Niseko, on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, is fast becoming Asia’s answer to America’s Aspen, reports the New York Times. Despite twice holding the Winter Olympics, until recently Hokkaido was not a well-known skiing destination outside Japan, but that’s changing fast. The great quality powdery snow, natural hot springs and spectacular views of Mount Yotei offered by nature are matched by Niseko’s high-quality accommodation, good restaurants and plenty of ski-runs; and it’s getting better all the time.
Stylish restaurants and a network of trendy chalets are springing up alongside family-owned inns. Foodies should try the seafood at Kamimura (www.kamimura-niseko.com) and those who like swanky accommodation can chill out in one of the 10 exclusive zen-like lofts at Suiboku (suibokuhirafu.com). The fully revamped 200-room Green Leaf Niseko Village, renovated by the New York-based Alexandra Champalimaud, has just reopened its doors, and a Banyan Tree and Tadao Ando-designed Capella complex are in the pipeline.
The well-to-do are now arriving on direct flights at Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport and a high-speed train line from Tokyo is set to begin service in 2015. More than 70 per cent of Japan is mountainous so it’s hardly surprising that skiing is a national pastime. If you fancy joining the locals in what is arguably their best resort, enjoying an après-ski volcanic hot-spring bath and snacking on sushi, now is the time to go, before this great discovery loses its smart but laid back ambience.