Grand Hirafu, Niseko, Japan

The land of the rising sun… and non-stop powder

I had heard rumours about the ridiculous amounts of snow they receive every year in the Far East, but even the most passionate and excited reviewers can’t prepare you for what this magical place has to offer.

It’s hard to comprehend 30cm of perfect, light, fresh powder every day for 10 days straight. You almost get used to effortlessly walking though knee deep, super light snow on the way to the slopes every day.

The ‘JAPOW’ as it’s known is created by extremely dry and cold seasonal winds from Siberia hitting the relatively warm Japan Sea from which it picks up moisture. This joyful combination then bears down upon the island of Hokkaido where the mountains give the wind the lift it needs to deposit the average 14 meters of annual snowfall that many have come to know and love.

Piste MapNiseko itself is one of the best known ski areas in Hokkaido and perhaps Japan with four resorts interconnecting to offer 61 runs, Grand Hirafu being the main resort town for accommodation, fine dining and party bars.

All the off-piste in Niesko is controlled using a gate system, allowing ski patrol to control and shut off areas of the mountain that are deemed unsafe in certain conditions. The Japanese ski patrol are not to be taken lightly, they will swiftly remove your lift pass and escort you off the mountain if found in one of these closed off areas so it’s best not to duck any ropes!

This strict policing doesn’t take anything away from the fun to be had exploring copious runs of often bottomless powder. Within your first couple days, you’ll pick up the two vital JAPOW techniques:

  1. Try and smile w1979690_10202336310421906_1119207954_nith your mouth closed when your ripping up the best powder line of your life, otherwise you’ll be picking snow out of your tonsils.
  2. Pick your line before you set off. Once you start moving, constant face shots can make it hard to see.


All that’s left to say for those thinking “Is it worth the long trip over?”

Does a bear shit in the woods? DO IT

Favourite place to eat: Moon Bar (go for the Devil Spicy Noodle Ramen – it will change the way you see soup)

Favourite run: Super Ridge (or anything off the peak if it’s open)

Favourite bar: The Barn (ask for a ‘See You Never’, to this day one of the tastiest cocktails I’ve ever had and suitably alcoholic)

Written by Donald Musk