In late February 2020, I visited Niseko in Japan for a few incredible “firsts” in my life.
- My first snow-covered winter holiday
- My first time skiing
- My first time almost losing the keys to my holiday apartment
I would say everything that happened before, during, and after the trip, made it a holiday where many “core memories” were made.
I spent 7 beautiful days in Niseko, 5 of which I spent skiing. Yes, 5 days! To top it off, I experienced the best powder Niseko had seen that ski season. This was not something we planned for, but we were just lucky. It was also the last trip I went on before COVID-19 shook the world so badly and right before Japan closed its borders to tourists for 2 years.
In this post, I’ll share the origin story of our epic Niseko trip, how we got there from Singapore, where we skied, our accommodation, our ski equipment rental, and where we took our ski lessons.
Table of Contents
- How the Ski Trip Came to Be
- Your Sign to Go on That Niseko Ski Trip
- How to Get to Niseko
- Where to Ski
- Renting Ski Equipment
- Ski Lessons
How The Ski Trip Came to Be
Back in March 2019, almost a year before the trip, I was chatting with one of my friends, GT, whom I met when I used to hit the clubs, downed copious glasses of Martell, and ingested a shitload of chicken nuggets. What? I was in my 20s, and had a good functioning liver and energy of 100 cows!
GT had been broaching the idea of a group ski holiday involving the three of us and our spouses. In recent years (and by recent I mean, the few years prior to 2019), he had become quite the avid skier and thought it would be great for all of us to hit some slopes together. As for the ski holiday location, we picked Niseko because we were promised soft landings for our tushies even if we fell and fairly easy, gentle slopes to break into skiing as a complete newbie.
Your Sign to Go on That Niseko Ski Trip
It made sense for us to do a Niseko Ski Trip together before any of us became pregnant because skiing would be off the books for at least a few years then. True enough, within the last 2 years, GT and his wife, Kelly, have become parents.
So let this be a sign to go on that adventurous trip you’ve always wanted to with your friends, spouse, or family members. Especially if you or your friends are on the brink of moving into a different life stage. You never know, when your lives may change. On the topic of unknown life events, there was also COVID-19.
My husband and I ended up really loving skiing and this would have been an activity we might have never experienced without that nudge from GT.
It also just occurred to me that I started rollerskating because I missed the feeling of the wind in my hair from that skiing experience when we were all stuck indoors during those two miserable years of lockdown.
How to Get to Niseko
In order to get to Niseko, you’ll need to fly into Chitose in Hokkaido, and then take a bus to Niseko. Currently, there are direct flights from Singapore to Chitose available via Scoot.
For our trip in 2020, we:
- Took a flight on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Haneda in Tokyo
- Switched to a domestic flight on ANA from Haneda to Chitose
- Took the Hokkaido Resort Liner Bus to Hirafu in Niseko
Where to Ski
Since most of our skiing was at Grand Hirafu, we chose a 3-bedroom apartment in Middle Hirafu in Kamakura. This was located in the central area of Hirafu and had a shuttle bus pick-up point right downstairs.
Back in 2020, we paid ¥419,844 (S$5,456.25) for 6 nights. That ended up being S$1,818 per couple. Accommodation in Niseko is definitely on the pricier side. We split it into 3 payments:
- First deposit
- Second deposit
- Final balance
In our case, they were made 9 months, 6 months, and 4 months ahead of the trip.
At Kamakura, we had access to a washing machine and clothes dryer, two bathrooms (one en-suite and one bathroom with a bathtub), a spacious living and dining area with a flat-screen TV, and an open-concept kitchen.
There are beautiful ski-in/ski-out accommodations in Niseko like this one called Snow Crystal or The Vale. This is when you’re able to just step outside your apartment or lodging and just start skiing. Would definitely want to try this at least once in my life, but we’ll see. Those accommodations are really expensive though. 😝
Renting Ski Equipment
For ski equipment rental, GT recommended Rhythm Japan. We were incredibly fortunate that GT gave us a ton of tips not just when we were on the slopes, but on the ski equipment rental booking form with Rhythm Japan as well.
Not sure how to go about renting your ski equipment? Here are tips on what to rent and what to buy for your Niseko ski trip.
As completely green beginners, we decided it was prudent to take ski lessons. For our first few days, we would be skiing near the Gondola Base at Niseko-Hirafu. We decided on lessons with GoSnow. We had two options.
Option 1 – Group Lessons
For Group Lessons, we would be in the Adult (15+) Program with a maximum of 6 students to 1 instructor at the Beginner Learning Zone (a small and short slope that is a bitch to climb back up of with all your ski equipment) with access to the Magic Carpet (a small travellator). This is the economical option, but waiting times between students can be long if it’s a full class.
Students with some basic ski ability will go on to leave the confines of the Beginner Learning Zone and take the high-speed gondola (ski lift) up to hit the slopes.
Option 2 – Private Lessons
This is a pricy, but time-effective investment. Private Lessons give you the dedicated attention of an English-speaking ski instructor. 1 instructor can accommodate up to 5 learners per private lesson. Learners have to either learn to ski or snowboard.
It’s best to make a booking early to avoid disappointment in case instructors are not available on the days you wish to have your private lessons.
We chose to do Private Lessons and you can read our guide to private ski lessons with GoSnow.
Let me know if you have any questions about my Niseko trip in the comments. Happy to help if I can.
If you find this guide useful, you can buy me pasta!