Hirafu is the largest of the villages at the base of Niseko and the roads / footpaths can be a bit icy.
Niseko is known for having some of the best powder skiing in the world. For our first couple of days the weather was abnormal with beautiful blue skies, great visibility and semi-soft dry snow (which was still better than the snow 90% of the time at Mt Ruapehu). The majority of the people at our accommodation were however complaining about the weather though, since it meant a lack of fresh powder.
Night skiing is on every evening and it’s not a small part of the field. It is a mammoth area and there are a lot less people around. We went up when there was some light snow coming down and it was superb.
I didn’t bring my skis with me to Japan since they are too short and not fat enough for the conditions. This has meant I’ve been able to try out some different skis.
- Solomon Shogun - good all round ski, little bit of lift in powder. Very small rocker. More effort to turn than I'm used to. Probably not great on ice.
- Solomon Rocker 2 - huge rocker, loves deeper snow, manageable but not great on hard packed snow, skis quite short because of the large rocker.
What has been really interesting is how Niseko doesn’t feel like Japan at all. It is like an Australian ski village; there are so many Aussies here. Everywhere speaks english as the first language and many of the staff in places don’t know Japanese.
Off the mountain there is an excellent après skiing scene and “The fridge” (officially known as Gyu+) is our most regular haunt. It is a great cocktail bar with drinks such as Hot Buttered Rum, Hot Apple Pie, Espresso Martini, Ume Mojito, Unpasteurised Sake. It also has a superb entrance and great ambiance inside.
Wild Bill's is more of a pub than a classy establishment, but good fun. We also found a table upstairs to play table soccer at with an old workmate of Chris’s and their other half.
Moon bar is also similar but quite a bit smaller and they have a free pool table.
In terms of restaurants there are a good selection in Hirafu although you do need to book at many. We had a good Giant Red Crab meal, ramen, burgers and more. There are a lot of options.
There is an International Money machine in Hirafu at 7 Bank located at Yama Shizen on Sasayaki Ave. There is also a good Onsen that overlooks the ski field at Yumoto Niseko Prince Hotel.