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Would you rather... 4 months in Whistler OR work full season in Niseko

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hey everyone,

So I have just finished my first season in the French Alps and am deliberating what to do next season (2017/1Cool. Options currently are to return to my current chalet host role in Morzine, explore elsewhere in the Alps doing similar work (probably St Anton as want to venture outside of France) ...However, although I loved this season I left feeling unfulfilled having encountered a pretty appalling snow season across the board in the Alps and so the other possibility, is to explore somewhere further afield with a higher average seasonal snowfall.

So the alternative plan(s) are to either work a full season (November - end March) in Niseko in a Guest Hosting/concierge type role OR work DAMN HARD from now until January and spend 4 work-free months in Whistler (Jan to end April, as chances of getting a Canadian Working Holiday visa are VERY slim). Below are our key considerations which I would love anyone with experience to share their two penneth...

1) Budget - less of an issue for Niseko as we will get paid out there so its just flights to and from, and funding first month until first paycheck. We envisage needing around £6k each for 4 months to cover flights/accomm/lift pass/insurance/general living costs...is this realistic?

2) Cost of accommodation - How do the two resorts compare, in Whistler we would only be able to afford a Shared queen room in multiple occupancy style apartment (we have looked at Seasonit and Rideonwhistler however these look very costly - circa 5000 CAD per person for 4 months in a couple room, not sure how viable it is to secure somewhere through airbnb/craigslist/PiqueNews in January or before we arrive?)

3) Town vibe and type of people - We really liked Morzine and the fact it was a town rather than a purpose built resort, this was in fact a highlight. In Whistler we would probably try to stay in Creekside to avoid the tourist trap of Whistler Village, there is also a gondola with direct access to Whistler mountain. What is access to the slopes like from Niseko and how doe the town compare?

4) Crowds/lift queues - I hear that Whistler crowds can be a real pain, with lifts queues up to 20 mins? is this fair comment and when are the busiest times? I've heard Niseko is mainly busy around xmas/new year and chinese new year?

5) Snow quality/quantity - How do the two compare, I read Whistler can suffer from wet snow - is this mainly towards the end of the season? odd thought but should I be concerned about the snow in Niseko having levels of radioactivity - stay with me...given Fukishima nuclear disaster in 2011?

6) Diffiiculty and variety of terrain - which would offer more variety and a challenging terrain over the course of the season for both skiing and boarding, key criteria are off-piste, tree runs and terrain/snow parks. We spent the whole season mostly on groomed runs this season so looking for something a bit different.

7) Weather - I understand Niseko rarely sees sun due to it constantly snowing, how does Whistler compare and does it rain much at resort/low mountain level? is this common to a particular time of year?

Cool Work in Niseko vs mountain time - any first hand experience on the guest host type roles would be good, working hours, pay, tipping culture (I read tipping is not customary in Japan - we mostly lived off our tips in France and were able to return to the UK having saved the majority of wages and some of our tips)

I have done quite a bit of research in to both resorts and scoured the forum so really looking for people with first hand experience of spending a season/extended stay in either/both resorts. I am also open to suggestions on other Canadian resorts but would like somewhere with relative ease of access to slopes (put off by the daily commute in Banff as we wont have a car), regular snowfall and a town with a good local vibe/friendly people.

Thanks all!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
It is not even a contest.

Do Japan.

Best snow in the world.

Makes Europe look gash.

Whistler rains too much.

Post your photos next season on SnowHeads. There is a Japan section.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
From what you've written, Whistler.

5) Don't know where you read about radioactivity and Niseko, but unfounded.


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Thu 4-05-17 6:37; edited 1 time in total
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It was something my girlfriend read in relation to the fukushima nuclear disaster and radioactive material leaking in to the sea and then falling in the form of snow. No idea how likely this is but thought I'd ask the question...
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Erm so the choice is don't work and ski full time or work with some free skiing?

