I received an e-mail from Hawaiian Airlines today that they are going to start service from Hawaii to Sapporo japan. I've been hearing a lot of tales about the powder in japan. It's not that much further for me to go there than Colorado. Has anyone skied in the area and have any recommendations and info. Just dreaming for now, but hoping to turn into reality.
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Sking near Sapporo Japan
Gear mentioned in this thread:
Try to come in January or February, preferably second half of Jan or first couple of weeks in Feb for the best powder.
Niseko is probably the easiest place to start, as a good international vibe, plenty of good restaurants and bars and you won't need more than a half-dozen words of Japanese to get by -- but, unlike the old days the in-bounds powder gets skied out fast now.
Rusutsu gets a bit less snow, but as it's further inland tends to be lighter and there's a little less traffic in the trees.
Just under 10 hours to Chitose (the Sapporo airport) from Honolulu, but keep in mind it'll be a 2.5 hour bus ride to Niseko, about 2 hours to Rusutsu.
Going to Niseko in a couple of weeks (18 days!) and it will be my first experience skiing out of the US. I'll actually be in that area for a month, and plan to see as much of Japan as possible while there with my family, though since it is Winter I'm not sure how much I'll actually see. :) Depending on the snow, I'm not sure exactly when/where I'll be skiing the whole time, though Rusutsu is on the hot list. I'm on some Rossi S3s and hope that they are appropriate for everything there. I'm solid on blacks, wide bumps, and just started to dabble in some of the "easier" double blacks. I guess that makes me a Level 8 skier?
*For anyone that has been there (or, even better, skied there this season?), are there any must-not-miss runs or points of interest along the way?
*Are there any cultural barriers or matters of etiquette I should be aware of while there? I don't speak the language and don't plan on having a guide.
*Normally I take my lunch onto the mountain; is this acceptable in Niseko or is it the custom to eat on-mountain at a restaurant or lodge?
*I'd love any other tips, recommendations, or warnings about the area in general!
Thanks so much!
Sapporo.... Teine, Sapporo Kokusai... Headed a bit south down the road, Rusutsu, Niseko (Hirafu). There are so many ski areas in Japan you could spend years there and not hit them all. Are you headed to Honshu as well?
My time there was pre-Aussi invasion. From what I've heard, the whole Niseko thing is becoming Japanese as a second language. Manners. Peruse the usual 'when in Japan' books and read up on bathing. DON'T miss a good bath at the end of a ski day. It's one of life's greatest pleasures aside from the snow while you're there. Look up drinking/pouring manners as well and be careful to pace yourself. Japan can be hell on the liver if you don't.
In general, Niseko and surrounds aren't particularly steep or technical, so you'll probably be quite comfortable with much of the terrain. Teine has a couple of steep spots, but I don't know if you'll get there. You might find your S3's will feel a bit slim if you hit a bit storm cycle, so have a look for some bigger skis. Assuming you're a woman by your handle, I'd say a Salomon Rockette 115 or Nordica La Nina (113). would be a pretty dandy Hokkaido ride. There aren't going to be a lot of bumps, so not really a concern overall. I'm envious. Have fun and report back!
Thank you! I'm definitely slightly concerned the overwhelming variety of sake available will have a detrimental effect on my skiing... ;)
I love my S3s for just about everything, but I was certainly wondering if the epic powder that Japan is known for would be too much for them. Though, I'm taking them anyway. I assume Japanese resorts also have demo skis available, so I might have to try some fatter skis if we get some really big dumps.
I will be going to Honshu, but as of yet I don't really have a plan.
Keep it coming, folks! I appreciate it! :)
Honshu... stop by Nozawa Onsen. Second oldest area in Japan. Pretty mellow cruisy skiing, but fun. Hakuba area: Happo One... the biggest, Happo 47. I'm not a big fan of Tsugaike and the other areas unless they're a starting point for touring up above the area which is the real magic of the whole Hakuba area. Lifts go to 1650m. The mountains go to 3000m. Don't go up without a guide, but if you're interested, look up 'Rappi'. Matsumoto-san's shop is small but chock full of gear and knowledge as well as into guided touring lessons.
The Myoko-kogen area ski resorts are nice and pretty mellow cruising for the most part and fun.. you'll love your S3's there. If you have particular cities you want to see, there can be some pretty great skiing within a stone's throw. If you go to Kanazawa for a cultural fix, about 45-1h away is a little area called 'Seymour'... just an awesome little playground with some nice steeper terrain.
FOrgot about Furano in Hokkaido. Look into it as well.
My feature article on Niseko and Hakuba from January 2011:
If I lived in Hawaii and had direct air service to Sapporo I would be there at least a week every January.
