Day 16 – Lake Shikotsu, Takino Snow Hills

Posing with our ride 

Noboribetsu, which was a minute’s drive away

We did not walk in the park because it was very icy and slippery. 

We had to drive over to Lake Shikotsu and it was a very long drive with all the road closures. I learned that GPS had a better estimation than Google’s ideal route.

Beautiful lake 

It was totally worth the drive 

We swung over to Takino Snowland because it was just 30 minutes’ away 

Free tubing!

I was amazed that it was free considering how hourly charges were levied per person at Hanazono Snow Park

Many free toys too!

Waiting for their turns 

We left the snowpark at 130pm because one of our friends were leaving at 6pm and we wanted to check out the RERA outlet 

Sadly, it closed at 5pm on New Year Eve!

We were staying at Air Terminal hotel for the night and we returned to the airport for dinner, shopping and onsen. The kids loved the idea of staying at the airport.

Me too! Cos it was only 18000yen for a triple room. 

And the airport’s onsen pass came with the hotel booking!

Onsen’s reception 

The empty airport mall scene that greeted me after onsen 

It was so serene and zen. 

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Day 15 – Mount Usu, Lake Hill Farm & Noboribetsu

Rise and shine at Lake Toya was to a foggy scene. Once we had breakfast and took pictures of what we could in the morning, we drove to Volcanic Science Museum which was 5 minutes’ away. I always tried to incorporate some learning element during the holidays.

The building 

The kids learned how volcanoes were formed and how Lake Toya was formed. It was also one of the lakes that did not freeze in winter. They also got to watch a video of Mount Usu erupting and how it affected the lives of people who lived near Lake Toya.

Remnant from the most recent eruption 

We left the museum for Mount Usu which was 20 minutes’ away.

Yay to a non-foggy Lake Toya 

We paid to take the rope way up Mount Usu.

Free sledding play for kids 

It was -9°c!

We had to walk for 10min and up many steps to get to the top of Mount Usu and see the crater. It was extremely windy at the lookout point of the crater.

It was so cold that we were turning blue!

We drove to Lake Hill Farm which was 30 minutes’ away.

We had a simple lunch of pizza and curry rice, and enjoyed the cream puffs, cheesecakes and ice cream. It was an idlylic afternoon for the adults and a fun one for the kids.

We continued driving to Noboribetsu and checked in at Hotel Mahoroba.

A nicer room, compared to Lake Toya

Free flow crabs!

We ate long and well for dinner before heading to the onsen. There were so many hot baths, acidic, sulphuric etc.

I was amused to see this little play area, at a separate cost, being offered too. 

Day 14 – Heading to Lake Toya

We had breakfast to the sight of many eager skiers and snowboarders queuing up for the Grand Hirafu Quad lift before the lift started.

Given how we had encountered icy stretches, I could now understand why they wanted to be the first on the slopes.

Well, all I could say was we would stick to the less happening and hip places. We took our own sweet time to finish our breakfast and completed check out before heading to ski on the last day.

I was very surprised when the hotel left a reminder for us to vacate the locker by 11am. We never really faced with such issues at other resorts. They provided a cloakroom for us to store our things which worked out but it did not seem very safe.

Their cloakroom also required taking half a flight of stairs. Well, it required a lot of strength!

We skied till 12pm when X declared he was too tired and cold. Z and I continued till 1230pm before we settled the kids for a simple lunch at the cafe.

We could not get the Milk Kobo cheese tarts but we could get the ice cream. It was super milky, not my type.

After returning the equipment, we picked up our car rental at 2pm. Folks, IDP was a must. Thankfully, I had mine so our friend was able to rent.

Our people mover in the snow

It was a 2 hours’ drive to Lake Toya because of the snowfall (slow driving required) and the closure of the original, shorter route by GPS. Better safe and slow than sorry!

We checked into Kohantei because it was cheaper than the other hotels in the area. It cost 17,300yen per adult.

But it was small, old, tired and vintage.

Check out the phone! I had never used this before too.

Checking out the vicinity 

We donned the yukata, went for onsen and headed down for our buffet dinner.

The kids had a lot of fun in their yukatas. The boys were very amused.

Given how few people there were, Z and X had a great time taking food and pretending to be adults.

Here was X taking a lot of tako sashimi for Mr H

Pretty stalls 

I liked the steak and sashimi. Yay to the food but boo for the waistline. 

Day 13 – Skiing in Niseko

Hotel Niseko Alpen offered a sumptuous breakfast. 

We were chirpy and happy to head to the slopes. However, it was so crowded that Mr H took a while to exchange the voucher for the ski lift pass.

We thought of letting X practice on the family slope before going higher up. 

The jam at Family Ace Pair lift 

Behind X featured the queue for Family Quad lift 

The Quad lift brought us to 900m above ground but it was a very cold ride! When we got up there, it was very cold too. Skiing down was complicated because there were several routes and I was too chicken to do a red slope, same for X. 

View 

By lunch time, X was burned out and famished. We returned to room to eat cup noodles and finished up our bread from Sapporo.