Not much of a decision is it?
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I think I'd prefer to work and ski in Japan than not work in Whistler!

Why can't you work hard and leave in january - but for Japan?
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Is there an option to ski/board for four months in Japan without working?
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I did a season in whistler so will answer your questions on that:

If you can budget and don't want lots of nightlife and expensive eating out 6k should be enough for whistler.

Accommodation will be your biggest problem. There is not enough supply to meet demands, which is why costs are so high. Turning up with nothing booked would be extremely risky. (If you stay in creekside note that the gondola only gives you direct access to whistler not blackcomb which is gondola - chair - peak to peak. IMO you are better off staying further out as its cheaper and taking the bus into the village each day and from there picking your mountain).

Whistler is very touristy, even creekside. Lots of international visitors (especially australians). That's not to say there's not a local scene too. Way more friendly than Europe, lots of chatting on lifts and civilised lift queues. Definitely a big party scene too.

Whistler queuing really depends. On an average weekday you pretty much walk straight onto lifts. The huge queues 20-30mins) generally only happen on really busy days (weekends/holidays + fresh snow) when they can't get the upper lifts open due to avalanche danger meaning everyone is crowded into the lower half. Once you know what you are doing and have a bit of local knowledge its pretty easy to avoid big queues.

Whistler gets lots of snow. Occasionally its heavy wet snow. I wouldn't be too worried about it. If you go for four months you will see the full spectrum from light to heavy.

Terrain is where I think whistler is difficult to beat. It really has an abundance of everything. You can ski everyday for 3 months and still be finding new lines - you definitely wont get bored! 2 big terrain parks, lots of tree runs (gladed and natural) lots of bowls, big range of pisted runs, chutes. The resort is set up so that everything within the boundary is avalanche controlled so you can really go anywhere you like. Its the perfect place to improve as an intermediate.

Rain is made out to be a way bigger deal than it really is at whistler. Yes, sometimes it rains lower down, but that nearly always means its puking snow up in the alpine (where you will be doing the majority of your skiing. Occasionally you can get rain to the top, which can make for some bad conditions for a day or two until the next storm "resets" the mountain. Not something to worry about if you have 4 months to ski. Whistler can be foggy, but it will tend to sit at a certain altitude so just ski above or below it.

You could always apply for the Canada working holiday visa.
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@Drifter210, apply for the visa and see , my lad and GF got one as late as april this year , he has also just done a season in rusitsu and loved it but 3 months was enough . as @boarder2020 says the rain factor is overplayed in whistler and in fact if had been lucky enough to be there this winter the snow was epic and of japanese proportions Cool
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Thanks for everyones input much appreciated!

@Dave of the Marmottes, We actually don't mind picking up some work whilst we are there as long as it allows sufficient mountain time also. This season we managed to ski on average about 5 days a week, one being a full day and the other four usually between the hours of 10:30/11am until 4pm Really would like to understand what the shift patterns are like in Niseko (and Whistler) for Hospitality type roles.

I suppose there could be the option to do four months in Niseko work free, haven't explored this option thoroughly yet so would need to figure out how costs stack up compared to whistler. I would think maybe pretty similar overall?

@boarder2020, Thanks for the detailed response, definitely think Creekside/or somewhere slightly further out would be the way forward costwise. Good to hear that rain and heavy snow not too much of a concern. We found in Morzine the rain this season was quite depressing as it just washed away a lot of snow of the lower slopes and made for very icy conditions, it didn't help that it was unseasonally warm at many times which made the freezing level pretty high.

@Dabber, I should have mentioned before, we have both registered our profile for the IEC working Holiday visa (back in Jan) but are yet to be invited into the 'pool'. As it stands only 55 visas remain with around 4877 candidates in the pool. Hence i think our chances are pretty much nil Sad
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I've not been to Japan in winter.

