There is no question that skiing and snowboarding in Niseko can be an expensive hobby.
There is however also nothing else quite like it which is why us poor suffering souls keep coming back for more. There are a few local Niseko tricks that can help keep your ski Holiday ” In budget”.
It’s true that quality gear is often better value than cheaper gear over the long term but there are few areas where you can make some compromises if you are not a ” repeat offender “. For some other items you really are just better off ponying up and paying the big bucks. And yes some of this does come down to personal tastes.
It’s not that the Ski industry is greedy. Most shops are owned by local families just making a living but the reality is that they only have 16 weeks of trading to cover 52 weeks of rent so mark ups are typically higher on snow sport gear than most clothing stores. You can save a lot of money but substituting from shops and department stores when you can.
In no particular order here are some tricks to make your money go a little further without compromising your fun.
All over Niseko you will find name brand boutiques selling the latest designer brands with long technique brochures about how much better their gear performs but does it really matter ? Sometime yes sometimes no.
For A typical day on the slopes you will be needing a Base layer Inner wear ( thermals ) ,middle layer, Outer shell, gloves, googles, helmet, beanie, balaclava, neck warmer.
Strangely one of the great things about Niseko is that it’s usually really cold. This means that the snow rarely goes soft and melts but rather stays dry powder snow. It’s counter intuitive but on some levels you can get away with cheaper gear in Niseko as there is simply not enough water to get into your clothing.
Rent what you can
We would suggest renting your riding jacket and pants and helmet. Rental gear has got a lot better in recent years and unless you plan on riding a lot it’s just easier to hand it back as you leave the slopes. Our suggested partner is Rhythm Niseko and they have earned a solid reputation amongst locals.
Base Layer: Cheap thermals are usually made from polypropylene whilst quality ones are made from Merino wool.
We have owned both of the years and whilst the wool definitely keeps it’s elastic properties better, last a lot longer, tend not to smell, it’s not that clear that wool thermals are that much better at keeping you warm in normal conditions.
Another good type is purchase your thermals ahead of time on the Amazon or buy from a “ Work wear store ” like Work and I on the mainstream of Kutchan or visit some of your local hardware and workwear stores in Okinawa or mainland before you leave.
Just keep in mind that Japanese thermal sizes are usually about 1 to 2 sizes small than American sizes. So if you are usually medium buy a large. If you are usually large buy an extra large and If you are usually an extra large… .well your fucked.
Middle wear: Typically here you will be wearing a moisture wicking ” fleece ” . There is very little performance advantage of name Brand middle wear. The main thing is to avoid cotton as it tends to be a very poor insulator when its wet. If its really cold just wear a few layers. You can find fleece middle wear at fraction of the price.
By your fleece elsewhere so you don’t get ” Get fleeced ”
A chat about googles
Here is one area where it pays not go for the cheapest.
Middle of the range googles tend to sell for over $80 and really if you can reach above the $100 dollar mark you do get big leap in the quality of the lens and perhaps more importantly, the ability of the googles to withstand fog build up due to the application of a lens coating.
If anything is going to send you back to the base of the mountain feeling frustrated and irritated it’s fogged up lenses so pucker up go large and enjoy Niseko in all it’s expensive clarity.
Prior the expiration of the Gore tex patent there was only real option and that was to pay big bucks and buy a pair of Gore tex gloves. The situation is now more complex with many Companies fielding pretty descent breathable waterproof gloves at much cheaper prices although none still seem to match up the real deal.
At least go for gloves with a waterproof and Breathable membrane and if they are thin and it’s cold opt for a cheap set of glove liners that will dramatically improve warm without the cost of big brands. If you are snowboarding you often get better warm in the mitten rather than full glove too so keep that mind.
Purchase 2nd hand Gear
There are plenty of 2nd hand shops in Japanese cities stocked with unwanted and near new Ski gear. You can also check out Yahoo Auctions.
There is a also great 2nd hand snow gear shop staffed by an English speaker and he knows his gear. For more info go look up Borderline Niseko.
Niseko is an international resort catering to variety of needs and budgets but there is no question that the town is heading towards a very top end destination. It’s very possible to see a steak dinner go for 12,000 Yen or more and whilst everybody should try an A5 Wagyu steak once in their lives it will quickly drain your budget if you don’t watch out.
There is still a great selection of budget friendly restaurants and We would certainly advise asking to see the menu and prices before you request to be seated. We are also happy to try to arrange some group eats which often can get everybody great value.
There are few ways to eat a lot cheaper
- Cook your own – Take the time to get a taxi into Max Value or Lucky Supermarket in Kutchan.
- Eat from the Takeaway food trucks that set up each season. A google maps link of the food truck location is here
- Eat out in Kutchan. This is a larger town about 20 minutes from Hirafu where restaurants are priced for the local rather than the domestic market. Expect to save far more than the taxi fare if you can make it over.
- Fried chicken from the convenience stores had fed many a poor hungry snowboarder over the years. Look out for the Seicomart ” Hot chef ” Wash down with g.enerous amount of Coke for the true self flagellating experience
- Look out for some of the great Cheap eats around Hirauf. Our recommendations would be sandwiches and burgers from the Green Farm, pizzas from multiple spots in Hirafu and Elvis kebabs!!!
Lift passes are much cheaper on the Shoulder seasons. For the latest updates on age and season timelines go to The Niseko United website.
If there is chance to plan your trip before December the 18th or after March 20th you can save a few bucks.
Some people also chose to save money by purchasing lift tickets for one resort only rather than opting for the All mountain pass. These are a fair bit cheaper depending on the resort you pick. This can be a good option for total beginners and young kids that are not yet ready to explore the entire mountain.
We have worked out hard to try and secure the best available accommodation at military discount prices simply because we have been able to have negotiate with group buying power. By booking through NisekoML we are confident that your accommodation will be top value.
Other ways you can save money here is try and book outside of the Xmas/ Chinese new year period. Prices are substantially higher over the last week of Dec and first week of Jan, even with discounts.
Another tip may be stay a night at a cheap airport hotel and arrive in Niseko the next day. This allows you to shave one night from you Niseko accommodation bookings and get the maximum time in your Condo. Not much paying for a day if you are arriving at 11pm at night !
You an also get a much better Condo by getting a few friends together for a group travel option so ask around see who else may be keen.
Ask for a Military Discount
There are few companies that are happy to provide discounts for the US military in Niseko. Both Rhythm japan and Sea and Summit media have a specific package discount package available for ski hire and photography.