Ready to explore one of the best ski destinations on the planet but unsure which Japanese resort to make tracks to? Look no further than the town of Niseko. A well-established Japanese ski hotspot, thanks to its 30 runs, 3 gondolas and 30 lifts, plus guaranteed snowfall, it is being discovered by a new generation of skiers, largely due to the arrival of the sparkling new Setsu Niseko hotel. The 2022-opened stay's 190 guest rooms impress with their Japandi-style interiors - all crisp linens, clean lines and pale woods. But it's the spa that truly makes it a crashpad like no other, with treatments including herbal healing practices and full-body programmes that promise to soothe post-piste muscles.
Between chairlift-hopping, carve out an afternoon to visit the Shu Ogawara Museum of Art. There, a light-filled gallery space sees a collection of beautiful works by local artist Ogawara, who spent much of his career in Niseko. The building, which was purposefully designed to melt into its surrounding landscape, makes every part of the three-hour road trip worthwhile.
A rack of snowboards and skis, left, and a dazzling slopeside view.
Where to stay?
It's got to be the new Setsu Niseko hotel. Located in a prime position, just a short stroll from the vibrant Main Street, it serves as an ideal base for those looking to enjoy the town's cultural delights while having a calming oasis to return to. The real showstopper, however (aside from the spa treatments, brought to life through a collaboration with award-winning skincare brand Lapidem Tokyo), is the dining offering, comprising five dazzling in-house destination restaurants. Michelin-starred chefs plate up fresh and seasonally sourced seafood in a contemporary chop house; all-day gastros showcase European-inspired classics; and a traditional Japanese eatery offers forkfuls of mouthwatering ramen. The cherry on the cake? An in-house ski rental service sees an attentive team sorting lift passes and tailored lessons for newbies.
Where to go for dinner?
Few things are more satisfying than tearing off your helmet and settling down for a feast in some snow-buried bothie, but there's also much to be said for heading back to base, scrubbing up and indulging in a cosy dining space. The Barn by Odin, designed to reflect a traditional Hokkaido farmhouse, dishes up bistro-style cuisine in a setting characterised by high, wooden ceilings, floor-to-roof windows and enormous communal tables. Snag the soul-warming tartiflette - all creamy potatoes, smoked bacon and onion topped with nutty Reblochon cheese - alongside an extra-large serving of fries, too, obvs. There's also a top-notch veggie menu on standby.
And for a drink…
If there's one thing more important than ensuring you've buckled up your ski boots correctly, it's hunting down the hottest après spots. When it comes to securing an Aperol, visitors to Niseko are spoilt for choice. There's the speakeasy-style Bar Gyu+, where a quirky entrance necessitates crawling through a fridge door, and the Powder Room, the resort's first-ever nightclub, where killer cocktails are served and DJs take to the decks. Also check out Niseko Taproom, whose craft ales are renowned among local circles as some of the best in Japan.
Setsu Niseko lobby bar, left, and sharing plates from their in-house Afuri restaraunt.
Who to take with you?
That friend who enjoys the après scene just as much as a trip to the onsen. There's an abundance of ultra-Zen wellness experiences here, from hot springs and holistic spas to treatments spanning sound-healing and hot-stone therapies. We can think of no better destination for a post-piste recharge.
Essentials to pack
Stylish footwear that we can bounce through the snow in? We'd never heard of it - until we stumbled upon these gorgeous Isabel Marant shearling snow boots, crafted with a quilted padded shell and rubber sole. Treat your tootsies to the ultimate level of warmth and comfort.
How to get there
With no airlines flying direct from the UK to Niseko, we suggest flying from London Heathrow to Sapporo's New Chitose Airport. From there, it's just under a two-hour drive to Niseko's powdery pistes.