SKI BUMS :: Gay & lesbian skiing and snowboarding club
Our trip leaders are often asked this question: what’s the best SKI BUMS trip of all time? We’ve got an easy answer: Niseko, Japan.
Niseko is Japan's most famous international ski destination for a big reason: the snow. More than 600 inches of dry, fluffy powder blankets these slopes each year. The New York Times called Niseko "Japan's St. Moritz," with "snowflakes large enough to cast shadows" and a contagious energy that brims with the excitement of a true global destination. It’s simply like nothing you’ve ever skied before, and one of the world’s few ‘must ski’ destinations.
SKI BUMS has hosted three Japan trips — including two here, in 2013 and 2015. The demand to return is high, and we’re experts at showing you the good stuff. There’s no telling when we’ll come back again, so if this is on your wish list, don’t miss this opportunity to experience the mythical beauty of one of the world’s snowiest places. Space on this trip is very limited, and it will sell out.
Thursday February 1 through Saturday February 10, 2018
5 -- Monday through Friday
In Tokyo: Shinagawa | In Niseko: Hirafu Village (ski in, ski out)
Recommended for intermediate through expert skiers & riders
$3999 per person
We reserve the right to cancel, reschedule, or make changes in the trip itinerary as a result of weather or safety considerations or as otherwise deemed necessary or advisable. If your trip is cancelled or rescheduled due to weather, snow, or mountain conditions, or circumstances beyond our control, you will receive a full credit for a future trip. All trip credits may be applied to any trip in the SKI BUMS future. There is no expiration date.
SKI BUMS is not responsible for the cost of any additional expenses that you may incur as a result of trip rescheduling or cancellation (airline ticketing fees, etc.).
To use a credit for a future deposit or payment, please contact us directly.
Through September 1, you may cancel your spot at any time and receive a full refund. After October 1, the following cancellation fees apply:
For cancellations received from September 2 - September 31, $1000 fee. After October 1st, 2017: no refund.
In order to obtain our bulk group discounts, we must agree to a very strict cancellation policy. It's the nature of group travel. Think of your SKI BUMS booking as you would an airline reservation; even we find someone to take your place, the cancellation fees still apply.
If you buy travel insurance, you can still receive a refund for a cancelled SKI BUMS trip.
A travel insurer can provide a refund even when SKI BUMS cannot. In the circumstance that you need to cancel your trip because of work or health reasons, you should purchase travel insurance within 30 days of your initial trip deposit.
Even if you purchase travel insurance after this date, some coverage is much better than no coverage at all. Our cancellation policy is strict, and after cancellation fees kick in, a travel insurer may be your only chance for a full refund.
There are many travel insurers, and policies are very affordable. We especially recommend travelinsured.com, and suggest you add the sports package to cover skiing & snowboarding activity.
$3999 USD per person additional options: — Pay in full at signup and save $200 (limited time offer) -- $1500 supplement to upgrade to a single occupancy room in both hotels
These are the dates for those who sign up today. Pricing and payment dates may change for those who sign up at a later date, if space remains. Late payments are subject to a 5% late-payment fee. It is up to you to submit your payments on time. You may always pay early.
You may pay with any major credit card, cash or check. We use PayPal to process online credit card payments. PayPal is the internet's most trusted online payment portal, and you do not need to be a PayPal member to submit a payment.
If you would ever like to use PayPal to send a manual payment (from a smartphone, for example), our account address is: payments (at) ski-bums.org.
Your trip includes a five day lift ticket for Niseko United.
In general, it's tough to ski or ride from one resort area to another (although in good conditions you can connect from one to another at the very top). SKI BUMS trip leaders will name specific resorts for the first few days and invite everyone to ski and ride there -- but you'll always be free to do your own thing if you prefer.
Note: If you or your travel partner do not ski or snowboard -- we can remove the lift tickets from our package; contact us to make arrangements. (See "non-skiers," below.)
In Tokyo: We'll have group dinner reservations on Thursday and Friday night at some of Tokyo's tastiest restaurants. These dinners will be prepaid; you'll just get your own drinks. Saturday night is a "free night" for you to dine wherever you wish.
In Niseko: Most evenings, we’ll have group dinner reservations — and you’ll simply pay for whatever you order. After two trips here, we know the best dining spots in town! We’ll celebrate our final night of the trip with a delicious multi-course meal at a Michelin 2-star stunner, Kamimura. All together, there are three prepaid dinners on this trip.