Edited by Tony Crocker - 12/29/12 at 12:30am
Hi, I was in Niseko 2 years ago and had a fantastic time. Stayed at The Vale Niseko hotel, which was nice. On my next trip I would probably stay at the Niseko Alpen Hotel. There was not a big dump of snow while I was there, but the well groomed slopes were enjoyable. If you are there in early February, check out the Sapporo snow festival http://www.snowfes.com/english .
Wow the snow festival looks amazing! I'm not sure if we'll get to that, but I've added it to the list of potentials. We'll be in Niseko from the 19-26. At that point, we are not sure if we will continue on to Honshu or explore more of Hokkaido. I have two boys, 12 and 14, and their biggest desire right now is to see the snow monkeys. :)
I went ahead and purchased a Rail Pass for all of us, so I hope to see a lot of places in the three weeks after Niseko, though we plan to hit the slopes somewhere else for another 3 or 4 days, depending on how the kids are holding up at that point. It's nerve wracking to think of going to another country without a definite plan (aside from when we get there), but my husband feels as if it's a better cultural experience to "go with the flow". Ahhh... we shall see! We are all packed and can't wait!
Going to Niseko on the 15th Feb for 8 days. Last two years have been to Beaver Creek and Vail so its going to be a bit different i think!
Flying from Perth (Australia) to Singapore then Osaka where am staying overnight and on to Sapporo the next morning. Then its a 2-3 hour bus trip to Niseko so should get there around 1pm. Least it is the same time zone as Perth so no jet lag!
Taking boots but hiring skis there. Will report back after the trip!
Taking skis to Japan can be a trap. Some of the airlines now measure your ski bag's three main dimensions, add them together (L + W + H) and if the sum is greater than 185cm (and of course, every ski bag is bigger than this), they might hit you with a substantial extra baggage fee - regardless of weight.
A group of us just got back from Hokkaido. My friend was slapped with the fee by Japan Airlines on his Tokyo-Chitose leg, and I got hit with it on my Kansai-Shanghai return leg with China Eastern Airlines. In my case, the first quote was for 33,000 yen! I kicked up a stink, at which point the check-in staff suddenly decided it was "special purpose equipment" (duh) and discounted my penalty down to 11,000 yen - which still hurt.
The all-Japanese staff insisted this was "airline policy" but I never got charged by CEA on the outbound flight. Same with my friend. It seems you only get slapped with these penalties by Japanese staff at Japanese airports. Great favour they are doing their own tourist industry there! Apropos of which - Kansai Airport, which is a major international connection hub, had no camera shops! That's right: Japan. Cameras. Can't. Buy. Another 100%-guaranteed export opportunity, lost. No wonder their economy is in decline...
Anyway, there are plenty of rental shops in Hirafu village, so my advice is: don't bring your skis to Japan.
Edited by coxaca - 3/9/13 at 3:24pm
How strange! I carry skis Tokyo-Sapporo all the time and have NEVER been charged, not by JAL, not by ANA, not by Skymark.
Now I understand that some of the new low-cost carriers do charge, but nothing in that 5-digit range.
Yes, it's strange. But it happened. Not just to me, but also my friend, different airline, different flight, different airport.
If it continues to happen, I think that we as a community should start making a noise about it.
The correct people to make a noise to would, I imagine, be the Japanese ski tourism authorities.
I know JAL does not charge for ski bags, not even for my rather large wheelie bag packed with two pairs of skis, boots and two weeks worth of clothing, so your friend must have one helluva ski bag to have been charged.
As far as China Eastern is concerned, I've no idea what their baggage policies are, but they certainly aren't decided on the Japanese side. Suggest you direct your complaints to the airline.
i went with china eastern airline before to Yabuli (a new club med down there so try it out). I wasn't charged for ski equipment but that could be because there are 5 of us and we only have 1 ski with 2 huge suitcase. So I don't know for real how it works out.
As for Japan, the JAL flight I took from Tokyo to Hokaido, they don't charge he ski, but they do weight it. So you need to ensure that you are not over the weight. Easy way is to take out the boot and hand carry it. I can't remember what is the quota per person, I will check with my friend again.
I've tried 3 airlines so far, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Silk Air. It could be either airline policy difference or somehting else. Maybe better to check with the airline before making reservation.
My friend was charged 10,000 yen for his ski bag by JAL for a short flight from Tokyo to Sapporo. They showed him the applicable clause in the carriage contract at the time of levying the fee.
Maybe in practice JAL usually don't charge this fee, but according to their fine print they are entitled to.
I was charged a similar fee by China Eastern. Again, it was all there in the fine print. I would hazard a guess that all airlines have a similar clause in their carriage contract.
An isolated event can always be written-off as an aberration. Two such events in the same week - that's a pretty tall coincidence.
Just sayin' is all.
- Sking near Sapporo Japan
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