What To Do In Niseko During Spring
Find out what is going on in Niseko during the Spring time and see why so many travelers chose to come to Niseko when the weather is fairer.
While there is no denying that winter is still the biggest international draw for travelers, the warmer seasons of spring, summer, and autumn have been getting picked up by many international tourism radars. For this reason, we have put together this helpful guide to give a snapshot of some of the many draws to coming to Niseko in the springtime.
There are a lot of reasons that coming during the Spring time can be better than coming during the heart of winter. The article we wrote about those very benefits however, was more concerned with what was so excellent about the spring skiing season and didn't go so far as to talk about the rest of the season once the slopes closed. As such, with this post we are delving a bit further into what is unique about Niseko during spring and how much the region has to offer.
Spring skiing and snowboarding
We can't write this article and not acknowledge the obvious;skiing and snowboarding here in March and April are awesome. For many, this will still be the number one reason to come to Niseko at the beginning of the spring season.
Niseko Spring Powder 2012 from Toby on Vimeo.
Sure, not every day in the spring skiing season will be a powder day like the one in the video above, but even into March and April big dumps of fresh powder do occur.
As it is hard to predict when these big dumps will occur, planning a skiing trip that isn't focused on powder snow is probably the safest course of action. With guest numbers lower later in the season, the groomers and vast sidecountry that the Niseko United resorts offers can feel like it doubles in size. Remember, just because there isn't fresh powder snow doesn't mean the skiing or snowboarding isn't going to be awesome!
One of the biggest advantages for springtime skiing is the increased visibility and daylight. This makes it a particularly well-suited time for those new to skiing to learn. If you are new to skiing, here are some excellent spring skiing tips. The increased visibility also is a plus for those who are keen to hit up one of the many trick parks that dot the Niseko resorts.
Oh, make sure you don't forget your camera! This time of year is among the most picturesque for great 'winter' photos of Mt Yotei and for those looking to get some good snaps while on the slopes!
Other end-of-winter activities
While March and April are technically a part of the spring season (beginning mid-March), winter conditions in the Niseko mountains persist as late as May. In fact, Mt Yotei tends to keep it's snowy cap well into June most years! The closer you get to the end of April the more activities become unavailable, but you can still expect to get in a number of other winter activities in end months of the season.
Depending on your travel dates, we would always recommend that you contact your accommodation provider or the activity supplier directly in advance. It is always best to make certain that the activities you want to try will still be available when you get here.
If you aren't experienced with hiking or snowshoeing, the early spring season is an excellent season to give it a go. End of March and throughout April you can expect that snowfall will start to taper down. While you might not feel that you are making full use of the snowshoes if you aren't walking over top a meter or two of fresh powder, you might also find it easier to learn in conditions where you won't end up waist deep in that powder if you slip and lose your balance!
Learning in springtime is a great way to start getting into snowshoeing as the conditions will be much easier on your body. Like with swimming, it is best to start in the shallow end before diving into the deep end. Learning in deep powder can be a lot harder if you aren't prepared!
Snowmobiling is another prime example of a winter activity that can be a bit hard to get the hang of during the coldest months. While tearing around in deep powder in January and February might be the perfect conditions for many, it might not take the cake for everyone. One of the big advantages to snowmobiling in the early spring season is the warmer conditions. It is a lot more pleasant to race around over a snowy field in -3 degrees Celsius weather than it is to do so in -10 degrees Celsius.
More than that, early spring conditions tend to mean warmer days and better visibility which makes touring on a snowmobile way more fun. One of the best parts about touring on a snowmobile is taking in the amazing mountain scenery and endless snow-covered fields.
*Typically becomes unavailable towards late-March and early-April. You will definitely want to check with suppliers regarding availability.
What to do when the snow starts to melt
For many people, that middle section between winter and when spring fully takes hold can be a bit of an icky period. Mind you, this is also the perfect time of year to combine your hobbies! Last winter we shared a video by Tone which was called "Beyond the Bicylce" in which a real epic spring adventure showed a Paul from the Let's Cycle Niseko team going for a short ride on his bike to find a suitable spring backcountry access point.
Road cycling and mountain biking
While there is snow up in the mountains, the conditions on the roads and down in the towns tends to be a bit more favourable. For an area like Niseko where the cycling scene is constantly growing and attracting more visitors and events like the Niseko Classic it isn't uncommon to see cyclists out on the roads in late-March or early-April.
Mountain biking has also been growing in popularity here in the Niseko area. With the new flow trail over at Asahigaoka in Kutchan Town, there is a lot of hope for future developments. While the timing of when the flow trail is not 100% finalized, mountain biking often becomes a bit more of an option towards the end of spring (unless you are combining it with backcountry skiing like the video above!
Hokkaido is known as a particularly great destination for cycling and the Niseko area is no exception to this rule. While it might still be a bit chilly as you go up and down some of the peaks in the more mountainous areas, there are a lot of great lowland courses as well.
