What it's like to visit the 'Aspen of Japan,' where billionaires and actors dine on sushi in ski lodges and relax in natural hot springs on the side of an active volcano
Feb 14, 2019, 21:31 IST
Niseko is an up-and-coming hotspot located on Japan's northernmost island that's home to some of the best ski slopes in the world.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that several well-known luxury hotels plan to move to the area.
The area currently consists of four main resorts, which comprise Niseko United skiing.
Along with its fresh powder and natural hot springs, the area is also home to impressive restaurants and bars in the resort villages.
Niseko, Japan: Home to "champagne powder," a variety of luxury chalets, and an under-the-radar skiing hotspot where millionaires can eat fresh sushi in ski lodges.
It's no wonder that Niseko, one of the snowiest spots in the world, has caught the attention of luxury hotel chains and wealthy skiers. AdvertisementIn a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, Kosaku Narioka reported that while an assortment of expensive chalet rentals are already built up in the area, a fleet of luxury hotels will soon join the high-end offerings: A Park Hyatt will be completed at the end of this year, a Ritz-Carlton is forthcoming in 2020, and a W Hotel is set to arrive in 2021.
According to The Real Deal, the recent increase in hotel construction is mainly due to the rise in wealthy investor interest. This includes Francis Yeoh, whose company is responsible for the construction of the Ritz-Carlton and W Hotel.
Rentals aside, the area gained attention after the construction of "The Red Bull House," home to Chalerm Yoovidhya, one of Thailand's richest men and heir to the Red Bull company fortune.
Movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and Sam Neill have been known to frequent the area, which also includes a lively nightlife and extensive dining options. A feature by Vogue noted the area's incredible seafood, which sets it apart from other inland ski resorts around the world.A visitors' guide published by Travel + Leisure said, "If Snow Country has a crown jewel, Niseko is probably it."Advertisement
Keep reading for an inside look at one of the world's best ski spots.
Niseko is consistently ranked as one of the top skiing locations in Japan.
The resort has been compared to major luxury destinations like Aspen, Colorado ...
... St. Moritz, Switzerland ...
... and Whistler, British Columbia.
Niseko is located on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.
Hokkaido is the second largest island, and Japan's coldest region.
Though it is technically a town title, for most visitors, "Niseko" refers to the entire region near Mount Yōtei.
Mount Yōtei is an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.
The area is also beautiful in the summertime ...
... and visitors can golf at one of three main courses with the volcano as a stunning backdrop.
However, the mountain is mostly famous for its winter activities. The mountainside is covered in the highly coveted "champagne powder" — high-quality snow that's perfect for skiing.
It's listed as one of the snowiest spots in Japan.
To begin their trip, guests fly into New Chitose Airport, followed by a two and half hour car ride to the mountain.
Four major ski resorts make up Niseko United, a group of ski slopes and accommodations.
First, Annupuri is located on the southeastern side of the mountain, and offers a family- friendly atmosphere.
The ski area features 13 courses, from beginner to advanced levels, and also offers night skiing on some courses.
Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort, and perhaps the most well-known.
The resort includes a bustling village at its base with lively nightlife and shopping. Along with expensive ski shops that sell name brands like North Face and Patagonia, the village features a custom hat shop.
Niseko Village is nestled between Annupuri and Grand Hirafu.
It also features a village with shops and hotels, though significantly smaller and quieter than Grand Hirafu. Items sold here include luxury Japanese purses and custom glasswork by local artists in the nearby city of Otaru.
Finally, Hanazono is the second base of Grand Hirafu on the northeastern side of the mountain. Though smaller than the other ski areas, Hanazono still offers a ski school for both kids and adults.
Each of these four resorts features a variety of luxe accommodations ...
... the most impressive of which might be the private ski chalets. While an all mountain day pass is inexpensive (approximately $66), adding a chalet will quickly propel you up into the thousands.
The Annupuri Residences are one group of rentals ...
... located just minutes from the closest slopes.
Others private rentals are more secluded, such as the Keyaki Villas ...
... which offer beautiful views of the surrounding forests, rooms for adults ...
... and accommodations for younger guests.
If wealthy skiers do not want to rent an entire property, luxury hotels such as the Green Leaf Hotel are available.
The hotel features a bar downstairs ...
... and an array of modern bedrooms.
For those looking to relax, the onsens — or natural hot springs — are a draw. The soothing baths are recognized for their purifying health benefits.
The Green Leaf Hotel is also home to some of the area's natural onsens.
High-end hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton are on their way, but for now, the most prominent chain is a beautiful ski-in, ski-out Hilton.
Many international power players, millionaires, and celebrities choose to vacation in Niseko, including actors like Hugh Jackman ...
... and Sam Neil, who, according to Powder Life magazine, was spotted singing at Angel karaoke bar with Australian rugby union captain George Gregan.
And then, of course, there's the food. Among other great dining options, countless restaurants offer excellent seafood, thanks to Niseko's proximity to the ocean ...
... while others feature soba noodles, a Japanese staple made from buckwheat.
Regardless which resort or chalet you choose to stay at ...
... the incredible views alone make the trip memorable as you ski some of the best slopes in Asia.