“wide variety of accommodation options, exceptional dining experiences, and unforgettable winter scenery”

’Tis the season

Make the warmest memories at the coldest time of year


December 2020 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

It has finally arrived! Winter is the only time of year snow sports enthusiasts can shred a mountain on their skis or snowboards, and it’s also a wonderful chance to celebrate the holidays with someone special. Japan is home to excellent mountains and resorts that offer delightful vacations, enjoyable treks, and exciting runs for skiers and snowboarders of any level. Many resorts and hotels are offering unique experiences to make this winter extra special.

Hitting the slopes
Luckily, Japan is home to a number of resorts where beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders alike can carve up the slopes. Chalet Ivy Hirafu, in Hokkaido, goes to great lengths to make your experience as smooth as possible.

“Chalet Ivy Hirafu’s ski concierge counter provides a one-stop service that allows guests to book ski and snowboard lessons, as well as other winter activities,” says Makoto Iwasa, hotel manager. “Our experienced staff will give you the latest updates on slope conditions and the best advice on your equipment to ensure a fun, wonderful experience in our powder snow paradise.”

Acme Wu, marketing director of Niseko Tourism, believes in the region’s strengths as a destination even beyond its impressive ski runs.

“Known as Asia’s Aspen, Niseko is the most international year-round resort in Hokkaido, Japan,” she says. “The wide variety of accommodation options, exceptional dining experiences, and unforgettable winter scenery — where everything is covered in fresh, powder snow — are among the many reasons that guests from around the world gather in Niseko year after year.”

Customised ski experiences can also be found just a few hours from Tokyo.

Evergreen Outdoor Center has been offering guests the most expansive suite of snow sports programmes and services in Hakuba for over 20 years,” says Dave Enright, founder, CEO, and chief guide. “Evergreen International Ski School provides group ski and snowboard lessons to children as young as three years old through to adults, and our private instructors will cater to your specific needs across all 10 Hakuba Valley resorts.”

The slopes are the main draw for any skiing trip, but Hakuba Ski Concierge is dedicated to making your entire trip memorable.

“Since we understand the value of the overall guest experience — not just the time on the slopes — we endeavour to be fully flexible, to be attentive to the needs of our guests, and to assist with all aspects of their trip,” says Nadine Robb, owner and ski and snowboarding instructor. “As experienced industry professionals with deep roots in Hakuba, we guarantee excellence on and off the slopes.

The extra mile
Japanese resorts and hotels are known for their incredible hospitality — but on special days, this service can be taken to a whole new level, says Hiroyuki Yamamoto, general manager of the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima.

“For guests celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, the Sheraton Anniversary Package puts our concierge at your disposal to help you create a plan tailored to your individual needs and budget,” he explains. “We will make sure the day is memorable. The package includes a small bouquet of flowers, a half-bottle of champagne, and a box of chocolates.”

Enright highlights the breadth of activities Evergreen offers.

“With Evergreen Backcountry Guides, you can discover the snow-covered mountain bowls and majestic forests of the northern Japanese Alps on skis, snowboard, or snowshoes,” he says. “Evergreen Alpine Academy provides certified Canadian ski and snowboard instructor courses and examinations, as well as avalanche skills training.”

Hakuba Ski Concierge provides personalised snow sports experiences.

“We are the only ski school in Hakuba that exclusively offers private lessons and guided tours, as well as private transportation to all guests,” Robb says. “As a partner of Hakuba47, we are located on the only resort that provides a priority lift line for students of its schools — invaluable during busy periods.”

Chalet Ivy Hirafu prides itself on helping guests get the most out of the local area during their stay.

“Our staff are delighted to assist you with reservations for transportation, restaurants, and tourist spots,” Iwasa says. “We aim to provide a hassle-free stay from beginning to end.”

Furano Lofts in Hokkaido offers boutique accommodation for a first-class personalised trip.

“Furano Lofts is ranked first in Furano for accommodation and service excellence. Other unique attributes include our picturesque, tranquil location that affords easy access to Furano’s world-class ski fields in winter and its iconic flower farms in summer,” says Leon Flint, executive director of guest services. “We also offer Furano’s only private-use onsen, exclusively for our guests.”

Having fun while staying safe
The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet, and resorts and hotels are doing their utmost to protect their guests, as Sheraton Grand Hiroshima’s Yamamoto attests.

“In keeping with our high standards of cleanliness and our commitment to providing excellent service, we have implemented a variety of new safety protocols,” he says. “Working with in-house and outside experts in food and water safety, hygiene and infection prevention, and hotel operations, we continually monitor and improve our solutions to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our guests.”

Flint notes the inherent benefits of booking private lodgings.

“Furano Lofts has responded to the global pandemic by further enhancing our existing commitment to cleanliness and to maximising guest comfort, safety, and wellbeing,” he says. “Also, the design of our loft apartments and our chalet alpine residence — each with private outdoor access, separate air-conditioning, and no shared indoor spaces — provides inherently safer accommodation, allowing guests to enjoy full independence from one another.”

Niseko Tourism’s Wu is proud that, to combat the threat of Covid-19, the entire town of Niseko has come together to protect visitors.

“This year, we worked with our resorts and town officials to create the New Niseko Travel Journey guidelines,” she says. “These provide clear directions on how guests can stay safe before, during, and after their trip.”

With so many hotels and resorts going the extra mile to keep guests safe and satisfied, a winter break is just the thing to cap off this long year. •