Our 2007 Skiing Holiday
on Hokkaido, Japan

In February/March 2007 we had a glorious skiing holiday in Niseko Hirafu on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

Hokkaido is a relatively sparsely populated island with beautiful scenery, dormant volcanoes and several National Parks.

Niseko Hirafu is 300m above sea level. 1900m high Mount Youtei, 14km away, dominates its skyline. Skiing is on the slopes of 1300m high Mount Annupuri, another dormant volcano at the edge of the village.

Niseko Hirafu is only 30km from the island's west coast. Big depressions blow directly across from Siberia and dump massive amounts of snow in winter.

We really missed not being able to speak Japanese. We found the Japanese so helpful and friendly. Also we would have liked to be able to read at least some signs, food labels or even the instructions on the washing machine. A challenge for the coming months, maybe?

Here are some photographs we took. Click on the little thumbprint photographs to enter each chapter


Niseko Hirafu Village
The village and the skislope developments are all quite recent. No ancient village atmosphere here.

Some 15 000 Australian skiers visit each year, which has had its positive and negative sides. Most of them had left when we visited, it was mostly Japanese students when we were there. Still, it's handy that some local travel staff speak English and the local Seicomart stocks sliced wholemeal bread and cheap wine.


Snow action
Everything is relative. Japan was having its warmest winter on record and the locals were complaining. They had only had 7m of snow instead of their usual 14m. There was still plenty of good snow for us, though. Plus . . . no lift queues and uncrowded slopes (most of the time)

It didn't snow the first and the last day we were there, all other days we had some snow. Visibility could become a bit of a problem sometimes then. Temperatures varied from just below zero at the bottom to minus 12 degrees with (sometimes) strong wind on top.
Overall verdict: . . . great!


Accomodation
We were lucky to score accomodation in one of the self-contained Gondola Chalets. These had only just been completed, too late for this year's catalogues.

We had a three-story apartment all to ourselves. A heated storage room for ski gear, luggage and shoes downstairs. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry with washing machine and drier on the first floor. Then, on the second floor, the master bedroom with ensuite, plus an enormous lounge cum dining area. Also about the best equipped kitchen you could wish for.

Wickedly over-the-top luxury!


Eating out
Hokkaido turned out to be something of a culinary paradise, particularly if you like seafood. The local fishing industry is big and many restaurants get their fish and seafood fresh off the boats. One of the restaurants we visited was actually owned by a fisherman.

Some restaurants had European style seating with chairs and tables, in others we dined Japanese style on cushions on the floor. Meals were cheaper than we expected. We could have a great dinner for about $A 50.- for the two of us, including a large mug of the local beer, which was always on tap.


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