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Niseko


Super snowy and justly popular, Niseko has the widest appeal of any of the Japanese ski resorts.

Swaddled in the shadow of Mount Yotei and blessed with perpetual snow – dry, deep and glorious – is Niseko. This is Japan's show-stopper; their internationally-celebrated ski Mecca. It should be compulsory for all skiers and boarders to ride here at least once in their life, but very few do. Because if you come one time, we know for a fact you'll be back again. The on- and off-piste bounty demands it.

Skiing on the 'Niseko United' pass covers a vast area. Bustling Hirafu village is at the centre of the action off the slopes with its inviting après-scene of fantastic restaurants and buzzy bars. Because the international ski fraternity discovered Niseko in the 00s you'll benefit from a great selection of accommodation and an accessible, English-speaking culture. 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 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.

Off Piste

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!

Advanced

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 it's 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.

Intermediate

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.

Beginners

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.

Snowboarders

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. Free-riding 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.

Après Ski

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!

Family Suitability

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.

RESORT SCORECARD

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Season:  December - mid-April

Base elevation:  300 metres

Top elevation:  1,309 metres

Vertical drop:  1,009 metres

Number of lifts:  30

Number of runs:  61

Longest run:  5.6 kilometres

Access:  We need to fly you to Sapporo Chitose Airport, which is up on Hokkaido Island, to which there are flights from Tokyo and several Asian hubs. From the airport it is a three hour coach transfer to Niseko, or we can organise private luxury transfers ... this does little to shave off any time, but it avoids any wait at the airport and offers more luxury.

Suggested Itineraries featuring Niseko

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Japan could entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes. We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. They’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - treat them as inspiration only.

Our ‘Classic’ Niseko Itinerary

Niseko - Tokyo

Duration: 10 / 12 days

Niseko has it all: on-piste; off-piste; nightlife; adventure; backcountry; cuisine. You then spend a few days in Tokyo en route home.

from £2,145 per person, including flights

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The Japanese Ski Safari

Niseko - Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Kyoto

Duration: two weeks

The best powder snow, a bit of culture, the mountains, onsen and the capital! We can't improve on this - the perfect ski holiday to Japan.

from £2,884 per person, including flights

Read More

Japanese Powder Unlimited

Niseko - Sapporo - Furano - Asahidake

Duration: 10 / 12 days

An itinerary with a singular objective: to ride the finest, deepest powder snow in Japan. Stay on Hokkaido Island, and ski hard.

from £2,345 per person, including flights

Read More

Prices are indicative only and include accommodation (low season), lift passes, transfers and – because we are ATOL-bonded – your flights from the UK. Different Snow can also include ski hire, backcountry and off-piste tours, rail passes, private transfers, English-speaking guides, cultural excursions and activities.

Accommodation

Niseko's range of accommodation sets it apart – and it has some particularly enticing high-end options. That said, there really is something to suit everyone, from cheap and cheerful lodges to characterful boutique hotels, snug townhouses and chalets, and plenty of apartments. Hirafu village is where most choose to stay, for the convenience and a buzzy village atmosphere - it is split into three sub-villages, with the lively Middle village being the main après-ski area, the Upper village closest to the skiing, and the Lower village the prettiest (and also the most tranquil). All areas are linked by a reliable and convenient shuttle bus, which your lift pass provides free access to.

There are so many options in Niseko - the following is merely a hand-picked selection of a few of our trusted favourites.
 

Ki Niseko

Ski-in, ski-out at the top of the village, Niseko's best accommodation?

First of all the location; a prime ski-in ski-out spot, right next to the Hirafu high speed gondola station. Perfect. Then there is the development itself; luxurious hotel rooms and one-bedroom apartments. Cleverly, these apartments will be next door to the anything-but-conventional hotel rooms, thus creating two-bedroom apartments when booked as a unit. All rooms enjoy stunning uninterrupted views to Mount Yotei or over the ski slopes.

Then you have all the other facilities you would expect from such a premium development; restaurants, cafés, private and public onsens and one of Niseko's best spa. 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 metres

Village centre: 5 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Shop: 7 minutes' walk

Chalet Ivy

Luxurious, verging on the lavish. Close to the slopes, this is Niseko’s ultimate boutique hotel.

