Skiing for Singaporeans (FAQs)

Where to go? What to wear? Do I need lessons? Here are some FAQs for my fellow Singaporeans and other tropical bunnies. Hope that you will love the snow as much as I do!

This post may be too basic to some, but what is obvious to people who live close to snow is not at all obvious to us tropical bunnies (or it wasn’t obvious to me when I first started out).

Where can I go? 
For the Northern hemisphere season (Dec-Mar), the cheapest options are Korea and Japan (many ski resorts just 1.5h-3h from Tokyo). Korea is marginally cheaper, but Japan has much better volume and consistency of snow, plus an abundance of English-speaking instructors (mainly Aussies). If you have the time/money, Europe and USA/Canada are also good options, but really, how can one ski without the benefit of an onsen (hot spring) after?

For the Southern hemisphere season (Jul-Sep), head for Australia or NZ. For longer trips, NZ may work out cheaper as ski accommodation in Australia can be very expensive. The snow can be awful (measured in itty-bitty centimetres), but self-driving is definitely easier when it’s not puking snow every day and you can finally do that great NZ road trip.

And no, you cannot ski at Singapore’s Snow City. But from Jul 2015 onwards you can ski and have lessons at Urban Ski, Millenia Walk ! Read about my indoor ski experience in July 2015.

Not just about the skiing….

What do I wear?
You will need the following items. If you are really not sure about this whole skiing thing, you can either rent (kind of gross!), or cheat with normal winter gear as described below:

  1. Waterproof jacket: A normal winter jacket will suffice, but be prepared for heavy wear and tear as you may often end up in bizarre acrobatic positions while trying to break your falls (a loose fit is better). NO FAUX FUR please, the snow accumulates on the fur and you will resemble a drowned raccoon when all the snow melts. For the inner layers, just a fleece or tee is usually good enough for me. You don’t have to wear really thick stuff especially at the beginning, as falling down and getting up is pretty sweaty work.
  2. Waterproof pants: Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives for this (unless you happen to already have windproof and waterproof hiking pants) so you’ll have to rent or buy. You’ll need them. NO JEANS as they are not waterproof. I usually wear my fleece leggings inside my ski pants. You can wear thermals, or just your underpants. Legs don’t really get cold anyways.
  3. Waterproof gloves: You can get el cheapo versions of these for c.SGD20 from shops like Winter Time or Cold Wear, or for c.SGD10 from websites like dx or qoo10. They don’t work that great but hey they are cheap. [kid-friendly tip: Buy some spares if you can, these tend to mysterious disappear].
  4. Long socks: I have proper Salomon ski socks but believe it or not, my Daiso Japan ones (JPY105) work fine too. For skiers especially, socks should cover your whole calf (as the ski boot is very stiff and the top may bite into your shin or calf if not properly covered.
  5. Beanie/Helmet (optional): Helps to keep your head warm and your skull intact. A ski helmet is similar to a rollerblade helmet, but with insulation inside. Helmet not really necessary for first-timer skiers as you tend to fall gracefully on your side, unlike first-timer boarders who tend to bang their heads a lot.
  6. Goggles (optional): These help with both glare and wind. First timers can consider using sunglasses.
  7. Balaclava/ski mask (optional): For windburn and keeping your skin soft and supple. A couple of dollars from websites like dx or qoo10.
  8. Wrist & knee guards (optional): Highly recommended for beginner snowboarders. The type you use for roller blading is fine.

You can usually rent only 1 & 2. The rest cannot be rented due to hygiene reasons, but should be fairly easy to procure even in tropical Singapore.

Singapore isn’t big on ski gear (obviously!) so if you want the “real thing”, the only way is to buy online. I usually buy from USA websites such as oakleyvault or dogfunk / backcountry, and ship them to Singapore via borderlinx, comgateway or vPOST. There are also Korean websites such as Felice or STL that ship directly to Singapore. Why buy online? A basic jacket can cost as little as USD50, and you will look way more pro than the typical Singaporean Timberland zombie. Check out my post on where to buy proper ski/snowboard gear in Singapore and online, or if you are already ski/snowboard, see if you also like to use the ski/snowboard gadgets and accessories that I use!

