Anyone who has looked at a skiing forum for information about Japan will have seen the same argument playing out: Niseko or Hakuba? With the endless hype around both destinations, it's hard to know where to go.
It's a tricky one, and the arguments are hashed and rehased across the interwebs: Hakuba is steeper, Niseko has more snow, Hakuba has more resorts, Niskeo has more nightclubs. One time my mate went to Niseko and said it was flat! My hairdresser went to Hakuba and it rained the whole time! I read a blog that said Niseko was full of tourists and tracked out by 10am! My buddies told me about their secret spot next to the third gondola pole that never tracks out!
Luckily, I have spent countless hours examining the data and am here to settle this dispute for you. The correct answer is "Have fun competing for tracks!"
In a country with more than 800 ski fields, whose land mass is approximately two-thirds covered with mountains, and which gets more snow than anyone really knows what to do with, it's just possible that there are options for your ski holiday that are neither Niseko nor Hakuba. The stereotype says that Hokkaido is flat. Tell that to anyone who's had to hike out of a chute at Teine, or skied the gondola at Kurodake. The stereotype also says that Honshu doesn't get as much snow. Tell that to the folks in Hakuba who got two metres in four days last December.
Here's one thing you can be certain of: If you follow popular opinion on an internet forum when your plan your ski trip, don't be suprised if you end up following tracks when you finally get off the plane. If you want to beat the crowds and still be riding fresh snow at 3pm, you won't find that following the herd.
Think of it another way. Most of the people posting on those forums come over for a few weeks ski holiday each year. If you've skied here for 8 days every year for the last 10 years, you've still only skied 80 days in Japan. That's less than a season skier would do here in three months, and nowhere near enough time to really explore a whole country's worth of skiing. It shouldn't surprise anyone that there's more going on than the Niseko/Hakuba debate can really encompass.
So next time you're planning your ski trip, rather than looking at a ski forum, open Google Maps, turn the terrain feature on, and follow the age-old Powder Project formula:
Step 1: Find mountains.
Step 2: ...
Step 3. Powder!