Darren Teasdale has been working in Niseko for nine winter seasons and has run Niseko Photography for four years. He gives us some true local insight into one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan – where to ski, eat and play so that you too feel like an insider.
I had Japan at the top of my ‘must visit’ list and four years ago, an opportunity to make a more permanent life here presented itself. I worked as a photographer for Niseko Photography prior for 3 years and then in 2012, along with my partner Elsie, we purchased the company and have not looked back.
Favourite ski run
Into the Back Bowls off the Annupuri Peak. After a short hike from the top lift station you can gain access to some of the best terrain in the region. The Niseko United Resort utilizes a gated access system for leaving the resort boundaries and the Back Bowls all funnel eventually back into the resort. It is not without its hazards and best done the first time with a guide for safety reasons.
Best run on a powder day
In good weather I will head to the Peak and drop into the Back Bowls to Annupuri. If the weather is bad because of wind or low visibility I will stick to the protected tree runs of Miharashi or in the lower Hanazono resort area.
Favourite apres spot
The Brick bar in the lower village. They have a really cool vibe and friendly staff… although I may be biased here because the bar is located above our office and I can always find a friend to chat to about the snow conditions and so on.
Favourite on-mountain dining
Boyo-so is a small Japanese restaurant tucked away under the Hirafu gondola. They serve an awesome Katsu curry which is a crumbed pork cutlet with rice and gravy. They also still have 1980’s pricing and not international resort, wallet-emptying fares.
Favourite village dining
In the lower village is a small Japanese izakaya restaurant called Ebisutei. Kap-san and his staff are super friendly, full of energy and the food is amazing. Try the Ebisutei salad and the agadashi tofu if you go.
Must do snow activity
Again I am biased when it comes to this question because we offer both of these tours through Niseko Photography & Guiding but I have to say Cat Skiing is top of my list for must-do activities in Niseko. A day on the cat is like no other with super deep powder, no lift lines and awesome terrain. It’s only you and four others, so getting untracked powder is a breeze.
Going on Guided Tour with a professional photographer in the resort is also a must. They will show you all the best spots and capture amazing images along the way.
The best takeaway coffee in town is without a doubt from Gloorious at Rhythm Snowsports.
Musu café located at the traffic lights in the middle of town does an awesome breakfast eggs Benni.
Favourite non skiing/boarding activity
The Niseko area has a lot of great off-mountain activities for the whole family. Some of my favourite are a visit to the Nikka whiskey factory in Yoichi or an area tour to visit a natural onsen hidden in the mountains. These are both perfect for resting the legs after some hard on mountain activities.
Favourite date spot
Lupicia wins hands down. It serves the freshest cuisine and has a great atmosphere for quality time with a loved one. One word of warning.. I took my partner, Elsie, there for her last birthday, however she was pregnant and I did not realise that the set menu was not really designed for pregnant women with an amazing selection of fresh sashimi, oysters, rare meats and delicious wines. Might have to take her back soon now that the bun is out of the oven.
Best activity in resort or town for kids/families
There’s many things for families and kids to do. This season there is a new high ropes course that stretches the length of the Family Run and sits perched up in the trees. There’s also tubing, toboggans, snow shoe tours and over the Christmas period you can visit the horses and reindeer at The Hilton resort.
Where do you take visitors to impress them?
Whenever friends or family come to stay some of my must-visit places include the Sushi train in Kutchan for delicious, fresh sushi. Then out to the Japanese gardens to sample the natural spring water running off Mt Yotei. Lastly, a stop at Milk Kobo for some tasty sweets to end the day is always a winner.
What should visitors not leave your resort without doing?
The food in Japan is amazing and everyone should sample as much authentic Japanese cuisine as possible. Dishes like Okonomiyaki which is a Japanese pancake with pork, prawns, bonito flakes and bbq sauce, Soba noodles with fresh tempura vegetables, a hot Soup Curry or Ramen.
What item should visitors take back with them?
It depends on your style. There’s beautiful wooden, handmade kokeshi dolls or a super detailed map of the resort. If you want something unique to the area we have a huge selection of images ready to be printed and hung on any wall in your house.
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