What people wear (Whistler, Canada)

How many days should I ski (first time)?
This is a sport and like all sports it requires time and effort. Give yourself a chance, really- 3 full days at least (i.e. 4 nights at the ski resort – see below comment). Ignore all protests from girlfriends / wives. Do NOT bother travelling hours to a ski resort to “try it out” for two hours. You will have barely figured out how to put on your boots and stand up in two hours. Save it for a proper ski trip.

Note that unlike “normal” city holidays, it is advisable to add an extra night’s accommodation for each ski day. For example if you plan to ski for 4 full days, book 5 nights at the ski resort. It is not impossible to ski on arrival or departure day depending on your ETA/ETD, but logistically more troublesome as you have to check in/out of your hotel and change into/out of ski wear (may be wet/soggy after skiing session), and even more so if you are renting equipment/ski clothes (as it takes time to try, wait in line, do paperwork, etc).

Do I need lessons and how many?
Yes, definitely invest in lessons, unless you have a friend who is proficient enough to teach you the basics (remember though that anyone can ride but not everyone is good at teaching). You will only frustrate yourself if you muck around on your own. Oh and one more thing, boyfriends/husbands PLEASE DO NOT attempt to teach your girlfriends/wives…….

Lessons are typically offered in half (2-2.5h) and full day formats (4-5h with a lunch break in between). I find it useful to have half-day lessons in the morning, followed by self-practice time in the afternoon. For group size, I prefer small groups of 3-5pax, as I find big groups a bit stressful and 1-to-1 too intensive. Everyone has a different learning style so you should think about what’s best for you, not just what’s cheapest. You do not need lessons every day, even at the beginning. If skiing for a week, two to three half-day lessons should be good enough. Most important is to practise, and not just rely on lessons, because you will eventually have to ski or ride without an instructor around. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your ski lessons, and what you can expect during the first lesson.

Those of you that are looking to do pre-trip ski/snowboard lessons in Singapore can also check out Urban Ski at Millenia Walk.

Group lessons with Mieko at Club Med Sahoro.

How fast will I progress?
I am pretty retarded at sports, and I was linking turns consistently on green (beginner) runs by my 7th day on the snow. The average person should progress wayyyyy faster. My two Crossover Project “students” (from skier to boarder) were riding red runs (intermediate) by the end of their first day! Also I have observed that guys generally learn faster (maybe more naturally athletic and/or more “garang” and competitive attitude).

Obviously you will progress faster if you have longer trips and/or put in more hours of practice per day. I’m a sloth so I usually ride only 4 hours a day, compared to some of my friends who are ready to hit the slopes at 8am (!!!) And even if you have 1-2 years between trips, your efforts will not be wasted. It is (sort of) like cycling and your muscle memory will not forget.

Still looking pretty retarded on my second trip

Is it difficult to learn?
Well it’s not the easiest thing to learn as an adult (I started at 25) as it involves a fair amount of falling down, but man… you will feel invincible once you start to overtake the beginners. I really wish my parents had the foresight to bring me skiing when I was a kid, but times were different back then. Read about my personal snowboard journey. I’m starting to see many Singaporean kids on the slopes these days. Good for you, parents !

People who have the mindset that they do not want to fall down at all WILL NOT be able to progress. If you can cycle, ice skate, roller skate, skateboard, surf, wakeboard, cable ski….. you will definitely be able to succeed. Partly because you have some experience in balancing, but more importantly, because your body has learn to instinctively absorb falls / avoid injuries and also you have the correct mindset (to get up and try again).

Can I go with my “pro” friend?
Yup, definitely go with your more experienced friends, who can be very useful when you need a crutch or an errand boy/girl. Just putting on or walking in ski boots for the first time may take some getting used to. Don’t worry about them getting bored as they can ski at the same mountain while you are having your lesson or practising on the learner slope (most resorts have a mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs). You can always arrange to meet up with them for lunch and/or dinner. If they are proficient enough they can even double up as free coach (although they will most probably also try to trick you into a black run or two). After a while you will realize that most Singaporeans who say they “can ski” have only tried it once before, so don’t be intimidated! You will be more pro than them in no time.

If you just cannot find any friends, don’t be afraid of going solo. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to wait for others if you really want to learn (otherwise you will be waiting forever). YMCA Outdoors organizes all-inclusive beginner group trips every season from Singapore and I joined their Dec 2015 trip to Rusutsu, Hokkaido! Read my trip report here – Powder snow and meeting new ski buddies.

