There’s plenty more to Niseko than powder. Make sure you take a day off the slopes and discover some of the other treasures hidden beneath the powder snow – like the coloured hot spring onsen pools of Chisenupuri (above) / Photo Aaron Jamieson.

Ever skied into a volcano’s crater? Put it on your bucket list.

You might not recognise it from this photo, but this is taken from the rim of Mt Yotei with Niseko in the background. After summiting, ski into the hollow for your first taste of adrenaline, then hike back out and ski down the outside for the longest vertical descent in the area (guide required) / Photo: Zach Paley, Niseko Photography

There’s nothing quite like gazing through a veil of steam across a frozen landscape from the warmth of an onsen bath. This bath in Hotel Kohantei can be visited on a day trip to Lake Toya, less than an hour’s drive from Niseko. The lake features four volcanic lava domes that rise from the bottom of the lake. The crystal clear blue waters are stunning year round.

Until 2013, Blue Pond in central Hokkaido was closed in winter, until they decided it might be cool to illuminate it in the evenings. They were right! While it freezes and gets covered in snow in winter, in other seasons it takes on a luminous aluminium chloride-tinged hue / Photos Shinya Takeda above; Darren Teasedale, Niseko Photography right/below

Mid-January to mid-February is the best time to experience Hokkaido’s amazing ice festivals. You can visit this ice temple at the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival – stick a coin to the wall for good luck / Photo Shannon Martin

If you venture out of the ski resorts into local towns you will uncover a world of cultural treasures.

The Daibutsuji Buddhist temple is spectacular inside and out. By appointment you can enter and witness the intricately painted gold ceiling featuring a dragon protecting a Buddhist patriarch from a tiger / Photos Alister Buckingham

For a 10,000 year period ending in about 500BC, the first humans of the modern stone age inhabited Japan. As well as being among the first people to use tools and weapons, the Jomon are believed to have been the first to decorate pottery – “jomon” means rope or cord which was used to make markings on the pottery from the period. If you’re a history buff you will want to visit the Hakodate Jomon Culture Center which features an extensive collection of Jomon stoneware, earthenware and accessories, including a national treasure, the hollow clay Chuku-dogu figurine (right) made 3500 years ago. It’s about three-hours’ drive south, and has a Shinkansen (bullet train) station so you can stop by en route to Tokyo. If you don’t have time this trip, Niseko’s Somoza Gallery has Jomon pieces on display this winter.

This article appeared in Powderlife 2019 / Vol 12 / Issue 52 

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