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March 14, 2012

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides

Exclusively for Dim Sum & Then Some, and just in time for the coveted spring ski season, the editors of LUXE City Guides give us a sneak peak into the hotspots and icy cool finds from their new LUXE Niseko app

Konichi-pow! Thirty years ago, this winter wonderland was top secret for numerous Japanese skiers. It’s now the powder playground of choice for Aussies and Asian expats, with its cubic kilometres of some of the world’s most beautiful, white fluffy snow. Add to that the best of Japanese efficiency and boho hospitality, not to mention fantastic local eats and a cappuccino or cocktail on the side. We’ve got the inside scoop in the fabulous LUXE Niseko app for all you iPhone aficionados out there, but here’s a cheat sheet to get you started.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides Niseko is divided into four main areas: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village (Higashiyama) and Annupuri, with Grand Hirafu and Upper Hirafu village being the epicentre for restaurants, bars, shops and accommodation. Most of the bigger houses are in Lower Hirafu, with smaller restaurants dotted here and there. Read on for our fave places to sleep n’ eat.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides STAY J-Sekka
Six sleek, minimalist suites designed by architect Nakayama Makoto in the J-Sekka complex smack bang at the Hirafu crossroads in the middle of everything, and three minutes’ walk to the Ace Family run. Take your pick from the spacious one and two bedroom apartments or more compact studios – all have glassy show-off bathrooms with tubs, guest restrooms, laundry, plus generous kitchens and living areas in the one and two-bedders. Fine locavore fare at Sekka Dining, J-Sekka Deli and Café for gourmand provisions and cas bites, plus Maki Lounge for whisky and sake swilling.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides STAY- Zekkei
Timber chalet for picture-perfect views of Mt. Yotei and an endless stretch of valleys and snowy treetops from ginormous windows over three floors. Five ensuite bedrooms and a bunk ensuite with PlayStation 3 and safety gates for the sprogs, plus marble fireplace, underfloor heating, three hinoki soaking tubs and elm fixtures. All heated with eco-friendly geothermal technology, so there’s no need to feel bad about camping out like royalty. Oh, go on, you deserve it.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides EAT- Ezo Seafoods
Keiko and James Gallagher preside over this funky, timber cottagey seafood bar of high stools and super fresh, proudly displayed marine life such as rough cut sashimi, crab, oysters, uni, as well as hot cooked food – the whole sea-bang, eat in or to go.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides EAT – A-Bu-Cha 2
Owner Shimizu-san has legions of followers who book out this schmick charcoal and wood mod izakaya (Japanese pub), and that’s not just because he’s a spunk. It’s a paean to Hokkaido produce – tuck into the divine salmon, butter corn hot pot, organic green tea salt chicken and squid en creuset, and you’ll understand that this ain’t no pub grub, Bubs.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides EAT- Chiharu Sushi
For years, clued-in snowbunnies have had to do relatively little to guard this delicious sashimi secret – it’s in a humble townhouse on a quiet street in the nearby town of Kutchan – but the flip fresh, hyper seasonal marine life is some of the best in town. While sushi sensei Maeda-san doesn’t speak English, he’s the cuddliest man with a knife you’ll have ever met, and the kids will love the snowman onigiri (rice ball) he plates with his serious seafood. (0136-22-5477)

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides DRINK – Half Note
Live jazz and jams with frequent appearances by owner Toh-San and top Sapporo bar n’ bass man Tadao Shigematsu. Black and blond wood dominate, with modernist timber chairs, ping pong and billiards to complete the retro social club feel. The crowd are known to make use of the dance floor – you have been warned.

It’s Snow Wonder: Skiing with LUXE City Guides ONSEN – Hilton Niseko Village
It’s hard to beat a long, hot soak after a day of powder ploughing. A stunner of a hot spring, that practically cascades into the beautiful pond in front, plus beautiful panoramas beyond. It’s reason enough to venture out to Niseko Village. No wonder photographers – and everyone else – adore it. Best to go off-peak (geddit?), during the day when everyone else is skiing.

Feeling a bit warmer? Cosy up at all the hottest après ski spots with the full LUXE Niseko appSee you on the slopes!

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