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Japan becomes latest country added to Vail Resorts' Epic Pass

If you're a skier who doesn't go a season without an Epic Pass, you might want to start brushing up on your Japanese. Or learning how to speak and read it. Because next year, you could head across the Pacific and use your Epic Pass at Japan's Niseko Resort.

Today, Vail Resorts announced a partnership with the Japanese resort that would grant 2014-2015 Epic Pass holders--those holding the unrestricted full-fledged pass that provides unlimited skiing and riding to the Vail Resorts' properties and partners in Colorado, Utah and Tahoe--five free days of skiing. Niseko is known as one of the snowiest and most celebrated powder skiing resorts in the world, and this is the first Asian partner for Vail Resorts, which has partnered with resorts in South America and Europe in the past. In turn, the five free consecutive days of skiing and riding will be reciprocated for Niseko All-Mountain Season Pass holders, allowing them to experience Vail Resorts’ world-class mountain resorts.

"We’re excited to announce a partnership between Vail Resorts and Niseko, Japan, providing access to a part of the world that is legendary for its endless powder and overall incredible guest experience. Epic Pass holders now have access to the epic skiing and riding for which Japan is world-renowned,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts, in a press release.

Here's what you'll want to know about Niseko--you know, so you can start making plans to ski it next season.

  • Commonly called Niseko United, the Japanese resort has four base areas--Annupuri, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Hanazono--that provide access to one mountain, Niseko Annupuri.
  • Niseko Annupuri has a summit elevation of 4,291 feet. Sure, that might not seem high compared to Colorado standards, but it is when you're on an island like Japan.
  • It has 26 chairlifts and three gondolas that access 72 trails, and it's typically open for skiing and riding from November to May.
  • The mountain has stadium-style lighting to brighten 2,560 vertical feet for night skiing and riding.
  • Niseko offers terrain for skiers of all abilities including wide-open trails, tree runs, backcountry, and first tracks and night-skiing opportunities. Adventurous skiers can access the summit from the highest lifts by hiking trails.
  • Forbes named Niseko one of the Top 10 International Ski Resorts in 2008.
  • More recently, National Geographic named the resort the best powder snow resort in the world. Here's why: Niseko receives an average of 590 inches of snow per year, which is more than Vail.
  • Niseko is located 100 kilometers south of Sapporo, Japan's fifth largest city and the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, in the southwest corner of the Japanese island Hokkaido and is part of the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park. To get there, fly into Tokyo's Narita International Airport, which has non-stop flights from Los Angeles, Denver, New York and San Francisco.

“Niseko, Japan, is revered around the world for its consistently light, dry powder snow and warm Japanese hospitality," said Colin Hackworth, Representative Director of Nihon Harmony Resorts, representing Niseko United. "We welcome the opportunity for more Epic Pass holders to experience this very special part of the world and look forward to seeing them on our trails.”

The 2014-2015 Epic Pass will be available to purchase beginning March 10. For more details on the pass and this partnership, check out

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