On the other stuff, Whistler is really what you make of it - it's obviously a very busy "Disneyland" place, but then it's also where the hard core Canadian people tend to end up living, so there's a lot of strong local talent there. It's kind of like Chamonix in that respect. Those people are there for the quantity of snow and the terrain. And maybe for the biking and the climbing.

The snow varies from the best (but those who care will already know this) to coastal snow. On average it has a higher moisture content than inland or Utah, but then it falls quite a lot. The trick is to ride it as it falls. Which you can easily do because of where the tree line is. There's plenty of piste, but most locals won't be there. You'll need time and local contacts to get the best from this, but that's not hard to do. And of course there's lots of in-bounds off-piste. And of course plenty of people trying to ride it.

As above, lift queues are only really relevant if you insist on finding them. All the tourists get out of bed at the same (late) time and queue up together, and they all eat at the same time and all that. So they're easy to avoid. And of course any lift lines are well managed (no tobacco, no garlic, singles lines, no rowdies). Whistler is within reach of a major population centre, so you can work out when it's going to be busiest.

Whistler is a pretty lively place with pretty much everything for anyone. Most longer term people will stay out of the core and either drive (using the free parking lots) or use the bus to get around.

I would look at the terrain maps and pictures of people riding in the places you're looking at, then you can decide what you're up for. I would not expect to spend much time at all on "groomed runs" in Whistler. There's plenty of steep terrain. The local park rats will kick your back bottom at aerial ballet.

Weather - as above. I don't really notice it. You can check the stats I suppose, but it snows every couple of days, and when it's snowing then it's not generally sunny. If you go low enough down it may be rainy. You will still have to shovel snow out of your drive all season.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Drifter210 wrote:
Thanks for everyones input much appreciated!

@Dave of the Marmottes, We actually don't mind picking up some work whilst we are there as long as it allows sufficient mountain time also. This season we managed to ski on average about 5 days a week, one being a full day and the other four usually between the hours of 10:30/11am until 4pm Really would like to understand what the shift patterns are like in Niseko (and Whistler) for Hospitality type roles.


Obviously depends on the type of job you're doing.

There are single shift jobs working either day or night, and split shift jobs where the middle part of the day is free.

Note that Niseko Hirafu has some of the best night skiing in the world.


Quote:
I suppose there could be the option to do four months in Niseko work free, haven't explored this option thoroughly yet so would need to figure out how costs stack up compared to whistler. I would think maybe pretty similar overall?


Average accommodation costs close to the lift would be JPY 50,000 per person per month for a shared room.
So approx. £1,376.00 per person for the 4 months.
Some places there's an all in cost, others utilities and snow clearing are extra

Here's the best souurce of info for accommodation
http://niseko.jaga.io/k/accommodation/


Food is reasonably priced.
You can easily do
breakfast for JPY 1,000 (£7) in the convenience store (cheaper at home)
lunch on mountain for JPY 1,500 (£11) (cheaper at home)
dinner for JPY 1500-2000 (£11-14) (cheaper at home)

Niseko United Season pass is around JPY 120,000 (£825). Most expensive in the area by a long way, but it does give you discounts on day passes on Hokkaido.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
There is very good nightskiing in Niseko.

No lights required though...the snow has an eerie glow from all the Plutonium discharge....I rather liked it.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Whistler is ace but as above accomodation is a killer and people end up living as far out as Pemberton and Squamish which really tests your resolve to commute on days when you aren't sure how up for it you are. Even out in Alpine Meadows you are a fair bus ride from the action (although Rec Centre is close). Creekside and first gondy is the best bet if you can swing it IMV, plus a bus pass or good hiking stamina for getting into town on nights when you want to do the tourist thing or pick up cougars/sugar daddies etc.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
thanks @philwig, @Dave of the Marmottes, can you tell me if its likely we would be able to sort accommodation before arrival? i've been looking on Airbnb but there is nothing available long term right now, maybe check towards the end of the summer? The other option are companies like seasonit and rideonwhistler which charge about $5000 per person (so $10,000 total for me and the missus to share a room) for 4 months. It works out about £3000 p/p which seems quite steep, although you have the benefit of bills included and a host who cleans once a week, plus you get to live with a bunch of other longstay/seasonnaire types.