An elegant boutique hotel set in Upper Hirafu Village, with 78 spacious guest rooms and suites with exclusive amenities and panoramic views, with every room enjoying views of either Niseko’s Mt. Yotei or the Hirafu ski slopes. The 'wow' factor is evident as soon as you arrive in the impressive lobby entrance with high ceilings, grand piano and attentive staff.

The fine dining restaurant showcases the seasonal splendor of Hokkaido, and you can soak up the day in Chalet Ivy’s natural hot spring onsen, one of the finest in Niseko, or settle in for a drink in the rich atmosphere of the hotel’s Après Lounge. If you can't bear to be without one, they also have a gym, one of the very few in Niseko. 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 2 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Zaborin Ryokan

Discreet elegance in this classic, yet modern Japanese inn. Zen & the art of skiing...

With just 15 villas, each with an indoor and outdoor onsen bath, filled with the purest volcanic water, Zaborin is intimate and secluded, surrounded as it is by meadows and forests away from Hirafu village.

This is exclusivity at its most refined - the experience involves fine kaiseki dining (11-courses) prepared by a chef who mastered his craft in Sydney, New York and Tokyo. 

Washitsu villas come with futons, as opposed to Western-style beds, which are also an option. Some villas come with an extra tatami-mat room and can sleep four. The ski slopes of Niseko are a snowball's throw away.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 100 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' drive

Village centre: 10 minutes' drive

Green Leaf Hotel

In Niseko Village, with direct slope access. Nice rooms, funky interiors & lovely onsen. 

Inside the low-rise glass and white exterior, blending seamlessly with the snow, lies a fusion of local artistry and international cool, with beautiful snow-scapes outside every window and local works of art in each of the 200 rooms and suites.

A real highlight is the natural onsen, set amongst the rocks and snowy trees with a traditional outside bath. There’s also a very good spa.

The hotel has a good location with ski-in, ski-out access adjacent to the Hilton Niseko Village. There are regular buses into Hirafu and to other ski areas so you won’t feel marooned, but the on-site options are great too.

Distance to…

Village centre: 15 minutes' drive

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Shuttle bus: 5 metres

M Hotel

Boutique hotel in the centre of Hirafu Village - shops, bars & restaurants surround.

Good mid-range hotels are few and far between in Niseko – and this is the best of the bunch. The location is unbeatable, in central Hirafu Village very close to ski lifts, restaurants and bars. 

The 36 rooms are very comfortable and clean, and you can opt for a suite if you’d like considerably more space in the form of a living area with sofa. M Hotel is a little quirky, perhaps a bit of an ugly duckling from outside, but it has a great ambience once you have been welcomed in as a guest. The delicious familiar breakfasts will set you up for the day: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages…even waffles and pancakes.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Shuttle bus: 5 metres

Ski lifts: 4 minutes' walk

Always Niseko

An great value 104-room hotel, just outside of Hirafu village. Think urban chic.

Created only in 2017 and focusing in on a very specific gap in the market - decent accommodation, several steps up from a backpacker lodge, but with affordable prices.

Set 15 minutes’ walk from Hirafu in the tranquil area of Kabayama, guests can access the lifts and the main area of Hirafu Village on the shuttle service. Facilities include a funky café and bar, WiFi, laundry facilities and 24-hour reception.

Distance to…

Bus stop: 15 metres

Village centre: 15 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' drive

Restaurants & Bars: 12 minutes' walk

M Lodge

A comfortable, great value hotel right in the centre of Hirafu village. 

All rooms are clean and simple, with the usual features all present and correct.....en-suite bathrooms and satellite TVs. The hotel also provides basic communal cooking facilities and coin operated washing machines.  

This reliable hotel doesn't offer luxury but you’ll be in the midst of central Hirafu, with easy access to the slopes and the nightlife – and M Lodge is easier on the wallet than most places with such convenience.

Breakfast is not ordinarily included in the rate, but you can pop next door to the sister M Hotel, where a particularly hearty morning meal is served. Different Snow will ensure this is included, because it's well worth it.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Shuttle bus: 10 metres

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' walk

Red Ski House

Homely lodge in a middle village location, western style rooms with shared facilities.

A small home-away-from-home, hosted by an Australian ex-pat and his Japanese family. The rooms are compact, tidy and comfortable, the breakfasts are home-made and the communal living / dining room conducive to making new friends. It's that kind of place. Shared bathrooms are never further than a step away and a warm welcome assured. 

