Japan’s ski resorts lure Aussie powderhounds
WATCHout Thredbo, Perisher Blue and Hotham. Even New Zealand’s popular Mount Cook and Mount Hutt ski fields could be in trouble.
Australian skiers are heading to Japan in droves these days, lured by its abundant snowfalls and affordable accommodation.
‘‘From mid-December to the end of January, the snow [in Japan] does not stop falling,’’ says one avid skier, just back from the popular ski resort of Niseko on the northern island of Hokkaido. Plenty of snow is also predicted for skiers and boarders well into April and operators have good packages for March, such as SkiJapan.com’s deals of seven nights for the price of five and free lift passes and equipment rentals for children under 12. More than 44,000 Australians visited Japan in the January-March 2012 ski season, according to latest figures from the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia. While Niseko is a favourite, Sapporo and Hakuba also rank highly.
‘‘Japan is known for some of the lightest, driest powder snow in the world — and lots of it. For many skiers and snowboarders, that is the holy grail,’’ TTF chief executive John Lee says.
‘‘It also has 500 ski resorts, compared with just a dozen places in Australia with lifted terrain.’’
Lee reckons the Australian dollar, at its highest against the Japanese yen in years, is also helping attract Aussie skiers. He adds that while our resorts have had significant investment in snow-making equipment to ensure good cover and an extended season, ‘‘powder days in Australia are quite rare and tens of thousands of Aussie powderhounds head overseas each year to get their fix’’.
It’s not just the heavy snowfalls we’re interested