• For more information on how to avoid pop-up ads and still support SkiTalk click HERE.

International (Europe/Japan/Southern Hemisphere) Niseko Advice - early January

Rainbow Jenny

Making fresh tracks
Skier
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
836
Location
California and Hokkaido
Considering I have never been, does this seem like a better plan than spending the whole trip in Niseko (with likely side trip for a day to Rusutsu)? I'm keen to get a taste of some less westernized areas and Furano seems to be less than Niseko from what I can tell.
Furano less westernized? Well, I waited in line for the first ropeway in the morning for 4 days in January 2023. My brother owns several Airbnb in Furano. I’d say the 3 of us were among the 15% Asians onboard the 100 passenger ropeway, like Jackson Hole and Snowbird trams. You can decide if that’s less westernized.

I’d stick around Niseko and go to Kiroro, Rusutsu, and TenguYama in Otaru as day trips if you want to check out other ski areas. Or go straight from Chitose airport to Otaru for 1-2 nights to ski TenguYama and Kiroro, then onto Niseko and check out the whiskey distillery along the way.

I learned to ski at Alta while living in Salt Lake in the aughts for six years and continue to go back to AltaBird almost every year. Hokkaido has better and more consistently dry powder. January you will likely have 10 cm of powder every.single.day. So who cares if it’s not as steep?!
 
Last edited:

KingGrump

Most Interesting Man In The World
Team Gathermeister
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2015
Posts
12,008
Location
NYC
Furano less westernized? Well, I waited in line for the first gondola in January 2023 for 4 days, I’d say the 3 of us were among the 15% Asians onboard the 100 passenger ropeway. Think of it as being like Snowbird Tram. You can decide if that’s less westernized.

15%, that pretty good. I would say the Bird tram is usually 4 to 5%. Our presence alone screws the stats.

Nothing beats the 1% of actual Canadians on the Whistler Village gondola rides during January. Almost everyone on that gondola in January are from Australia.
 

Rainbow Jenny

Making fresh tracks
Skier
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
836
Location
California and Hokkaido
15%, that pretty good. I would say the Bird tram is usually 4 to 5%. Our presence alone screws the stats.
I just checked the 2020 Utah census, Asian Americans make up 6% of its population. Tram is somewhat representative of the state demographics.

I think Hokkaido prefecture is probably 99% Japanese, that’s the difference.

btw, I love skiing with @KingGrump& the C-Mafia.
 
Last edited:

Lauren

AKA elemmac
SkiTalk Tester
Contributor
Joined
Jun 7, 2016
Posts
2,561
Location
The Granite State
@Rainbow Jenny - to the rescue again. Faulty research..... Many thanks.
I think this is one of those…it depends on who you ask, and their baseline experience. I have a feeling @Rainbow Jenny has a high baseline for true Japanese culture (RJ, please feel free to correct me if this is incorrect).

In 2020, I found Furano quite a bit less westernized than Niseko. Not necessarily “less westernized” in terms of visitors you’ll encounter at the resort, but I found the restaurants in town and the inn we stayed at to all be run by Japanese hosts. Whereas in Niseko, a lot of the people working in the inn we stayed at and restaurants we visited were foreigners (so many Aussies). In Niseko (the resort), it often felt like English was spoken more than Japanese. I didn't quite feel the same way in Furano.

I think your Niseko/Furano timeline you laid out is doable but might end up leaving you wanting more and feeling rushed. I really like the 1-week itinerary Jenny laid out above with Otaru for a couple days. You could also reverse this itinerary, to have the resort experience at the beginning of the trip, and town/city at the end. Otaru can offer up some of the "less westernized" experience it sound like you're looking for.
 

Rainbow Jenny

Making fresh tracks
Skier
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
836
Location
California and Hokkaido
@Rainbow Jenny - to the rescue again. Faulty research..... Many thanks.
@Lauren is correct that the town of Furano has a more authentic feel but it’s also filled with Chinese tourists. After all, how can you not love a town that hosts the Bellybutton Festival?!


My disclosure is that I still don’t feel most comfortable driving British style with steering wheel on the right side. And my bro has been stranded between Sapporo and Furano for 12 hours during a blizzard. I believe there’s plenty to offer in the Sapporo, Otaru, and Niseko corridor for a week long trip. I’d go for depth over breadth.
 

BMC

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Posts
748
First off - thanks to everyone who has replied and provided me with such great information. I have a real sense of this now.

