Niseko winter 2020 major resort news wrap

Park Hyatt is here

After a four-year wait since its announcement, the spectacular Park Hyatt Niseko opens onto the slopes of Hanazono this winter.

This is big news for the evolution of this resort – it’s the first premier international brand hotel to be developed from scratch here. Hilton was the first to enter Niseko in 2010, however it moved into a refurbished existing Japanese hotel.

Park Hyatt Niseko has been designed from the piste up for the modern international ski tourist, and brings Niseko closer to the standards offered by the world’s leading ski resorts.

A Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel is under construction in Niseko Village due to open in time for winter 2020/21, with others on the way.

Rolling out the white carpet for Aman devotees

The Aman resort experience is so alluring its devotees declare themselves “junkies” – albeit addicted to hospitality experiences universally declared among the best in the world.

Aman junkies from all corners of the globe are likely to put a pin on Niseko following the confirmation that the brand is developing a health and wellness retreat – the first in Japan – in the resort village of Moiwa.

Mt Moiwa is a smaller, one-resort mountain right alongside Niseko’s main resort mountain. It bookends the resort on its western front where the bustle of Niseko United gives way to the rolling peaks of the Annupuri range that eventually meets the Sea of Japan coast 20km away.

It was at this secluded spot at the base of Moiwa where Aman decided it wanted to build the third ski-resort based Aman property of its 32-destination portfolio. The development will consist of a hotel and 31 residences, designed by acclaimed architect Kerry Hill shortly before he passed away in 2018.

Old village breathes new life into Hanazono

The creator of the spectacular and highly successful Somoza Restaurant & Gallery – a 150-year old Japanese “kominka’’ farmhouse relocated from mainland Japan to a stunning cliff-side location in Hanazono – is expanding his old-meets-new-Japan property.

Artist and boutique developer Shouya Grigg has brought three more kominkas to his property and is currently rebuilding them as luxury villa retreats – in his signature style – alongside the current gallery, expected to be ready in time for next winter.

Following that he has plans to build a hotel which will be a series of kominkas joined together by a central walkway. Ideas are also forming for a similarly themed villa resort and commercial village on a plot of land further down the creek that Somoza sits on the banks of.

Michelin stars continue to shine

There are four new Michelin-pedigree restaurants foodies need to check out this winter.

The first is Kitchen – an extension of the kitchen in neighbouring restaurant Kamimura – run by none other than Niseko’s original Michelin-star restaurant chef, Yuichi Kamimura.

The next is Domus, just a few doors up the road in the new TELLUS Niseko building, headed by a chef with Michelin accolades at previous restaurants.

Check out the Restaurant & Bar Guide insert of this year’s magazine to learn more about the other two Michelin stars at Park Hyatt Niseko at Hanazono.

Start of Finnish direct flights

It just keeps getting easier to get to Niseko. This year Finnair started flying direct from Helsinki to the local New Chitose Airport, becoming one of the first airlines ever to offer a direct link to Europe — and it’s purely due to the popularity of Niseko’s skiing.

Niseko is Asia’s premier ski destination and the number of flights from within the region have been increasing steadily in recent years. The intrepid Finns have been onto Niseko since the early days, and North Americans are the next wave. We’re guessing it’s only a matter of time before a key US route opens up.

Niseko whisky on the way

We’re going to have to wait a year for the distillery to be completed, and then another three or so for the product to age, but then we’ll be able to savour Niseko’s very own locally distilled whisky.

One of Japan’s most beloved sake makers Hakkaisan is planning a 1200sqm distillery in the resort-base village of Annupuri. They’ll also make gin and vodka, which should be ready soon after the distillery starts operating next winter. Plans haven’t been finalised but visitors may be able to do tours, tastings and buy bottles to take home.

Hakkaisan owner and long-time visitor Jiro Nagumo said one of the reasons they chose Niseko was the environment. “Whisky is a liquor you want to sleep for a long time and ripen quietly. Niseko is quiet with vast natural forest and is rich in water from snow melt – it’s a very desirable environment for making whisky.”

Boom! Mizuno bowl turns 10

If you happen to be woken by a series of booms around 7 o’clock, don’t be alarmed — get out of bed and prepare for a powder day.

The bombing of Niseko Village’s Mizuno no Sawa bowl is like a courtesy wake-up call for powder lovers. It means there’s been an overnight deluge, and ski patrol are setting off avalanches across the rim of the steep bowl’s crest to make it safe for powder hungry skiers and boarders.

This wedge of Mt Annupuri is home to much of the steepest terrain and longest vertical descents in Niseko and, when slathered with a fresh layer of deep powder, can literally give (advanced level) skiers and boarders the run of their lives.

January 5 this winter marks the 10th anniversary of its reopening after it was closed for safety reasons. Only advanced-level skiers and boarders should consider tackling Mizuno no Sawa, and are advised to check the official Niseko United Resort Map to find the Niseko Rules and other information on Niseko’s ski areas.

Niseko part of iconic collection

Global lift passes have made ski tourism a whole lot more interesting and accessible over the past decade, and Niseko is mixing with the best in the world.

Niseko United is now a full member resort with Ikon and the Mountain Collective, meaning holders of these passes can ski at dozens of resorts, including Niseko, on one affordable pass. Many of the passes’ resorts are household names – Aspen Snowmass, Steamboat, Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear, Jackson Hole, Revelstoke, and Banff Sunshine – to name just a few.

“These global titans of the ski industry represent some of the most exalted ski resorts on the planet,” says Hanazono president Colin Hackworth. “Niseko United welcomes pass holders from every corner of the globe to the most reliable powder skiing in the world here in Niseko.”

This article appears in Powderlife 2020 – Issue 54

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