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Big in Japan: Why your next ski holiday should be at Niseko
The island of Hokkaid? (??????, literally North Sea Circuit) gets some serious snow in the winters, though the reigning prince of powder is a small village by the name of Niseko (?????????).
While few North Americans have heard of Niseko, Japanese skiers and snowboarders alongside Australians and New Zealanders pack the slopes of this winter wonderland.
Because of its blessed location, Niseko experiences northwest to southeast Siberian fronts every winter. Translation: a whole lot of snow!
In fact, Niseko was recently named the world's second snowiest ski resort, boasting an annual average snow fall of 595 inches.
As you might imagine, that is some serious, serious powder!
Despite its village status, Niseko boasts four interconnected resorts, namely Hirafu, Higashiyama, Annupuri and Hanazono, which together form 2000+ skiable acres.
Still think there isn't any good skiing in Japan?
The massive frozen wilderness encompassing Niseko, collectively known as Niseko United, recently came in at number six on a poll of the world's top ski resorts.
Niseko United was also the highest ranked new entry in the poll, which is not too much of a surprise given that the resort is booming due to rapidly increasing foreign investment.
Still need more convincing that Niseko has what it takes to become the next big international ski destination?
From Sapporo airport, which is well served by most major carriers, direct buses head to the slopes in just over two hours.
While the yen is currently experiencing historic highs, on average, a ski vacation in Japan will cost you much less than destinations in Europe.
Niseko's weather is cold but dry, which is the perfect condition to create the soft and light powder base that skiers and snowboards love to carve.
Like the rest of Japan, Niseko is home to natural and rustic hot springs, which provide the most heavenly après-ski setting you could possibly imagine.
And, while hot water bubbles up from the ground, icy spring water runs down from the mountains.
Famous for its clarity and purity, Niseko spring water produces some amazing sake, which is best served up hot in a ceramic tumbler.
Finally, thanks to its strong international following, Niseko also boasts a cosmopolitan nightlife that is fueled by copious amounts of drinking and dancing.
Seriously...do you really need any more convincing?
The snow has already started to fall, and the ski season runs through to March, so get your plane tickets soon and pick up some new thermals!
Well, that concludes our mini-series on Hokkaidō - we certainly hope you learned a thing or two about Japan's northernmost island.
With that said, if you missed any of our recent postings, be sure to check out the archives of Big in Japan.
Domo Arigatou (^_^)
** All images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project **