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Japan ski-resort revival led by Australian operator

Japan ski-resort revival led by Australian operator
December 14, 2011

The opening of a new gondola ski lift at the Japanese ski-resort of Niseko has been welcomed by SkiJapan Managing Director Peter Murphy.

Niseko-based Murphy explains "the new -eight seat Grand Hirafu Gondola has the double capacity and twice as fast as the original gondola it has replaced.

"This will provide a quicker and more comfortable ride, it will reduce morning bottlenecks and it offers quicker access, particularly on powder days, to ski or board iconic runs."

Hirafu Gondola is the first new lift to be built at Niseko. It replaces a slower, four-speed gondola and the new cabins will provide sensational views of Mt Annupuri, the Mt Fuji-looking Mt Yotei and the ski town of Hirafu.

This is definitely the start of a new era for a resort that now entices Australian families and lots of first-timers from other, nearby countries such as China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Anthony Trovatello a key member of's team based in Niseko, adds "Niseko is becoming more family-friendly after the powder boom a decade ago when the powderhounds put Niseko on the map.

"There's a special energy right now. A lot of people here are dedicated and want to support Japan. It is the best start to winter I've seen in the four years I've been here. The amount of snow and the snow quality is amazing."

Peter Murphy has been heavily involved in encouraging non-Japanese to ski at Niseko having channeled investment into the building boom which took place in the resort between 2003 and 2009, predominately led by Australian investors.

Murphy explains "the arrival of Australian investment in and around Niseko coincided with the huge influx of skiers and boarders between 2005- 2009. The wave of buyers was what put Niseko on the map as far as a winter destination for many Australian families.

"Obviously the ones that enjoyed their holiday decided to invest in an apartment or a low-cost block of land just outside the resort."

Niseko is regarded as one of Japan's top five ski-resorts. Equipped with an efficient lift system, the resort has an abundance of tree runs and being low in altitude it rarely experiences true whiteout conditions that are often found in North American or European resorts of higher altitude.

Murphy adds "Niseko is gaining excellent traction in the Asian market and has strong name recognition in China. Direct flights to Hokkaido from places like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are also playing a big part in increasing visitor numbers. As a result, we're expecting to see significant property investment from mainland China in the next few years.

"Occupancy rates are forecast to be about 30% less than previous winters but it is a short-term downturn due to problems on Japan's main island of Honshu. We are self-sufficient on Hokkaido so i do not see any long-term damage amongst Australians who enjoy the resort's snow quality and value-for-money winter holidays.

"We also expect to see the rise of Niseko as a summer destination. For some Hokkaido resorts, summer is the money season rather than winter. With Niseko's natural beauty and wide variety of outdoor activities, we see no reason why the area canï¾t be as strong in the warm months as it is in the snowy ones which will dramatically increase the current modest yields available based on winter only occupancies."

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