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 7 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 1 minutes' walk

MY Eco-Lodge

A refreshing new take on a hostel - modern, pragmatic and professionally managed.

Set just outside of Hirafu Village, this lodge has ultra-contemporary private twin / double rooms and then also small dorms (max four persons per room, in two bunks). Essentially, it is a clean and comfortable modern-take on the budget hostel, with food outlets, dining area, washing facilities and a ever-so-helpful team manning the front desk. Set just five minutes’ drive from Hirafu Village...or twelve-minute walk (we timed it...but coming back down the hill!) and the ski lifts, it offers new, affordable accommodation with easy access to the resort facilities. How did we survive without it?!

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' drive

Village centre: 5 minutes' drive

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' drive

Terrazze

Various apartment types

Style magazines across Asia feature these uber-chic apartments...and rightly so!

There are only six apartments in the block, which makes this one of the most exclusive address's in Niseko. They have been designed so that all apartments have stunning views of Mt Yotei through the large picture windows.

The open style apartments feature sleek modern finishes and natural materials, with no expense spared including underfloor heating in the living areas and bathrooms, plus an ethanol fireplace to keep you warm and cosy.

The property has an onsite reception and dedicated concierge service from 8am – 11am and 3pm – 6pm each day, as well as a complimentary ski-shuttle on demand during limited hours. 

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 2 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 15 metres

Ki Niseko

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Ski-in, ski-out at the top of the village, Niseko's best accommodation?

First of all the location; a prime ski-in ski-out spot, right next to the Hirafu high speed gondola station. Perfect. Then there is the development itself; luxurious hotel rooms and one-bedroom apartments. Cleverly, these apartments will be next door to the anything-but-conventional hotel rooms, thus creating two-bedroom apartments when booked as a unit. All rooms enjoy stunning uninterrupted views to Mount Yotei or over the ski slopes.

Then you have all the other facilities you would expect from such a premium development; restaurants, cafés, private and public onsens and one of Niseko's best spa. 

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 10 metres

Village centre: 5 minutes' walk

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Shop: 7 minutes' walk

The Glass House

5-bedroom chalet

Our favourite chalet in Hirafu is made for entertaining...or simply chilling out.

There are five bedrooms sleeping 10 and all the bedrooms are on the lower level. There are four bathrooms: one en suite adjoining the master bedroom, two shared bathrooms downstairs, and one upstairs, adjoining the hot tub.

But it is upstairs where the chalet comes in to its own - the kitchen was designed by a chef, for a chef. Needless to say it has all the latest appliances for the finest cooking, and is well laid out for ease of cooking. A bar with chairs alongside allows guests to keep the chef company while food is being prepared.

The views here are second to none. The house was built with its broadest side facing Mt Yotei, and deliberately on the cliff edge ensuring the views are unobstructed.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 4 minutes' drive

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Village centre: 7 minutes' walk

Aya Niseko

Various apartment types

The newest luxury development in Niseko, with that all-important ski-in, ski-out access.

Apartments of varying size, from studios all the way up to penthouses. Incorporated are all the services expected from a high-end hotel, including a 24 hour reception, with in- house amenities including concierge, ski valet, hot springs, spa and massage, gym, yoga room, restaurant, bar, café/deli, art gallery, craft shop, kid’s club...and more.

Located at the bottom of the main lifts, the views are fantastic, looking either right up the slopes or back toward Mt Yotei.

Distance to…

Village centre: 3 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 metres

Chalet Murasaki

6-bedroom chalet

Niseko's one and only ski-in ski-out, stand-alone luxury chalet.

Chalet Murasaki sits in prime position right on the ski slopes opposite the Ace Family chairlift in exclusive Upper Hirafu Village. It is one of the largest and most luxurious ski-in ski-out properties in Niseko, commanding 450m2 of space over three floors. It blends up-to-date Western fittings and finishes with key Japanese luxuries such as a bathroom of hinoki wood.

Astutely placed antiques and artifacts complement the selection of colourful hand-knotted-style floor rugs. Expansive picture windows and lofty skylights frame scenes of skiers and the falling powder for which Niseko is famous.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 20 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 3 minutes' walk

Shiki

Various apartment types

The centerpiece of Hirafu, luxury apartments mixing Western & Japanese style.

