The Coolest Family Ski Holiday Of All: Niseko, Japan | TRAVEL
There are so many cool holiday getaways in this region to book with the family. And if you are a fan of skiing or snowboarding, you’re in luck! One of the best family skiing destinations in the world is within your reach and we can tell you all about it.
Snow, snow, snow in Niseko
Yes, France has miles of pistes, the US have Whistler and Austria has the best apres-ski, but if there is one place with all the powder snow in the world, it’s in Japan! Niseko is perfect for your next family ski holiday; there’s plenty to keep the whole family busy with so many slopes, lessons, and challenges to choose from. And it has a ridiculous average snowfall of over 15 meters. Bring a snorkel!
How to get to your family ski holiday in Niseko
Niseko is on the Northern Japanese Island of Hokkaido. From Saigon, you fly to Tokyo and from there, you need to fly another 90 minutes to Sapporo (New Chitose Airport). Arrange pick-up if you can or book one of the coach bus transfers. Check your arrival and departure times, because the bus has a limited schedule. Note that the drive to Niseko is about 2 hours. True, this family ski holiday is not next door, but boy oh boy, it is so worth it!
What to do in this Japanese ski region
Niseko has not one, not two, and not even three ski resorts: there are a whopping four snow resorts in Japan’s official number one skiing region! The area of Hokkaido includes the ski slopes of Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu, and Hanazono. No wonder it attracts families, ski buffs and beginners from all around the world.
Niseko has great facilities for a family ski holiday in Japan. The awesome ski instructors come from all over the world and speak decent English, and there’s enough choice for accommodation to stay with and without children. Also, the ski rental companies are efficient and more than equipped for all kinds of snow fans, whether it’s kids, adults, ski amateurs or board professionals.
A ski holiday for all levels
The most important facility here; there are runs for all levels of ski- and snowboard expertise. Head to the easier slopes of Annupuri with your younger kids or if you’re feeling less brave. And advance onto the off-piste and more challenging courses at Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, and Niseko Village once you’ve found your steady feet!
Top tip for lunch: make sure you visit Boyoso. It’s the only lunch lodge right on the piste that is not owned by the resorts but is run by the first Japanese man that climbed the Mount Everest. Go early so you can get yourself a nice noodle soup and a seat at the fireplace before the crowds come in.
Where to eat and drink in Niseko
After zooming down the pistes, life starts in the town center. In the center of Niseko, lower Hirafu, you’ll find cozy restaurants, little bars with sake on the menu and a few nice boutiques here. A great place to have a family lunch or dinner, or just a hot cocoa with the kids is the Green Farm Cafe, which is situated in the middle of town. We really liked Wild Bill’s, which looked like a cozy wooden chalet in the middle of a winter wonderland. It has a decently priced menu of western and Japanese food. Just don’t get in there too late, when it becomes more of an Aussie bar instead of a nice dinner cafe.
If you are a meat lover, you can have an excellent meal in the more pricey and upscale Steak Rosso Rosso, which is near the perfect place for a nightcap: The Buddha Bar. The kids will love this snow-hut where they can draw on the walls while you sip your sake.
Another great one for the family in Niseko Village is Kabuki 2, which serves delicious teppanyaki right under your nose. Or get some takeout from the various food trucks that are parked near the Seicomart. Able to arrange a babysitter? Go to The Barn, which is hip and happening, but less suitable for children. Don’t forget to make a reservation well in advance for all these dinner spots.
Apart from the steep costs of your perfect family ski holiday, a real downside of this area is that the supermarkets are pretty far out of town. Without a rental car, they are difficult to reach. There are some small supermarkets, but they don’t offer much. You can take a taxi to do some grocery shopping at the bigger supermarkets, but better do it at the beginning of the week and stock up, because, like the rest of Japan, taxis are expensive.
What to bring to your family ski trip in Hokkaido
On average, Niseko gets over 15 meters of top quality snowfall each season, which is spectacular. Besides the stellar ski and snowboard experience, it also means that it snows constantly. So bring the right kind of snow goggles and ski gear, because it’s cold out there; minus 15 degrees on the piste is normal. The good thing is, it’s dry snow, so with the right thermowear you will be A-okay. And otherwise, just warm up in one of the fabulous onsens (hot water springs)!
Where to stay in Niseko
For those traveling with kids or groups, check out the various apartments and chalets you can rent via the Niseko Tourism site or via Airbnb. They offer some perfect options for your family ski holiday. You can easily stay in one resort since you still have the option to catch a shuttle bus to the others slopes in Niseko.
If you rather stay in a hotel, the Aya Niseko has a variety of rooms as well as a kids’ club to keep the children entertained. We also like Ki Niseko, which has a fabulous location right on the slope and next to the ski school.
When to go on this awesome family snow trip
What do you know, the TET holidays are the perfect time to visit the snowy hills of the Hokkaido area. But Christmas is also excellent for your next family ski trip here; the season starts in December till March. Nine gates of pow, pow and more pow are waiting for you!