Need to get some skiing out of your system and want the perfect powder? Insiders know it’s all about The Kiroro ski resort in Hokkaido.
Yes we’re all about regular short escapes from Singapore for sanity-saving downtime; but sometimes we’re after something different to the glorious island or beachside retreat. Enter the ski holiday: because we sometimes crave the cold, and there’s nothing more mesmerising (or further from our daily lives in Singapore) than gliding down a snow-topped mountain. We’ve told you about the best ski resorts less than 10 hours from Singapore – but we need to fill you in on this sublime spot: Kiroro.
One word? Wow.
I hadn’t heard of Kiroro before heading up to Hokkaido for a long-overdue hit of winter and the promise of an outrageously good ski session. In many ways, it would be better if you didn’t hear of it either. Keep it off the grid a little longer.
You came for the snow, so let’s get straight to it
The star here, of course, is the mountain. Or perhaps the 25m metres of snow on top of the mountain.
And the fact that much of the time, it’s yours, all yours, or at least feels that way. On several runs over three days, we simply couldn’t see another person. Just you and the snow, the snow-covered trees…
There’s a great range of runs, and just surprisingly few people on them. Despite the extraordinary powder. If you’ve ever hit Niseko and spent more time waiting for the lift than actually gliding down the run, Kiroro is a revelation.
One day, we’re laying fresh tracks at 9am, come in for lunch during a blizzard, and lay fresh tracks again after lunch. The next, we ski until after dark. At minus 11 degrees with blue skies, Kiroro is perfection; at minus 15 and with a blizzard, it’s damn good fun, even if you’re just beyond beginner stage. And when you need to defrost yourself, the Double Black cafe at the Kiroro Mountain Centre is a godsend: finding Allpress Coffee on a snowy mountain in Hokkaido? Who’d have thunk it, but bless the Aussie coffee gods for this feat.
One word of advice: don’t be too proud to take ski lessons, even if you’re no stranger to the ski holiday. We opted for one-on-one sessions with Kiroro Ski Academy to lift our game. As an activity-adverse person who threatened to spend the whole holiday in the onsen, the ridiculously patient, expert support of our instructor Emma pushed me to take on trails I didn’t think I’d dare to. For my husband who’s not quite as snow-shy, she took video footage to analyse his skiing style and what could be refined, and to compare his technique after the session. Frankly, it elevated the whole experience and I’ll admit I’m now in it for more than just the apres ski. Who am I?
Your base: The Kiroro
We stayed at The Kiroro – also known as the Tribute Portfolio Hotel, and not to be confused with the Sheraton Kiroro, which is a little higher up the mountain with rooms fronting directly onto the slopes, and is under the same management.
The Kiroro is generously proportioned and generally perfect for collapsing after a day on the mountain. Large rooms, great cocktails (when you’ve had as much hot sake as you can take), and its own little village of restaurants and facilities. Between The Kiroro and the Sheraton, they boast a spa, something in the region of eight restaurants. We were all about the Japanese options at Fuga, where we dived into the best tuna sashimi we’ve ever tried (big call, I know) and local ‘kinki’ fish – a supremely tasty species. But there’s also Italian, a brasserie, buffet, and an ice bar serving cocktails and fondue. And yes, you can get your Hokkaido ice cream at the hotel.
Japanese food is made for cold. There is nothing better than coming in from a blizzard and thawing into a bowl of udon or ramen. Although the onsen at The Kiroro is a close second – the perfect antidote when you’re achy, dehydrated and cold to the bones. More on that later.
For the fams, there’s Kids’ World, for those who haven’t exhausted themselves on the slopes, a fitness centre and for the rest of us – why not? – karaoke.
Never want to leave? Luxury condos – Yu Kiroro – are due for completion this year, with ski in-and-out access and gondolas extending directly to the condos and The Kiroro. Now that’s a holiday pad.
How to unwind: bring on the onsen and massages
One-hundred-minute shiatsu massage? Yes please. Book yourself in for a session at Kotan for the incredibly reasonable SGD130. You’re gonna hurt in places you never knew you could hurt before, and the massage therapist read my mind. And of course, you’ll want to soak your time on the slopes away in the hotel’s onsen. The source is natural hot spring water from a nearby village, and our ski instructor spoke of it with that dreamy faraway look in her eyes that tells you this is a non-negotiable. Another incredible option is the outdoor rock bath, which looks out on the snow.
When to visit Kiroro
The season extends from December through May, and Mountain Centre GM Fred tells us you can reliably count on great conditions from the second week of December through to the second or third week of April. (Outside that, snow-seekers had best wait for a weather report before booking non-refundable international flights.)
So if you’re eyeing off the long weekend ahead of May, Kiroro is the go.
The Kiroro, 128-1 Tokiwa, Akaigawa, Yoichi-gun, Hokkaido, 046-0593, Japan