, but i was only there for two days :) Thats why i said id LOVE to do a review on it, but would feel it wouldnt capture it even remotely fairly.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 2:30am
hey sweet review mate, niseko sounds unreal. i'm heading there in Feb '11 with a mate and cant f-cking wait! anyway, just a quick question. relative to Aus/NZ, how much colder is it snowboarding in Japan? i've heard it's freaking cold, so i was wondering how rugged up we'll need to get. i've boarded in -7 degrees celsius in France on overcast days and that wasn't too bad, will Japan be much worse? 
cheers
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 2:38am
it was consistently -10 - -15 at night. Rarely went out in the day, but i do remember a few times thinking "damn, i definitely should have worn another layer or two". Its not warm if thats what youre asking? And can get pretty windy on occasion. :)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 3:23am
Wow, beautiful pics!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 4:08am
crap this is awesome!! thanks for all the infos!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 4:43am
Originally posted by icicles

crap this is awesome!! thanks for all the infos!!


hahaha yeah, i think you should go there instead of hakuba
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 5:12am
Originally posted by dxdx

Originally posted by icicles

crap this is awesome!! thanks for all the infos!!


hahaha yeah, i think you should go there instead of hakuba


yeah.. I think I should! but still.. me and my friends are going to Tokyo no matter what! since the ticket is only 10,000 yen, right?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 1:25pm
sweet, cheers mate. ill make sure to take a few extra layers, just in case. why didn't you board much during the day? ive heard the night skiing is pretty awesome, does it live up to the hype? Also, does the resort get closed from bad weather/wind very often?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 3:54pm
also, what are the crowds like? how long does it take to queue for a lift roughly?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/12/2010 at 4:01pm
the night skiing really does live up to the hype. They open up something about the size of a good size resort.

And the crowds are normal. There are a couple of bottlenecks, but outside those you'll be on a lift after only a few minutes max.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/13/2010 at 4:54am
Oh man, that looks so awsome, seriously so amped to head to japan this season, I just want the beginning of December to hurry up! :)
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/13/2010 at 3:51pm
I must say, getting chest deep (literally) blower powder at 8 o'clock at night under flood lights is an experience seared into my brain, and one that I doubt I could compare to anything else.

From my 16 days there i'll outline some of thoughts, Ippy style:

Pros
- Snow - both quality and quantity. Definitely the lightest, fluffiest pow I have ridden (comparing to multiple BC resorts and NZ) and consistently deep. When it snows, it snows hard - some days it was dumping hard enough that your tracks could get filled out within the space of one run. Almost snowed non-stop for the entire duration of our stay
- Size - its a nice sized resort (not massive, but definitely not small) with a layout that is very easy to get your head around. Being a conical volcano, you can access any part of the mountain from the highest lifts. If you are willing to look a little harder you can find good stuff inbounds that will stay untracked
- Weather - It's cold, so the snow stays in pretty good knick, and the sun does have a propensity to come out, albeit in brief bursts between snow
- Village - staying in Hirafu, it has more of a ski resort feel to it compared to other Japanese resorts, its nice and compact.
- Terrain - nothing to really scare the crap out of you, but just good fun with plenty of natural features. There is a well maintained park in the Hanazono area, including a pipe (but this area is not lit up).
- Night skiing - AMAZING. A mind blowing amount of terrain is accessible when it goes dark, and most people are too buggered to stay out all day, so the crowds are down. Lift tickets don't seem so expensive when you factor in that it allows you to ski from 8am - 9pm
- View - Mt Yotei looks pretty cool with the sun shining on it
- Easy access to backcountry - If thats your thing, it can be done easily and with, apparently, great rewards

Cons
- Culture - Or should I say distinct lack of it. Heaps of Aussies, alot of whom seem to be real bogans (If you've ever been to Bali you'll know what I mean) so give places like Wild Bills a wide berth if you don't want to be punched. And the Japanese culture seems to be very sanitised to please the Western palate. It exists, but you have to scratch hard to find it during the peak tourist season. Or just go to Kutchan
- Weather - Wind is a big problem, so take lots of layers, and face warmers are like gold. Wind holds on lifts are very common and can very easily keep the top half or two thirds of the mountain shut for the entire day. However if you're alert to lifts opening after a wind hold for an entire day you can get epic windblown snow in any of the numerous gullies. Watch the icy roads, they are a death trap after a few beers with inadequate footwear on
- Crowds - Morning queues for the gondola in Hirafu can get pretty insane, and all the good spots - Strawberry and Blueberry Fields etc etc - get tracked within 20 mins. When the gates open to get sidecountry access things can get nasty
- Backcountry access - not so much of an issue for most, but it is something that really worries me. I saw plenty of unequipped and unskilled folk do ridiculously dangerous things because they could access certain areas so easily. People hucking cornices into loaded faces with 5-10 of their mates standing below just screams idiocy, but I witnessed it all too often

Don't be put off though, the place is epic. The pros far outweigh the cons, and some people really like the fact that it is very Westernised. Personally, I'll be hiring a car next time and checking out a few places closer by which don't get the tourists, but I will definitely go back to the big N in the near future
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Oct/13/2010 at 3:58pm
One more thing:

- Wax your board, at least every third day, but preferably every day. The cold snow with a low moisture content really dries out your base quickly, and there are certain spots on the mountain where speed is a necessity to avoid having to skate/walk. It will just make the overall experience more enjoyable
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