Ski or Snowboard?
As a snowboarders you tend to bang your head a lot at first when you accidentally catch an edge. Uhmmm, and whiplash. And bruised wrists and knees (from breaking falls). BUT WORTH IT! ‘cos you will still look cooler than a skier. Hands down 🙂 And you will seldom get ACL injuries as your legs are one with the board. Experience in board sports such as skateboard or surfing does help.

Oh! I finally tried out skiing in Feb 2015 and it is definitely wayyyy easier than snowboarding (at the beginner level anyway), especially if you can roller blade or ice skate- Read about my first ever ski lesson at Club Med Sahoro.

Can I learn ski together with my bf who is learning snowboard? (New!)
No, you will be in separate classes, but you can use the same learner slope. Can you learn tennis while your bf learns squash?

Can I learn ski on Day #1 and snowboard on Day #2? (New!)
Not advisable, it is better to stick to one for three full days on your first trip to give it a fair chance.

I am scared of heights. Do I have to take the chairlift ? (New!)
NOPE, you can stay on the learner slope forever with the three year olds. On a separate note, it is almost impossible for an adult to fall off a chairlift by accident. For kids lessons, the instructor will always accompany the students on a chairlift ride. If there are insufficient instructors/minders, the instructor will usually ask an adult skier (who happens to be queueing for chairlift at same time) to sit with each unaccompanied group.

I don’t want to fall down. Can ? (New!)
Confirm can. Go sit in the cafe for three days.

Will I like it ? (New!)
Why wouldn’t you like feeling the wind in your face at 50km/h ?!

Ready to plan your trip? See:

Back to: Skiing for Singaporeans (Common Myths)

 

 

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56 responses to “Skiing for Singaporeans (FAQs)

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  7. Hi im also going to NIseko in December. But up to now, i havent reserved my rental equipment. Do u think its necessary that i reserve my skis before the trip or shld i just rent one when im there?
    Also, im thinking of buying online my skis wear. Do u have any website to recommend?

    Thanks for all ur tips on the website, its very informative esp. for me, being all new to skiing. 🙂

    Like

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  11. Hey, tx for this great website, answered almost all the questions I’ve been wanting to ask but didn’t know where to! I’m so happy I found you!

    My family and I are going Niseko in mid-Dec for our first noob lessons in skiing.
    Question about waterproof pants: we have Columbia and Royal Robbins waterproof pants (mine are so waterproof they can actually be used to collect water, like a pail). Will these work for skiing? If yes, what should we wear beneath them, thermal leggings?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words and I do enjoy writing this blog to help others to avoid my own blur beginner mistakes 😁😁

      Thermal leggings are fine ! I usually wear fleece leggings… U can get quite good quality ones from korea for about usd5 on qoo10. Your waterproof pants should be fine too if they can really collect water, especially since you are skiing so you won’t be sitting on your butt half the time like a beginner snowboarder would.

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      • Hi, thanks for taking the time to reply!
        Thanks for the tip about the cheap thermal leggings, checked them out and got us 3 pairs :O
        I was looking at gondola lift prices and they seem kinda steep (pun fully intended). As first-timers, will we need to buy the passes? We’ve booked lessons with NISS.

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        • Great !! Not sure if you have had time to read this post on saving $$$ but for your first day you might not even go on the lifts depending on how the lesson is structured. Can NISS advise ? NISS operates at hanazono and I don’t think you need a life pass for the learner area (very gentle slope with conveyor belt system). And even if you do take the lifts it will be just a few times so maybe you can buy a hanazono lift pass for half day (one area only) or the niseko united 12 points pass depending which is cheaper https://beyondbanality.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/how-to-save-money-on-ski-trips/

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          • I bookmarked your website and read everything a few times over! Yes, I read the bit about conveyer belts and maybe not needing a lift pass — I just wasn’t sure if things had changed. That said, yep, I will contact NISS and ask them about it 😀

            Though I think SIA now flies direct to Hokkaido .. 😀 😀

            Liked by 1 person

            • oh did you book a direct flight? I know they have seasonal direct flights (e.g. during school holidays) but so far no permanent direct route… I really wish they would! fingers crossed!

