We, our family of three, are seriously considering skiing in Japan late December, early January. After lots of research I think we are honing in on Niseko, but there are a few reservations that I have been unable to find any real information on - or have found conflicting views on.
About us and why Niseko has emerged as the front-runner:
There are three of us, two adults and son who will be 12 by then. We are all either advanced or advanced/expert skiers. For the last six years we have skied more in North America than domestically here in NZ. In North America over the last few years we have skied Steamboat, Red Mountain, Jackson Hole and Fernie, all of which were a good match for our preferred places to ski - off piste, trees, interesting terrain - e.g. favourites at JH were Moran Woods, the Hobacks, Alta Chutes etc. Domestically we ski relatively little because of the insane crowds in school holidays and at weekends; and because we have had a string of pretty average seasons.
Our general MO for overseas holidays is to spend two and a bit weeks at one place and get to know a resort (as best as you can in 15 -16 days), and to minimise days lost to transfers. We ski every day, although not necessarily first to last chair each day.
So first question: Is it realistic to transfer our usual MO to Japan?
Based on the following list of requirements / considerations and research, including looking at threads here, I came to the conclusion that Niseko was probably the best option:
Off-piste skiing allowed and accessible via lift access (at least one of our party is not interested in significant hiking)
modern lift infrastructure if it is aerial lifts including chair-lifts (suicide chairs are out for some of our group due to vertigo issues)
surface lifts are ok
accommodation with western style beds (we usually do ski in / ski out or short walk to lifts condos).
We do know that there will be some compromise on terrain, but really flat is not an option, we would like some challenge
Dates: we need to travel in the school holidays - so looking at something like 28th December to 16th January - give or take a couple of days.
Things that don't matter at all:
western food or fine dining - so long as there are good local dining options
English speaking ski school - although if DS does ski school the option for advanced lessons that are not race programmes and include off-piste are what we would be looking for, preferably with other similar aged and ability level kids.
The big unknowns / question marks?
Realistically, how crowded is Niseko? Our dates coincide with Australian school holidays and statutory holidays over new year. What is the reality of lift queues - if it is like Queenstown / Wanaka in school holidays then it is a no-go. If it is an okay wait to get out of the base area but as you get up the mountain - or to more advanced lifts it thins out then that's ok.
Assuming we can sort something reasonable with travel insurance, is there short hike or lift accessible side country (we would do this with a guide).
How big an issue are drunk and obnoxious ozzies and kiwis? Are there heaps of them or are they easily avoided? i.e. prefer not to be kept awake by other people's parties
Are there reasonable options for renting / demoing / buying new season advanced women's skis for taller women e.g. 175cm / 5'7". I was going to buy skis in NZ this season but the importer is not bringing any of what I want to demo in to the country.
Is 18 days in a row too much for one area.
Are there better options?
Sorry for the novel - and thanks in advance for your help