Most of our lunches will be at on-mountain cafeterias and cafes; in general, we'll meet as a group each day for lunch. In the evenings, you’ll have a few free nights to explore town and dine wherever you like. Many restaurants offer free shuttle service to guests with a reservation.
Planning for food & drink:as you might not expect, food in Japan is wonderfully affordable. Prepare to be wowed, as you see how much further Japanese cuisine can go beyond sushi and ramen. Japan's cuisine is very easy for omnivores and pescatarians, but vegetarians or strict vegans may struggle when eating out. Here's some great advice.
We are happy to arrange roommates for you. Typically, half of our participants ask us to match them up with a roommate. About a month before the trip, we assign roommates and condo mates -- based on your requests. We'll ask a few easy questions and accommodate your preferences. (Those who sign up together will be placed together, unless you specifically request otherwise.)
Please note: there are a very small number of single occupancy slots available. We collect the single occupancy supplement when you sign up (View "Pricing & Payment" below). All those who request a roommate match will be given his or her own bed. Those who are traveling together may request a room with one bed or two.
About half of our participants rent skis or snowboards -- in part to avoid traveling with extra bags. Rentals are not included in our trip price; you should budget about $300 USD for a 5-day rental. No advance reservations are needed; you can pick up rentals upon arrival in Niseko. The shop here is well stocked with the same top-of-the-line brands that you'll find at North American ski resorts; we love the gear and the crew at Rhythm Sports.
SKI BUMS designs our season for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, but we make specific recommendations for each trip. On ALL SKI BUMS trips, we begin by dividing into skill level groups so you can identify those who enjoy the same terrain that you do.
Niseko is not particularly steep, but typically, it is particularly powdery. If you’ve never skied or boarded in powder before, we recommend booking an instructor upon arrival here. On our previous Japan trips, most participants are strong intermediate to expert skiers and snowboarders. (We expect about an equal number of strong intermediates and experts on this trip.) If you're a beginner, please contact us before signing up.
If this is your first and only trip to Japan, we strongly encourage you to extend your trip. SKI BUMS trip leaders are happy to offer advice, but we cannot book additional nights for you, and we will not be on hand to offer travel assistance beyond the official dates of our itinerary.
Air transportation is not included in the trip price. Read these recommendations closely before buying airfare. This trip only requires international airfare to Tokyo. Tokyohas two major airports, and you can fly into whichever one is most convenient for you. Narita (NRT) welcomes more international flights than Haneda (HND) does, but Haneda is considerably closer to our hotel.
HEAD'S UP: You'll want to be smart and cautious about buying your airfare, so you can attend our meet & greet on the first evening.
PLANNING YOUR AIR TRAVEL ARRIVAL IN TOKYO, THURSDAY FEB 1: Plan to arrive anytime before 5 PM on Thursday; our itinerary officially begins with a cocktail meet & greet reception in the bar of our hotel at 6:30 PM, followed by dinner around 8 PM. After landing, allow about 2 1/2 hours to get through customs, get your luggage and check in at the hotel.
IMPORTANT: those traveling from North America will advance a day while flying over the international dateline. Select a departure date of Wednesday, January 31.
TO SAPPORO (CTS), SUNDAY FEBRUARY 4:you can fly whatever airline works best for you — there are many flights from both Haneda and Narita — but we need you to be at the airport ready to meet our transfer on Sunday Feb 4 by 4:00 PM. There’s a large mall, restaurants, a movie theater, and many relaxing places to spend a few hours at this amazing airport. When choosing your flight, keep this in mind: you’ll want to allow about 35 minutes to get to Haneda, and about 70 minutes to get to Narita. DEPARTURE, SATURDAY FEBRUARY 10: We do not recommend scheduling a departure from New Chitose Airport (CTS) before 2 PM on Saturday the 10th. Our ground transfer will bring us to the airport by noon. If you decide to fly from CTS to Tokyo, you may want to spend one extra night in Tokyo or Sapporo before flying home on Sunday. (see "trip extensions," below).
Train transportation is not included in the trip price. After arriving in Japan, you'll purchase your own train pass for train travel while in Tokyo.
You should budget about $40 USD for a Suica card, which you can use on multiple trains throughout Tokyo (and the express trains which serve the airports).
