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Niseko: The Sassy Mama Guide By Allison West

TravelPost Category - TravelTravel - Post Category - By CountryBy Country

A true ski-lover, Allison has skied all her life, taught as a ski-instructor on three continents, and is an expert on ski resorts. Here, she shares with us tips for enjoying Niseko – her mountain of choice!

Describe Niseko in 3 words
World’s best snow!

Best hotel or place to stay in Niseko when travelling with kids
One of the apartment buildings at the base of the family lift: Alpen Ridge, The Vale and Snow Crystal. There is nothing quite like being able to walk out of your apartment straight into ski school and lift when you have small kids!

Your favorite place to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why?
Breakfast – At home with any friends who are staying at our ski house Kinoko. The coffee is great, as is the fabulous toasted muesli from J-Sekka which features hazelnuts and – don’t tell anyone – chunks of chocolate! Oh what a guilty pleasure!

LunchRestaurant Sanko – the ramen noodle bar at the base of the Annapuri Lift. It is famous and so delicious! You’ll enjoy some of the best noodles in Hokkaido – if you manage to navigate the kooky meal ticket machine outside! My favorite is no. 16 the Gyoza Ramen – and it is usually completely guilt free as we have normally just finished a very long in the back country run after hiking to the peak Niseko Grand Hirafu.

Dinner – Where do I start? Niseko is a treasure trove of fabulous places to eat. From casual to upscale, there is so much quality dining it is very hard to single out one favorite! Ebisutei is a tiny restaurant run by local Japanese surfers (Niseko is only about 35 minutes from the coast) down the road from our house in the Middle Village. The restaurant is roughly the size of a shipping container and looks like a little log cabin. They serve up delicious treats – not to mention a wide array of shochu and sake!

Aussie James at Ezo Seafood is an absolute master at finding the best, most fresh northern local seafood. He drives 3 hours to the market 2 or 3 times a week to pick the best produce for his restaurant – check out his blog! I cannot get past those oysters.

Kamimura is arguably the best resort-based fine dining restaurant in the world. Regardless of rankings, it offers a sophisticated dining experience in a ski town. Fabulous and delicious.

What is your favourite thing to do with your kids in Niseko?
Tubing in Hanazono. The bag jump is fabulous for when the kids are larger – they can fly into the air and land in a huge blow up pillow!
Swimming at the Alpen Indoor Pool followed by the onsen.

Best places to eat with kids?
Jo Jo’s has a climbing wall and sells great pizzas and hamburgers. Completely kid friendly.
The Pizza place is also great and this season will be located under J-Sekka.

Best outdoor activity
Skiing of course!

Favourite spa
Onsen are the quintessential Japanese experience, and only cost about HK$80 depending on where you go. But beware – you have to get nude and follow Japanese custom of washing well before getting in the natural mineral water!

My two favorites are the Yukoro Onsen in the Lower Hirafu village which is very local (don’t worry if the man on the desk is a bit grumpy) and the Alpen because you can go for a swim in the fabulous (and almost Olympic size) pool before you get in the onsen.

If you want to go further afield take a taxi to the Weiss Hotel which is about 15 minutes from Hirafu Village. It is fabulous because of its traditional Japanese setting and the fact that they have so many different pools. It is also often less crowded because it is not as central.

I get my hair done at…
I don’t – I am too busy skiing, soaking in onsen, frizzing up and suffering from Helmet Head! Why fight it.

The three shops I can’t live without are…
J-Sekka Deli and the Niseko Cellars – Mick has a great selection of international wine.

Who I have on my speed dial and why…
Tana’s Healing House for the best Reiki and massage in town.
Kristiana – the supervisor at NBS (Niseko Base Ski School) – she always makes sure my kids are looked after and skiing like little champs!
Colin Hackworth who is President of the Hanazono area of Niseko…he always knows where the best powder is.

Best place to rent gear
Rhythm & Beats Sports – they have a great selection of skis and by far the best boot fitters in town. All of them are either podiatrists or at university studying to be one. The most over-qualified boot fitters I have ever come across in all my years of skiing!

Best place for sushi/ yakitori/ burgers
Abucha Second – below Suiboko the very funky apartment complex on the main street. The food is fabulous. There are so many other restaurants – I could go on for hours!

Your favourite souvenirs
Ponpi Doll on the right side as you go up the main street of Hirafu. IF you can bear the wait then stop in for some noodles on the way up the stairs as well – they are fabulous!

An unforgettable moment?
Skiing in snow so deep I got choked on it!

Can’t live without…
My fat skis, onsen and massage at the end of the day!

Don’t miss…
The view of Yotei – keep a look out – the sun is not always out!

Favourite time of year in Niseko, why and what do you love to do?
February for the best snow. Early October to catch some amazing red colors as the leaves fall from their trees. Summer in Niseko is also fantastic with loads of activities including golfing at world class golf courses, white water rafting, hiking, horse riding and loads more.

What advice would you give families visiting?
Bring warm clothing – Niseko can be cold. Book ski-school ahead of time – it gets full quickly for busy times like Christmas and Chinese New Year.

Of all the tourist spots Niseko has on offer which would you try not to miss?
In winter the ski hill, of course, and in summer: the waters for rafting – it’s great for three generations…grandparents, parents and kids; the onsen, and if you feel adventurous, the Nikka Whiskey factory tour is great for grown-ups.

Tell us one thing about we don’t know about Niseko
It has the second highest snowfall in the world at 15m annually, and the bullet train from Tokyo, when complete in 2015, will stop in Kutchan – a 5 minutes drive from Niseko!

Allison Hayworth West
As a little girl listening to her mum’s stories about skiing in Austria in the 1950’s, Allison started loving skiing even before she tried it! Over the years she has skied all over the world, including spending 6 winters as a Ski Instructor in North America, Europe and Australia – she knows her ski resorts! Meanwhile she also gained a Degree in Business from the University of Technology Sydney, worked in and ran part of her family business Captain Cook Cruises for many years and now has her own clothing line for kids – Kuki Kids. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband Mike and two children Lucy and Edward.

Join the conversation

  • Rachel beadle

    What a fabulous article. I’m about to hit the slopes of Niseko with my 4 kids! Thank you. We’re also stopping over in Hong Kong. Do you have a similar interview with someone re where to eat with kids etc in Hong Kong?

  • Kate Farr

    Hi Rachel

    We’re so glad that you liked Allison’s fab Niseko Guide – we love it too!

    We’ve got a load of kid-friendly restaurant ideas right here on Sassy Mama – check out our Eat section for the best places in town.

    Enjoy your stopover here in HK!
    Kate F

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