The original, and some would say best, luxury apartments in Hirafu Village with everything you need under one roof - cafe, deli, ATM, restaurant, bar...etc. With all the trappings of a 5 star hotel, Shiki Niseko offers 1, 2 and 3 bedroom luxury apartments, each combining modern and tasteful Japanese aesthetics with luxurious design and premium finishings.

They all come complete with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry room, adjoined by a distinguished open-plan living space fitted with floor-to-ceiling picture windows that overlook Hirafu Village, Mount Youtei or the Niseko ski runs.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 0 metres

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' walk

Shikaku

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Sleek apartments, each with the whiff of an (ultimate) bachelor-pad. We want to live here!

Luxury studio, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments with that new York loft style design. God...we love them! They feature wooden flooring throughout, and the open-plan kitchen, living and dining areas are spacious and equipped with LCD TVs with satellite connection so you have access to English-language movies, news, documentaries and more.

The apartments enjoy a prime location at the top of Hirafu Middle Village from which lifts and Niseko's key amenities are all within easy walking distance. Upper floor apartments have private balconies and selected apartments also have their own private outdoor two-person spa bath. 
 

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Ski lifts: 6 minutes' walk

Deep Tracks

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Close to the gondola station, with warm, cosy interiors and an abundance of natural light.

They feature fully equipped western-style kitchens, with open-plan living / dining areas and a basement area which provides a large communal ski storage and drying rooms as well as laundry facilities. Individual balconies let you take in all the action right on your doorstep.

Contemporary Australian architecture – the steel and concrete construction method allows for large floor to ceiling corner windows, individual balconies and provides greater levels of privacy.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 25 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 6 minutes' walk

J Sekka Suites

1 and 2-bedroom apartments

Minimalist, stylish and super-conveniently located close to the ski lifts. 

Only moments from the Ace Family Chairlift and right in amongst the bustle of the village, these are luxurious, modern and spacious studios, 1 and 2 bedroom suites, with onsite services of reception, concierge, shuttle, restaurants, bars and massage.

We love the glass bathrooms as the centerpiece for most rooms...don't worry, they have blinds! High quality furnishings, fittings and appliances throughout all suites, with scenic views from most. Starkly beautiful is the signature style.

Distance to…

Ski lifts: 30 metres

Restaurants & Bars: 5 metres

Konkuriito Townhouses

Various townhouse types

Several unique ‘konkuriito’ (concrete) townhouses scattered across Hirafu Village.

Uniquely ‘Niseko’ in many respects, these are two, three and four-bedroom houses offering luxurious Western living, with the comfort and privacy of your own home. All feature spacious open-plan living rooms and large picture windows. All have state-of-the-art central heating, contemporary furnishings, secure ski storage and a fully equipped laundry area with drying areas for boots and ski clothes.

These modern townhouses are dotted around the middle / lower village in Hirafu. Always close to the shuttle bus stops which will take you up to the lifts (you could walk to the nearest lift in 5-7 minutes, but why bother?) and it is only a very short walk away from many bars, shops and restaurants. The best public onsen in the village is close by. 

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 3 minutes' walk

Village centre: 3 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 10 minutes' walk

Shuttle bus: 2 minutes' walk

Nupuri Cottage

2-bedroom chalet

A really cosy, stand-alone, little cottage tucked away in the lower village.

This cute log cabin could be straight out of the European or North American alps from the outside, but on the inside it’s sharp, modern chic. Half buried in snow in the winter, it’s a magical place to stay for those who want a traditional alpine experience, with all the comforts of home.

The lower level has a master bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and open-plan living area with a lounge suite and entertainment unit. A loft on the upper level provides extra sleeping space. 

Adding to its charm is that it’s located in quiet Hirafu Lower Village, which is home to several of the best semi-secret restaurants.

Distance to…

Restaurants & Bars: 5 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' drive

Village centre: 5 minutes' walk

Hirafu Houses

Various townhouse types

A selection of unique self-contained, free-standing houses across the village.

These delightful houses have two or three-bedrooms (and 1 or 2 bathrooms) spread out over two floors. The open plan dining / living rooms are on the ground floor along with fully equipped modern kitchens. The bedrooms have a combination of traditional Japanese futons and western beds with great views of the snow capped landscape.

