Why everyone’s talking about Kiroro ski resort in Japan

Kiroro powder days. Pic supplied. Cameron Black.

Aussie Cameron Black has been living the Kiroro lifestyle in Japan for the past five years. He set up Double Black cafe in the resort and serves up AllPress flat whites and piccolo lattes to the powder set looking for fuel for over the head powder turns deep in the Japan white room.

For those unfamiliar with Kiroro, yes there are still some, it sits about an hour from Niseko not far from the harbour city of Otaru on the north island of Hokkaido. Snow here is bountiful, abundant, plentiful, there really aren’t enough words to describe the amount but trust us it’s dry, blower smoke that will have you begging for mercy and asking to do it all over again.

Don’t expect a traditional village, it’s more a purpose built ski resort with Sheraton style hotel accommodation that acts as a modern village with everything needed for a full service ski holiday. Except après. If you’re looking for late night parties you’re in the wrong place, get your sleep, you’ll need it to cope with the powder. 

Intrigued? Cameron Black reveals why you should be.

This is his Kiroro powder story.

Why Kiroro

Well I’ve been married to the Japanese culture for over 15 years and this region has always been part of our life. We relocated here permanently 5 years ago.

My wife worked at Kiroro when Yamaha originally built the resort and that connection over time has provided us with an established local footprint of friends and family. When we decided to make the move to Japan from Australia we were lucky to already have that established network and community to walk straight into.

It’s very rare you will find me riding inside the resort, for me the beauty and wonderment of Kiroro is its surroundings and its epic backcountry. My ski buddies and I have a few favorite lines in the backcountry that we will make a b-line to as long as it is safe.

For those new to powder, Kiroro has the advantage unlike other resorts where there are designated side country and tree skiing areas within the resort boundary that are patrolled along with a wide open section that is left ungroomed just for you to ride pow. These areas are perfect to get your fill of lift accessed powder and you don’t need a guide. It also helps to get yourself ready for the next step into the backcountry.

Kiroro has lots and lots of terrain out the gates so you can get freshies all day, the key thing is that you really need to know what you’re doing or have a guide who does. There is a lot of amazing snow and terrain out there but you really need a professional operation to show you where to get the best we have to offer then bring you back safely.

Beware if you wear your GoPro on your helmet I’ve seen lots of people searching in deep deep powder trying to find their camera because a branch knocked it off. If you drop your phone or camera good luck finding it.

Cameron Black pic by Chris Lee in Kiroro’s inbound terrain. Supplied.

Our immediate region also allows easy access to the bigger resorts and accommodation hotspots such as Niseko, and Rusutsu, plus the bright lights of Sapporo.

To onsen is to après

For a culture hit and the best way to unwind your tired body after a full day playing in the powder, try an onsen. Be sure to follow the guidelines around etiquette and behavior when you enter, and please be aware of Japanese values if you have tattoos.

I like to head to ‘Go Shiki’ and ‘Yuki Chichibu’ onsens in Rankoshi (near Niseko) they have amazing water and are accommodating for those with tattoos plus the yuki chichibu has a mud bath onsen for the ladies as well.

If you do want to après, then when I’m in Hirafu in Niseko I always stop by Micks Wines to catch up with a few of the locals and get a really good wine. For a more local Japanese experience I would suggest sticking your head into an Izakaya (bar) and go with the flow. The limit in Japan is zero, so don’t drink and drive or you won’t be having a very fun time.

Best coffee

Well I could be somewhat bias here and say Double Black Cafe in Kiroro, however I would suggest that you try everything. Japan has some amazing and also some quite “interesting” coffee experiences.

This is a place where you can walk up to a vending machine in the middle of nowhere that has a meter of snow on top of it, drop a coin in and get yourself a piping hot coffee. The coffee might not be the best in the world but hey it’s a fun thing to do.

Best hot chocolate

Given my business I would say ours however for people making the trip to Japan the key is to try everything. For sheer ease and quality I personally have a secret appreciation of convenience store Hot Chocolates (in Japan they’re called coco-a). Van Houten brand is usually found in most stores in the hot drink section, try it and see what you think. 

Best breakfast 

Japan is blessed with some amazing bakeries I like to find a local one and dive in. You’ll find bread thingies with all sorts of interesting ingredients. I just buy on looks and treat it as a mystery surprise to see what is on the inside. If you’re staying in a hotel odds are there will be a thing on the menu called Natto – try it as a right of passage. 

Best day side trip

I am a fan of Moiwa ski resort, it’s small but when it’s on it’s on like Donkey Kong, and Sapporo Kokusai is another small unique Japanese resort experience. It really depends on conditions at the time so talk to your guide, wake up early, hit the road and trust them to safely get you into the powder.

Best shopping

There is an amazing snowboard shop near Hirafu in Niseko called Gentamstick where a local shaper creates snowboards that are a pure work of art. In Sapporo just head to Stellar Place above the central JR station and go window shopping, be sure to check out the food court on the bottom floor of Diamaru and try everything that’s on offer.

Where do you take visitors to impress them?

I like to take them local, those small specialty restaurants where you find that mind blowing Japanese quality, hospitality and attention to detail. The best seafood and produce Japan has to offer can be found all around Hokkaido especially in Otaru and Sapporo. If you’re heading over this way jump on the Miss Snow it All Japan Facebook page and ask away.

Best activity for kids

Find yourself a batting centre. This is a fun Japanese thing where you stand in front of a mechanized baseball pitching machine and try to hit the skin off the ball. They have different speed settings and personally I haven’t progressed past the kids level, but there have been lots of laughs trying.

I would suggest if you’re in Kiroro at the same time as the Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) is being held in Sapporo you really need to add that to your itinerary. The Snow festival is an amazing experience, google it and you’ll see what I mean.

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READ MORE  9 secret ski resorts of Japan you haven’t heard of, yet

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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