Four fabulous tips from a first-timer.
1. Don’t Rush
There is a reason wise men say do not “tread on thin ice”. Not only will you stumble, fall and maybe drown – often uncontrollably and in the most unglamorous fashion – you may end up doing all three in front of the ultra cool ski coach you were trying to impress. Hence, stroll. Don’t rush. And never ever tell the ojisan and obasan at my favourite cafe in Niseko (IF Cafe) to hurry with your orders. Every drip of coffee, every pot of creamy pasta sauce, every dollop of mascarpone cheese topping is prepared from scratch and with love. こだわり (Kodawari): The one word you need to know when it comes to Japanese culture.
2. Don’t Stinge
Niseko is not a place (in my unhumble opinion) to travel on a budget. To fully profit from your stay in Japan’s #1 premium ski resort , stay in one of the swanky hotels at Grand Hirafu, preferably one with a view of Hokkaido’s spectacular backcountry and the breathtaking snowcapped Mount Yotei. Many hotels are merely a few hops away from the slopes – perfect for the serious skier. If you are a beginner like me, enjoy standing tall and proud in your ski gear, because you are about to fall flat on your face right in front of kids who have just completed their double-black runs. Don’t forget to pamper yourself with world-class concierge service, one that arranges everything from best cheesecake and coffee deliveries to ski/snowboard/snowshoe hikes, onsens and dinner reservations at Rakuichi.
3. Don’t Grumble
Things will go wrong. Murphy says so. My flight to New Chitose Airport was cancelled after I waited for six hours, no thanks to the heaviest snowfall in 50 years. All flights to Sapporo were fully booked for the the next three days. I had to fly to Hakodate, and take a three-and-a-half-hour taxi ride that cost JPY62000 (approximately S$770) before I finally arrived at Niseko. You might have read about how groups of Chinese tourists had clashed with Japanese policemen and caused riots due to the flight delays. If only I had the chance to share with them how we could all deal with immense frustrations by singing. I serenaded “let it go~let it go~”, followed by “let it snow let it snow let it snow~”. It worked. Even if it was annoying to my fellow travellers.
4. Just Ski
It is as easy as ABC. Really. Get a competent coach. I had two – my godsons, Ethan (13 years old) and Kiefer (10 years old). Watch how gracefully I skied.