Defo wouldn't want to be living out in pemberton or squamish but don't mind a 10 minute bus ride (in Morzine we normally had a 10 minute walk to centre lifts or bus ride to the avoriaz main lift).

@Mike Pow, It seems based on these costs, it could roughly work out about the same maybe less if we got a decent flight price...

Would be interesting to hear of any experiences from people that have skied in Niseko and how it compares terrain wise and the town itself

While were at it are there any US ski areas in say Utah or Colarado that rival Whistler? we did also look at Breckenridge briefly but read it can be quite flat in places...not so good for boarders.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
The only places in the US that directly rival Whistler I'd say would be Aspen and Jackson. In both affordable accomodation is likely to be equally a challenge (although in Jackson I guess you might be able to snag an affordable long term motel deal as it is the off season for them in town). A Vail epic pass and a long term car rental is a viable alternate particularly if you are interested in skiing a bunch of places from Colorado, Park City and Tahoe though I would add a Mtn collective to that plan to hit other places.

£750 pppm rent doesn't sound outrageous for Whistler to me. You could easily hit £5-600ppm with a lot of graft plus bills in trying to find a 1 bed appt or studio yourselves
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Drifter210 wrote:

While were at it are there any US ski areas in say Utah or Colarado that rival Whistler? we did also look at Breckenridge briefly but read it can be quite flat in places...not so good for boarders.

The other US resort large enough to be in competition with Whistler are: Big Sky, Park City, Vail...

Big Sky has the terrain. Park City and Vail are both what you make of it. You need to go hunt down some "secret stash" away from the tourists.

Park City has a local scene (my mate live there), but it's not cheap.

Vail...forgetaboutit. You'll need to live in nearby town and DRIVE there.

Big Sky is frightfully expensive for tourist. But it might actually be ok for seasonnaire. I don't have any idea.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Cheers Dave & everyone who's input. Plenty of info for us to digest.
Accommodation wise we would always be looking for a house share type scenario i think, we like the idea of living with others and having other people to go out riding with etc.
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Drifter210 wrote:

@Mike Pow, It seems based on these costs, it could roughly work out about the same maybe less if we got a decent flight price...

Would be interesting to hear of any experiences from people that have skied in Niseko and how it compares terrain wise and the town itself


Based on the £3000 per person cost you quoted above, then Niseko is much cheaper. By about a grand.

Flight can be anything from £500-900

Niseko and Hokkaido in general don't compare with Whistler, or Jackson, or Aspen or Morzine.

You go for the snow, and the trees, and the food, and the vibe.

This is Kiroro, inbounds, lower mountain, no hiking. You get the drift


http://youtube.com/v/jePlfGa87Vo&t=13s
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They will release a bunch of new Canadian visas at some point. You just have to wait for the next round and hope for the best. Regarding USA, you will be granted 3 months stay, so if you want a full 4 months you are looking at having to cross into Canada for a month at the start or end.

Cheapest flights to Vancouver tend to be air transat (I paid about £350 return).

The companies like nonstop snow and ride on whistler are not the cheapest option, but not terribly overpriced. For the extra you pay you are getting a professional company rather than simply a room in someone's house. It may be worth it for peace of mind and convenience.
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I did a season working construction in whistler while living in Squamish

It always seemed to be overcast and raining, very few bluebird days, it's proximity to the coast and low elevation contribute to rain at resort level and heavy snow certainly lower down

I won't comment on the skiing as it was an awful year 2005/06 for snow, I understnd it normally gets a hell of a lot

Whistler is more like a town than that euro resort feeling - pros/cons to that, I thought it was very expensive to eat out

I would like to ski it with good snow and a guide as so many people rave about it, no one can argue about the amount of vert and sheer amount of terrain I just think there are better places for dryer snow and higher chance of clearer sky's.