Japan's primary train system, the JR Trains, are an extensive series of trains which include metro, commuter, regional and bullet trains, or shinkansen. The system is efficient and very easy to use.
Niseko United is the name of four adjoining resort areas, all of which stretch around a giant cone volcano mountain, Mount Annapurri. It's much larger than it looks on a trail map (in 2013 & 2015, we all felt like there was more than enough terrain to keep us busy). The skiable acres are comparable to Telluride, CO. Each base area has its own feel; we'll name one resort area per day where we'll ski and ride together.
The snow that falls here travels from Siberia in dry, cool waves; powder days are legendary, and blue sunny skies are rare, especially in January and February. But unlike major North American or Europe resorts, Niseko sits at fairly low altitude. The top elevation is only about 3,793 feet (1156 meters) -- giving you more than enough oxygen for deep breathing and a good night's sleep. Additionally, the lift infrastructure and mountain operations are top-notch; very similar to what you'd expect in North America. All throughout Niseko, English is widely used. There's a large contingent of Australians who are visiting and working here, giving the whole atmosphere a global village feel with an fun-filled jolt of enthusiastic, fun-filled energy.
This trip probably isn't the best choice for non-skiers / non-boarders, but if you or your travel partner do not ski or snowboard, there are a lot of other fun things to do here. If you don't mind having your own fun while everyone else is on the mountain during the day, go for it! Contact us to remove lift tickets.
Who's coming on the trip? Find out by joining our special SKI BUMS Japan Facebook Group.
Whether you're simply curious about signing up or you're already on board, everyone's welcome to join this Facebook group. Feel free to invite friends, too -- it's a cool way to begin learning names of the skiers and boarders who you'll meet when we're in Japan!
Of course, weather is impossible to predict, but SKI BUMS plans our trips with an eye on weather history. The season in Niseko generally follows that of North America and Europe, with the snowiest period occurring from late December through early March. January and February’s storms tend to be big and powdery. Wind and avalanche protection can sometimes temporarily close the upper areas of the mountain when a new storm blows in, but there are ample glades and tree skiing areas in the lower elevations to provide more than enough fun. And when the upper areas open again, the sheer amount of fresh powder usually provides fresh tracks for days on end.
Upon arrival in Niseko, we'll check in, relax, then enjoy a delicious dinner nearby.
The fun begins early Monday morning! Grand Hirafu’s lifts are located just outside our hotel, and as with every SKI BUMS trip, we begin by dividing into skill level groups that help you identify the other skiers and snowboarders who enjoy the same terrain -- at the same pace -- as you do.
In general, you'll spend most of the day in a smallish group of four or five skiers or boarders -- but that's up to you. The BUMS are a social crowd, so it's always easy to mix it up. Each day, we meet as a group for lunches and après-ski. You and your group will set your own pace, and it's common to mix it up with a few different groups throughout the week. As the week progresses, some groups will opt for full days, while others might take a half-day off to relax. This is your vacation, so you're always free to break away and do your own thing.
Our rooms are guaranteed after 3 PM on Thursday the 1st, but feel free to arrive earlier. The hotel can store luggage if your room isn’t ready just yet. When you arrive, you'll simply check in at the hotel under your name. Most participants will arrive in the afternoon or early evening hours.
Our trip officially begins with meet & greet cocktails at 6:30 PM. In our hotel lobby bar, you'll meet the SKI BUMS trip leaders and the other participants -- and then we'll sit down for a relaxing dinner around 8 PM.
While in Niseko, we'll rely on shuttle buses which serve the Niseko United resorts. Additionally, many restaurants offer free shuttle vans for guests with reservations. If you'd like to take side trips in the evenings, taxis are affordable and easy to arrange.
This trip has a minimum of 15 participants and a maximum of 40 participants. If we fail to meet our minimum number of registered participants by 60 days before the trip, the trip may be cancelled. In that event, those who have signed up for the trip will receive a full refund.
+ Three night stay in Tokyo, six night stay in Niseko + Daily hot breakfasts + Three dinners (two in Tokyo, one in Niseko) + Five day lift pass for the Niseko United resorts + Two ground transfers between Sapporo and our hotel in Niseko + Complimentary shuttles in Niseko + Trip organization, guidance and assistance from SKI BUMS professional trip leaders
+ Air transportation + Taxi, bus and train transportation (airport transfers, Tokyo metro) + Ski and snowboard equipment rental + Backcountry tour guides (optional) + Lunches, some dinners, alcoholic drinks + Entry fees or visa fees (if applicable) + Travel insurance (very highly recommended)
Here a few quick steps to help you prepare for our trip!
