by Ski editor and Henry Druce, The Telegraph, August 21, 2017
Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is renowned among skiers for its astonishing quality and quantity of powder snow. But for first-timers to the land of falling snow, there are a few things to take on board.
1. Snow ho!
Why does Hokkaido receive these industrial quantities of fresh snow? It's all thanks to cold winds blowing over the Sea of Japan, gathering moisture and dropping it as snow when they reach the island’s mountains. In its snowiest years, the island’s best known resorts such as Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano can receive up to 17m of the white stuff. To put that in perspective, the annual average of perennial Brit favourite Val d’Isère is between four and six metres.
2. Flush away
If you saw Joanna Lumley’s TV series about Japan, you’ll know how highly she rates the country’s toilets – and with good reason. Many come with heated seats, adjustable strength water jets and blasts of hot air to perfectly pamper your posterior. They practically burst into song and dance at the culmination of proceedings. Just what you need after a hard day on the slopes.
3. That's pants
You can get virtually anything from the country’s five million vending machines, including underpants. Far more useful, and common in ski resorts, is the numerous varieties of hot coffee in a can that are available.
4. Island life
Japan is made up of 6,852 islands, and more than 70 per cent of the country is covered in mountains, with over 200 volcanoes. There are 96 ski resorts on the main northern island of Hokkaido, though many are just small hills with one or two lifts and are only used by locals.
5. It's good to slurp
And loudly, especially when eating noodles. It indicates you find the food delicious and helps to cool the noodles down before they fully enter your mouth. It makes for a very different lunch-stop experience on the slopes.
6. Thrice rice
Rice is traditionally eaten with every meal and a great way of carbo loading for your day on the mountain. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan – in the better-known ski resorts, a wide choice of international food is available.
7. Just say yes
You might initially think Japanese people are the most accommodating people on earth until you realise it’s considered rude to say ‘no’ directly.
8. Say cheese
Brits have a reputation for wonky teeth. We’re derided for it by our American cousins, but in Japan dodgy dentures are likely to gain admiring looks. Yaeba, crooked teeth, is considered such an attractive feature that people – mostly young women – go to the dentist to get their teeth looking crooked.
The Telegraph has teamed up with specialist operator Ski Safari (01273 224068; skisafari.com) to offer a 10-night hosted trip to Japan’s top powder resorts on the northern island of Hokkaido – Niseko, Rusutsu, Kiroro, Furano and Asahidake – from £3,750 per person. Price includes return flights with BA and JAL from London Heathrow to Sapporo via Tokyo, transfers and b&b accommodation, all lift passes, three days of professional off-piste guiding, day trips to Kiroro (Hokkaido’s snowiest resort) and Asahidake (a live volcano, and the island’s highest mountain), plus a welcome reception and end of trip party with great prizes. Read the full details and book here.