What ever you do, enjoy your freedom Cool
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
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@Mike Pow, looks pretty damn epic!!

How are the snow conditions in April? looking at the snow data Dec Through Feb are the main months for snowfall with it tailing off in March and nothing in April. Does the snow stick around long enough to enjoy spring skiing through to the end of April?
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Simple - get a coin and assign Whistler to one side and Japan to the other. Toss the coin. Go to whichever destination's side lands facing up this time. Go to the other next time. Repeat. (Don't over-think this!) Twisted Evil
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I disagree that eating out in whistler has to be expensive. Yes there are the high end luxury restaurants like araxi, bearfoot bistro etc. that cost silly money. There is also el furni's that does any plate on the menu for $5 (less than £3 for decent pub food!). If you are feeling hungry you can get a 3 course meal with unlimited bread at sphagetti factory for less than £10. Plus throughout the season most restaurants at some time or other have special deals - just check pique magazine to find them.
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Drifter210 wrote:
@Mike Pow, looks pretty damn epic!!

How are the snow conditions in April? looking at the snow data Dec Through Feb are the main months for snowfall with it tailing off in March and nothing in April. Does the snow stick around long enough to enjoy spring skiing through to the end of April?


Cheers. It is. About 4 times a week mid-winter Smile

In a normal SW Hokkaido winter it's not unusual to see

6-7 snow events * per week in December and January
4-5 snow events * per week in February
2-3 snow events * per week in March
1 snow event * per week in April

* snow event is more than 5cm in a 24hr period


March or Jarch as we call it is my favourite month. Low skier volume, maximum snowpack, 2-3 snow events per week, sunshine, great views, easier driving conditions

Niseko Hirafu and Kiroro are open until the Golden Week holidays at the start of May.

So plenty of spring resort and spring touring to be had.

Top to bottom skiing at Kiroro on 03 May 2017

https://www.facebook.com/kirororesort/posts/1266615900119212


Touring in mid-April


http://youtube.com/v/NgD6OtkbA1I
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@Drifter210, If you do decide Whistler have a look at Allura for condo rental. If you move around often, you can pick up some deals for longer stays that make it quite sensible option.

Other wise you will have a crazy job getting anywhere at all for Jan-April. Most long term contracts go very quickly, 10 people on viewing list in 10mins of going on market. They will then only pick from those people so if you are not over there, no chance. Also the rentals are generally for the season Oct - May sometimes just Nov-April but not often.

Yes it does rain in the mountains anywhere, but on closing day this year there was 10cm of powder at the top and of April with good ski out down to the valley. Blackcomb is still open during May, though would not do ski out.

IEC Visa is a pain and could be a real hassle if one of you gets an invite, with only 3weeks to complete and the other does not. Worse than not getting an invite at all.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Drifter210 wrote:
... While were at it are there any US ski areas in say Utah or Colarado that rival Whistler? we did also look at Breckenridge briefly but read it can be quite flat in places...not so good for boarders.


I ride lots of flat places and never have to walk: it's all about looking ahead.

Colorado? As I think someone just said, broadly "no", but that doesn't mean the US places aren't worth visiting. Colorado is definitely worth a visit but, and I can say this from direct experience which I don't have in Japan, it's flat. There's a reason they get so many tourists. Utah is better, steep terrain and all that... but it doesn't get many tourists (perhaps they don't like the cliffs...) and so you don't get the Disneyland resorts. Well Deer Valley, but that's, er, flat. The snow pattern is very different, and you aren't going to get a "resort vibe" outside maybe Park City and Deer Valley, neither of which I'd condescend to ride myself even if they let me ("Deer Valley Skier" is a term of abuse). And although I regularly ride out of SLC, the whole scene is kind of weird (you know, religious nutters...).
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philwig wrote:
Colorado is definitely worth a visit but, and I can say this from direct experience which I don't have in Japan, it's flat.


