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Spring into Niseko – Top Reasons to Book Your Ski Holiday in Spring

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We all know Niseko delivers that world-famous bottomless pow throughout winter, but the growing popularity, especially during the peak Chinese New Year period, means interest is in overdrive! Fortunately, the low seasons offer a more relaxed pace, and for the best weather and prices we recommend spring time for a getaway to Japan.

With a well-established snow base lasting months after the final snowfall of the season, on top of back to back blue-sky days (a rare event during peak winter months) there’s plenty of reason to get excited about spring skiing in Japan.

 SNOW

spring_park_snowboarder_nisekoAfter months of nearly non-stop powder burying the greater part of Northern Japan, it goes to reason that it doesn’t all simply disappear overnight. Unlike the spring conditions some might be used to in other countries, you’ll be well into May before any sign of earth makes itself shown beneath the slowly receding meters of snow. You might not find much use for those fat-skis, but the groomers are among the best in the world, the park is slushy and soft, and there is some stunning back country touring to be done under crisp blue skies.

 TOURS

niseko_spring_toursYou can enjoy skinning the local peaks, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cat skiing, and more, without climbing into a Tuan Tuan carcass to survive the elements. Instead you can enjoy blue skies, and the stunning beauty of Hokkaido un-besmirched by a blanket of snow-laden clouds or the intense blizzards known to leave meters of snow in their wake.

 FLIGHTS

Japan is within handy travel distance of neighboring Asian countries, at only 4½ hours flight time from Hong Kong to Tokyo, 7 hours from Singapore, and for residents of the southern hemisphere’s oceanic countries it is arguably the most accessible northern winter experience on offer with time zones only varying by a couple of hours. Don’t spend your winter holiday jet lagged!

A number of Low Cost Carriers also offer criminally cheap return flight deals between Australia and Japan – keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky to snag a return flight for less than $400 AUD.

With the cash you’re saving on flights don’t forget to visit Honshu for a few days after your ski trip – the cherry blossoms are in bloom during spring and slowly work their way north making for stunning photo opportunities.

 PRICE

niseko_spring_accommodationWe get it; peak season snow is pretty irresistible if you’re a hard-core powder-hound, but if your first priority isn’t necessarily clipping into the fattest skis on the market and getting chest deep in bottomless powder, then the culture, food, iconic scenery, and world-class service are here to stay no matter which month of the year you land in Japan. If you can forego the powder then you’ll be in a position to really enjoy the benefits of low season travel in the form of massive discounts!

With accommodation on average 60% cheaper during spring, you’re already saving hundreds of dollars a night, and on top of that there are various Spring Sale options on offer at stunning locations such as the 4 bedroom Yutaka – perfect for families – or various studio apartments such as the elegant and modern Full Circle and Hirafu 188 located right in the heart of Grand Hirafu village which are an ideal choice for couples.

Package these accommodation discounts together with the various savings available on rental equipment and ski school lessons, and you’ll barely break a sweat opening the wallet for your next Japan winter holiday. If you’re travelling with kids they may even be eligible for FREE rentals and lessons at top vendors such as NBS – Japan’s leading snow school specialist.

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Contact us today for a custom quote on a Japan Travel Package including flights, accommodation, rental & lessons, transfers, and more. See you in Japan!

Niseko United announces full partnership with Mountain Collective

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Breaking news for powder lovers around the globe! The fabled Japanese ski resort, Niseko United and The Mountain Collective have teamed up, with the world’s powder capital becoming a full partner for the upcoming 2018-2019 winter season, making it the only Asian ski resort to be a part of the illustrious alliance for this season. Mountain Collective Pass holders will receive 2 free days in Niseko and will also receive 50% discount on all additional days (with no blackout dates). An All Mountain Niseko lift pass provides access to all 4 resorts; Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village & Annupuri. This makes the Niseko United lift pass one of the best Japanese lift passes in the country. Read more about the Mountain Collective Pass in Niseko here.

For more information about Japanese resorts, Japanese lift passes, flights, transfers, accommodation in Niseko, or anything else Japow related, contact SkiJapan.com.

 

 

Chitose Airport Cheat Sheet

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There are two types of travelers; the ones who arrive in the nick of time and catch their flight 5 seconds before it departs, and those who are worried they might miss their plane so they arrive at the airport four hours early… for a domestic flight.

