For the past two decades, Niseko Village, a ski resort on Japan’s northern-most island of Hokkaido, has been dominated by powder pilgrims happy to forgo off-slope luxuries for adrenaline-spiking runs and endless backcountry options. However, a whirl of activity, including the opening of the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono in December and the launch of Eleven Experience itineraries in 2019, suggests that change is in the air. Especially promising for broadening the resort’s appeal with international travelers is the new Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which began welcoming guests late last year. Located at the foot of Mount Niseko Annupuri, with views of Mount Yotei, the hotel has made getting to the slopes easier by letting guests rent gear, book lessons, and buy lift passes in the lobby as well as giving them priority access to the high-speed gondola that leads to 70 runs and 2,191 acres of skiable terrain. But the property also encourages clicking out of your bindings and seeing more of the region, with excursions to tour local dairy farms and visits to Indigenous Ainu villages where a mostly forgotten Japan lives on. Doubles from $800; expedia.com
Where to ski next
Europe’s best slopes get fresh lodges
Whitepod Eco Luxury Hotel, Switzerland
When they debuted in 2004, Whitepod’s geodesic tents, perched high in the Swiss Alps, paved the way for eco ski lodging. But tight quarters and extreme slopes limited their appeal to a certain type of adventurer. The property’s new larchwood chalets overlooking the Villars-Les Diablerets ski area are ideal for the rest of us (namely families and those with intermediate downhill chops) who want the same sustainability with more comforts, like breakfast delivered by an electric Land Rover and three-bedroom standalones powered entirely by the nearby stream. Doubles from $715; whitepod.com
Wellness has drawn travelers to Italy’s German-speaking Südtirol region since locals began luring Romans to the thermal baths two millennia ago. Last summer a building originally designed as a sanatorium for Austrian royalty was reborn as a year-round resort. Now 62 spruce-lined suites near the Palmschoss chairlift on Mount Plose overlook miles of trails through the honey-hued Dolomites. At the property’s heart is a 21,528-square-foot spa with saunas and treatments like the healing Tree Circle facial. Guests can also try Wyda, an ancient yoga-like Celt practice. Doubles from $300; forestis.it
Aurora Lodge, Norway
Days are short this far north of the Arctic Circle, which just means that excursions at this private 12-person chalet designed by architect Snorre Stinessen continue long after the sun goes down. These include night dives with orca whales or free riding the Lyngen Peninsula’s ungroomed mountains right down to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, followed by a warm-up in the outdoor soaking tub under the glow of the northern lights. The lodge is accessible by boat or helicopter and bookable through tour operator Black Tomato. Five days inclusive of meals, excursions, and transfers runs $129,610; blacktomato.com
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This article appeared in the March 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.
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