01 September 2007
Niseko has long been famous for its world class powder skiing and snowboarding and its fame is well deserved, its no secret that this far flung corner of Japan may have the lightest most consistent snow on earth. For this reason most people come to Niseko in the powder months, December through March and enjoy daily fresh lines and good times. However the joys of skiing and snowboarding in Niseko aren't limited to the chilly powder filled days of winter, springtime is also a fun time to visit Niseko.
Niseko in particular Hirafu has one of the longest seasons in Japan running lifts well into May, and although consistent powder finishes sometime in April there is still great skiing and snowboarding to be had. Possibly the best part about spring skiing and snowboarding in the spring time here is the settled weather. Although midwinter provides seemingly endless powder days along with this comes seemingly endless cloud cover. Spring gives more opportunity for awesome views, in particular views of the magnificent Mt Yotei. Springtime in Hirafu also yields more opportunity for freestyle oriented skiing and riding.
In any corner of the world springtime is always the best time for park riding and Hirafu is no exception. Soft spring like conditions abound, April through May and although the park this year couldn't quite be titled world class there was a tidy double line consisting of a 30ft table into a 50ft table and a couple of fun rails and smaller tables thrown in for good measure.
Another great thing about springtime skiing and riding in Hirafu is the lack of crowds, it's a great time for hiking the peak of Hirafu and taking in the scenery. Theres no crazy race for first tracks, you can simply enjoy the peace and quiet and get great turns on the way down.
Spring is also arguably the best time for hiking Mt Yotei, a commanding volcanic peak of about 2000 meters that looms over Niseko. The settled weather and a settled snow pack mean hiking is a breeze and much safer than in the middle of winter. And once again the settled weather means you are much more likely to be able to enjoy the view from one of the higher peaks in Hokkaido and Japan.
Spring skiing and riding in Hokkaido is not limited to the Niseko area, the tiny one chair ski resort on Nakayama Toge has a great compact park with quality rail features, spines and tables, it's also just 45mins from either Niseko or Sapporo depending on which way you are travelling. Just down the road from here is Sapporo Kokusai a busier more commercial resort equipped with gondolas, chair lifts and a decent park this is a mecca for the younger generation of skiers and snowboarders from Sapporo.
It's well worth visiting Hokkaido in the springtime it has the longest running season in Japan, decent weather, a number of different mountains to choose from. It's a time to relax, there's no mad rush for first lift just a wait for the snow to soften while you eat brekky. Be it Hirafu or Mt Yotei in Niseko or Sapporo Kokusai your bound to get good skiing or riding and if you time it right you can enjoy the quintessential Japanese experience of Cherry Blossom viewing. What more do you need to relax!