Most of the time flights leave on time, however in the snowy capital of Hokkaido sometimes those same elements that bring us the bottomless fresh powder we all love also conspire to cause delays or even shutdowns at the airport due to snowstorms.
For those times when you find yourself with time to spare at Hokkaido’s largest airport we have compiled a cheat(ose) sheet:  Things To Do At New Chitose Airport.

 #1 Snack Attack – Exploring Sweets Avenue and Omiyage Stores

There are plenty of local sweets and treats to purchase for yourself or as a gift at New Chitose airport.

Find Sweets Avenue on 2F of the Domestic Terminal

 

A lot of souvenir shops are located in the domestic terminal area. There are ‘omiyage’ (little local delicacies ranging from sweet rice cakes, cheese tarts, and rice crackers to frozen whole crabs, corn chocolate and melons), as well as stores where you can buy little gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones and friends back home. Most of the ‘omiyage’ stores offer free samplers so you can give treats a taste test before purchasing.

 

#2 Airport Onsen – Relax and recharge before your flight

Chitose Airport onsen is a great place to relax.

Locate the onsen on 4F of the Domestic Terminal

One of this airport’s best kept secrets is their onsen. Open for 23 hours a day, soaking in one of these heated baths is a great way to relax and unwind or even spend the night. They have an indoor and outdoor bath and a relaxation area with massage chairs if you would like to just nap and forget about your worries (eg your delayed flight because of a snow storm).

Hours of operation: 10:00am – 9:00am (open 23 hours a day), prices start from 1500 yen for adults and 800 yen for kids, with overnight stays available from 3000 yen and 1600 yen.

 

#3 A walk to Ramen-bar: Step into ‘Hokkaido Ramen Dojyo’  

If you're feeling hungry at Chitose Airport then try some delicious Ramen.

Fill your belly on 3F of the Domestic Terminal

Hokkadio Ramen Dojyo is an alleyway on the 3rd level of the Domestic Terminal which hosts 10 of the best ramen restaurants from all around Hokkaido, each with their own unique style. The wait time may be long especially during lunch time so make sure to line up early or go just after the lunch hour rush to enjoy the variety of ramen that Japan has on offer!

 

#4 Watch a new release film at Sora Cinema Chitose

Catch the latest film at Sora Cinema at Chitose Aiport.

Watch a film in Oasis Park on 4F area of the Domestic Terminal

If you are stuck at the airport and have time to kill then catching up on the latest film release is a great way to consume a spare hour or two. New Chitose comes well equipped with entertainment in the form of its very own “Sora Cinema”. Think of it as being more productive; once you reach your destination you’ll have more time to enjoy the powder snow, and you don’t have to worry about spoilers on Facebook!

 

#5 Choc-otto maté! Royce Chocolate World for chocolate lovers

The Royce chocolate factory, museum, and shop will keep you entertained at New Chitose Airport.

Royce’ Chocolate World can be found on Smile Road – the connecting path between Terminal 1 & 2

Located on the 3rd level, between the Domestic and International terminal you will find Royce Chocolate World. Royce Chocolate is Sapporo’s home-grown chocolate and is loved by locals as well as gaining popularity internationally. Their chocolate factory inside the airport displays a history of chocolate as well as the story behind the Royce Chocolate company.
Opposite the historic displays you can find chocolate being created fresh behind floor to ceiling windows by a fascinating fully autonomous robotic factory line.

Purchase the freshly made chocolate next door at the store alongside other special seasonal themed items. Make sure to try their chocolate covered potato chips!

 

#6 Play games at Alpina Arcade

Alpina Arcade is full with plenty of fun games to pass some time at Chitose Airport.

Located on 4F of the Domestic Terminal building.

Alpina, New Chitose Airport’s gaming arcade is located just across from the onsen, they have numerous games for the kids and the kids-at-heart. From multiplayer sports games like basketball shooting, and air hockey, to race games like Mario Kart. You can definitely spend an hour or so at this colorful arcade!

Don’t forget to ask our helpful SkiJapan.com Airport Service Desk staff for advice!

Our friendly SkiJapan.com service staff can answer your questions at New Chitose Airport.

