Kiroro Snow World, resort about 60 minutes from Niseko, had a much improved crowd situation. The lift ticket is one of the more expensive ones but the infrastructure is so nice. They have the fancy electronic gates, all bubble chairs and gondolas to help you stay warm. Inside the lodge is a rest room with couches, tables and even a tatami section with good WiFi to hang out in. A public onsen is in the same building for your convenience. After 5pm, it’s supposedly hotel guests only, but no one mans the desk to check. Backcountry gates are available, but you need to file a climbing plan with the mountain club at the base center .
It took us a few runs in the morning to find the good snow. Following powderhounds advice, we tried the top of the Asari quad lift, but a bunch of it was wind effected. The gondola line turned out to be better and there are bunches of fun trees in bounds and just outside. At the end of the day (our 5 hr pass expired), we did a lap in a backcountry bowl that we had to hike out from to get back. The snow was fabulous! It was so good, we came back for three or laps the next day. There is a michi no ekki not too far from the resort for easy van crashing.
Overnight snow freshened things up and the day was mixed sun and flurries. We were able to pay for only 1 ride/2 express lifts then hike the rest. We did three laps on the back bowl area facing north. Snow conditions were super stable. I had a pretty good wipeout on the first run (of course with an audience). Trying to figure out what happened, I think I got a large face shot, freaked out cause I couldn’t see, promptly caught a ski then did a nice tumble into the powder. Luckily, my tether held so we didn’t have to spend 2 hours digging for it like some other folks we met (their whole group was rocking super bright ski laces when we met them). Note to self: must learn to deal with temporary powder blindness, a problem I will hopefully have again.
We would definitely come back to Kiroro! Good snow, fast lifts and great backcountry terrain accessible.