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Skiing in Japan: How, Why, and Where

Park City, Utah resident Fabrice Croisé recently enjoyed the ski slopes in Hokkaido, Japan, and shares his travel tips

Fabrice Croise, previous AGEIST profile, founder of Scents of Wood, and experienced skier set off for a bucket list ski experience in northern Japan. He gives us the download on the details.

Where did you go and how did you get there? How long did it take? What was it like?
I always wanted to ski Hokkaido. Living in Utah, you hear about it all the time because both locations claim to have “the greatest snow on Earth.” (Utah goes one step further and prints the claim on their license plates.) For this first trip, we based ourselves in Niseko and from there checked out two other locations: Rusutsu (about 30 min away) and Iwanai (about two hours away; an abandoned resort recycled as a snowcat skiing operation).

Getting to Niseko is fairly easy:

2 flights (to Tokyo from wherever you come from and then a 2-hr flight from Tokyo to Sapporo), followed by a three-hour bus ride (from Sapporo airport to Niseko center).

Pay attention to the following:

  • Tokyo has two major airports (Haneda and Narita) so make sure your connection to Sapporo leaves from the same one you land at. They are VERY far from one another.
  • Book your bus ticket in advance; they sell out regularly.
  • Pre-organize your pickup at the bus station with the place you are staying at. Taxis in Niseko can be tricky.
  • If you decide to rent a car at the Sapporo airport, you will be in Niseko in 2 hours. Remember, though, that they drive on the left and that an international driving license is required. Also, roads look like this:
Japan, skiing, fabrice croise, scents of wood
Driving in Japan.

So you must be comfortable driving in icy/snowy conditions.

  • The train is also an option to go from Sapporo airport to Niseko, but it requires two changes and often gets cancelled due to weather.

“The skiing was extraordinary”

What was the skiing like? Did you have a guide? How did you know where to go?
The skiing was extraordinary. Living in Park City, I am used to great snow — and a lot of it. But Niseko seems to be on a different planet in terms of precipitations. Over the course of seven days, we saw the sun briefly 3 times; the rest of the time it was snowing, uninterruptedly.

To settle the question once and for all, I would say Utah gets the best snow and Hokkaido gets the most snow :) 

Guides are not necessary inbounds and getting around the mountain is not complicated.

Niseko has four different bases and you can start your day from any of them. The majority of skiers on the mountain are foreigners and English-speaking.

Japan, skiing, fabrice croise, scents of wood
Fabrice skiing in Japan.

What are the mountains like? I understand they are quite low and near the ocean.
Very low. The skiing takes place between 800 and 3,800 feet of elevation. And indeed the ocean is quite close. When it clears out, you can actually ski with the Sea of Japan in sight.

“You can ski up Mount Yotei, and ski from the rim into the volcano”

What was the town like? Where did you you eat? What did you eat? Where did you stay and how was that?
The town is small and charming. A mix of old and new, of modern and traditional. Plenty of restaurants of all kinds; a lot of delicious Japanese options, including myriad ways of consuming locally grown mushrooms (and, of course, exquisite seafood).

In the distance, the Yotei volcano makes for magnificent vistas.

Japan, skiing, fabrice croise, scents of wood
Dinner in Japan.

What are some of the things you wish you had known before you went?
We should have researched backcountry options a little more thoroughly. You can ski up Mount Yotei, for instance, and ski from the rim into the volcano. Next year!

As you are a master of scent, what did you choose to wear while you were there?
Mostly Hinoki in Hinoki and Burnt Hinoki, 2 of Scents of Wood fragrances inspired by Japanese cypress.

I also carried a bottle of Sandalwood in Oak with me, to take pictures of it in local settings.

Japan, skiing, fabrice croise, scents of wood
Scents of Wood fragrance.

“Japan is an endless source of inspiration for me”

How did the trip inspire you, expand your imagination?
Japan is an endless source of inspiration for me. Though it was my first time skiing in Hokkaido, I have been to Japan many times before and I always come back with a cleansed, rejuvenated soul. The entire country is an ode to harmony. Harmony between people, harmony in design, harmony with nature. 

What would you suggest to people who may want to go to Japan for skiing?
Put your internal clock on Japan time before you fly. For example, if you come from the US and your schedule allows, go to bed gradually later and later and wake up later and later for the two weeks preceding your trip. You will reduce the time difference by a few hours naturally. 

Also, it might be a good idea to spend a few days in Tokyo, Kyoto, or both before flying north to the snow, and absorb the rest of the jet lag that way.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


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