Hokkaido Ski Club Ski and Snowboard Instructor, Tim Betts, has spent the last 10 winters in Niseko. We ask Tim to share with us his memories of Niseko from the decade. How the resort has changed over the years and what it is about the place that he loves so much.
This coming season will be your 11th season in Niseko. How does present-day Niseko compare to when you first arrived?
When I first arrived in Niseko, it had a much more Japanese feel to it. The village, buildings and restaurants were of old Japanese styling and there were only a few main establishments. Niseko these days has become extremely international. The number and sizes of hotels have grown year on year and the quality has improved as well. The resort now caters to a much higher level of standards than before.
Personally, though, I miss McGinty’s , Green Curry van, Yuki bar and Scott Hotel.
What is it about Niseko that has kept you coming back every year?
The snow. The snow quality in Niseko is some of the driest and lightest I have ever experienced. I’ve skied in Canada and the European Alps but the snow just doesn’t quite compare to the snow in Niseko. Then there are the Japanese people, who are so friendly and polite, and of course, the food. I love Japanese food and there is no better place to get it than here.
In all your years as a ski and snowboard instructor, what is the most common problem that your students have faced?
The most common problem I have seen is when beginner skiers and snowboarders look at their equipment and the ground. This causes them to lose balance. As soon as I get them to look in the direction that they want to travel, then there is much less falling and much more smiling. Students often forget to have fun. They are so focused and nervous that they become tense. I make them laugh to help them relax and enjoy the moment.
Which season would you call the season of the decade, and why?
Season 2012 – 2013 was amazing from start till finish. I will never forget how much snow there was. There was so much of it…it was definitely by far my best. Last season was also one worth mentioning. It had the best start for the last 20 years – before New Years Eve, there was already over 6 metres of snowfall.
Finally, what is your best advice for new visitors to Niseko?
Try to get deep in that famous Niseko powder. Even if you have never tried skiing and snowboarding, there is no better place to take a lesson and learn. Then reward yourself with the delicious Japanese food by visiting as many different local Japanese restaurants as you can. And be sure to have at least one onsen visit during your trip before you go.
If you would like to learn more from Tim about Niseko, book a private snowsports lesson or powder guiding session with him this winter. Just send your enquiry to [email protected]