Our skiing trip to Japan already seems like it was ages ago! Our half term break is over, the little ones are back to school, and I finally get a bit of time to write an over view on what I can only call one of the best family resorts for a skiing holiday!
So, I’m not a skier. But our twins got the idea of ‘going to ski school’ in their heads and we thought we’d give it a try! We were travelling with friends and between us had four children of 7 and under and we just needed somewhere to make things easy, and the Hilton Niseko Village did just that.
To take advantage of the snowy mountains of Hokkaido, you fly into Sapporo. From the New Chitose airport to the ski resorts of Niseko it’s about a 2-hour drive and while you could grab a taxi (or eventually hire a car if you plan on travelling around the region) we chose to book the Limousine Bus operated by the Hilton.
Their representative met us at the arrivals and was cheery and bright and took care of our luggage, navigated us around the airport and was extremely helpful. As there are set times for their transfer we managed to grab a bite to eat at the airport (and the kids explored the wonders of Sapporo airport!) which actually worked out really well before heading off on a two hour bus ride!
After winding through the snow-topped countryside, you arrive at your final destination, The Hilton Niseko. What immediately struck us was the proximity of the hotel to the ski slopes with ski lifts seemingly running directly from the hotel and up the mountains. You literally couldn’t be closer to the action if you pitched a tent on the piste itself!
Walking into the hotel we were greeted by a lovely, cosy lobby lounge, with flames jumping in a central fireplace and candles scattered around to immediately give you that warm feeling.
After welcome drinks and a quick check-in, we made it up to our rooms. We had booked a family suite each to be comfortable and although lovely (with literally the most amazing views!) they were small by western standards but perfectly normal in the world of Japanese hotels!
For our week’s stay, the room was just fine, impeccably clean, free WiFi, and came with all the usual essentials (considering we were spending so much time outdoors, it really was perfect).
We had made the choice to book the 4 little ones into ski school before arriving; not necessary, but it assured we had the spots for them and saved us a mad dash to make all the arrangements upon checking-in at Niseko.
The ski rental and ski school itself are located just at the side entrance to the Hilton Lobby. It is a quick walk from one building to the next and made it so ridiculously easy to pop over and sort out our rental gear before settling in for the night. They have absolutely everything there that you will need so if you don’ have your own gear, there’s plenty of choice, although the Japanese prices are definitely higher than you’d pay in Europe etc.
The next day, our first full day in Niseko, was day one of ski school. The excitement was just too much to handle for our two and they were wearing their helmets and masks before getting out of their pyjamas! After a hearty Hilton breakfast we made our way to the Ski School and met their instructor for their 2-hour morning lesson.
And that was it – a quick check of equipment, a few exercises on how to use just one ski, and then the other, and they were off…..into the snowy distance of the ski slopes with their Canadian ski instructor…….
Two hours later I went to collect them and was met by two little speed demons who were already hitting the slopes with so much ease it was frightening! They wanted to go back for the afternoon session; there was little enthusiasm for taking a break or even eating lunch, it was all about the ski!
Day two saw them heading off again, although this time they had already advanced to the third level of ski school and were learning turns and goodness knows what else but they were loving it. The cold didn’t bother them; they were having the time of their lives…!
So besides the usual comforts of being in a 5-star Hilton property, offering us multiples dining options (from Japanese restaurants with a Teppanyaki option, a buffet restaurant, a pub, lounge bar and a village of local restaurants (set in the slopes) an amazing spa and small gym, we were literally in the middle of all the action as far as all the outdoor winter sports were concerned.
They have an on-site ski chalet where we just dropped off and stored all our equipment each day. They gave us baskets to store our boots and helmets and kept our skis aside ready for the next day, which stopped us messing about with it all.
The ski rental also sold the ski passes for the slopes which meant there was no trekking from one place to another; there was no carrying our equipment or anything else. It was all on our doorstop and made it a sheer delight to have so many mini skiers in our group!
Ski-dos were parked up outside available for rent, and the minute the kids came out of their ski lesson, they were offered free sleds to go and hit the slopes which was a great idea and kept them busy once again!
When the little ones weren’t on either their skis, or zooming around on sleds, the Hilton offered a little children’s playroom on the 1st floor. While it wasn’t massive, and a member of staff didn’t supervise it, it was nice to have an indoor space for a bit of winding down after an active day.
There were some books, cuddly toys, tents, a TV with little chairs set up, and the big winner with our four children was the Wii! Our two had never played before but it certainly passed a bit of time on more than one occasion with parents cheering them on as they played beach volleyball, table tennis and an array of other sports!
The Hilton Niseko is the epitome of a mountain getaway. It’s remote but set in the most beautiful of locations with ample of space for walking, exploring nature, and the perfect ski conditions, even at the end of March.
While you can’t just walk out of the resort and have access to local shops or eateries, there is a free shuttle service that will take you into the nearby town of Hirafu. We took a day off from skiing and did just that. It meant we could see a little bit of the surrounding area, wander the shops, grab a hot chocolate in one of the cute coffee shops and do a little bit of souvenir hunting.
It’s not a big place so you won’t need much time there but it was a good excuse for us to get out and say we’d seen something other than the hotel!
So there you have it. For our two children who had never even seen snow before, it was an amazing holiday and in the words of my daughter, “ it was the best holiday ever, better than figure skating, and even better than Christmas”. She has now decided she wants to be a ski instructor when she’s older, and both her and her twin brother are planning our return trip for next year!
To say the trip was a success would be an understatement. I don’t know how the whole experience would have been had we been elsewhere but I do know from friends that it’s usually a lot more hard work with the carrying of equipment and having to travel to the slopes before you can even start skiing. This really was an ideal spot and I commend the Hilton Niseko Village for the great atmosphere that they’ve created up there and how well the staff took care of us all. Looks like we’ll be returning next ski season for some more action, S x