So this was not only my first time skiing overseas, but my first time to Japan. I’ve travelled through most countries in Asia but Japan has evaded me for some time. Wife and I had been planning a trip to Japan for some time, but a mate living in China organised a ski trip to Niseko and pulled that rug from under her and roped me in for it. Firstly, didn’t have great conditions. Felt like skiing Perisher to be honest, slushy snow down low, hardpack up top, and not much in the way of genuine steeps. Having said that, I loved the trip. To use the format of a standard trip report I’ll go through in days. Arrival Arrived in Hirafu on the afternoon of the afternoon of the 26th of Feb. Snowing lightly all the way from Sapporo to Hirafu, was pretty excited at the prospect of more snow, alas. Got to the house in Hirafu, down the bottom of the village. Pretty plush joint called Kado, has its own onsen downstairs and was absolute looxury, glad I wasn;t paying for the accommodation though, yikes. Got into the strongu, umeshu and Nikka pretty hard on night one due to the excitement, but was ready to hit the slopes in the morning fresh and well slept. Day 1 Went skiing with my brother (who just that morning when loading the van slipped on ice and bruised the hell out of his tailbone) and a close mate who lives in China. Bluebird day, bit of fresh from the night before, probably the best all round conditions we had for the whole trip. Spent most of the day heading up the Ace Quad and heading over to skiiers right of the chair and through the gate there into some lovely terrain, little tree lined chutes and some off camber steepish stuff that you can see from the left of the chair as you’re heading up. This was pretty nice skiing and steeper than I thought I’d get as I’d been warned about the lack of steeps. Laps of this off piste stuff all day, and a cafeteria style lunch at the King Bell or a surprisingly edible katsu curry and the creamy draught biru. Happy as Larry. We had dinner at this great little izakaya two mins walk from the house called Ebisutei. Definitely a step up from the cafeteria lunch on the hill. Fish roe, snow crab, lots of beers and a slippery walk home. More strongu, more Japanese whiskey, home onsen and loads of anti-inflammatories. Great day. Day 2 No companions today. Mate too hungover and sore to go riding, brother can’t walk without proper tailbone pain. Headed up high and rode the meathook single chairs and played in the bumps up top. Did some exploring to get my bearings, skiing down to Annapuri in the morning, then across to Hanazono in the afternoon. Snow conditions starting to pack down up high and soften down low. Lunch at Boyoso was nice. Great little hut on the hill on the Hirafu side, I’m sure lots of you know it. Definitely the best on hill food I had while there (went back most days), beats the shit out of the Frostbite Café’s chips and gravy. Was fun not having to wait around for others so did lots of hard skiing and headed back to the house to get changed and head to an outdoor onsen nearby. Was lovely to sit in there and recover after big ski day. Lots of beers/strong at home to wash down the voltaren, then first dinner at that ramen joint just up from Rhythm. Awesome dinner. Supply run to Seicomart and fried chicken, some sushi and other snacks for second dinner. Day 3 Brother back in action. Mate from China boarded with his wife. Snow conditions worsening (getting really sloppy down low). Stayed high, carved up a storm off the single chairs down to mid mountain and lunch again at Boyoso (oh man the salmon roe bowls, stick them in my face). First dinner/late lunch at the food vans (the sloppy Bolognese filled baguette with a stack of cheese hit the spot well). Strongu, whiskey, umeshu and home onsen, followed by dinner out at an izakaya across the road from Ebisutei called Nagomi (I think). Loved it, ate so much it’s not funny, drank about four or five lovely creamy draught beers (how do they get it so creamy???) and tried basashi (horse sashimi) which was pleasantly mild and clean tasting, and a few other memorable delights. $45 a head for the bill. Just outrageously cheap. Day 4 All back on the mountain together. Nothing extreme just having fun riding as a group, which is something I do rarely. Lunch at Boyoso again, then the afternoon skiing by myself as all the others were knackered. Headed through some other gates to find pretty rough, bumped up lines which were fun at times and a chore the later the day got. Walked all the way back from the hill with kit slung (and walking boots luckily). Stopped off at Seicomart for first dinner and a refreshment. Those little containers of karaage are amazing, and those perfect little sandwiches with no crusts, and a goddamn katsu curry. F you aussie 7/11s. Went night skiing for a couple