March 20, 13 | Shizuko Kosuna
Some people like snowboarding, while others prefer snowmobiling. When it comes to winter there’s so many things to do, but when it comes to Hokkaido, skiing is THE winter sport. Those who grew up in Hokkaido will remember taking their heavy boot bags with a bento lunch to the local ski trails on school trips. Most Hokkaido natives have at least a few memories of growing up with the sport.
Skiing traditions in Hokkaido date back to 1912, when Theodor von Lerch, Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th Division of the Austrian Army, introduced skiing in Asahikawa. From there it spread. The people of Hokkaido came to think of skiing as the ultimate winter pleasure for an island where leisure activities are so limited by blisteringly cold winters.
It didn’t take long before groomed slopes and ski facilities started popping up all over. By 1965, skiing had become Hokkaido’s defining leisure sport.
The Niseko mountain range, in particular, became well known and earned the name “the St. Moritz of the East,” as skiers flocked to the area. It soon became symbolic of Hokkaido skiing.
The true charm of Niseko is in its snow. Seasonal winds blow in from the Sea of Japan, drastically cooling the area. This causes extremely heavy snowfall in an otherwise dry area. This is what gives Niseko its lush powder, irresistible to skiers.
Once you get a taste for the powder of Niseko, you’ll be sure to come back time and time again. The snows of the Niseko mountains have made this an almost sacred skiing ground that brings 700,000 skiers and boarders each year.
In the Niseko mountain range, you’ll find Niseko Annupuri (1,309m) on the western side of Mt. Yotei. Extending from Annupuri, is Iwaonupuri, Chisenupri and several other peaks. The mountains are very well serviced and covered in so many different trails for skiers and boarders of all levels to enjoy. While you ski down, you’ll not only get to enjoy the trail but the spectacular view of Mt. Yotei as well.
Niseko might be known as a “mecca” for winter sports, but long before skiing took over, it was known for its onsens (natural hot spring baths). I recommend going for a “yukimi” onsen – a bath with a view of the snow-covered landscape – after a fun day on the slopes. There’s so many nice onsens in the area, you might want to try a few different ones.
If you get the chance to go to Niseko during other seasons, you won’t be short of things to do. It’s a great place for outdoor sports year round. After ski season comes to an end, Niseko turns into a great place for rafting, fishing and hiking as well.
It’s easy to see why Niseko is a point of pride for Hokkaido. I know I’m sold on it now.
< Niseko Tourist Association >
< Niseko United >
< Hokkaido Heritage >
Web site http://www.hokkaidoisan.org/
( Composition by Hokkaido Likers Writer – Kosuna )
( Photography Provided by Hokkaido Heritage Council )