No, but fluent English would be a distinct advantage! The course is delivered in English for New Zealand certifications. Niseko is an international resort, so English is widely spoken in most bars and restaurants. However, a few Japanese phrases, greetings and basic expressions will make your stay so much more enjoyable and endear you to the locals.
Got a question?
See if we've answered it below or get in touch for more info.
Do I need to speak Japanese?
What level do I need to be to join academy training courses?
Instructor courses are designed to improve your skill sets to instructor certification levels. To reach these levels we recommend candidates should at least be comfortable on intermediate trails when they join the course. Course durations are set in consideration of the typical amount of training time to reach the required certification standards. Please get in touch if you are unsure if your skiing or riding level is sufficient to join an instructor certification course. Many candidates take advantage of pre-course training if they are not confident in their level or have not been on snow for some time.
Do I need to have teaching experience?
No formal teaching experience is required. If you have experienced the satisfaction of helping someone learn something or improve their skills, then you will know why teaching can be so rewarding. Training will be provided to help you be able to present fun, safe, highly effective lessons.
How fit do I need to be?
The fitter the better! The amazing snow and fun terrain are addictive and you will want to be out using your new found skills every day. If your fitness is not that great, you owe it to yourself to make an effort before the course begins so you can make the most of what the course and Niseko have to offer. We are happy to advise on a suitable fitness programme if required.
What training will I receive on the course?
The instructor training course coaching is based around the concept of 'efficiency of movements'. The premise is that there is no right or wrong way to ski or ride, but there is a continuum of efficiency of movement. The more efficient your movements (get your physics 101 book out) the easier it is to get down the hill, still standing and without too many face plants on the way down. Have you ever wondered how some people make it look sooooo easy? That's how - efficiency of movements!
A variety of techniques are used to improve your efficiency of movement, including the introduction of the theory, lots of on-snow exercises, freestyle and powder coaching, video training, imagery training. Oh, and of course plenty of time throwing yourself around in Niseko's famous soft powder!
By understanding efficiently of movements and with training on analysing your own and the movements of others, you will have a great basis from which to be able to formulate a cunning plan - the keystone of any highly effective and professional lesson. We will show you how to present a fun, safe and effective lesson that meets the goals of your students and keeps them coming back for more from their 'guru on the snow'.
Where will I be staying?
Accommodation is included as part of all our courses. The houses we use have all the modern conveniences you would expect including satelite TV, kitchen facilities, wireless internet, waxing and drying rooms, etc. If you require alternative accommodations please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Accommodations are based in the ski village of Hirafu at the base of the largest of Niseko's four linked ski resorts, Niseko Grand Hirafu. Hirafu is one of the liveliest ski resort villages in japan with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops.
Can I book a single room?
Sure! Just request a single room when you send your booking request form. Our standard rates are for twin share rooms, so a single supplement will apply.
What are the meal arrangements?
Meals are at your own cost. Lunches will usually be taken on the mountain or near by, but bringing pack lunches is also an option. Accommodations have fully equipped kitchens if you want to prepare your own dinners, however eating out is big part of experiencing the local culture and enjoying your time in Japan, so we recommend you budget for some evening dining.
I wish to find my own accommodation can I still join the course?
Sure, no problem! We are happy for candidates to source their own accommodation.
What is the ski resort like?
Niseko Hirafu is the largest of the four linked resorts that provide 45Km of runs accessed from 30 lifts/gondolas. The vertical drop is 900 Meters, with a mix of groomed piste and off-piste runs. There are many gated access points to some of the best 'side country' off-piste bowls and tree runs in Japan.
What are the snow conditions like?
Niseko receives an average of over 14 meters of snow every winter season (18 meters in 2013-2014 season) - that's more than double the average snowfalls in famous European resorts such as St Anton or Val d'Isere and 4 meters more than Whistler. It's not just the amounts of snow that are amazing but the consistency of snowfall for regular pow days. Last season it snowed 29 out of 31 days in January!
Will I need a visa?
For citizens of the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and many other countries a visitor's visa will be issued on arrival in Japan, valid for at least 90 days. Citizens of some other countries may need to apply in advance for a visitors visa - read more here. Candidates on the 13 week 'work placement' course will need to apply for a working holiday Visa - read more here.
