Heading over to Niseko for a holiday and unsure what to pack? Niseko is infamously known as the powder capital, and for good reasons. With the cold Siberian winds that hit Hokkaido, temperatures can drop quickly and bring massive amounts of snow, you need to make sure you’re packing the right equipment to stay warm and dry! Here’s a handy list that may help when deciding what to throw in the suitcase.
Thermals can be worn under your ski gear and even under your casual clothes when you’re not out on the slopes. Good quality thermals will help keep the moisture away from your body when you sweat and dry quickly to keep you warmer. Make sure you invest in a few pairs of ski/snowboard specific socks, too, as they make a huge difference!
You’ll need a waterproof ski jacket and ski pants to keep you dry and warm while riding through all that powder. Don’t forget an insulating mid-layer, such as a fleece or down jacket. Wearing a few layers is better than just wearing one really thick jacket, as you can remove/add layers as you get hotter and colder.
On top of these, you’ll also need a beanie, neck scarf or face mask, and waterproof gloves or mitts. It’s not a bad idea to bring along glove liners too, to keep those fingertips warm. As for footwear, you’ll need a good pair of high, warm, grippy snow boots for walking around town as the snow can really pile up in Niseko, and the footpaths can often get dangerously slippery. Sneakers just won’t cut it.
If you have skied or snowboarded before, you may already have your own equipment. If you don’t, don’t fret, as there are many stores in Niseko you can rent from, such as Niseko Sports, who offer a range of premium equipment and high quality service. If you plan on getting off-piste and riding Niseko’s world-renowned powder, you’ll definitely want to grab a set of powder skis or powder board from these guys if you don’t have them yourself.
As well as your skis or snowboard and boots, you’ll also want a helmet, which serves a dual purpose of protecting your head, and keeping it nice and warm. Goggles are another essential item - if you’re coming in December-February, you’ll get the most out of low light lenses. However, for those odd bluebird days or if you’ll be around in March and April for sunny Spring days you’ll also want to bring a polarized lens. Remember, you can’t rent goggles, but if you do happen to get caught without a pair, Niseko Sports stocks a range of brands for you to purchase.
If you’re a bit more of an experienced skier or rider and plan on heading out of the gates into the backcountry, you may want to bring along avalanche gear such as a beacon, probe and shovel as you don’t want to be caught in an avalanche without these. If you’re unsure where to go, you can book in with a guiding company like Hanazono Powder Guides. HPG is Niseko’s only resort-operated guide company and gets you access to first lifts and help you find those secret powder stashes.
While these might seem obvious, some of your most used items and brands from home can be very different to what you might be used to or even hard to find in Japan. Things like deodorant, lip balm, dry shampoo, moisturizer, and toothpaste. And don’t forget the sunscreen - you can definitely get sunburnt in the snow! The sun can be very strong on top of a mountain, and the snow reflects the sun rays from all directions.
Even if you’re only on holiday for a week, it’s never a bad idea to have cold and flu medication, throat lozenges and painkillers on hand. Strong painkillers and good cold medication is hard to come by in Japan.
Cash is king as a general rule in Japan, and that also applies to Niseko. Make sure you stock up on paper yen before you get here. Not every store accepts card, and ATMs are not always easily accessible and don’t always accept foreign cards. You may also want to bring a wallet or purse big enough to carry all the coins you’ll be accumulating. Japan has a lot of smaller value coins, so try to use them whenever you can as they pile up very quickly!
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