Four interlinked ski areas (Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono) combine to create Niseko, Japan’s largest and best known resort which also boasts an average of 14m of snowfall per season. Although each of these areas are individually owned, the lift pass will cover skiing across all four resorts and there is also a complimentary shuttle bus connecting them. Each base offers a different taste of Niseko – whether you want to be in the centre of the action, ski-in ski-out or experience the best onsens (hot springs).
Niseko has unquestionably become Japan’s premier ski resort but the skiing conditions and quality will always remain the biggest attraction. There is a wide choice of groomed runs for every level of skier and rider looking for a cruisey time. The night skiing runs until 9pm every night watching the sun set over Mt Yotei, Hokkaido’s version of Mt Fuji, is a pretty incredible experience.
For powder-skiing, it doesn’t really get much better than Niseko. The quality and quantity of snow is unparalleled. We highly recommend making the most of the conditions and booking an instructor or guide to show you where to find the best pockets of snow. The powder skiing within the resort boundaries is exceptional with plenty of tree skiing and the top lifts give access to huge un-groomed bowls. The famous Niseko gates provide access to further terrain but care must be taken when entering these areas. You will need to have the correct avalanche equipment and taking a guide is advised.
Off the Slopes
Eating and drinking is a big part of any ski holiday and this is certainly something to be enjoyed in Niseko. There is a huge selection of restaurants and bars, most of which are concentrated in Hirafu ranging from simple Izakayas (a Japanese pub), to pizza joints, to gourmet French restaurants - there is really something for everyone.
One of the best ways to relax off the slopes is to visit one of the many onsen, of which there are plenty in Hirafu or located within the hotels. This is a quintessential experience of skiing in Japan, and leaves you feeling extremely relaxed. No need to be shy, as all onsen are split into men’s and women’s baths.
There are regular buses from Niseko to the nearby Kutchan Town, where there are a number of more local restaurants to try out, or you can visit the large Maxvalu supermarket for supplies if staying in a self-catering apartment.
Both Niseko Village and Hanazono offer snowmobiling tours and Niseko Village has further activities such as cross country skiing, snow-shoeing and snow rafting.
Hirafu is the main base area with the largest selection of accommodation (primarily self-catering apartments), restaurants and shops centred around the Hirafu Junction. If you want to be located central to the action and nightlife then this is the place to stay. Opening its doors in December 2014, the luxury Ki Niseko is one of the few hotels in Hirafu to boast a true ski-in ski-out experience.
Niseko Village is approximately a 15 minute drive from Hirafu and is home to the Green Leaf Hotel and Hilton – both beautiful ski-in ski-out hotels with in-house hot springs, restaurants and bars to entertain in the evenings. The newly developed village area next to the Hilton Hotel also provides dining and shopping options.
Annupuri and Hanazono are the quietest areas furthest from Hirafu. Hanazono has a brilliant North American style base lodge worth checking out with ski school, rentals, a cafeteria and bar.
There are a number of smaller local resorts that can be reached for day trips – worth considering if you are looking for some serious back-country skiing. Alternatively why not combine Niseko with our other Hokkaido ski resorts, Rusutsu and Furano, on the Hokkaido Safari. This is a fantastic opportunity to experience the best that this island has to offer and we can build itineraries to suit your particular requirements.