The Playbook For The Modern Man

I Went To The One Place In Japan No 25 Year Old Should Ever Go… & Loved It

Revelations of a travel snob.

Snowboarders bomb down freshly slathered slopes, skiers commit crimes against gravity on the slalom and kids slave away building snowmen.

You? You’re in an outdoor Jacuzzi, catching snowflakes on your tongue, poaching your torso and watching the world go by. Why? This isn’t even a good day at Club Med Sahoro.

Known for its world-class powder, which sits in the sweet spot of consistency, quality and quantity when compared to other famous flurry locales worldwide, Club Med Sahoro, based in Hokkaido, the wild northern island of Japan, has access to some of the best off-piste skiing in the world.

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Although I visit a little before peak season (mid-December), and even though when I arrive the snow is – shock, horror – reminiscent of an Australian ski slope, barely two hours after I arrive the powder gods smile: a storm which has rolled over from Siberia (slurping up moisture from the Sea of Japan as it went) makes landing, covering the mountain with the lusted after confetti that attracts 20 million annual visitors to Japan.

This is why Hokkaido is the perfect destination for off-piste skiing – something Australian skiers and snowboarders cottoned onto in the early 2000s, and which now is almost a rite of passage for anyone worth their K2 apparel.

As repeat guests will tell you – you don’t ask when it will snow in Sahoro, you ask when it will stop.

Not only is Hokkaido one of the world’s snowiest sites, but subzero temperatures ensure it stays light and dry for the prime skiing months of January and February. The result? You don’t ski across Hokkaido snow, you ski through it and (oh so casually) measure its depth in body parts.

“Oh, you had 6 inches in Perisher? We were up to our armpits in ‘pow’ in Japan.”

Anyway: back to the hot tub. Even when you’re waiting for the snow to arrive, Club Med Sahoro is an excellent place to kick back and relax. And although it’s the last place you might expect to find a 25-year-old travel snob who prides himself on sniffing out ‘offbeat’ locations around the world, Club Med Sahoro still managed to win me over.

Here’s how.

The snow is pristine

 

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Even though I visited before the iconic chest-high dumps of snow (for that you’ll want to book in January or February), I still had a blast. And despite my first venture out on the slopes being met with ice patches that made me feel like I was back in Perisher, as soon as the snow started to fall (less than three hours later) we knew we would soon be in business.

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Sure enough, the next day snowed non stop, and by day three there was a solid covering of shin-deep snow (waist deep in patches) and tantalising runs ready to be tested. This in mind, I can only imagine how epic this place gets in peak season.

The instructors are world-class

 

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I once received instruction at an Australian ski resort from an instructor whose yellow teeth and wild eyes made me think he was fresh out of rehab (or potentially needed to check-in). Suffice to say, my experience in Sahoro was quite different: my instructor not only had impeccable dental hygiene (the number one characteristic you look for in a teacher, I know), but also managed my ego and my technique with aplomb.

Having misdiagnosed myself as an expert, my instructor exhibited no disappointment at not being able to bomb down the slopes with a competent companion, helped me see the gaps in my technique and gently suggested I book into the intermediate course the next day without undermining my confidence.

There’s a touch of wilderness you don’t get in Europe (or Australia)

Not in Kansas anymore…

It’s not everywhere you get to the top of the Gondola to be greeted by a poster of 13 brown bears. Or to the bottom of one of the runs, to see a stuffed 2.5-metre bear, perfectly preserved and standing on its hind legs (in a cafe). Of course, you are assured that the bears are hibernating in a specific area during winter but still, it lends a certain savage vibe you don’t get elsewhere. Oh, and the huskies are pretty cool too.

The food is fresh and varied

Sampling the authentic Hokkaido flavours at Mina Mina, the resort’s traditional Japanese BBQ restaurant.

Although Club Med has a reputation for being high quality but generic, I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of freshly prepared local cuisine – from ramen and grilled fish (Hokkaido is famous for its fresh seafood and dairy products) to gyoza, noodles and sushi.

And this is just at the buffet (there’s also a restaurant where you can order traditional Japanese fare, and even cook it yourself at your table with a hot plate and a hot pot).

Of course, there is abundant Western cuisine at the all you can eat buffet too (for those with a guilty penchant for pasta and tomato sauce or steak and chips). And the delicately prepared desserts are – naturally – to die for.

The entertainment is… entertaining

 

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Bass blasts and reggaeton trills. I envision 50 people getting down to Shakira. I round the corner and look out over the dancefloor.

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There are eight people dancing.

Of course: no Club Med is going to live up to Tokyo’s Shibuya nightlife or Osaka’s south-side bars. But let’s be real: that’s not what you’re there for; you’re there for the snow.

And even having said that, if quaint, Club Med Sahoro’s nightlife is still nothing to sneer at, offering nightly entertainment in the form of live bands, circus performers and a mini dance floor. If you’re not feeling the novelty nightclub vibes you can chill out in the midnight bar, listen to the piano, or head upstairs and play pool.

The layout of the resort also means there is ample opportunity to either socialise, or stick to yourself, depending on how you’re feeling.

The staff are the real deal

 

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Though my inner cynic was suspicious of the ‘hype’ around the GO’s (gracious organisers), they really did live up to their name. And while it doesn’t quite have the down to earth aura of, say, Paris (where the waitstaff will insult you and expect you to be grateful for it), the mix of nationalities and sheer graciousness of the GO’s is hard to critique.

The amenities are epic

 

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There’s a reason I started this piece in the outdoor Jacuzzi – it’s quite possibly one of my favourite places in the world. Not to mention the pool (if you’re feeling fit), the sauna (if you feel like sweating) and the freezing cold plunge pools (if you need a heart attack break from sweating), which all add up to one heck of an apres-ski experience. Chuck in a few cheeky massages here and there and you’ll go home a new person.

Piqued your interest? Early Bird Sales for 2020/2021 holidays from November 2020 to April 2021 are opening on the 29th of January, which gets you up to 30%* off on any date (in that range) or destination.

“One price (7 nights all-inclusive from $2,380 per person) includes everything you need for an amazing holiday with accommodation, all-day gourmet dining, premium open bar, wide selection of sports and activities, full service child care through the award-winning Kids Club, evening entertainment and more.”

Book via Club Med Sahoro, or by calling 1800 258 263.

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D’Marge travelled to Japan at the invitation of Club Med Sahoro.

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