Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 260 metres

Top elevation: 1,200 metres

Number of lifts: 25

Number of runs: 40

Access: Fly to Sapporo Chitose Airport, direct from Hong Kong or via Tokyo or Osaka for everyone else. From the airport it is a two to three hour coach transfer to Niseko. We can organise private transfers also and then there is the option of rail - notably longer and more complicated but fun!

Super snowy and justly popular, Niseko has the widest appeal of any of the Japanese ski resorts. Lying on the west of Hokkaido island, swaddled in the shadow of Mount Yotei, it is blessed with perpetual snow in season - dry, deep and glorious - not to mention an inviting après-ski scene of fantastic restaurants and buzzy bars. However, if skiing late into the evening sounds more your scene, then you'll be pleased to learn that Niseko has the largest night-skiing area in Asia.

Skiing on the 'Niseko United' pass actually incorporates several resorts, with bustling Hirafu village being at the centre of the action off the slopes. The Australians have now been visiting Hirafu and the other base areas for a number of years, meaning you'll benefit from a great selection of accommodation and an accessible, English-speaking culture.

There is enough on the mountain to keep you interested for a week or two, and there's a menu of opportunities, from immense back-country to snowmobiling. By virtue of Niseko's top-end accommodation and natural bounty, there are also onsens aplenty and many other options for those days when hitting the slopes seems far too strenuous.

Skiing in Niseko

In a nutshell: Niseko's a winner for everyone. Varied terrain incorporates everything from gentle, sweeping runs lined with snow-dusted trees to heart-in-your-mouth off-piste skiing. A 'Niseko United' ski pass provides access to all ski areas, incorporating Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono - all conveniently interconnected.

Up to the tree line, lifts are speedy and reliable; we love the bad-weather hooded chairs – a little respite from the snowfall - and the pleasing absence of surface-tows! Higher up, things are decidedly older, but the affectionately named 'suicide chairs' get you from A to B all the same. With many runs open until 9pm, Niseko's a great for a place for night-skiing too.

This is a great place to make your first forays, with innumerable wide, well-groomed pistes. More snow means less ice, and fewer embarrassing tumbles!

All four of the main ski areas have runs for beginners - you can take your pick, or explore them all by taking a shuttle bus between them. As you improve you'll soon be able connect on the mountain. We think the Niseko Village base area is the best beginner's hangout.

Niseko is an intermediate's paradise. You can happily cruise away the days perfecting your technique on sweeping pistes ideal for high-speed carvers; and it's a great place to stretch yourself by trying tougher slopes or delving into that delicious powder. Giving skies mean that sometimes the powder can be knee-deep, posing a new challenge if you're used to the hard-packed stuff. If you get a taste for it, head over to Annupuri and Hanazono, which offer groomed runs as well as the chance to dip your skis in and try a little side-country skiing.

There are a handful of more challenging runs from Niseko Village and on the 'Alpen Super Course' - mainly un-groomed runs, kept fairly even by the regular snowfall. If you're looking for an abundance of black runs, you won't find them here – but you will find true satisfaction by heading off-piste for an ultimate powder adventure.

'Miharashi' and 'Strawberry Fields' are well-known tree runs, but the landscape can also be pretty open, making Niseko a great place to perfect your powder skiing without the worry of too many trees.

Moiwa, an adjacent resort connected by shuttle bus but not part of the Niseko United ski pass, is well worth a day trip - even more so if its been snowing hard. Steal first tracks on a fresh powder day on the un-groomed 'Giant Run' or 'Shirakaba Slopes', this being the stuff of dreams.

A liberal attitude towards exploration means that most of the land within the resort boundaries is your playground. There's also some seriously challenging backcountry skiing, accessed via gates off the mountain peak. Think huge expanses of powder in back bowls and the chance to escape other people, finding your very own powder stash away from the hordes.

Safety is vital - make a knowledgeable guide, the Niseko Avalanche website and the savvy gate patrollers your best friends. Different Snow can organise excursions, with safety-conscious experienced and qualified guides, to nearby peaks such as Iwaonupurri, Nihonupurri, Chisenupuri and even towering Mount Yotei - surely the ultimate!

900 metres of vertical means plenty of pistes to keep you occupied, but we recommend heading off-piste to the plethora of side and backcountry terrain. Freeriding in luxuriant powder is the real joy here.

There are opportunities for shredding between the perfectly placed trees, and if you feel like a challenge, 'Strawberry Fields' is a boarder's heaven - a warren of trees, natural obstacles and drops covered in deep powder. There are also half-pipes and terrain parks, providing plenty of variation.

The most family-friendly of Japan's ski resorts, Niseko has lots to offer. Teenagers will love the general liveliness of the place and will revel in the chance to try activities such as snowmobiling and snow-shoeing. Learning is made fun and inclusive for younger children - with plenty of time for play and an obligatory hot chocolate.

There are several companies offering English-speaking ski lessons as well as babysitting, day or night. Ski School runs for six hours a day, with a fun-focused approach aimed at encouraging young ones to enjoy their time in the snow. Kids Garden has a private learning area meaning no daunting lifts and queues of adults - instead their 'Caterpillar' is a fun way of getting to the top. At lunchtime, Jo Jo's Café provides a delicious spread, and there's time for the playground or games in the Kids Village before hitting the slopes again.

It all begins with a healthy traditional après-ski culture of enjoying drinks at the end of your day on the slopes - to help ease you into your evening. Come sundown, Hirafu village is where it all happens. Dinner can be a different affair every night, from mouth-watering local noodles joints, izakayas offering boozy snacks to the more familiar pizza, curry or Thai options; the vast majority is that of characteristically high standards, even a handful of Michelin stars thrown in to the mix.