STAY ACTIVE | Most of the participants on this trip will be ready for a hard-charging series of back-to-back days on the mountain. Be sure to stay active so you can have fun without getting too spent.
LEARN SOME BASIC POLITE JAPANESE |Although those who work in hospitality (especially at our hotels) will speak fluent English, Japan is an exceptionally polite culture, and you'll want to know how to say please and thank you, hello and goodbye, and exchange other common pleasantries.Duolingo is a whole lot of fun, and it's free.
SET UP YOUR CELL PHONE PLAN | Don't wait until the last minute to set up your international data, voice and SMS messaging. We do NOT recommend renting a SIM card upon arrival in-country; it nearly always causes more problems than it solves. Learn more >
We're returning to the classy and comfortable Strings by Intercontinental hotel, which hosted us in 2013 and 2015. It’s lovely. With a beautiful open atrium, an English-speaking staff and a tasty Western breakfast, it’s an upscale property that primarily caters to global business travelers. It's efficient, clean and well-appointed. Plus, it's located right beside the Shinagawa train station, which makes getting around Tokyo a breeze. You’ll really appreciate the proximity to that station. Our hotel is located in Shinagawa, an upscale business district. It’s within easy reach of tourist-friendly hubs like Ginza, Shibuya, Kamakura and Shinjuku, and not far from the vibrant gay bars of Shinjuku Ni-chōme. But most notably, it’s very easy to get here from both of the airports, and that’s a big reason why the BUMS like it so much. In the world’s largest city, location matters.
+ Thursday, February 1: Arrive in Tokyo -- most will arrive late afternoon / early evening
+ Fri Feb 2 - Sat Feb 3: Spend two days exploring the excitement of Tokyo
+ Sun Feb 4: Fly from Tokyo to Sapporo, then 2-hour bus transfer to Niseko
+ Mon Feb 5 to Friday Feb 9: Ski & ride Niseko (and environs)
+ Sat Feb 10: Transfer back to Sapporo for flights home (or optional trip extension)
Thursday night through Saturday evening, the SKI BUMS trip leaders will design a fun-filled itinerary with group outings to famous sights and extra time to explore the city on your own. Highlights include historic temples and shrines in Asakusa, the whimsical fashion of Takeshita street, the stores of Ginza and the Edo-Tokyo museum. We'll visit the gay bars, too. They're fascinating.
The SKI BUMS approach toward city exploration isn't like your standard tour group -- no one's going to hold a flag aloft, saying "we're walking... we're walking"-- rather, we'll divide up into smaller groups, based on what sights you'd like to see, and trust that you're savvy enough to navigate one of the world's most popular tourist destinations without a lot of hand-holding. Of course, if you ever need assistance, our trip leaders are very familiar with Japan, and very happy to help you explore this vibrant city. We'll distribute a suggested itinerary for sightseeing, along with helpful tips and suggestions to make sure you have fun, stay safe, and see the best that Tokyo has to offer.
On Sunday, we'll all board a shared ground transfer from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport directly to our hotel in Niseko. It’s about a 2 hour drive.
You must have a cell phone that will work while we are in-country. It will need to be able to receive domestic SMS text messages, even when you are not on Wifi.
Trip leaders send up-to-the-minute text message alerts with itinerary information, transportation pickup times, lunch locations, weather advisories, and more. Additionally, the other trip participants text one another to coordinate their plans on the mountain.You should set up an international plan that includes voice, data and SMS messaging.
FOR NISEKO:You should arrive in-country with all your skiing & snowboarding apparel. SKI BUMS requires our trip participants to wear helmets while skiing & riding. See our helpful guide, How to Dress for the Mountain, for suggestions. Additionally, you'll need to pack a pair of snow-proof shoes with a good tread; the roads in Hakuba tend to be snowy and slippery, and the path to the snow monkeys is notoriously icy. It would be smart to pack a pair of crampons.
In addition to Rhythm Sports, Tokyo has a few great gear shops, but larger sizes and availability will be very limited. NOTE: it's nearly impossible to find larger-sized shoes, gloves or goggles in Tokyo.
