Originally Posted by jbwilco
can't tell you how Aussies and Kiwis decide between NA and Japan. Anyone from down under want to chime in?
Just wanted to reply to the above query.
The family like to ski in both places so its not easy to make the call.
This year we are skiing in Japan, mainly because of the drop in the New Zealand dollar against the USD.
Japan for us is 9 hrs vs 13 to Vancouver which is also a different time zone. 13 hrs in coach is not the greatest!!
Lift tickets and accommodation in Japan at Pensions is very reasonbly priced cf USA/Canada. The food is amazing if you like Japanese and cheap.
Snow is also comparable if not better than North America where we have skied ie ( Whistler, Red Mountain, Kicking Horse, Whitewater, Silver Star and Whitefish in Montana).
Our last trip to Japan 2 years ago we caught the Bullet Train to Nagano then bused to Nozawa Onsen which is a lovely Edo Period village. So no driving involved all ski bags can be directly transfered from Narita airport to your acommodation so no need to drag them thru the Toyko Train Station. We booked all our accomodation directly thru websites and had no problem. Most Japanese are very helpful.
This Feb we are heading to Hokkaido but not Neisko (to many Aussies) we are renting a car and doing a road trip to 4 diffferent fields around Furano. Not all Japanese fields allow you to go off piste and have very strict policies around this so if you like skiing in the trees you do need to do your reasearch.
We have only skied North America, not Japan. We looked at japan this year but because we are restricted to going in school hoildays we are competing with Australian school holidays so hitting peak time - which combined with short walk to slope self-catering accommodation made it not an option this time.
The deciding factor for us is usually "value for money" which is hugely subjective. For us it is middle of the road - not trying to do it for the cheapest possible price, but not travelling like rock stars either.
In terms of criteria / formula / thought process / rationale for us (a family of three, 2 adults and one 12 year old) - it roughly goes like this:
Timing - Our summer school holidays generally run from mid-December to early February. One or other parent has to take time off work, and some form of expense is incurred in terms of entertainment (travel, activities, food whatever - it is insidious spending that adds up to more than you think). As an aside, under NZ law we get a minimum of 20 working days annual leave (many have more) plus 13 paid week days that are public holidays, so also paid leave - four of these fall over Christmas and New Year and some employers also gift one or more of the days between Christmas and New Year as additional paid leave. So a ski trip is not the only time that we have off during a year. We generally avoid ski areas over Christmas and New Year unless it is out of the way and there is no premium charged over that time. Our restriction to school holidays also severely limits our options in Japan. North America, in particular has much bigger resorts than here - so there is the issue of once you've been you've ruined domestic skiing (at the bigger commercial resorts at least).
Destination - We have a long list of places we want to ski and places we have skied and want to go back to. Also now, we have honed this to going to one place that is big enough for us to stay for 15+ days skiing. We don't rent a car, so it has to have access to a supermarket (we prefer self-catering) and slopeside, near slopeside or very quick and easy transport system (e.g. Lake Louise). Transfers between ski areas are typically expensive and inefficient so you lose a day's skiing.
Travel - door to door it is usually in the order of 30 hours for North America if we are going straight to a ski resort or close too. Usually three or four flights, one of which is long-haul (12 to 14 hours). We are fussy about airline and route - we don't try and go budget here. Booking the most direct route and sticking with the same airline (which I also use for business and leisure travel domestically) means that I can retain enough airline status to give us more free checked luggage (gives us one extra bag which means two double ski bags and two other bags between us), lounge access, priority boarding (pretty much guaranteed to get overhead bin storage above your seat) and access to some premium seating (more leg room). It also means that flying to small regional airports such as Hayden, or Aspen are able to be added at practically no cost - the difference between flying to Hayden rather than Denver was $10 total for example. Also bags are checked through to final destination and if you miss a connection through weather etc then it is the airline's issue not yours. No matter what way you look at it long-haul is not glamorous - we treat it as a necessary evil and focus on the destination. Also, our airports are generally nicer (with the exception of Jackson Hole) and the check-in and security staff less officious (except for the man at SFO last year - genius). In general in NZ airline travel is very common, especially for those of us with family spread across two islands, so our son was well versed with airport security, lots of waiting around, flying etc before we ventured on long-haul. With today's announcement of American Airlines entering the Auckland - LA route next year's fares will be even cheaper.
We sometimes do stop-overs and sometimes not - it's a time and price thing - they add significant cost and time. Although the accommodation is generally cheaper it is all of the other things you spend money on. Ski holidays are great from that point of view, most of the costs are known and are paid before you go.
For us, bottom line is that we don't have any ski areas close by or particularly accessible. The nearest is our equivalent of a crowed east coast area - except it's a volcano - and traffic congestion means that it is a trip to hell to drive there. Otherwise we fly to family and ski from there. We all like skiing and it is the one sport we do as a family, and collectively we just happen to prefer going skiing to going to a beach on a pacific island or asia.
The one downside / compromise that you do make, is that you do save by booking well in advance, so you have to take a gamble on conditions.