I guess you haven't been to / heard of Crested Butte, Telluride, Silverton.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Jake43, Thanks for the info Jake, the 4 month rental option with seasonit or rideonwhistler is starting to sound the more sensible option now!

@philwig, Would love to visit some places out in the States still defo on the bucket list. I actually have some distant relatives who live in Loveland and I've never had the pleasure of meeting....sounds like the perfect opportunity to get to know them NehNeh
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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@philwig, wrote:

Quote:

"Deer Valley Skier" is a term of abuse


....but somewhat unjustifiably so (but only somewhat). There ARE steeper and ungroomed parts of Deer Valley. In fact it has some really quite interesting terrain, and the good thing about the majority of "Deer Valley Skiers" is that they stay on the groomers, which means the good stuff tends to hold good snow for quite a time after a dump. (And it IS expensive).
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Acacia wrote:
@philwig, wrote:

Quote:

"Deer Valley Skier" is a term of abuse


....but somewhat unjustifiably so (but only somewhat). There ARE steeper and ungroomed parts of Deer Valley. In fact it has some really quite interesting terrain, and the good thing about the majority of "Deer Valley Skiers" is that they stay on the groomers, which means the good stuff tends to hold good snow for quite a time after a dump. (And it IS expensive).


Agreed.

Best resort in Park City valley IMHO
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Drifter210 wrote:
@Jake43, Thanks for the info Jake, the 4 month rental option with seasonit or rideonwhistler is starting to sound the more sensible option now!

@philwig, Would love to visit some places out in the States still defo on the bucket list. I actually have some distant relatives who live in Loveland and I've never had the pleasure of meeting....sounds like the perfect opportunity to get to know them NehNeh


Confusingly Loveland isn't actually where Loveland ski area is and is actually probably a bit far to day commute to most ski areas bar Eldora.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, might put the relatives off for a bit longer then Toofy Grin

So we have made a decision and we're going to go with Niseko for 4 months in January. @Mike Pow's vids have proven too much to ignore!

Thanks for everyone's input, much appreciated. Now to look at flights and accommodation. We're thinking we might apply for a working holiday visa too and try and pick up some part time work while we are out there to help us for beer money!
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@Drifter210 amazing, what a great thing to look forward to
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Excellent. You won't be disappointed.

Keep the questions coming if you need more info / advice.
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@Mike Pow, would you recommend investing in touring/back country gear for Niseko?

I recently bought some powder skis and wondering whether to fit them with touring bindings...

Also, have you explored any of the other nearby resorts to Niseko, Rusutsu for example? just wondering whether we should factor in any day visits out there.

thanks
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Drifter210 wrote:
@Mike Pow, would you recommend investing in touring/back country gear for Niseko?

I recently bought some powder skis and wondering whether to fit them with touring bindings...

Also, have you explored any of the other nearby resorts to Niseko, Rusutsu for example? just wondering whether we should factor in any day visits out there.

thanks


Definitely.

Mount touring bindings, get skins, get avalanche safety equipment and the knowledge.

Yes. Visited most of them in SW Hokkaido.

Each has their own personality, pros & cons. Try to see them all if you can.

My personal favourites are Kiroro and Sapporo Kokusai.

Knowing what I know now, if I was going on a 2-week Hokkaido holiday I would spend the first week in the Niseko Resort Area skiing Niseko United, Niseko Moiwa and Rusutsu; and the second week based in Otaru skiing Kiroro, Sapporo Kokusai, Asari, Otaru Tenguyama, and Sapporo Teine

For you guys looking to spend more time on 'Fantasy Island' then I would base yourselves in the Niseko Resort Area but take every opportunity to do day trips and multi-day road trips.
ski holidays



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