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              • no, didn’t book a direct flight, going to Tokyo and Kyoto first, but just discovered there was a direct flight. Didn’t know it was seasonal either till you mentioned it … much noobishness …

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  15. Hi, planning a 2nd trip to Niseko in Dec 2015 with 2 teens – 13 and 11. Last time we were there was in 2010, and we all took beginner ski lessons. Planning to stay 7N this year (2015) – should i aim for accommodation at the base of the ski lifts, or stay further out (Country Resorts at NIseko) which is great for families but more trouble getting to the ski lifts. Primary aim of the trip is to do snow stuff – probably 3-4 days ski and the rest for snow mobiles, zip lining, tobogganing, making snow men.. etc.

    THanks (can’t find a way to PM you?)

    Mel

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    • Personally i prefer to stay in the village because i hate having to rush for the fixed shuttle timings (v stressful in the morning!) There are plenty of apartment options if u prefer to have family style accommodation rather than separate hotel rooms, so you can still have the best of both worlds. Anyway ur teens are old enough to carry their own equipment this trip so u can stay in village whether its next to ski lift or a little walk away.

      Liked by 1 person

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  17. Hey

    Thanks for this interesting blog. I an torn between skiing at Myoko and Yuzawa. Which do you think is better in terms of snow and human traffic?
    🙂

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    • Hi Miki! I would say go to Myoko if you have 3-4 days and Naeba/Kagura if you only have 1-2 days (do NOT go to Gala Yuzawa unless you just want to “see” snow and not really ski a lot). Myoko is definitely better in all aspects (great snow, varied terrain, no crowds, traditional “japanese” feel), only that it is further from Tokyo (at least 3 hours by train+bus) as compared to Yuzawa (1.5h train to Gala Yuzawa and another 50min bus if you want to go to Naeba/Kagura).

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  18. Hi, this is a great post for tropical something. I am planning a trip to Hokaido, but out of so many resorts, towns and villages, where do we even begin to narrow down our options. I am planning to go there with my wife and 9 y/o daughter and we are all first time skiierr. And where to stay? Obviously, we want to stay at somewhere nice, not that pricey and has an inhouse onsen or an onsen not that far away. We can buy our air tickets to get to Chitose but the rest would need your advice. Thanks.

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    • Hi Don and thanks for your kind comments!

      Firstly, what type of ski holiday are you looking for? There are typically two styles of resorts:

      1) self contained resort (e.g. club med sahoro, hilton niseko, green leaf niseko, rusutsu, kiroro). Families with children may prefer this as all facilities are contained within the hotel premises e.g. you do not have to walk around in the cold to find a restaurant. This option is generally hassle free as you only have a choice of the hotel’s restaurant(s), rental shop and ski school.

      2) resort with a ski village (e.g. niseko hirafu, furano). If you do not intend to ski every day, you may prefer this option as there are more non-skiing activities such as souvenir shopping and nightlife. Also there is wide variety of restaurants and accommodation (you can choose apartments and lodges if you are budget conscious). The downside is that you have to self-arrange your own ski pass, lessons, rental, and restaurant bookings. This may be stressful for first timers as there are many options for ski school and rental shops, and having to choose a restaurant after a tiring day of skiing may end up in disagreement.

      What’s your preference?

      Like

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  20. Thanks for the awesome advice. I need to scrimp wherever I can – a ski holiday really ain’t cheap! But reading your blog n looking at your cool pics just make us wanna go so badly to embrace the powder and rock the snow!

    No kidding – i am the first to say u look good?!! U know, i think coz they r jealous! U look like a pro to me..u go girl!

    U ski every year???!! NOW I AM JEALOUS!

    Like

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  22. U nailed it…it’s about being afraid of falling down!! I think we just want to learn to ski properly again and to intro skiing to my kid. If we don’t intend to ski on the mountains, do we still need ski passes? We just want to go learn, enjoy the powder, until we are sure we can ski safely on the slopes. The ski passes are sooooo dear! Sorry but I am really asking u a lot of questions! Appreciate that u always reply so promptly.

    Btw was reading your Niigata adventure..funny about the love hotel! Any plans to go Appi Kogen or Zao to see the snow monsters? They look beautiful!