of runs, but it was like skiing on frozen cauliflower. Canned it pretty quickly and went home to get changed for dinner. Dinner at this French joint just up from Rhythm. Melted raclette, charcuterie, a full gruyere fondue. Say what you want about it, that sort of food makes my smile in the cold after skiing all day. Then home for onsen and digestifs. Great day. Day 5 Skied with my brother and mate again (his last day on snow). Met up with a friend of his who lived in Hirafu for a year so showed us a few sneaky spots. The trees around Miharashi at the top of the gondy still had some powder to be found, as long as you stayed dangerously close to the trees. Lunch again at boyoso. Couple of runs all together after lunch, then I stayed on this hill while everyone left for a pre-dinner snooze. As I was coming down past the double chair that takes you to the singles, I saw a female boarder writhing around in absolute agony on the ground, with nobody stopping. Obviously did the right thing and asked if she was Ok, and she was not, looked like a broken arm, she was not in a good way at all. I clicked out, crossed my skis up the hill a bit and tried to flag a few people down. Four or five people just said sorry can’t help ior just waved their hands at me and kept skiing on! Granted they were all Japanese but I would have though grabbing ski patrol was de rigeur when you see crossed skis. Ski patrol finally came up the hill, asked if I knew her and thanked me and said I could go. The injured woman, who was Chinese and introduced herself to me as Wendy, begged me to tell her friend down the bottom what had happened. I was to look for somebody in black jacket and brown pants, to tell them Pu-Pu (not Wendy as she had told me) was hurt. So I started asking asking people who matched the description: ‘excuse me, are you waiting for Pu-Pu?. F*ck I got some funny looks and gave up after the fourth or fifth person. Still shocked at how few people even slowed down for her on the hill when she was clearly in a pretty bad way. First dinner from Seicomartu on the way home. Lots of strongu (the grapefruit one, my god it’s deadly) then off to second dinner at a ridiculously nice place called Acorn for a 9 course deg that just rocked my world. Amazing. Chef trained at El Bulli, glad I wasn’t paying. Still, nicest meal I had there (or this year for that matter). Started snowing that evening. Snowed pretty hard for a little while. Pretty excited that I might get some fresh for my last day. Day 6 Not much snow settled in the village, but when I got up to the hill, caught the gondy up and saw no foot tracks up the Miharashi walk, headed up there. Finally, fresh, untracked powder. Not knee deep, but powder and fresh lines nevertheless. Did about 11 laps of gondy > walk up > fresh tracks. Chased a big white hare through the snow and ripped through the trees (much more skier friendly than gnarly old branchy gum trees!). Absolutely cooked my legs as it’s a pretty flat cat track out and a walk up each time, but man that was the best skiing of the trip. Was a Monday too, so the only other people I saw walking up there were two Japanese snowboarders. Had it all to myself. Heaven. Didn’t even stop for lunch, was having too much fun to ruin it with something as banal as food! And that was it. Bus trip back to Sapporo hotel that night, then early flight out the next day after pissing away the rest of my money on Pokemon and Melon Kuma stuff for the kids, and loads of gorgeous sweet stuff for the family. Royce chocolate, wow. The chocky chips. Amazing. Not to mention a lazy konbini dinner, absolutely shits on a soggy or dry meat pie with sauce. So, all in all was what I expected in terms of the village; a Japanese themed ski resort. Didn’t see any cringey bogan behaviour or anything like that. Snow conditions not ideal until the last day (and doesn’t look like they’ve gotten any better since), but I get stoked skiing supertrail so I’m easy to please I guess. Looking forward to going back with the family when the kids are old enough, and hopefully getting some faceshots and knee deep. Also, first thing I did when I got home was to start trying to find somewhere in Australia to buy a washlet to retrofit. I’ve been spoiled, and have not enjoyed using the toilet (usually a fairly enjoyable activity) since getting home. Bless Japanese toilets, they’re amazing. Highlights konbini booze - strongu, japanese whiskey and sour umeshu for the win konbini food izakaya food first day through the gates and last day miharashi laps in untracked though not too deep powder the house and semi outdoor sunken wooden spa opening up into a giant snow mound for rolling around in Lowlights skiing partners having a low threshhold for hangovers! brother's injured tailbone lack of fresh snow Oh, and I’ll post a few photos soon.