One domestic flight later, I landed in Hokkaido, checking into the Hilton Niseko Village. If I thought my view of a snow-covered Central Park was the bomb, I was wrong. You just cannot beat a floor-to-ceiling view of Mount Yōtei, (literally ‘sheep-hoof mountain’). Unbelievable.
Known for its resemblance to Mount Fuji, this inactive stratovolcano had me mesmerized. The first 40 hours, we got over 2 feet of fresh snow and I couldn’t stop staring. I also had no idea that Hokkaido had local wine, and the hotel left me a bottle of 2016 Hokkaido Zweigelt in my room that kept me company. Delicious.
The hotel has an unbeatable slopeside location, making it the only resort in the area with a ski valet, so you get to ski-in and ski-out of the hotel.
I met people from all over the world, in particular six couples that live in Colorado, the home of Aspen and Vale, and they said: “we only ski in Niseko.” Apparently, this was (unofficially) the snowiest ski resort in the world with the best powder, and I was there to learn to ski!
And what a place to fall over a thousand times (or more). They have international ski instructors coming in for the season, and while my Polish instructor came up to my armpits, she still managed to (almost) save me from losing my dignity.
Now I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so I’m more South Beach than snow. But we used to visit my father’s family in Michigan each winter and go snow mobiling. To spend an afternoon on a three-hour snowmobiling tour brought back fond memories and made some incredible new ones. The tour itself was off the charts, and truly a once in a lifetime thing, even for me.
The Hilton Niseko Spa was the perfect way to unwind some tired muscles, with views of fresh powder as you get your treatments. And their Onsen – a Japanese hot spring – is particularly unique. I was looking out at Mount Yōtei bathing in the hot waters and could reach out and touch the snow.
The Onsen plays a huge part in Japanese culture and is a tonic to the stresses of daily life, cleansing the body and soul. This unique bathing experience has a wealth of health benefits, including relaxation and stress relief; and as I immersed myself in the hot spring water, it definitely eased the aches and pains of a day on the mountain!
My last morning in Niseko, I watched the sun rising over Mount Yotei from my room – a fitting end to an incredible few days.