Night-Ski Hokkaido

Go chest deep in Niseko’s powder

The sleeping hour. Via Shutterstock     Photo: Videowokart

Between December and February, eight out of every 10 days, snow falls on the volcanic peaks of Japan’s northern island. The snow is so light, deep, and falls so frequently, that chest-deep powder days are common. And nights. Many Japanese resorts, including Niseko, Hokkaido’s snowiest, light their slopes all the way to the summit and run their chairlifts ’til nine at night. “It’s surreal getting face shots in the dark,” says Skijapan.com’s Anthony Trovatello. “And something every rider needs to experience.” What else sets it apart? Apres soaks in the onsen, natural hot springs, which abound in the region, and contrary to expectation, reasonably priced lift tickets. Most day-passes cost around $40. Book a rental apartment through Skijapan.com in Hirafu, at the foot of Niseko—hotels there are mostly 80s-style Japanese pensions with tiny, Spartan rooms. Feast on simple izakaya fare—bar snacks like edamame, fried chicken bites, and sashimi—in Hirafu’s funky bar scene, where quaint 30-person establishments are the norm. After a few days, make the 40-minute drive to Rusutsu resort, a tiny, steep mountain that rarely sees a lift line. Round off your week with a backcountry ascent of Mt. Yotei, the conical volcano across from Niseko, and make kilometer-long, untracked laps inside the crater.

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