From a quick stop over at Onuma Quasi National Park, we rode a train to Oshamambe station with a 58 minutes lay over where the Tourist Information counter allowed us to leave our bags for free. We went out to grab lunch at a nearby store. Most common convenient stores in Japan are 7-11, Seicomart and Lawson. There are even fresh sushi and fresh fruits sold with the same quality as those in the market! From Oshamambe station, it was another 99-minute train ride to Kutchan.
The view outside the train was a sight to behold especially for me who went there to see snow. The ride was comfortable. There were less tourists at that time mostly locals in the train. I cannot describe my excitement! If you follow my Instagram Stories, then you will witness how giddy i was! (follow me on instagram, please click this link : https://www.instagram.com/
Located in the southwest of Hokkaido, Japan’s stunning northern-most island, Niseko has become an internationally acclaimed destination for winter sport enthusiasts thanks to the quality and consistency of powder snow, with average annual falls of 15 meters.
At the heart of Niseko is Hirafu, the largest village in the area. With its unique Japanese character and mix of international influences, Hirafu offers an experience not found anywhere else in the world. The ski season in Japan starts from early December and ends in late April. Luckily our visit was the last snow of the season. During this time the resort was still covered in a blanket of snow. The Niseko ski area is one of Asia’s largest ski fields.
Arrived at Kutchan 2:57 PM and the Kutchan Town Shuttle of Ki Niseko Hotel was there to take us from the JR train station to the hotel. It was a smooth 15 minute ride with snow capped mountains and roadside. I was in awe of the beautiful view that welcomed me!
Check in was a breeze with the helpful staff of Ki Niseko.
We were then guided to our room and boy what an amazing window view!
After we settled our things and a few photo ops, we went down at the front desk to arrange for our ski class the next day. They directed us to Rhythm Snow Sports which is their partner rental shop. Ki Niseko has a complimentary shuttle service which operates with boarding points at Ki Niseko and four key locations around Hirafu. It runs from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. It continuously runs during those hours and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete a loop. Hirafu Loop Shuttle Boarding Points are: Ki Niseko, Hirafu 188, Boot Solutions (nest to Rhythm Snow Sports, Seicomart and Lawson.
We rode the free shuttle going to Rhythm Snow Sports Shop. The people there were very warm(contrary to the cold weather haha) and very helpful. We rented our gears and the staff explained to us each of the gears that we rented. It is a one-on-one measurement for snow boots, pants, pole and ski. Most of their staff came from England, Scotland and New Zealand. They explained that snow boots should be very fit to your feet so that it will be easier to walk around in the snow. For the ski pants, it is waterproof and adjustable. Ski poles should be a little bit above your waist not too high, not too low. Since we are first time skiers, we rented standard ski boards. A discount of 5% was extended to us since we are staying at Ki Niseko.
They took us back to our hotel and Ki Niseko has Ski Valet for our snow boots, pole and ski board. The staff at the concierge took our gears and we will just pick it up at the Skit Valet the next day. So convenient!
Ki Niseko has two public onsens, both with indoor baths and outdoor stone rotenburo baths. One for women and the other one for men. It is very big compared to their private onsen. It has three wash area and a very big onsen bath. Niseko is blessed with a natural hot spring water with a temperature of 40 degrees celsius.
They also have two private onsens that is subject for reservation at the Spa counter. Upon check in, we took time to reserve a slot at the private onsen. In order to give all guests equal opportunity to use the facility, you are only allowed to use once. But in our case, we were able to book twice, thanks to the Spa staff! Our agenda for the night is to take a plunge at the Onsen. My first onsen experience was during my Hakone trip last year. I say that aside from the relief it gives me because of the cold weather, it is also medicinal and the highest form of relief after days of travel.
We reserved the 8:30 PM slot and each slot is allotted 45 minutes to use the facility.
For the two occasion that we used the private onsen, we were assigned to Momiji Room. The spa attendant told us that Kinoki room is a bigger than Momiji room. Inside the room, Onsen etiquette will welcome you.
A door will then lead you to the Onsen bath.
We then head back to our room after the onsen bath and enjoyed a bottle of Yamazaki to cap our night at Niseko. We bought all these at Lawson including the fresh strawberries and the cold cuts and cheeses.
Woke up early the next day because of too much excitement (and anxiousness/nervousness) for our Ski Day but i took few minutes to enjoy this sight at our room window! It makes me want to back out and just enjoy a staycation.
Breakfast at Ki Niseko is a feast! Loading of food prior to our Ski Class.
Just a tip, take the breakfast early like 7:00 AM as it will really be busy starting around 8:30 AM.
After a heavy and delicious breakfast, our Ski adventure begins. The Ski valet of Ki Niseko is at the 2nd floor. It is the first hotel in Niseko that offers a ski valet. The second floor ski entrance takes you straight to where the action is, onto the snow next to the main lift in the resort. They offer a convenient and real ski-in ski-out experience.
We only have to tell our room number to the ski valet attendant and she immediately gave our boots, pole and ski board. There were already a lot of people who were getting ready for snow sports and we are glad that they are there because they helped us out in preparing. Classes start at 10:00 am. You have the option to take half day or full day. We took the latter, i was thinking to take a full day to have lots of photos and videos as i tick off one of the items in my bucket list.
We met our instructor at the beginners slope. Meet Mr. David Fisher! When we asked him which one is better, snow boarding or skiing, he told us that Snow Boarding is difficult to learn but easy to master while skiing is easy to learn, difficult to master. So ski it is!
While waiting for other students to arrive, i had the opportunity to have my first ski photos. Walking in the snow with the snow boots is at first a struggle but you will get used to it once you start walking around.
David’s lecture started with the basics. How to clip the ski boots to the board and told us that the poles should not be used to stop or break as this is the common cause for injuries. He let us slide around using the right foot and then the left foot and then both.
Successfully clipped my ski boots to the board and made my first attempt to ski. Yey!!! I have apprehensions in really trying out hard because our vacation has just started so i am in my safe pace which is very slow.
Don’t be fooled with the snow as the heat of the sun is too much to handle especially at noon time, good thing i put on sunblock before going to the class.
It was a fun day at the slopes and we were lucky to have a warm weather, as what our instructor told us, so learning is fast since the weather cooperated. Actual snow and too much wind will cause the suspension of the gondolas and classes.
After a day learning how to ski, we asked the spa attendant if there are any available time for onsen and we are grateful that they gave us a spot. It was a great relief from my tired feet and sore body.
I will be posting a video of my awkward but i-did-it-anyway ski lesson at my Facebook Page Hannaeything
A special shuttle took us to Kutchan station ready for another city to explore.♥