X went off to nap promptly. I babysat him and rested, as well as uploaded holiday photos on Facebook. Mr H and Z went to explore the slopes.

Z on a black slope 
X did not wake up till 4pm! 

By then, it was time for us to go for onsen before heading down to the village for dinner at The Barn. We had to go to Welcome Centre to take bus 2 to go to Bus stop 2.

Thankfully, we alighted right outside the restaurant. It was an upmarket and meal with the kids. It gave me very strong Australian vibes. 

After dinner, we took the last 830pm shuttle bus back to hotel. Phew! So glad we did not have to walk upslope back to the hotel like the day before. 

Day 12 – Heading to Niseko

The perk of staying at Sapporo Mercure Hotel was that it was one of the pick up points for buses to Niseko. Due to the heavy snow, we left at 8 and reached at 1130am instead of 11am.

After arriving at Grand Hirafu Welcome center, we crossed the road to Hotel Niseko Alpen for check in. The room was not ready and we were told that the Base Rental shop was out of gears. We were asked to rent in the village. 

I was quite upset because we had picked the hotel for ski in ski out access. Eventually, the hotel tried to help us and got Base Rental to give priority to hotel guests. Apparently, there were many people who did not stay on site but would rent from Base instead of shops in the village. Despite getting the main gear, we were short of the helmets. I missed Tommau’s free helmet rental for kids!

Heading down the village for lunch

As it was already 230pm, we did not have to wait long for a table 

By 330pm, we decided on tea at Cafe If next door 

Dessert and a superb cup of hot cocoa

We had reached Niseko too late to go to Hanazono snow park.

We were pleased with our family room which cost 56k yen for the first night and 70k yen for the second night. The perk of staying at Alpen hotel was that we got the ski pass at 3000yen per day per adult which was cheaper than the rack rate of 5500yen.

Deluxe semi-western room which could sleep up to 5

Random mascot 

View from the room 

We decided to go for onsen while waiting for pizza delivery. We thought it was too cold to venture out for dinner.

Impressive shampoo and conditioner selection at onsen’s locker room

Pizza arrived! 

We had a pizza party with our friends.

By 9, we called the a day and the kids were psyched to sleep on a futon bed.

Day 11 – Random, shopping day in Sapporo

We had a Nijo Market visit “tour”. A number of us met at 7.45am to walk to the market which was 5min away from hotel. There was so much snow in Sapporo that the pathways were slippery and everywhere was piled high with snow.

Crossing the road 

Sea produce

Shopping for the best scallop deals!

Breakfast for 4 of us

Z & X shared the Hotate sashimi and crabmeat. Mr H shared the chiraishi with me. It was 2,680yen which was not very cheap or good in my opinion.

After breakfast, I bought a 500gpack of dried scallops for 9000yen. It was the small size dried scallops.

We headed for the beer museum but it was closed!!!

Next best alternative 

We headed to the mall next door which was very kids friendly. I loved the sports shop in the mall.

The kids loved these trolleys!

I was impressed that Nike carried such bags too!

After we were done with the mall, we walked to the nearest train station.

Waiting for train with coffee

It was one stop to JR Sapporo.

Level 8 of Daimaru featured a newly opened store 

We spent a long time at the shop. As I was not feeling well, I picked up some medicine from a local pharmacy.

Heading for dinner 

At Kani Hoike

Day 10 – Ski & head to Sapporo

We had breakfast at Mikaku because I had woken up at 7am and gone down to the restaurant to press for a number. Though the selection at Mikaku was limited, we favored it for the proximity.

We also checked out our luggage and left our bags with the concierge.

After breakfast, we headed out to ski. We skied from Tower area to Resort Center. In between, we had to wait for Z who had gone to ski with a neighbor. 

As X did not eat his breakfast properly, we let him have an early lunch at Resort centre and went up to Unkai Terrace again.

With plans to ski down 

Except for X who took the gondola and shuttle bus back to hotel with another neighbor 

Magnificent scenery 

Loved how tranquil the area was 

Spot the twin towers? That was our hotel 

We skied back to hotel area where I met up with X and took him to the green slopes while Mr H and Z explored the blue slopes.

The kids found the Nipo forest trail which was designed for kids and featured a narrow trail.

Mr H, getting stuck at the trail

It was 3.40pm when we returned our gears and rushed to the lobby at 3.45pm. Our private bus was already at the porch.

It would have taken 4 hours to take the usual coach with all the stops and it was not point to point. Hence, I booked a private bus which took us to the footstep of Sapporo Mecure Hotel in 2.5 hours.

Upon check in, we headed out for dinner. We followed one of our friends to Sumire.

Our dinner tickets 

Ramen bar 

Discreet door step, one min from our hotel 

Mightily pleased with the quad room booking which gave us 2 twin rooms!

Post dinner, we hunted for desserts but to no avail. We tried a cafe but it was pretty mediocre. So sad we couldn’t get our hands on the Kinotoya Bake cheese tarts!