Wintry Escapade

by Karen Tee
14 Apr 2023

Ski bunnies rejoice. The newly launched Club Med Kiroro Peak in Hokkaido is situated where powder snow falls till May, making it a dream destination for those who just cannot get enough of winter wonderland vacations

It is about five minutes to the start of my ski lesson and I am barely kitted out. But not to worry, help is at hand.

Club Med Kiroro Peak, Hokkaido

Four pairs of hands to be exact. At the ski locker room at Club Med Kiroro Peak in Hokkaido, two G.Os (gentle organisers, the in-house term for front-end staff) swoop in to assist me with fastening my ski boots. Another stands ready with my headgear while the fourth is already carrying my skis so she can walk me to where our instructor waits out in the snow. 

It is certainly pampering – and a little amusing – to be on the receiving end of this lavish attention, but that is exactly what a stay at this resort, the global brand’s newest addition to its portfolio of snow resorts in Asia, will get you. The 126-key Kiroro Peak, which just launched last December hot on the heels of Japan’s post-pandemic reopening, is thrumming with a vibrant enthusiasm.

At check-in, the resort’s dynamic chief of village or general manager Merlin Chelliah – who hails from Singapore – warmly greets everyone with a cheery “welcome home” before personally leading us on a Zumba-style dance routine. It is a first to dance upon arrival, but we gamely follow along. Still, this puts us in a festive mood that sets the tone for the rest of our stay.

Affable G.Os (gentle organisers) are ready to help at the ski rental facility

While most other Club Med resorts, including the upcoming Kiroro Grand slated to launch at the end of the year, allow children of all ages, Kiroro Peak has a minimum age limit of 12 years. This gives Kiroro Peak a more sophisticated atmosphere, particularly perceptible in its array of apres-ski entertainment options, which includes a jazz band at cocktail hour and live DJs that spin dance music into the wee hours of the night.

The lack of young children requiring eagle eyes on them 24/7 may also be the reason why kidults like myself who can barely walk in snow are showered with such tender loving care.

It goes without saying that Hokkaido is globally renowned for its soft and dry powder snow. But besides the Niseko region which foreigners flock to every winter, there are other “insider” ski destinations on the island.

One of these is Kiroro, which enjoys a particularly long snow season till early May and receives about 21m of snowfall annually – the highest in Japan. When one might need a break from extreme winter sports, a slew of other winter activities including ice fishing and horseback riding can be arranged. And when the snow melts, an abundance of summer activities await, from mountain biking and golfing to nature walks and coastal town visits.

Kiroro Peak, the third in Club Med’s portfolio in Hokkaido, also showcases how the group has been upscaling its facilities and all-inclusive holiday packages in recent times. Present in 30 countries across nearly 70 resorts, 85 per cent of its portfolio are now rated under the Premium & Exclusive Collection category.

(Related: Live, eat, and make craft at Maana Kiyomizu in Kyoto)

A bountiful spread at Haku

A highlight is the elevated buffet style cuisine, which it does exceptionally well in Japan. With a focus on regional and seasonal food products, there is no lack of ultra-fresh Hokkaido produce to savor. There are do-it-yourself kaisendons (fresh seafood rice bowls) at breakfast and sashimi at dinner, as well as seasonal fruits like mikan (mandarin oranges) and even luscious cheeses made from creamy Hokkaido cow milk.

For even more local culinary delights, check out the various specialty restaurants. For instance, Haku, Club Med Tomamu’s yakiniku joint features premium beef cuts, Hokkaido king crab, and local vegetables while Mina Mina, the nabe or hotpot restaurant at Club Med Sahoro offers up fresh seafood.

Junior Family Superior Room with tatami mats at Club Med Kiroro Peak

Back at Kiroro Peak, the alpine chic rooms are given a Japanese spin with patterned fabric motifs and tatami mats. My family deluxe room included a spacious living room that comes with a fold-out sofa bed. 

The self-contained resorts also offer a host of apres-ski options so that guests need not venture into the cold after dark. Nothing beats a restorative soak in a Japanese ofuro bath –  this is available at both Tomamu and Kiroro Peak – but a relaxing hour spent lounging at Tomamu’s Mina Mina Beach, the largest heated indoor wave pool in Japan, certainly came a close second.

The nightly live entertainment options range from musical numbers to acrobatic displays performed by the multi-talented G.Os and on occasion, include guest shows like a Japanese taiko drum performance. For more intimacy, I enjoyed the speakeasy vibes of Nest, the premium whiskey and sake bar at Tomamu.

Still, the picture perfect snowscapes are the undoubted showstoppers of a Hokkaido trip. For those less inclined towards extreme sports, strap on a pair of snowshoes for a stunning hike through the wintry woods. It is hands down the best way to savor the tactile sensations of walking through powder snow. And of course, be prepared to duck because you never know when a friendly snowball might be tossed your way.

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