A few last questions: I have been rethinking the itinerary slightly for the 6 days I have on the ground:

Day 0: Arrive - drive to Furano
Days 1-2: Furano ski
Day 3: Drive to Niskeo, stop in Sapporo / Otaru
Days 4-6: Niseko ski

Considering I have never been, does this seem like a better plan than spending the whole trip in Niseko (with likely side trip for a day to Rusutsu)? I'm keen to get a taste of some less westernized areas and Furano seems to be less than Niseko from what I can tell.

Terrain question: How do these resorts compare to the Cottonwoods? The videos make them look pretty tame. I ski Alta and Solitude a lot and for many years. While I don't ski much of the hike to terrain at these resorts, I have skied Catherine's at Alta last year for the first time and I definitively don't stick to the groomers. I like the soft snow and bumps and medium to widely spaced trees. I consider myself an advanced (btwn intermediate and expert) skier.

Thanks again!
For me personally that’s way too much moving around in a short time frame. But I think I mentioned before I like to set up camp in one spot, so each to their own.

That said, I still think you’d get much the same variety…possibly more…by basing yourself out of Niseko and doing day trips to one or more of Rusutsu, Kiroro, Otaru generally, and not to forget Moiwa is generally forgotten by people in Niseko. Plus Kutchan too.

Not to diss on Furano, but I’d personally not want to be packing and repacking and driving with that level of frequency. Maybe do Furano next trip?
 

dwlighting

Putting on skis
Skier
Joined
Dec 28, 2022
Posts
59
Location
New York CIty
Thanks again! This is so helpful. Sold!
Base out of Niseko and hop around for day trips as desired.

I am a bit nervous about the flipped driving, so there's that to consider as well. Though, I think I will prefer that over waiting for a lot of buses. We have a Nissan XOver, so should be ok with the snow unless it's bonkers. Less packing and unpacking a good point as well

Terrain - from what I can tell, a bit mellower than Alta, yes? Is it possible to access and enjoy the terrain through the gates without a touring setup? I don't have one and I have uncooperative feet, so rental boots are out.

Thanks again.
 

Rainbow Jenny

Making fresh tracks
Skier
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
836
Location
California and Hokkaido
Terrain - from what I can tell, a bit mellower than Alta, yes? Is it possible to access and enjoy the terrain through the gates without a touring setup? I don't have one and I have uncooperative feet, so rental boots are out.
Bring your avalanche gear to go through Niseko gates. Some don’t, but I would recommend it. You can bootpack like you do at Catherine’s, some hikes are pretty steep but not as long as Baldy Main Chute. I cannot believe I’m sharing this in public, while hiking from Niseko peak single pizza box chair King #4 for 10 inches of fresh powder this year, I dropped one of my touring skis and it traveled a good 100 ft downhill. I shouldn’t have removed my skis in the first place but many did, along with the 4 snowboarders I was with. Subsequent laps I kept the skis on and sidestepped my way.

Sapporo Teine’s bump run kicked my ass once again, like the runs off Temerity chair at Aspen Highland. Niseko and Rusutsu both have great tree skiing. Moiwa at Niseko is great for half a day, I met Chris Davenport there. I skied Kiroro once 8 years ago, so memories of it is fading.

https://www.samuraisnow.com/niseko/hpg-backcountry-gate-guide#:~:text=Gate%203%20%2D%20Hirafu%20peak%20gate.&text=Niseko's%20most%20famous%20gate%2C%20above,min%20climb%20to%20the%20peak.
 

crosscountry

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Jun 6, 2021
Posts
1,642
Location
all over the place
A quick side track question for Furano, are there ski rental places in Furano that I can get a communication in English?

I’ve been there before the pandemic. But the lodging I stayed and the place I rented skis doesn’t appear to show up on google map any more. Perhaps they’ve closed due to the pandemic.

I can easily find different lodging. But being able to rent suitable equipment makes and breaks a ski trip. So I would prefer a rental place with fluent English Speaking staff.
 

dwlighting

Putting on skis
Skier
Joined
Dec 28, 2022
Posts
59
Location
New York CIty
Hi. Super grateful for all the info.

Our trip is coming together nicely, though, as I plan more questions come up.

We had to switch our lodging to Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri as our dates shifted by a day.

Car - for getting around, is it more convenient to have a car or not? Is the parking in Harafu and Kutchan tough? Seems the shuttles don't run that late and taxis are iffy?

Dinner Reservations - looking into dinner options the week of Jan 6-13 seems like dinner reservations are a just and walk in is tricky or impossible? I've booked a few places, but was hoping to keep it more casual and not on a clock.

