ADVERTORIAL • November 2018
With deep, reliable powder, incredible hospitality and an abundance of Olympic-level ski resorts, plenty of those in the know are heading to Japan for their winter sports fix. Ski writer Jonathan Thompson shares five reasons why it’s time to join them
There are more than 500 ski resorts across Japan, but the one thing they all have in common is deep, fluffy powder by the truckload - nicknamed ‘Japow’. Resorts on the northern island of Hokkaido in particular receive up to 55ft of the white stuff a year – more than three times that of perennial British favourite Val d'Isère, in the French Alps. Experts say Hokkaido’s secret is down to its perfect geography: freezing air from Siberia rolls over the Sea of Japan, soaking up moisture before dumping thick layers of snow onto the first mountains it meets. As a result, skiers and boarders flock to the island’s top resorts, including Niseko, Sahoro and Rusutsu.
Japan’s ski scene is not just about regular, reliable snowfall, stunning mountain vistas and long, well-groomed runs. It’s also about soaking in onsen - natural hot springs - afterwards. The perfect way to relax and ease sore muscles following a hard day on the hill, onsen is commonplace in all Japanese ski resorts. Just ensure you know the rules beforehand: you’ll need to shower first, then leave your inhibitions - and all of your clothes - at the door. Your thighs will thank you for it the next morning. (Don’t worry, so will your partner - onsen is strictly single-sex).
Slipping into an onsen might be the first thing you do after coming off the slopes, but there’s plenty more to Japanese après-ski than just hot water. In many resorts you’ll find trendy izakaya (Japanese gastropubs), as well as bars specialising in Japanese whisky and hard-to-find regional craft beers - not to mention sake. In particular, Hirafu Village in the Niseko area is known for its animated après-ski scene, with plenty of lively pubs, restaurants and karaoke bars. So, too, is Tomamu – an upscale resort in central Hokkaido with multiple nightspots, including a couple housed in illuminated igloos.
The Japanese concept of omotenashi – meaning to wholeheartedly welcome and look after every guest – is at the heart of the hospitality industry across the country, and ski resorts are no exception, on both Hokkaido, Honshū and the main island (where the best resorts include Okushiga Kogen, Suginohara and Hakuba Cortina). The standard of service across the mountains is impeccable - and a winning combination when paired with an abundance of superb Japanese food, from ultra-fresh sushi to fiery ramen and artful kaiseki cuisine. Whether you’re staying at a ryokan (classic inn) or a five-star hotel, you’ll be treated like family from the moment you arrive, and the first welcoming shout of irasshaimase!
Unlike most European and North American resorts, the Japanese ski season extends from November to May, meaning a chance to enjoy world-class conditions both earlier and later than elsewhere. Add in four direct flights a day from London Heathrow to Tokyo with British Airways and Japan Airlines, free connecting domestic flights to ski hubs including Sapporo and Yamagata, and free transportation of ski equipment as part of your baggage allowance, and you’ll be hard pushed not to glance east when your thoughts turn to planning your annual trip to the slopes this winter.
British Airways will launch a new four-times-per-week service to the Japanese city of Osaka from March 2019. To discover more, click here
This article has been tagged Advertorial