The weather’s finally getting cooler in Hong Kong, which means we’re ready to dust off our heavy coats, winter scarves and snow shoes to officially ring in winter. If zig-zagging down a snow-capped mountain followed by warming your toes near the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate sounds like your idea of a cosy winter holiday, check into one of these top ski resorts which are just a hop and a skip away from Hong Kong.
Travel time: approximately 4 hours to Sapporo, followed by 2.5-hour bus transfer to Niseko
Hokkaido is not just one of the best places to hit the slopes close to home, it’s also one of the best ski destinations in the world. The northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido has top-notch powder as a result of its being located in the central path of cold air blown across the Sea of Japan from Siberia, resulting in an average of 14–18 metres of dry, powdery snowfall every year. Within Hokkaido, Niseko is known as the “powder capital of the world,” with a number of world-famous resorts and breathtaking scenery to attract ski enthusiasts around the world.
Check in to… Aya Niseko, the latest ski-in, ski-out condominium and hotel to open at the Grand Hirafu Resort, situated just a few metres from the bottom of the lifts. They’re not officially taking guests until 15 December, but reservations are open now if you want to be the first to check out this world-class resort. Choose from a studio, two-bedroom or three-bedroom fully-serviced residence, with in-house amenities including 24-hour reception, ski valets, natural onsen hot springs, spa, gym facilities, yoga room, restaurants and a kids’ club.
Yongpyong, South Korea
Travel time: 3.5 hours to Seoul, followed by 3-hour bus transfer to Yongpyong
South Korea’s not just where you go to fuel up on fried chicken and dance Gangnam style — they also have an impressive number of ski resorts within a few hours’ drive of the central city of Seoul. Yongpyong is one of the largest, located three hours from Seoul (there are shuttle buses that run regularly). A total of 28 runs cater to beginners, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders, with enough space and variety in the terrain to allow for several consecutive days on the slopes.
Check in to… InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort, a five-star property resembling an Alpine village, with panoramic views of the Taebaek Mountains. Situated 15 minutes from Yongpyong, the resort offers plenty to see and do if you want to take a day off from the slopes: head to the spa for hydrotherapy, massages, sauna and steam bathing, grab an oven-fired pizza at Flavours Restaurant, or sip on a cocktail at Oxy Lounge, with a blazing open fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the snowy hills.
InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort, 225-3 Yongsan-ri, Daekwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do, 232-952, South Korea, +82 33 3390 000, ihg.com/intercontinental
Yabuli Ski Resort, China
Travel time: approximately 7 hours to Harbin, with a stop in Shanghai, followed by a 2.5-hour drive to Yabuli
Halfway between Harbin and Mudanjiang in China’s northernmost province Heilongjiang, Yabuli is China’s first destination ski resort, with three mountains of skiable terrain. It’s the training grounds for China’s national ski team, so you’ll be navigating the mountain with fellow experts on the slopes. It may not be the best ski resort in the world, but plenty of affordable accommodation, a ski town with restaurants and nightlife, and spacious terrain covered in snowy pine forests makes it worth the trek from Hong Kong.
Check in to… Club Med Yabuli, a family-style resort boasting 284 elegantly-appointed rooms, friendly staff, a Club Med Spa by L’Occitane for post-skiing relaxation, and dedicated clubs for kids and teenagers. In keeping with the theme of their other resorts around the world, Club Med Yabuli offers up a range of other activities to keep everyone in the family entertained, including flying trapeze and circus, bungee trampolining, snowshoeing, cardio training and yoga.
Club Med Yabuli, Yabuli Ski Resort, Shangzhi 150631, China, +852 3111 9388, clubmed.com.hk