    Like

    • Nope you don’t need lift passes if you don’t use the chairlift. The 2h first timer lessons at gondola area will usually use only the magic carpet (conveyor belt), so no lift pass required (can double check with your ski sch). If you take more lessons then you will definitely need one.

      To save money you can consider buying the 5-hour Grand Hirafu pass or Niseko United 4 areas 12-points pass (only SGD40/day), instead of the full day pass. 12 points pass allows you to ride the pair (2pax) lift in front of Ki niseko 12 times. 5h or 12 times should be sufficient for your 2nd or 3rd day on the snow, unless you are super hardcore!

      Zao is too small so maybe not. Appi kogen maybe next Dec! This Dec headed to Hakuba + Nozawa 🙂

      Like

      • Hi there, love your skiing in japan articles and the “myths” article was hilarious. I can just hear them nagging about Schumacher. Nozawa Onsen is great (but a bit small) and you’ll fall in love with the village, if you haven’t already been.

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          • Niseko, end of December! First time there – any insider tips? I was in Nozawa Onsen early this year. There are onsen everywhere, a few of them free. Not many restaurants though, compared to the number of visitors in the village, so its easier to get a table if you have dinner at odd hours. My favourite restaurant was an okinomiyaki place near the southern edge of the village. Huge portions and very affordable. The powder is great too but its a small mountain so you’ll probably explore all runs after 2-3 days.

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            • wru gonna stay? Onsens- you can check out my niseko onsen list. Lessons- you might want to book in advance, since it’s xmas/NY peak. Food- Follow my blog or “like” my fb page and I will send you my personal Niseko Eat List 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Wow thanks, that is helpful, I will try all those places. Im gonna stay somewhere in Hirafu East. Any tips on avoiding the crowds on the slopes? Or simply not possible? I was hoping maybe to ski the Annupuri and Higashiyama areas for most of the trip and avoid Hirafu as much as possible, but is it just as crowded no matter where you go? Wonder if I’ll bump into Singaporeans while im there lol.

                How many trips have you made to Niseko?

                Like

                • Go early to beat the crowds? Lol. the crowds are mostly on the greens (esp ace family) so if you can ski higher up (and sidecountry?) you’ll be fine. Lotsssss of singaporeans at hirafu ace and also higashiyama (cos singaporeans love hilton niseko) ! Been niseko-ing 3 years in a row but it seems more and more crowded each time so trying to explore other places this year instead.

                  Like

                  • Slow start to the season :(. No snowfall in the last 10 days. Thanks for all your suggestions so far. Do you know any rental shops or etc that offer discounted lift pass + ski rental bundles? Or do you have any tips on where to get a good deal on gear rental? Thanks again.

                    Like

                    • Yeahhhh sucksssss. Are you there already ?? Its been a while since i rented gear, all the prices are online though ! Grand hirafu seems to be one of the cheaper ones in hirafu when comparing online (10,350jpy for 3 days std ski+poles+boots), but i,d prob just go for rhythm (11,500) or NBS (12k) cos its such a bitch to get to .base or gondola (depending on where you are staying of course). They dont do pass/gear bundles or discount lift passes in niseko im afraid.

                      Like

  23. Backcountry is good but they r out of sizes for popular designs so I found winterrkids and winterwomen to be another good source. Funny they don’t have men’s though. Check them out!

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    • The only time we skiied was 15 years ago in Germany n we only did cross country! N even then I couldn’t handle the tiny slopes! So I m really nervous to try skiing again in my old age! So tell me, is snowboarding harder to learn?

      Like

      • it was pretty difficult for me cos I’m not very athletic, and I am scared of falling down. that’s why kids learn so fast- they have no fear or self consciousness !

        do you have any experience with board sports such as surfing or wakeboard ? that will help a bit with snowboard.

        Like

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  26. alamak – u make me feel ashamed – bought everything in neon greeeeeen for all of us! arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh! kekekekkeke

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  27. This is greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat! U r even greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeater!

    PS In your opionion – Is Boarding or Ski easier/faster to learn?
    PPS Do they have cross country skiing in Niseko?
    PPPS Check out Oberstdorft Germany if u haven’t, for really yummy food and great skiing too..Not too expensive either. U get to see the other side of the gorgeous alps from Germany and it’s not crowded.

    Cheers!

    Like

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