HOKKAIDO HIGHLIGHTS THE FOOD One of the island’s most popular meals is an ample grilled lamb and veg dish, surprisingly titled ‘Genghis Khan’ (‘jingisukan’). 42 \ZOOM-ZOOM THE SPAS When the Hokkaido winter gets too brutal, locals head to the onsen (spa). Some of the best are found in the country or by the coast, combining soothing hot springs with beautiful views. THE CITY Known primarily in the West for its eponymous beer, Sapporo is a substantial city, with facilities to match. Catch a baseball game at the Sapporo Dome, then fill up with a soup curry, a local speciality. THE SNOW Hokkaido is a magnet for winter sports fans thanks to its abundance of powdery snow. If you want to celebrate the flakes in a more leisurely manner, try the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. hotels where the ski lift quite literally picks you up at reception. Travellers from all over the globe come to enjoy the mountain activities of the Niseko region and many end up staying. Canadian Andrew Spragg is just one of them. The founder of Rising Sun Guides, he specialises in guiding groups of adventurous skiers and snowboarders in the back country areas away from the busy slopes. Andrew has been in Niseko since 2005 and still gets excited when there’s a fresh dump of snow. “If you want to ski pow powder then this is the place,” he says. There are many ways to ascend the mountains, from the resort’s lifts, to snowmobiles, caterpillartracked vehicles or even helicopters, but one that’s becoming popular, says Andrew, is split-boarding. As the name suggests, this uses a snowboard that splits in half (lengthways) to effectively form two skis. The bindings get switched around and, when sticky ‘skins’ are applied, they allow the rider to hike to places where snowboarders could never reach before. When you get to your start point, simply re-assemble and board down, carving fresh tracks in the waist-deep powder. It sounds like heaven. Niseko is so popular that, although this was to be our final destination, there’s nowhere to stay (top tip, holidaymakers, book well in advance). Instead I head an hour further south to Lake Toya where an extraordinary hotel — The Windsor — has been built with views of the lake to one side and the Sea of Japan on the other. It has its own ski slope, golf course and spa. Not a bad spot to wind up.
Zoom Zoom Magazine Issue 29
To see the actual publication please follow the link above