Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Niseko, Hokkaido ski trip

Because I'm returning home in just a few months, this Christmas it made sense to stay in Japan. It marked my first Christmas separated from family. I wanted to make my only Christmas in Japan memorable. Skiing Hokkaido, specifically Niseko, topped my bucket list. This summer, in a Perth, Australia bookstore, I picked up a ski tourism book detailing the best spots around the world. Flipping through to the page dedicated to Niseko, Hokkaido immediately hooked me, and jetted Niseko (along with Korea) to the top top of my bucket list. So ironically, during my trip down under I was convinced I needed to check out the most northern island of Japan.

(To give you better context, Japan is about the size of California. I live in Mito, about 70 miles NE of Tokyo. )

While my family indulged in my beloved family tradition of Christmas eve Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches with milkshakes, two friends, Josh Huggins and Casey White, celebrated Christmas morning with a flight out of Tokyo's Narita airport.

After making a couple Portland friends riding the bus to Niseko from Sapporo, we arrived at Moiwa Lodge, a four story private, wooden lodge with it's own unique and beautiful mountain powdered with snow within a five minute walk.

Two summers ago Hakuba, Nagano stapled itself in my memory and Niseko, Hokkaido will also forever remain a blissful experience.

The elevation of the area is only around 1,000 meters, the frigid cold front of the Siberian tundra directly to the west of Niseko creates the dust light snow powder. The low elevation surprised, especially because I grew up skiing on Mount Hood in the Cascade mountain range, where the elevation must be a lot higher to produce a much more damp and heavy powder product.

We skied four days. After skiing renowned Hirafu ski resort on the second day, we planned to return on our fourth and final day to the popular Hirafu resort. But skiing the luscious, vacant backcountry tree runs of Moiwa changed those plans. Josh, Casey and I decided to ski Moiwa again on the final day. Niseko offered powder you see in those famous Warren Miller ski films.

The kindest, most friendly people are found on the mountain. The cordial Moiwa lodge staff and fellow backyard mountain explorers added to the adventurous experience. The melting pot of global travelers made the adventure all the more fascinating. The interaction with world travelers further enforced the idea that maybe we truly were experiencing one of the greatest ski locations in the world.

Checking Niseko, Japan off my bucket list conveys distorted impressions of a contentment with closure. I would jump at any future opportunity to experience Niseko again. If you live in Japan, I implore you to make it up to Niseko.

Niseko, Hokkaido, Warren Miller Photography (not my own)
Josh below

Josh, Casey and I enjoying a delicious Japanese/American appetizers restaurant called Lucky Fingers