by Jason Horton, The Telegraph, August 18, 2017
She might be best known for her slopestyle skills, but when it comes down to it, British Winter Olympic bronze medallist snowboarder Jenny Jones is a powder hound at heart. And while she may have picked up her taste for the fluffy stuff while working in Tignes, France, as a chalet girl, these days Jenny’s go-to destination for guaranteed good times is the island of Hokkaido in Japan, home to the country’s best-known ski resorts, Niseko (the biggest), Rusutsu and Furano. On her latest trip to Niseko we asked Jenny to give us her top five must-do tips for snowboarding in Japan, starting with…
1. Ride powder!
Aka… Japow! Japan’s north island of Hokkaido is legendary for both the quantity and quality of snow that arrives like clockwork each winter. Its secret is perfect geography – cold air from Siberia rolls over the Sea of Japan, soaking up moisture then dumping it all over the mountains. Above all, the riding here is fun, as whatever the terrain lacks in steepness, it more than makes up for in deepness.
2. Ride at night
Night skiing is big in Japan, and Niseko does it biggest and best, with all the resort’s main runs being lit up until 8.30pm every night of the week. The lights penetrate pretty far into the forest, so the dreamlike experience of riding powder through the trees awaits the adventurous. Best of all, night riding is included in the price of daytime lift passes.
3. Soak in an onsen
There are few pleasures in life greater than slipping into an onsen. These natural hot spring water pools may be indoor or outdoor, and are the perfect antidote to tired muscles and after a hard day on the hill, this is the fastest route to a state of zen-like calm and bliss. Most onsen are single sex and many don’t allow people with tattoos, but the Niseko Grand Hotel has a wonderful rotenburo – an outdoor hot spring – that welcomes boys, girls and ink. But no cameras!
4. Go cat skiing/snowboarding
If you’ve got the cash to spare and your dream of powder perfection involves just you and a few mates having the whole mountain to yourself, then you owe it to yourself to add a day of snowcat skiing or boarding to your Japan itinerary. There are several crews in the Niseko area operating out of disused ski resorts, and while the terrain is quite mellow and unchallenging for experts, it’s the perfect way for intermediates to get their powder wings in style – all under the watchful eye of an experienced guide.
5. Earn your turns
With its network of well-serviced roads and accessible terrain, Hokkaido is a well set up destination for ski or snowboard touring (done either by snowshoe or with increasingly popular split boards – access skis that convert into a snowboard for the ride down). If the weather is fine and you’re feeling hardcore, have a crack at Mount Yotei, a 1,898m active volcano known as the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido. It’s a six-hour hike to the crater, but you’ll be amply rewarded by the view, the ride back down, and your bragging rights back at the onsen.
Jenny stayed with Niseko Central (nisekocentral.com), previewed the new House of Powder catboarding experience opening for 2017/18 in Chisenupuri (thehouseofpowder.com) and snowshoe toured with snowboard guide Owain Basset of Ezon Snow (ezonsnow.com).
The Telegraph has teamed up with specialist operator Ski Safari (01273 224068; skisafari.com) to offer a 10 night hosted trip to Japan’s top powder resorts on the northern island of Hokkaido – Niskeo, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Furano and Asahidake – from £3,750 per person. The trip will be led by Japan ski expert and ex-racer Kenji Matsuzawa and The Telegraph’s ski editor Henry Druce. They will be on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly and ski with you on the slopes. Price includes return flights with BA and JAL from London Heathrow to Sapporo via Tokyo, transfers and b&b accommodation, all lift passes, three days of professional off piste guiding, day trips to Hokkaido’s snowiest resort Kiroro, and to the island’s highest mountain and live volcano Asahidake, welcome reception and end of trip party with great prizes. Read the full details and book here.