The NPO Niseko Area Mountain Bike Association (Higashi 1-4, Kita 1, Kutchan) is planning to develop mountain bike (MTB) trails in the Niseko resort area and at the foot of Mt. Yotei. The project will take approximately 20 years to complete, with multiple trails to be established at ski resorts in the towns of Kutchan and Niseko, as well as a circuitous route around Mt. Yotei. As the first stage of the project, ALLEGRA (headquartered in Switzerland) will begin construction of the Twin Peaks bike park in Kutchan Town in August. If all goes as planned, the total length of the trails is expected to exceed 100 km. Bikers will be able to get on and off the trail at various locations, where they can enjoy dining and lodging. It is likely to attract more attention as a catalyst for the formation of year-round tourist destinations.
The association was established on January 27. It aims to improve and maintain the environment in Niseko and its surrounding areas by allowing people to enjoy mountainous and rural landscapes on MTBs while protecting nature. Colin Hackworth, president of Nihon Harmony Resorts (headquartered in Kutchan), which operates Niseko Hanazono Resort, serves as the representative director, and business executives from the Niseko area are on the board.
At the end of January, the association began discussions with Kutchan Town regarding land development for the Twin Peaks bike park in a town-owned forest located 1.5 km northeast of the Niseko Tokyu Grand HIRAFU area. The town will issue a permit for the use of the administrative property in the near future. If permission to work in the conservation forest can be obtained from the Hokkaido Government, the development of a 9-km section in the first phase of the project will begin in August and go through the snow season.
To preserve the nature, width of the trail shall be less than 1 m. Grass can be cut on both sides within 1 meter, but no trees will be cut down. Plans are slated to develop a 4-km section in the second phase, followed by an 8-km section in the third phase from FY 2023 onward.
The Twin Peaks bike park is the first step being taken by the association towards the realization of the overall concept. In the resort area, the project team is currently in discussions with the operators of Niseko Hanazono Resort and Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort about trail development using ski slopes. Niseko Village Ski Resort and Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area are also candidates.
Moreover, the association is designing a circular trail around the foot of Mt. Yotei that will be 35 km in length. “By establishing entrances to the circuit in individual municipalities,” Vice President Ross Carty pointed out, “we hope to encourage the use of accommodations and stores in various areas along with MTB to promote regional development.”
While Niseko attracts many domestic and international tourists during the winter season, the rest of the year has thus far been considered the off-season. Satoshi Yoshida, president of the Kutchan Tourism Association, says that mountain biking is expected to attract visitors outside of the ski season. Having analyzed the situation, he believes that the economic ripple effect in the resort and surrounding areas will be significant if there are more places to stay and enjoy the scenery.
(Excerpt from an article on July 1, 2022)
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