HOT POW­DER

Club Med Sa­horo de­liv­ers what Aus­tralian ski fiends have come to ex­pect from Ja­panese ski re­sorts – an abun­dance of “Japow” and culi­nary nir­vana

Mens Health (Australia) - - Discover Hokkaido - BY JA­SON LEE

Do you want to do the race?” asks my snow­board in­struc­tor. Race? It’s not a ques­tion you ex­pect upon first set­ting foot on the slopes of a new re­sort. The dude has never seen me board and he’s ask­ing me if I want to race? “Why not, let’s do it,” I re­ply, hop­ing my voice doesn’t be­tray my ap­pre­hen­sion.

Per­haps I should have been ready to re­ceive such a chal­lenge. Af­ter all, this up­mar­ket re­sort on Ja­pan’s north­ern-most is­land of Hokkaido was the site of the 1972 Sap­poro Winter Olympics. That knowl­edge serves only to deepen my fears as I find my­self at the top of the steep launch plat­form of the fa­mous Slalom course. This is not what I signed up for, I think as the time­keeper shouts, “ICHI, NI, SAN, GO!”

I launch my­self off the plat­form with all my might as I pro­ceed to gun down the dry­pow­der run as fast as I pos­si­bly can. The first flag is upon me be­fore I know it. I just man­age to ne­go­ti­ate that one, clip­ping it with my shoul­der as I pass, be­fore I have to throw my weight back­ward to clear the next. My quads feel like they’re on fire as I blast down a moun­tain faster than I’ve ever done be­fore.

By the time I reach the fi­nal gate I’m gassed and re­lieved. Then I see my of­fi­cial time flash up on the big screen and feel a surge of ex­hil­a­ra­tion. I call out to my in­struc­tor: “Let’s do it again!”

I’LL AD­MIT I HAD an out­dated per­cep­tion of Club Med, pic­tur­ing a youth-ori­ented com­pany stuck in a Nineties cul­ture of hard­core par­ty­ing. Af­ter a tough day on the slopes I ex­pected I’d have to dodge ob­nox­ious 20-some­things slam­ming down Jäger­bombs at night. How wrong I was.

The first thing you no­tice is the lack of con­ges­tion on the slopes. De­spite the re­sort be­ing at full ca­pac­ity, the at­mos­phere is pleas­antly laid­back with no queues at the lifts. This is a god­send, be­cause with over 20km of ter­rain and seven tasty black runs, skiers and board­ers of all lev­els can en­joy the renowned dry pow­der in peace.

To get your bear­ings, start by tak­ing the gon­dola and head straight to the 1030m sum­mit, ideal for be­gin­ners and kids, but with plenty of scope for thrill seek­ers look­ing for more chal­leng­ing ter­rain. It’s a snapshot of the va­ri­ety that has made the re­sort a mag­net for Aussie skiers, who’ve tre­bled in num­ber since 2006.

“Sa­horo is well known for their down-to-earth con­sumers who come back year af­ter year for very con­sis­tent ski­ing and a

com­fort­able stay,” says Vincent Ong, Club Med’s vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing.

NURS­ING BONE-WEARY LIMBS I stag­ger over to the neigh­bour­ing man-made Ice Vil­lage come night­fall. It’s a sight to be­hold with an ice rink and clus­ter of il­lu­mi­nated igloos com­plet­ing a stun­ning winter won­der­land. Each igloo has a dif­fer­ent pur­pose; there’s a florist, an ice cafe, a mini bar and even a sta­tionery store.

The nightlife and din­ing op­tions are a stand­out. I kick things off at Daichi, the re­sort’s buf­fet serv­ing dishes made from fresh lo­cal pro­duce. From the beau­ti­fully cut Maguro lean

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