Amid the snow and occasionally-disturbed tranquility atop Mount Tomamu, it becomes more clear than ever that the winds of change are coming and they blow from the east.
For those who spent much of February glued to the Winter Olympics this will probably not come as a surprise. South Koreas first-ever winter games are being deemed, in the moment at least, a fairly all-round success and in four years time the 24th Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing.
By then, the skiing revolution taking hold in China will have a tighter grip than ever. Across this corner of Asia there is not only burgeoning public interest in winter sports but government investment to go with it.
Many western skiers are only familiar with the Alps or the Rocky Mountains, in themselves two very distinct cultural experiences. Skiing holidays often are as much about what goes on around the whole hurtling-down-the-mountain stuff and the Alps provides the obvious; France has cheese and vin rouge, Austria has foot-stomping aprs and Italy has bombardinos, while Colorados biggest ski resorts are also attracting customers keen on visiting the states legal dispensaries.
But venturing east in pursuit of new experiences is fast becoming a priority for those in search of something different, which brings us back to the top of Mount Tomamu, where the gusts have faded and the piste ahead has cleared. See you at the bottom.
The first thing you notice about Tomamu, on completing the short journey from Sapporo airport, is that it is small. Or was small.
Alpine ski resorts are sprawling creatures, smeared through valleys and creeping up mountains as buildings cling on to every slope and rock. Tomamu is wide open. Buildings are the exception, not the norm, though three buildings dominate this small town tucked away in the mountains.
Two towers comprising the Hoshino resort look over the bottom of the slopes like paid sentinels but the new, gleaming Club Med Tomamu is most impressive of all.
In truth, covering over 145 hectares and boasting 341 rooms and suites, Club Med’s latest resort in Japan completely dominates Tomamu. It is a gargantuan beast, boasting a gaggle of restaurants, kids clubs, theatres, bars and all the things you’d expect. All-encompassing all-inclusive.
As far as holidays go that means one simple thing – taking a lot off the traveller’s plate. Food of every origin, though never wavering in quality, is seemingly available all day, every day and is one of the shining lights of a trip to Hokkaido’s mountains.
But no lights can outshine the true sparkle of Tomamu’s ‘champagne powder’.
Any ski resort on the planet would give anything to have such fine, spritely powder snow and in Japan it feels as if it is a daily occurrence. Even as the flakes fall, they almost apologetically meander to the ground as if to most delicately position themselves across the land.
Any ski enthusiast on the planet would give anything to have such open space and empty slopes, especially when furnished with powder that resembles the bubbles of freshly-uncorked Dom Perignon. You may not actually be floating but you sure will feel like it.
Club Med does a brilliant job at Tomamu because they have used a huge amount of space to construct a purpose-built holiday destination that caters for every need and eliminates much of the stress. Skis, boots and poles of the correct size are already in a private, heated locker on arrival. Kids of all ages can be stashed away with entertainers all day. Transfers from the airport are a doddle.
There can be no doubting just how much attention to detail is put into making the hotel and facilities as good as can possibly be but the fact is that coming this far to ski will always hinge on what happens on the slopes.
These may not be the biggest slopes and there may not be a never-ending slew of runs. But if you’re after snow, really damn good snow, then Japan might just be the best place on earth.
Tomamu Hokkaido isClub Meds second Japanese resort. Located in the Hidaka mountains, surrounded by stunning scenery and with exceptional snow conditions, guests can explore 29 extensive ski slopes.
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