Do I need insurance?
Yes. We strongly recommend you take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover all eventualities whilst you are away from home. Japanese medical facilities are well funded and on par or in advance of Western counterparts. You will be expected to pay for any treatments received and claim a refund from your insurance provider. Please make sure you are covered for winter sports and in particular 'off-piste'.
Can I buy medicines in Japan?
Yes, Japanese versions of everything you have at home should be available at the local chemist, as well as many you will not have seen before - the Japanese love their potions! Naturally, bring any prescription medicines you may need with you, preferably with a doctors letter to avoid embarrassing airport incidents.
How can I organise to access money in Japan?
Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in major cities. However, many small owner operated shops and restaurants do not have merchant facilities and will only accept cash (especially in some of the amazing out-of-the-way places you will be visiting). Cash can be withdrawn from 7Bank ATM's located in 7-11 convenience stores - please check the 7-11 web site for information on accepted cards (please note Mastercards are no longer accepted at 7Bank ATMs). Japan postal ATM's also accept international cards but opening hours are limited unlike 7-11's 24 hour operation. Make sure you check with your local bank before leaving to find out what foreign transaction fees will be charged and to let the bank know where you are going so they don't suddenly put a stop on your card when it shows up being used in Japan.
Is Japan a safe country and are there any precautions I should take?
Japan has a very low crime rate compared with the rest of the developed world. That is not to say that it doesn't exist and there are of course other 'foreigners' in Japan. Generally speaking, with a basic amount of vigilance and common sense there should be no security worries in Japan whatsoever. That said, recently there has been an increase in equipment theft from major resorts in Japan. It is recommended you bring a ski/board lock with you.
Which Airlines and Routes do you recommend?
There are numerous options depending on your point of origin. If you are flying from Europe or Australasia, most flights will fly directly to either Tokyo or Osaka (close to Kyoto). Both cities are good options to visit before or after and this may influence your choice of arrival/departure Hub. If you are just transferring immediately to a domestic connection to Chitose (near Sapporo) please bear in mind that 90% of Tokyo-area domestic flights will require a transfer from Narita International Airport to Haneda Airport in the middle of Tokyo. You will need to allow 1.5 hours for this bus transfer. Transfers from international to domestic flights are much simpler in Osaka, however domestic flights to Hokkaido are less frequent than from Haneda airport. Check out ANA, JAL, or Skymark for further information. NOTE: Check your weight limits as a separately booked domestic tickets may not have the same international allowance.
Should I buy a separate domestic ticket?
If you fly internationally with one of the two main Japanese Carriers ANA or JAL it will often cost little more for the transfer from Tokyo to Chitose. Both carriers often run 'see more of Japan' type campaigns for cheap domestic add on flights. Other international carriers that are linked to these carriers as part of Star Alliance or One World may also have similar campaigns running. It is however possible to purchase a separate domestic ticket online and they may be cheaper if booked well in advance. It is possible to pick up one way Tokyo-Chitose tickets on the net for approx JPY 12,000. Check out availability and rates on the sites below and compare with the add on rates the international airlines charge.
Can I fly direct into Chitose Airport?
Direct flights are available from Hong Kong, China, Korea, Russia and Guam - great if you are coming from the countries listed but if not and you are coming from Europe it presents another option if you want to stop in Hong Kong or Seoul on the way.
What equipment should I bring?
On the course you will be required to ski or ride in a variety of conditions and terrain, from the beginner hill to deep snow in the off-piste. Versatile all mountain equipment is the best option. If you require specific ski or snowboard advice please get in touch (discounts available through Rhythm snowsports shop if you want to purchase gear here).
It snows a lot in Niseko, so bring good waterproof warm clothing (multiple layers are recommended). A helmet is also recommended but not compulsory. Goggles for low light conditions (rose tints seem to work best) will help you on the heavy snow days when visibility can be limited.
Do I need backcountry safety equipment?
If you have your own avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, please bring them with you as there is plenty of opportunity to head out into the side-country in Niseko, however this is not mandatory. Avalanche equipment will be made available during the 2-day avalanche course.