Try out a lap around Mt Yotei or head along the lowlands towards Kimobetsu Town or Kyogoku Town. One of the best things about cycling in Japan is you can pick out a destination like an onsen or particularly good restaurant in a neighbouring town or village as your midway point and have a soak or try the neighbouring town's local delicacy while you break up your ride.
Spring white water rafting
Already one of the well-established spring staples, rafting in the spring time is known to be a great way to get a thrill. Conditions such as rain fall and temperature spikes (causing additional snow melt) can increase the intensity for the day.
Real thrill seekers would be looking to time their rafting after a heavy rainfall, while those with slightly meeker sensibilities or with children might want to go during a slightly calmer flow. The later into spring, the slower the river tends to become. If you are aiming for a chance to get tossed from the raft, the month of April tends to be the best time. For those looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush, but nothing too intense the rivers in Niseko still run quickly during late-May and June while being more relaxing than the earlier half of the season.
Spring sightseeing and photography
Sightseeing in Japan is both obvious and elusive. In a big city like Tokyo there will be dozens of those 'must see' places that you can make a list with and check off as you visit them. You can also choose the throw the list out the window approach and find hidden gems of the most unexpected nature. Get off at a totally unknown train station, lose yourself in a small sub-urban community and stumble across all kinds of eye-catching items; a small local temple with a lovely garden or a peculiar storefront.
The Niseko area is great for the second approach. Sure, you can still pull our Google Maps to find all the statues, parks, and marked view points, but if you go for a stroll or a drive you might find any number of locations that haven't made the maps!
One of Niseko's biggest sightseeing draws is the natural beauty of the area. Scenic drives along the Niseko panorama and around Mt Yotei can be real trip highlights. Don't forget to bring your camera along and find some safe places to stop and pull over to take a picture. Spring is incredibly photogenic as the lowlands begin to burst with life and the mountains are still wearing their winter caps.
Sakura, shibazakura, and other spring bloomers
Sakura are a central part of spring in Japan and Hokkaido is no exception to this. While sakura start to bloom from February to April in other parts of Japan, Hokkaido's native ezo-zakura don't bloom until the end of April even May most years. We have often covered how you can extend your spring skiing vacation with sakura in March and April, but this time we want to show how Niseko, Hokkaido can be and should be a sakura destination in it's own right!
Once May rolls around, you can just about count on being able to find something colourful coming into bloom. It can be hard to know just what will be in bloom if you are planning well in advance. Some flowers, like the cherry blossoms can only last a week or two, sometimes less if it rains, while other bloomers like the Shibazakura above tend to last much longer providing more flexibility with travel.
Timing will vary each year by small degrees, if you are hoping to catch specific flowers in bloom it is best to keep a close eye on forecasts. As the guest numbers at this time of year are much lower than during the winter peak seasons, this can be a great time of year for an impromptu trip!
Whether you are going to a specific viewing location, like around a shrine or a garden, or just a drive through the mountains to spot the wild sakura that speckle the forests around Niseko it is a very picturesque time of year!
While onsen are a year-round activity, they are worth giving a special shout out for the spring season. Onsen with nice routenburo (outdoor bathing pools) are fantastic in colder weather. The combination of cold and hot makes for a wonderful experience. The advantage of spring is that temperatures are still cool, but not so cold that you might be uncomfortable.
Many routenburo will have excellent views. The fresh greens and floral colours of spring only serve to liven the scenery of a good routenburo view. With over twenty onsen across the Niseko area, there are many to choose from. Koikawa Ryokan Onsen, in the Rankoshi Town onsen area, has a particularly lovely approach that is lined with cherry trees. Picture perfect when in full bloom!
Shrines and Temples
Japanese Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples are often a source of fascination for many travelers to Japan. While Hokkaido might not have any temples that extend back to the 7th or 8th century like the city of Nara there are still has many beautiful shrines and temples across the prefecture. The Niseko core area is dotted with over twenty different shrines and temples and there are even more when you factor in the greater Niseko area.
Spring is a particularly good time to check out some of the local shrines and temples. Already beautiful with their traditional architectural features, the added bonus of fresh greens, pinks and other floral colours really brings these traditional sites to life.
Timing a trip to a shrine or two in time with the cherry blossoms can be pretty tough, but many shrines or temples will have a sakura tree or two and this can really add to the atmosphere. As most of the Niseko area shrines and temples are in rural locations, they are often excellent places to go for a photo as well as some natural tranquility.
While winter is often proclaimed as the best time of year to see the stars this isn't exactly the case in Niseko. With so many nights from December to the end of February receiving snowfall, it is not uncommon to look up and see nothing but clouds during Niseko's winter. As such, March, April, May and June end up being particularly good times of year to tilt back the head and see the stars. Temperatures are still cold so there is less moisture in the air to obstruct the view, but it also is warmer so you don't have to worry about the winter chill when you go out for some stargazing.
Whether you are planning on setting up a tripod to take a few pictures, like the one below, or simply just want to see a black night sky dotted with stars, spring is a great time to take an evening walk on a clear night.