I was skiing in Niseko in December 2015
It was going fast, I had to use all my energi too keep in control. To control the speed, the direction. Falling would not be too bad, I was riding through a meter of powder snow, I was more concerned about hitting a tree. I kept turning, riding through the snow.
Off piste skiing in Hanazono, Niseko was something to remember, the powder snow is known for its quality and reliability, it kept snowing the whole time we were there. Only late in the day would the snow stop for a short time. The snow felt great to ski through, i truly enjoyed myself.
I quickly realised I was not in shape for off piste skiing though, the constant work of turning and controlling the skis in the deep snow was taxing. When I arrived at the bottom, my friends already there, waiting for the lift, I was breathing hard, my muscles sore. I could only ride off piste a few times, the rest of the time was spent on the slopes. I simply got too tired.
With predictable snowfall, and much of it, conditions in Niseko are great for skiing. That is one of the reasons the small village attracts so many visitors every year, more than twenty times its population. Niseko offers slopes filled with fresh, natural snow throughout the entire season.
The problem when we were visiting was that the wind was quite strong, which meant the lifts to the top were all closed. This also mean some of the areas which were supposed to be connected now were not. Instead of having four areas to ski in we only had one. And with the top closed we had a limited choice of hills to ski in. We usually ended up at the Hanazono Ski Center.
Also I found parts of the trails to be too flat, at times the trail was completely flat, I had to use my poles to gain speed. As a skier with poles I did all right, the snowboarders had bigger problems. I helped them along as best I could, pulling them along with my poles. That was tiring as well. I would have loved to see a few more, and a bit steeper, hills.
The lines for the lifts went smooth and fast, Japanese people know how to wait in line, it all went orderly and quickly. At Hanazono there was one lift from the bottom, then another lift that would take you to the lift to the top and the crossing to the other ski areas. As the lift to the top was closed, the middle lift would only take you along a flat stretch really, skiing down to the bottom lift was hard and boring, it was too flat to gain speed at times. We usually ended up taking only the first lift, and explore the different trails from there. This limited our options of different trails.
All in all, skiing in Niseko was great. The snow was great, and it kept snowing, the slopes were not crowded, there were no long lines for the lifts. Without the wind, with access to a lot more slopes, and being able to go from one area to another, it would have been better, the amount of trails availiable was a bit disappointing, but I am perfectly happy with what I got. It was my first time skiing in twelve years, I don’t think it will be that long until next time.