FOR TOKYO: If you've taken trips with the BUMS before, you know that we're not a showy crowd. All events on the SKI BUMS itinerary will be casual dress. Be comfortable, first and foremost. That said, the Strings by InterContinental probably isn’t the spot to eat breakfast in sweatpants or yoga outfits; smart casual style is probably the best way to blend in here. We'll email everyone our insights and packing tips.
SKI BUMS detailed trip itineraries are distributed upon arrival, and they're designed to be viewed on any smart phone. More importantly, our trip leaders send up-to-the-minute alerts that you'll receive on your phone via SMS text messaging.
For this reason, you must have a cell phone that will work while we're in Japan.
We've booked the brand new AYA Niseko, a ski-in, ski-out hotel that just opened in the winter of 2016. It’s stylish, well-appointed and modern, and it’s located right off the snow at the Grand Hirafu resort.
The AYA features its own beautiful onsen, ski and snowboard valet storage, gym, massage room, and on-site restaurant. Rooms feature kitchenettes with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee machine and kitchen supplies.
We’ve got a block of studio rooms; you may select single or double occupancy.
Sapporo ground transfer buses are included in our trip price.*
SKI BUMS will provide bus transfers for the entire group between Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport and our hotel in Niseko. See the Air Transportation time recommendations, below.
*The Friendly Airport Limousine Bus, which can transfer you from the Haneda airport to our hotel, is not prepaid. Advance reservations are unnecessary; you'll simply purchase your ticket upon arrival at the airport (about $40 USD). This is a clean, efficient, easy service -- and it's much more affordable than a private taxi, which can cost more than $250 USD. View the timetable here >
If you’re flying into Narita, we recommend taking the express train. See above.
Relax, you're in good hands. Although the thought of getting around Japan on public transportation might seem a bit intimidating from afar, in truth, the systems here are more efficient, modern and relaxing than what you're probably used to back home. With a little help from the trip leaders, you'll wish that it was always this easy to get around.
Here's a quick overview of how you'll get from here to there. Shortly before the trip, we'll email all our participants with helpful and informative transportation details. Arrival:Bus (from Haneda*) or express train (from Narita**) from airport to the hotel Tokyo: Public trains, taxis and walking to get around Tokyo Feb 4: Limousine bus or express train to airport | Flight to Sapporo | Shared ground transfer from Sapporo’s New Chitose airport to our hotel in Niseko Feb 4 - 10:public shuttle buses, and some taxis to get around Niseko Feb 10: Shared ground transfer to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo
Our trip includes 2 full days in Tokyo -- you can enjoy more if you schedule your flights accordingly. We plan a very light itinerary with recommended sights that you can easily opt-out of, in part, to give you time to adjust to the new time zone. The first few days can feel a bit like you're walking through a dream; unless you live in Asia, you'll need a few days before morning feels like morning.
Tokyo's recommended sights include Meiji Shrine, shopping in Harajuku and Takeshita Street, Asakusa's Sensoji Temple, the shrines ofKamakura, and the gay nightlife of Shinjuku Ni-Chome.This is the largest city in the world; there's an endless list of cool things to do. Sumo wrestling. Owl cafes. The Robot Restaurant. The pre-dawn tuna sushi market. Endless.
Luckily, you’ll have the expertise of SKI BUMS trip leaders who’ve already led three trips here. :)
We highly recommend this trip for backcountry and off-piste skiers and riders. The Hokkaido area has some of the most powder-riffic, exhilarating tree skiing anywhere in Japan, with incredible pillow lines, powder-filled gullies and steeps that aren't easily found in Japan's other ski areas. The area has a number of cat-skiing and touring operators, but advance reservations are wise during peak season.
SKI BUMS will invite experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders to join pre-arranged tours with experienced guides; these costs are additional. If you can, you’ll want to bring backcountry touring equipment into the country with you -- beacons, probes, and shovels are mandatory. ABS air-bags are optional. We will email specific requirements to all those who sign up to participate in backcountry touring.
Here's a quick geography lesson: Tokyo is our arrival and departure point. People generally break it down into large neighborhoods, with names like Shinjuku, Ginza, Roppongi, Ueno and Chiyoda-ku.
Hokkaido is the name of the northern prefecture (like a province / state) where the town of Niseko is located. We’ll fly to the large city of Sapporo, then take a group ground transfer (about 2 hours) to Niseko.