We were in Niseko-Hirafu from 9-15 Dec.
It is advisable to take a coach from Sapporo or Chitose, as compared to taking a train as there are a few stops in between, which means you will need to lug your luggages up and down in transit train stations. Moreover, there aren’t much space on train for luggages.
While in Niseko, These are the stuff and places we’ve been to and/or tried.
Hirafu Welcome Centre
– if you happen to arrive there, remember to pick up the Niseko Area Guide. Comes in handy on where to go for meals. Not all restaurants are open for lunch. It also gives you an estimate on how much it would costs at each restaurant.
Accommodation – Casi 67
– Owner is Martin Spann. Great guy. Very friendly and helpful. Casi 67 is a very nice and comfy place with bedrooms on the ground level and a living, dining and kitchen on the 2nd level. Kitchen was fully equipped. A large range of DVDs and books too. Stayed in West wing. There’s also a East wing, so if you have a big group, can book both wings, which is connected by the dry area and a ‘bridge’ on the 2nd level.
Ski Rental – Larry Adler
– I did an Internet enquiry and our particulars were imputed before we arrived in Niseko. Booked a 6 days package although we only intended to ski for 5 days as kids’ skis will then be free. Staff at Larry Adler were great! David, Nicola and Randall are so helpful. Besides fitting boots, skis were also adjusted based on our proficiency level, ie beginner’s ski will dislodge easier than those of intermediate level.
– my feet are fat, so Nicola recommended these ski boots. They fit me perfectly and they are easy to put on.
– Boots, ski and ski-poles can be left at the shop and the guys are Larry Adler would warm them up for us in the morning. Nothing beats having warm ski boots in the morning. Sometimes we would also drop our ski boots at the shop while we walk around for lunch.
– Larry Adler is located on the road next to Ace Family Ski Lift. A very convenient location for us to drop and pick up our stuff.
Ace Ski Lift
– We chose to go to Ace as it has a pretty long run for beginners. The 1st level is about 750m while the 2nd level is about 1.2km. All in close to 2km if you dare to go onto the 2nd level.
– After barely trying 2 rounds on the 1st day, decided to go onto the higher slope. Bad idea. We are young intermediate skiers. Should have warmed up more. Secondly, there is a need to observe visibility before going up any mountain. When we got up to the 2nd level, we could barely see beyond 10m. It was freezing cold and the wind was strong and we were not familiar with the route. Thank goodness we got down in one piece eventhough we made a wrong turn and went onto the intermediate slope instead. So, before going up the mountains, please check visibility (it is usually less visible higher up), wind speed and ski routes.
– early morning is the best time to ski. It’s even better if it snowed the night before as the snow field would be more powdery. These are tracks left on powder snow. Your skis sink in and you feel like you are skiing on a soft field of powder.
– The ski lift starts operation at 8.30am. By 4.30pm, it will start to turn dark. Do not be deceived by the sun. When the sun is out, it could be colder as the sun melts the snow.
– Niseko is a pretty safe place. You can simply leave your skis around and it’ll still be there hours later. No one will take your stuff. It helps that everyone’s ski equipments are tagged with your name.
– in order to have a more pleasant ski, we usually ski during the usual lunch time. That means we either take early or late lunch.
– if you happen to drop anything while on the ski lift, like me, immediately note down the nearest tower number and inform the control station staff. They will send someone to pick up your stuff for you. Really thankful for the helpful staff at Ace ski lift.
– eating out is expensive in Niseko. So one of the first thing we did when we arrive in Niseko-Hirafu was to go grocery shopping to get food for breakfast. Max Value at Kutchan is big and prices are cheaper as compared to Seicomart or Lawson. It takes about 15mins to drive to Kutchan. Just follow Road 343 or Route 5. If you need some warm clothings, the store beside Max Value carries an essential range. Bought ladies tights at Y399. Good quality and value for money.
– for most restaurants, it will be good to make reservations. You will need to get ready the phone number of your accommodation as that’s something required with reservations.
Nice ambience. Nicest dish was the grilled Hokkaido fish. Can only eat the fish meat as the skin is so tough and spikey that its impossible to tear. The skin is then fried till crispy. Nice.
It’s located at Hotel Niseko Alpen. It’s at the base of the 2nd level of beginners slope. Just ski right in. Convenient. Servings are large. Food is decent.
A quaint little restaurant near Casi 67. The teriyaki chicken is very good. Regretted not trying the fresh oysters.
– Fresh Coffee (besides Ace Ski Lift)
Serves superb hot creamy chocolate and tasty chicken mayo toast. Cream in Hokkaido are simply great! You won’t get sick of eating it.This is where we take our ski break.
Best soup curry. You get to choose the level of spiciness. Kids tried level 2 while we tried level 8. Its pretty spicy at 8. It goes up to level 20. Imagine that! The curry was so yummy that I gobbled up half of it before remembering to take a pic of it.
An Izakaya pub. Like Abu-Chan, they serve o-toshi. It’s an appetizer whereby you need to pay for and that is charged instead of service charge. Enya serves yakitori. Surprising the nicest yakitori was the shiitake mushroom. It was BBQ with sake.
– Niseko Ramen (formerly known as Mount Ramen)
Formerly located at Kutchan and known as Mount Ramen. They had moved to Hirafu. Potato soup was too rich to our liking.
– M’s Cafe
It is further than Hilton Niseko. But the beef and sesame sauce were great. It’s at such a deserted place, you would not be able to imagine.
– If Cafe
Somehow, cakes are known as sweets in Japan and cream is known as cheese as well. Tried ‘rare cheese with blueberry’ and ‘grilled apple’. The cheese/cream was so good that you won’t get sick of it.
– Asahiwara Ramen – Tozenkan
Love the noodles and soup base of Dosanko Ramen. The fried chicken was tasty and crispy without being oily. Prefer the plain fried chicken to the spicy chicken.
Authentic Japanese cruisine. Love the hotpot.
When at an Onsen, rinse yourself thoroughly before going into the hot springs, soak, then scrub thoroughly in the shower. Soak in the pool again before drying. Always check for outdoor Onsen. Nice feeling to be soaking in an Onsen while snow falls on you.
To save some money, bring your own towel. Best to bring a large one for drying and a small towel to scrub yourself.
Whenever there are students, always check with the hotel Onsen what time the students will be in the Onsen. You wouldn’t want to be in the Onsen with them.
Prices range from Y600 to Y1000 per person.
-Yukoro – A simple onsen place. Need to bring your own moisturizer.
– Hotel Niseko Alpen Onsen – Nice place with lots of different types of creams, lotions for you to try. Seems like horse oil is good as a moisturizer.
– Hilton Niseko Onsen – Quite a drive, about 20mins from Niseko-Hirafu. Pretty Onsen. There was a nice pond with fishes beside the outdoor Onsen and from the outdoor Onsen, you look out to Mt Yotei. So it’s good to go before 4pm, before it turns dark.
– HirafuTei Hotel Onsen – The outdoor Onsen looks out at snow piles.
– Green Leaf Onsen – located at Hiyashimaya. It’s just before Hilton Niseko. Very nice view at the outdoor Onsen. Need to bring own moisturizer.
Niseko Hirafu is a lovely place and a great place for ski.