As far as drinking holes go, they are uniformly atmospheric but pleasingly varied - rustic and traditional, sleek and sophisticated, or some just downright quirky. Different Snow have done the necessary research and we'll be happy to provide a list of our favourites!

This is a great place to make your first forays, with innumerable wide, well-groomed pistes. More snow means less ice, and fewer embarrassing tumbles!

All four of the main ski areas have runs for beginners - you can take your pick, or explore them all by taking a shuttle bus between them. As you improve you'll soon be able connect on the mountain. We think the Niseko Village base area is the best beginner's hangout.

Niseko is an intermediate's paradise. You can happily cruise away the days perfecting your technique on sweeping pistes ideal for high-speed carvers; and it's a great place to stretch yourself by trying tougher slopes or delving into that delicious powder. Giving skies mean that sometimes the powder can be knee-deep, posing a new challenge if you're used to the hard-packed stuff. If you get a taste for it, head over to Annupuri and Hanazono, which offer groomed runs as well as the chance to dip your skis in and try a little side-country skiing.

There are a handful of more challenging runs from Niseko Village and on the 'Alpen Super Course' - mainly un-groomed runs, kept fairly even by the regular snowfall. If you're looking for an abundance of black runs, you won't find them here – but you will find true satisfaction by heading off-piste for an ultimate powder adventure.

'Miharashi' and 'Strawberry Fields' are well-known tree runs, but the landscape can also be pretty open, making Niseko a great place to perfect your powder skiing without the worry of too many trees.

Moiwa, an adjacent resort connected by shuttle bus but not part of the Niseko United ski pass, is well worth a day trip - even more so if its been snowing hard. Steal first tracks on a fresh powder day on the un-groomed 'Giant Run' or 'Shirakaba Slopes', this being the stuff of dreams.

A liberal attitude towards exploration means that most of the land within the resort boundaries is your playground. There's also some seriously challenging backcountry skiing, accessed via gates off the mountain peak. Think huge expanses of powder in back bowls and the chance to escape other people, finding your very own powder stash away from the hordes.

Safety is vital - make a knowledgeable guide, the Niseko Avalanche website and the savvy gate patrollers your best friends. Different Snow can organise excursions, with safety-conscious experienced and qualified guides, to nearby peaks such as Iwaonupurri, Nihonupurri, Chisenupuri and even towering Mount Yotei - surely the ultimate!

900 metres of vertical means plenty of pistes to keep you occupied, but we recommend heading off-piste to the plethora of side and backcountry terrain. Freeriding in luxuriant powder is the real joy here.

There are opportunities for shredding between the perfectly placed trees, and if you feel like a challenge, 'Strawberry Fields' is a boarder's heaven - a warren of trees, natural obstacles and drops covered in deep powder. There are also half-pipes and terrain parks, providing plenty of variation.

The most family-friendly of Japan's ski resorts, Niseko has lots to offer. Teenagers will love the general liveliness of the place and will revel in the chance to try activities such as snowmobiling and snow-shoeing. Learning is made fun and inclusive for younger children - with plenty of time for play and an obligatory hot chocolate.

There are several companies offering English-speaking ski lessons as well as babysitting, day or night. Ski School runs for six hours a day, with a fun-focused approach aimed at encouraging young ones to enjoy their time in the snow. Kids Garden has a private learning area meaning no daunting lifts and queues of adults - instead their 'Caterpillar' is a fun way of getting to the top. At lunchtime, Jo Jo's Café provides a delicious spread, and there's time for the playground or games in the Kids Village before hitting the slopes again.

It all begins with a healthy traditional après-ski culture of enjoying drinks at the end of your day on the slopes - to help ease you into your evening. Come sundown, Hirafu village is where it all happens. Dinner can be a different affair every night, from mouth-watering local noodles joints, izakayas offering boozy snacks to the more familiar pizza, curry or Thai options; the vast majority is that of characteristically high standards, even a handful of Michelin stars thrown in to the mix.

As far as drinking holes go, they are uniformly atmospheric but pleasingly varied - rustic and traditional, sleek and sophisticated, or some just downright quirky. Different Snow have done the necessary research and we'll be happy to provide a list of our favourites!

Getting There

Niseko is reached from Sapporo's New Chitose airport. There are direct international flights to Sapporo from several Asian cities, but most will travel via Tokyo or Kansai. Therefore it is easy and convenient to break the journey and spend time in the capital, or elsewhere, either pre- or post-ski.

From Sapporo, there are several options: we can organise a seamless private transfer or book you on to the coach service; alternatively we have rates for hire cars or you could even take the train.

The journey to Niseko takes two to three hours by coach. There are four main bus companies offering this route, and we will book you on to which is best depending on your arrival time into Sapporo. Buses drop off in Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri; from there we will advise you what the arrangements are to get you to your accommodation. Private transfers will obviously take you to your door.

If you don't mind taking a little more time to get to Niseko, the train could well add to your experience. The train's route is more scenic, as it carves through the snowy landscape and skirts the coast. We can organise the tickets and provide all the instruction you need to cover this 3-4 hour journey.

Self-drive is possible and, of course, offers greater independence for the duration of your holiday. However, the sheer volume of snow is considerable and, though the roads are well maintained, confidence behind the wheel is key. Having driven extensively around the region during the winter ourselves, we can provide all the assistance you need including English sat-navs.

Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 260 metres

Top elevation: 1,200 metres

Number of lifts: 25

Number of runs: 40

Access: Fly to Sapporo Chitose Airport, direct from Hong Kong or via Tokyo or Osaka for everyone else. From the airport it is a two to three hour coach transfer to Niseko. We can organise private transfers also and then there is the option of rail - notably longer and more complicated but fun!