“Finally!” I told myself, giving a sigh of relief as I saw the sign of the hotel after driving for 3 hours in what was Hokkaido’s heaviest snowfall in 50 years. Visibility was poor and a route which the GPS directed us to on was temporarily closed, forcing us to detour. Read about our 1st self-drive experience in Hokkaido here.
I was even more relieved when help in the form of 2 ladies and a man, impeccably dressed in uniform, came forward even before my car was parked, to assist with the luggage and the kids – a far cry from the previous hotel – an upmarket one in Lake Toya where we spent the night before.
Sometimes, warmth even in the harshest of winter, can be lit by a smile and sincere hospitality. Welcome to Ki Niseko Hotel.
An Oasis of Warmth:
Quite honestly, I was rather apprehensive when the wife enthusiastically announced that we were going for a ski holiday at Niseko, Hokkaido. In my mind, I could only remember how frigid cold our last winter holiday to Korea was and how awful our ski experience was, literally and figuratively.
So, imagine my surprise when the staff, all smartly dressed in what seemed like bespoke suits, came forth to help us even before my car came to a halt. Later at the wood-inspired lobby (‘Ki’ apparently means wood), they were all smiles as they helped to check us in, a process that took only mere minutes and ushered us to our spotlessly clean and compact apartment. Rest and a good warm shower ensued.
Here’s a short virtual tour:
A Little Home Away From Home:
Our 1-bedroom room at Ki Niseko comes complete with a suite of service apartment facilities – a kitchenette consisting of a stove and hood, sink and clean cutleries and crockery and a good sized fridge. Literally everything you see in a functional kitchen. Hidden away from view is a washer and dryer (2-in-1) machine that actually works! I’ve been to a few service apartments where these hybrid machines don’t dry the clothes well but this one was an exception.
In the comfortable living room lies a large settee and large coffee table. There was a generous space for the dining area with a dining table that seats 4 comfortably. The bedroom has a luxurious king-sized bed with a de-humidifier and dressing table. The bathroom not too far away. In short, it was like a little home away from home for us…with room service and a stunning view of the Grand Hirafu slopes through its large windows. The kids would be found next to the windows daily, admiring the falling snow flakes.
The entire hotel is clean, modern and chic with a contemporary feel. It is well equipped with all the modern creature comforts and amenities that pamper its guests(and it did).
Our Ki Niseko Experience:
But aside from the rooms, what truly left us with such a positive experience were the following:
Watch this short video on our unforgettable Winter holiday at Ki Niseko!
1. Service. Service. Service…and all with a smile: A customer can ‘see’ a smile even over an email and phone-call. That was so true of the level of service here at Ki Niseko. Even before we set foot in Japan, we had corresponded with the Ki Niseko Concierge multiple times to coordinate ski lessons for our daughter, to ask about dining reservations and directions to the hotel. Every email was promptly replied within the day and with such sincerity. When we were there, being our maiden trip to Hokkaido and travelling with 2 young kids trying to negotiate the public transport of wintry Hokkaido, we contacted the front desk staff from our room various times each day to verify that our itinerary was workable etc. Each phone query was professionally handled and they would try the best within their means to seek out the answers for us (such as ‘where to eat the best soba in Niseko?’, ‘How do we get to Milk Kobo?’ etc).
2. Ski-in and Ski-out: The hotel has a tie-in service with GoSnow Ski School and Rhythm Sports, a prominent ski purchase and rental shop. With the tie-in there’s an in-house ski valet service where guests can deposit their skis and equipment before heading off to their rooms. Next day, guests can pick up these up and head on to the slopes real easy. All these are given as a value-added service to the guests. This means that there’s no need to lug your big ski gear dripping with wet snow to the room and out again the next day. Here, just come out from your room, get your skis, snap them on and go!
3. A Snowball’s Throw Away: This is the nearest hotel to the Grand Hirafu slopes and GoSnow ski school. It is literally a snowball’s throw away. No need to worry about lugging your heavy ski gear and struggle to lug them up the crowded shuttle buses and end up being late for skiing etc. The proximity helped tremendously since my daughter was having her ski lessons next door. It meant that she could be back in the warmth of the room and resting minutes after the lesson and not having to contend with waiting and taking a shuttle bus back. Here, it is so near, it’s really a snow ball’s throw away! Read about Dana’s Ski Lessons with GoSnow Niseko here.
4. Family Onsen: We really miss this. Book an entire private onsen just for guests, free of charge. We looked forward to this each and every day after Dana returned from the slopes. We would soak in the onsen, allow the girl to relax her muscles and chat about what we did that day. Excellent bonding time. We miss this very much! Since it’s a private Family Onsen, you can wear swimmers inside if you choose to (which is what I did).
5. Sunny Folks: Never in our travels have we encountered an international team of staff that is so warm, obliging and friendly. Whether they are locals, or Canadians or Kiwis or American, with a few Malaysians thrown-in, they are a delight to chat with and are always ready to help give directions and tips to make our trip even more memorable. Even at the breakfast restaurant, they were attentive, respectful about your personal space without being intrusive and always considerate of others. That’s what we like about the service culture in Japan.
6. Shuttle: Ki Niseko operates its own complimentary shuttle bus which brings guests to designated route in Niseko town, such as the Seico Minimart and Lawrence Minimart. To get further to other restaurants in the village, we walked 3 minutes to the Grand Hirafu Shuttle Bus stop situated at the next building. Both ways, it was hassle free and convenient. If you choose to walk, it’s only a 10 minute leisurely walk to the centre of Hirafu town too.
7. Splendid Snow-scape: The hotel is situated in a very beautiful part of Niseko so you can imagine how enchanted we feel, right smack in this the unblocked scenery, especially in the early morning when the clouds parted. Magnificent to say the least! Each day, after we sent our daughter into ski school, we would bring Buddy to play in the snow and just soak in the tranquility of this picturesque winter snow-scape.
Ki Niseko Hotel, with its modern facilities, warm service, contemporary rooms and proximity to the beautiful Grand Hirafu ski slopes, is a hotel that is truly worthy of its top ranking position on Trip Advisor. Our 5 nights’ stay was too short and we felt a slight tinge of sadness as we bade our reluctant farewell. I now understand that the fundamental of a good ski holiday is a good ski hotel…and that, we have found it at the Ki Niseko.
The boutique ski-in ski-out hotel with doorstep access to Niseko’s world famous snow.
Japan GPS Map Code: 398 414 230
Winter Holiday – Hokkaido, Japan (Dec 2016)