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Winter Travel 2015: Niseko, Japan

It’s always snowing in this Asian island town.

A snow sculpture of Bangkok’s Grand Palace at the Sapporo Snow Festival   Photo: Glow Images/Getty Images

Travel time: 19 hours

Wonder what it’s like to ski in a snow globe? Follow powder hounds to the mountainous island of Hokkaido and the four ski resorts of Niseko United (niseko.ne.jp/en), which were featured in Warren Miller’s latest action-sports film, No Turning Back. The snow here—some of the lightest champagne powder on earth—almost never stops, especially from late December through February, when anywhere from four to eight inches falls daily. With 2,000 vertical feet of lighted runs, some of them through trees, night skiing is a big draw. Heads up: Despite Niseko’s incredible terrain, the resorts’ antiquated lifts and limited access don’t always meet Western standards. Hire the English-speaking guides at Black Diamond Tours (blackdiamondtours.com) to show you the bottomless back bowls, the best runs, and, in a whiteout, the safest way home.

Lift tickets: From $50

While there: Change up your après-ski with a soak in the traditional baths of Yukichichibu—one of Niseko’s 60 local onsen (hot springs)—and a beer from a vending machine. From February 5 to 11, take the two-and-a-half-hour train ride to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s largest city, to walk through the illuminated four-story ice sculptures of the renowned Sapporo Snow Festival (www.snowfes.com/english). Make sure to check out the extravagant entries in this year’s International Snow Sculpture Contest at Odori Park. Last year, sculptures ranged from Hello Kitty and an Audi A3 to a re-creation of Malaysia’s Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Where to stay: Groups wanting the poshest of ski-in, ski-out digs should book a townhouse (from $2,000, kasara.com) in Kasara Niseko Village. Each of the eight lavish new units has three bedrooms, fur throws, and views of the active stratovolcano Mount Yotei. Amenities include a personal car service. For something cozier (and much more modest), book one of the nine mod chalet-style rooms at Kimamaya Boutique Hotel (from $183, designhotels.com), where you can sip wine from the owner’s Burgundian vineyard.

Getting there: Fly direct to Hokkaido in 17 hours and 15 minutes, then drive 2 hours to Niseko.

Lift ticket prices are per day and based on purchase at least a week in advance.

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