Niseko, Japan – The Never Ending Snow Machine
I started coming to the snow as a child. It was such a nice contrast to the monotony of daily sunshine in LA. We’d ski, have snowball fights, and snowmobile. I remember one day snowmobiling out around Lake Mary near Mammoth Mountain and the snow was so deep that when I stepped off the snowmobile that I almost disappeared. After college I moved to the snow and my first winter in Mammoth was one of the biggest ever; you could easily lose a car overnight. I remember numerous times when it snowed 4 + feet overnight and I had to literally “swim” out my front door. But I have never experienced non stop snow like here in Niseko. It’s like there is no “off switch” on their snow machine.
I can’t even come up with words to describe this non stop natural occurrence. As crass as it sounds, “puking” seems to come closest. A blizzard happens and then it is over. A snowstorm or winter storm happens and then it’s over. Like a teenager after their first big beer binge, snow in Niseko, Japan keeps coming and coming and coming! They say that it occurs due to cold air coming off the large land mass of Siberia combining with the moisture from the Sea of Japan.
Traveling to Niseko from North America is relatively easy, but it’s a long haul. The best part is that the time difference is so great that your body has no idea what time it is and beyond waking up on the early side, you are pretty much good to go. The other great thing, after all that travel, is that you have managed to change your world 100%. There is no way you can confuse Niseko for another ski area in the world. Yes, they have gondolas, chairlifts (single chairs, double chairs and quads), but everywhere you turn, something is completely new and different. One of my favorite treats in Japan is the heated toilet. Nothing is more welcoming on a freezing ass cold day. I’m sure there are even more treats in store if I could learn how to drive the thing with all those nobs and buttons! Hanazono has toilets that lift the lid when you open the stall door. If that isn’t customer service, then I don’t know what is! My other favorite new devise is the machine that pours a beer for you. You place your cold glass into the machine and it tips the glass back and pours the perfect Japanese Beer with just the right amount of head.
There are ski trophies and stickers on the walls by the bar. Andrew Weibrecht, the US Olympic bronze medalist in Super-G in 2010, is feted… he should be, Andrew’s parents own the place.
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