News and Events

Mt Hutt ‘all systems go’ for 40th season opening (13-Jun-13)
Immaculately groomed slopes and a genuinely warm welcome await avid skiers and snowboarders.....

Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area first to open in Australasia (10-Jun-13)
Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area today (June 8) celebrated in style as the first Australasian ski field to open for winter....

Coronet Peak first ski area in Australasia to open on Saturday (05-Jun-13)
Queenstown is officially open for winter as the 2013 season kicks off at Coronet Peak on Saturday (June 8).

Ski Areas Go Out With A Bang! (27-Sep-12)
Season extension and half price passes

Simon's Blog - Furano (22-Mar-10)

Furano, Japan, March 22, 2010 - Simon's Adventures in Japan Continue

The little things in Japan are so wonderfully fascinating.  When you buy a train ticket and the old man behind the counter calculates the price with an abacus in lieu of a calculator. It’s addition as art.  You come away from Japan with the over riding feeling that this is a stylised country, where things are done deliberately and beautifully.  Art is everywhere, calligraphy and fonts and Hello Kitty advertising aesthetics.  People’s front yards are sculptured, full of perspective-bending trees trained using bonsai techniques.  And on top of that you get to ride then soak in spring fed hot tubs.  I’m not sure that I can leave.

Furano Ski Resort

We broke camp at Niseko – the resort that flipped Japan from the Land of the Rising Sun to the Land of the Puking Powder – and made away across Hokkaido to Furano.  In the early Naughties when Niseko started to really rock, Furano was spoken about as the next-Niseko. The ridiculousness of being the next anything aside, unfortunately for those that were pushing for this transformation it coped some bad press about the vigilance of its patrollers.   Fortunately for us this was either A: unfounded, B: exaggerated, or C: the result of commercial espionage.  Whatever the reason, it has meant that the mooted explosion of foreigners in Furano never really materialised. In the couple of days that we have been here we have been greeted by all-but-non-existent lift lines, fresh snow and some tremendous terrain.

Furano

The tale of the tape says that Furano gets less snow than Niseko but being north of Sapporo and not as affected by the weather patterns of the sea it’s that little bit colder, and that little bit drier. My elementary grasp of maths leads me to the following equation; cold + dry x 8m annual = amazing pow. And then on top of this they also hold bragging rights to the steepest in-bound runs in Hokkaido, maybe in Japan.  It’s definitely the steepest that we have been on.  This is a huge bonus when you think the only complaint you ever hear about Japan – and even then it’s clearly not a deal breaker – is that the snow is like riding clouds but the fall lines could fall a little faster.

 

After waiting in Niseko for some snow and then leaving when it was dumping our brows were furrowed slightly when we got to Furano to find that it hadn’t caught the same storm.  It was a relief to wake in the morning to about 10cm of fresh at the base of the mountain.  Whipping out my rudimentary maths again we concluded that it would be three times that up top and so scoffed a quick breakfast and headed for the hills.

 

Now the experience of any mountain is made better by the addition of local knowledge.  There is nothing to compare to being led straight to all the sweet spots.  From that first morning and for the next couple of days we were blessed by the guiding hand of Ken from the Tourism Board not only during the day up on the slopes but also at night when we were kicking around the town.  That's another wonderful thing that Furano has to offer, a town.  Not a resort but a town filled with all the culture and amenity one would expect.  It’s waiting at the end of every day for you to explore culture and events, little bars and restaurants.  And everything is brimming with the energy of people living their lives, not a constructed, transient environment.  When you come to a place that is as fascinating and engaging as Japan, diving as deeply into the culture as you can should be a must.

Furano Welcome  

So helped by Ken we made the most of what Furano has to offer and with the hill mostly populated by the Japanese army (sorry, self defence force) who were busy falling over on the lower slopes, there wasn’t much in the way of competition.  I cant remember once waiting in a line for a lift and this was the norm we were told despite the fact the sky was blue and the snow was fresh.

 

It’s the combination of the snow conditions, the lack of crowds to take all the lines and the access to a real town that imbues Furano with a magnetism that inspires visitors to come back.  Indeed most of the foreigners that we met were return visitors. Retirees, families and Pepsi Max drinking hell-men alike, many that we talked to were on their third, fourth, even their eighth trips.  For us though, that’s it. That’s all.  For this year.  That’s a crucial caveat as I reckon the Furano demographic is kinda representative of Japan as a whole in that there aren’t many people who ski here just the once.  And I’d hate to be the one to start that trend.

 

I’ll sign off with my top four tricks and traps for young players in Japan. 

Furano Skiing 

Vending machines can satisfy (almost) all of your vices, and that’s a thing of true beauty.

 

Don’t pack shoes with laces.  The smart money is on the sturdily treaded slip-ons as good graces in Japan require you to step in and out of your shoes all day. Tying laces is only fun for four year olds.

 

If you skied exclusively in Japan your bases would love you forever.  No kidding, it’s harder to gouge a chunk from your base than it is to find a neon-free street in Tokyo.  Unfortunately though, the only thing Japan has less of than rocks is ATMs.  And to make matters worse it’s also not a very credit card friendly joint.  Pretty much your only option apart from VISA cash advances and their budget-blowing fees are the machines in Post Offices.  Don’t expect you’ll be able to find one everywhere and cash up when you can.

 

Language is important.  The simple power of ‘hello’, ‘good bye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ cannot be overstated.  Extending one’s vocab brings even greater joy but a heads up; the words for ‘scary’ and ‘cute’ are unfortunately very similar.  To the untrained ear it’s “ko-why-e” versus “ka-why-e”.  Take care with compliments in bars.

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