Thanks again! I owe you all a commission! Lol.
 

dwlighting

Putting on skis
Skier
Joined
Dec 28, 2022
Posts
59
Location
New York CIty
Car - for getting around, is it more convenient to have a car or not? Is the parking in Harafu and Kutchan tough? Seems the shuttles don't run that late and taxis are iffy?
Also, coming from US and having never driven lefty, am I crazy to drive from CTS to Niseko? (I am a confident winter weather drIver here in US - just the lefty thing
Thx!
 

Rainbow Jenny

Making fresh tracks
Skier
SkiTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Posts
836
Location
California and Hokkaido
The morning I drove MaryG from Niseko to CTS a while back, we had a lot of shoveling to do off the car and was misdirected by Google map to a closed highway. Thankfully we left early enough to get her to the airport. Pretty stressful for me though.

The fancy hourly shuttle from CTS to Niseko is so convenient, along with Niseko bus, I’d just rent a car from Niseko for a couple of days if I want to go somewhere else or find a guide on those days.
 

BMC

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Posts
748
Hi. Super grateful for all the info.

Our trip is coming together nicely, though, as I plan more questions come up.

We had to switch our lodging to Niseko Northern Resort Annupuri as our dates shifted by a day.

Car - for getting around, is it more convenient to have a car or not? Is the parking in Harafu and Kutchan tough? Seems the shuttles don't run that late and taxis are iffy?

Dinner Reservations - looking into dinner options the week of Jan 6-13 seems like dinner reservations are a just and walk in is tricky or impossible? I've booked a few places, but was hoping to keep it more casual and not on a clock.

Thanks again! I owe you all a commission! Lol.
Annapuri is great, but a bit disconnected from Hirafu (where most of the bars and restaurants are) of an evening. Your hotel is great. I really like it. There’s a few Izakaya bars your way, and the Indian at the bottom of the road is great. That aside, I’ve never eaten of an evening your way. I think most guests of that hotel, much more Japanese than many of the places in Hirafu, probably dine in the hotel for most of their stay.
 

BMC

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Posts
748
Also, coming from US and having never driven lefty, am I crazy to drive from CTS to Niseko? (I am a confident winter weather drIver here in US - just the lefty thing
Thx!
Only if you plan to use a car while there. Otherwise the bus to Niseko is great.
 

BMC

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Posts
748
Do we need one to get between Annupuri and Hirafu/Kutchan for dinner?

Seems shuttles end early. Taxis scarce during busy times.
You won’t need a car just between Annapuri and Hirafu. I’ve done that trip in the opposite direction (Annapuri to just past Hirafu) numerous times in different ways. The only tip is if getting the bus don’t get there too early as standing around at night in the cold ain’t fun.

You can definitely eat around Annapuri. The Hotel you’re staying at has at least two restaurants/eating options. I’ve had lunch at the buffet there many many times, and it’s great. Downstairs there’s a bar area that also does very nice food. There may also be other restaurants in the complex.

In that area I’ve only personally dined at two other places - an excellent western influenced Izakaya bar only a few mins walk downhill from your hotel, and an Indian restaurant that’s very good. I’m sure there are a number of other places, but I’ve never been there. Annapuri is MUCH more Japanese than Hirafu. By and large Japanese visitors stay in their hotel or pension, and eat there. So there are just fewer independent restaurants.

There is a village bus which comes at a modest fee which runs on a loop. I can’t remember timing but of an evening maybe once an hour? The Hotel will be able to tell you when you get there. It’s probably 20 mins by bus from Annapuri to Hirafu. That’s a guess - the timetable will say precisely how long it takes.

There are vastly more restaurants in Hirafu but over a week’s visit you may only be tempted to head that way once or twice.

Also, Niseko Town is only a short skip from Annapuri. you’ll find some much more inexpensive and genuinely Japanese places there. Again, your hotel could give you steer there, including transport.

I‘m sworn to secrecy on the good Izakaya place, particularly on a US website, but it and Taj Mahal are in this list. To be honest that looks like plenty. Theres no overt need to head to Hirafu - you’ll just get more expensive western options. The food around Annapuri is likely to be cheaper, and better.


Incidentally some restaurants now do a pick up and drop off service for a fee, post taxis becoming unreliable. Again, either the restaurant or hotel can give you a steer, and your hotel shou,d be able to make bookings for you.
 
Last edited:

BMC

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 20, 2017
Posts
748
Oh finally, your hotel may also run a bus into Hirafu of an evening. I know for instance the Park Hyatt does that for its guests in Hanazono over to Hirafu (and back).

All these place names will make vastly more sense when you get there lol!
 

Sponsor

Staff online

Top