SkiJapan.com service desk is located at the arrival gate on the 2nd floor of the International terminal

 

Splitboarding in Japan – Earn Your Turns

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Everyone knows the snow in Japan is among the best in the world, and the resorts are improving lift services to give local and international guests the best powder experience possible. But what if I told you there was an even better powder experience to be had. I bet you’re thinking I’m crazy, and you could be right… but let me introduce you to the wonderful world of splitboarding.

 

What is splitboarding?

Imagine a regular snowboard, cut down the middle with easily removable bindings. With the snowboard in two pieces, the bindings can be re-attached in a similar style to skis with a heel that lifts up. Long strips of ‘fur’, called “skins” are attached to the base which slide in one direction and grip the other. Grab some poles for balance and you’re good to go; uphill! Reach the top of the mountain, remove the skins, clip the 2 halves of the board back together and attach the bindings and you have a regular old snowboard again. This is the magic of splitboarding.

The concept of a free-heel & skin hiking setup is nothing new, but was exclusive to skiers for a long time. The invention of splitboards in the mid 90’s was a revolution for snowboarders. Finally snowboarders could access the same terrain that backcountry skiers had been riding for years. Since then splitboarding has become more and more popular, with new innovations making it even more accessible.

Splitboard VS Snowshoes:

The deep dry Japanese powder is epic to ride on, but not so easy to walk in. Snowshoes can be great when it’s not super deep, but the increased surface area of a splitboard allows much more float on the soft stuff. And instead of lifting up your entire foot each time, you simply need to slide forward. Each step takes a lot less energy this way, and is much easier on knee and hip joints. By having your snowboard attached to your feet, you don’t need it on your bag, taking a huge weight off your shoulders. You’ll have a lot more energy for the really fun stuff; shredding powder!

If you’re on a budget, it’s hard to go past a pair of snowshoes. But if you’re going to be sliding up and down the backcountry fairly often, there’s just no substitute for a good splitboard setup. There’s some technique required too, but it’s all worth it; your hips are going to love you!

How you can Splitboard:

The first step is to get a basic education and understanding of the backcountry. There are backcountry avalanche courses available in Niseko & Hakuba as well as other destinations in Japan. Ask a SkiJapan.com consultant for more info on where to do one of these courses. In Niseko, Hokkaido Backcountry Club actually runs a course where you can demo a Weston Snowboards Splitboard. This is one of the best opportunities to try splitboarding in an educational environment with experienced splitboarders & guides. Once you have the knowledge, the second step is to actually get yourself the backcountry gear and a splitboard. There are a number of places to get a splitboard in Japan, and just like regular snowboarding, there are tonnes of different models and options on the market.

Now for the best part, step 3; go splitboarding in Japan!

 Where to splitboard in Japan:

If you drive anywhere in the Japanese Alps or in Northern Japan during winter, you’ll notice stunning snow-filled valleys and white mountains as far as the eyes can see. Not all of it is open to touring though, so it’s always best to get a guide. They’ll know the best lines, best terrain and, importantly, where there might be any hazards. Generally though, there is superb backcountry around most of the ski resorts in Japan. There are also plenty of accommodation options & guides near the resorts making the rest & relaxation part of the trip a whole lot easier.

If you want to go splitboarding in Hokkaido, there’s Niseko, Furano and Asahidake to name a few prime locations. There are a lot of ‘off the beaten track’ areas near central Hokkaido which are hardly known to outsiders too. Some of the most popular places to splitboard in Hokkaido are Mt. Yotei & Mt. Shiribetsudake, but again it’s best to take a guide. For the extreme, there’s Mt. Rishiri (a volcanic island off the north east coast of Hokkaido) which you can read more about here.

Splitboarding in Hakuba is becoming more popular as the terrain there is big, steep & deep. There are also affordable hotels like the Hakuba Gateway Hotel right in the centre of town for some proper rest. You could easily spend a whole season hiking in the Hakuba valley and just scratch the surface of what’s possible there. Hakuba is quickly becoming a mecca for backcountry in Japan, as more people are drawn in by the extreme terrain options that are so easily accessible. For the less hardcore, there are plenty of moderate trails available too.

To find out more about the best places to splitboard in Japan contact SkiJapan.com.

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