Don't get us wrong — we love ourselves a good ski trip to Niseko. There's much to be said about the myriad of runs across its four villages that cater to beginners, veteran powder junkies and the in-between, its bars that buzz after sundown, and the selection of shops for retail therapy après-ski. But in recent years, Hokkaido's star destination has become decidedly overrun.
Dig your poles into the pow for a breather mid-run, but brace yourself for the anxiety of rejoining the crowd of skiiers and boarders careening down. Walk into a coffee shop to fuel up, and run the risk of bumping into — and making small talk with — a distant relative, school acquaintance or the regional director of your company. Sounds taxing? Our point exactly. A vacation (winter or otherwise) should allow you to relax and recharge, and in this instance, fine-tune your S or J-turns while you're at it. And while the above is avoidable at Japan’s more local and uncongested spots such as Shiga Kogen, the latter lacks lustre in its pick of restaurants, gear rental shops and nightlife haunts — precisely because they're less commercialised and hence, less crowded.
Meanwhile, over at Tomamu — a 90-minute bus ride from Sapporo's New Chitose airport — Club Med's newly christened digs are changing things up; tapping on the sweet spot between the two. It is an all-inclusive, standalone resort in its vicinity, meaning that this in itself ensures that there aren't too many people jostling on the pistes at any one point in time. But unlike the other resorts of its kind that boast little else to do besides the slopes, it is also home to an ever-buzzing party scene, food options that run a spectrum of cuisines, the latest ski and boarding gear for rental and purchase, and a whole host of peripheral activities for when you've had your fill of the pow.
Below, five reasons why Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido is the region's new ski destination to know.
1. LET GO OF ALL THE NITTY GRITTY OF PULLING TOGETHER A SKI TRIP
When Club Med says all-inclusive, it means all-inclusive. A booking encompasses your transfer resort liner from Sapporo's airport into Tomamu, your ski or snowboarding gear rental costs (provide your sizes prior and they'll be waiting in your ski locker upon arrival), food and drink at its restaurants and main bar, ski or boarding lessons that cater to varying skill levels, and even mountain passes, for the duration of your stay. Days of trekking out into the cold just to get your board fitted or secure ski passes are now a thing of the past.
2. SKI OUT TO A RANGE OF RUNS WIDE OPEN
Number of slopes: 19
Number of lifts: 4
Veteran ski holiday-goers will know that having the mountain at your doorstep is a luxury for two reasons. First, chances are that you'll have that majestic, snow-capped view from the window of your abode, and second, that the ski lifts waiting to whisk you up, up and away greet you once you step foot outside. Club Med's ski-in/ski-out concept provides immediate access to one gondola and two lifts, with the third chair lift situated mid-mountain. Here, Tomamu's mounds of powder are yours for the taking and carve to your heart's content at this untapped destination — without having to worry about hordes of other skiiers racing down behind you.
3. A ONE-STOP PLACE TO DRINK, PARTY AND TUCK IN
You know how we've said the other all-inclusive resorts we've been to in Hokkaido offer little else to do besides hitting the slopes and snoozing come night fall? At Club Med Tomamu, the après-ski culture is well alive and kicking. Each evening, the resort's staff (also referred to as Gentil Organisateurs aka G.Os) take over its main bar, Unkai, with a host of infectious dance performances and DJ sets that are sure to get you into the groove. Till what time, you ask? Well past midnight, and till whenever you start to tire, as their G.Os have told us. Its main restaurant hosts breakfast, lunch and dinner with spreads from Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Italian cuisines to name but a few, while Unkai fills the gaps with a buffet of quick bites during in-between timings. You'll never go hungry.
If you're planning a tranquil night away from the noise, seek out the resort's other restaurant, Haku, that serves up a fine fare yakiniku-style. Take your night cap at the other bar too, The Nest*, that's kitted out in expansive windows — it allows for savouring a dram of fine whiskey or sake while peering out into the beautiful, quiet night. The view when it's snowing? Priceless.
4. IF YOU DON'T SKI... TREK, HEAD TO THE BEACH OR EXPLORE AN ICE VILLAGE
Families with children who don't ski or board will be pleased to know that the resort's Children's Club will take the young ones off your hands while you enjoy the pistes. Consisting of a play slash hangout area that's accompanied by G.Os to keep a watchful eye over, the children's nook is even along the way to the ski lockers for convenience's sake. But if you too, have an aversion to carving up fresh powder, then consider these other options:
A. GO SNOW TREKKING
Without having to balance on a board or skis — just snow shoes — take in Tomamu's breathtaking mountain view and get a feel of its terrain on foot, led by Club Med experts.
B. UNWIND IN AN INDOOR WAVE POOL
Yes, it wasn't a mistake when we said "head to the beach" earlier. Designed to evoke pristine sand and blue waters, Mina-Mina Beach is the largest indoor wave pool in Japan — located a stone's throw (a one-minute walk, literally) from Club Med Tomamu. Soak in the warmth, and then pop into a massage* at the same establishment after.
C. EXPERIENCE TOMAMU'S WINTER WONDERLAND
A five-minute bus ride away (transport provided by Club Med) is Tomamu's Ice Village that offers up an experience off the beaten path. We're talking a little enclave that lets you drink at a bar made out of ice, roast marshmallows over a fire, and take a bathe outdoors in Hokkaido's wintry elements. The shops there too, purvey trinkets to purchase and keep, peppered with ice creations purely for your viewing pleasure.
5. YOU'LL FEEL LIKE YOU'RE RIGHT AT HOME
Remember the atmosphere at the best summer camp of your life? It's the same at Club Med Tomamu — albeit in winter — and you'll leave with a constant ache to return. As part of the Club Med DNA, the staff at Tomamu have more than 20 nationalities on its roster for the sole reason of connecting with you — wherever you might hail from. They'll check off the boxes of your usual service staff, but also go above and beyond. Whether this means your ski instructor offers to dine with you or engages in a friendly dance-off and then offers you a drink at the bar at night, their heart-warming spirit is hard to deny.
*Club Med Tomamu Hokkaido is an all expenses included resort, with the exception of drinks at The Nest, and the massage service at Mina-Mina Beach.
Now open. Make a booking here and enjoy up to 40% off and $100 off per adult for a limited time only.