Each is different from each other, a curated selection of properties scattered across the middle and lower Hirafu village.
 

Distance to…

Village centre: 15 minutes' walk

Ski lifts: 5 minutes' drive

Activities

Want to know where the secret powder stashes are on the mountain? How do the backcountry gates work to access the legendary back bowls? Where do you find those perfectly spaced trees you saw on a YouTube clip? Hiring an off-piste guide on the Niseko mountain is de rigueur and no-one ever regrets it.  And why limit yourself to Niseko? The resorts of Moiwa, Rustutsu, Kiroro and Teine are all within easy reach and each offers something very different. For the ultimate experience, the backcountry is endless and we can secure you the most experienced guides to get to wherever you need to be. 

Off the mountain, you are in a remote north-west corner of Hokkaido Island and there aren't really any major sightseeing opportunities close by, within easy striking distance. However, we are adept at incorporating authentic Japanese experiences in to your itinerary to give you a sense of place, be it on Hokkaido Island or down in Honshu Island.

Powder Guiding (private)

Stay on the Niseko mountain for the best powder day of your life...

A local guide knows how to safely guide you through the best skiing and riding experiences that Niseko has to offer. The guides we use are also qualified and professional English speaking guides with intimate knowledge of the best and safest Niseko snow in all conditions - they can coach you as much as you want on powder riding techniques. Guiding is all accessed from Niseko United lifts, our guides will take you to the best snow and terrain on the mountain with the level of hiking and traversing that you choose - with priority access on select Hirafu lifts means you can get to the peak before other guides. Tours include avalanche safety gear and instruction on use for all Tours. Tours are a flat-rate for up to 4, for 5-6 guests, a tail guide will be added.
 

Powder Guiding (group)

Get out the gates into the Niseko backcountry with a small group of new friends. 

With a maximum group size of four persons and one guide / instructor, this full day is the best way to orientate yourself on the Niseko mountain, find the secret powder stashes and perhaps meet a few ski buddies along the way. You guide will be qualified and English-speaking, with intimate knowledge of the best and safest Niseko snow in all conditions. They are also qualified instructors and can coach you as much as you want on powder riding techniques. Guiding is all accessed from Niseko United lifts, and our guides will take you to the best snow and terrain on the mountain with the level of hiking and traversing that you choose.

Backcountry guide (private)

Within or beyond the confines of the resort explore the limitless backcountry...

In an unregulated arena where charlatans are ten-a-penny, we know the best local guides - experienced (over 10 seasons' experience), knowledgeable, professional, fully certified and safety conscious. He or she is your for the day, be it to stay within the Niseko region or heading further afield - transport is included, with pick-up and drop off at your accommodation. We know that the light, dry snow is out there - the challenge is knowing where to go each day. Interested in getting away from the crowds and into Hokkaido’s incredible backcountry? Or perhaps you want to explore Moiwa, Rusutsu, Kiroro or Teine? Having your own guide offers you direct access to our unrivaled experience in Hokkaido and removes the need to decide months in advance where the best snow will be when you arrive. 

Cat skiing on Weiss Mountain

Only 12 lucky people get to ski or ride the deep powder of Weiss mountain each day.

Weiss is the last ski mountain of the Niseko mountain range...and no-one is making tracks, except for you! A 12-man CAT allows access to un-tracked powder, treeless bowls and empty gladed slopes. Weiss Mountain has no lifts, meaning the snow remains unspoiled and the slopes are clear. There is nothing too challenging, other than bottomless powder snow. The CAT has a warm cabin out back and will take you from the bottom of your last run to the top of your next run. It's that simple. At least two knowledgeable and experienced guides, who know the mountain well and know where to go based on the conditions and your group's ability, will accompany you on every run. All safety equipment is provided, and you'll be fitted with a beacon. The guides carry avalanche safety equipment. There are no cosy day lodges, no popping inside for a hot wine – they do serve great coffee, however - no respite as you queue for the lift. It's straight back up and start again...

Cat skiing on Chisenupuri

Ride untouched powder on 'Chise', just 30-minutes away from Hirafu village.

Just 30-minutes outside of Niseko Village in the Onsen town of Rankoshi lies the historic ski area of Chisenupuri. This separate ski resort, independent of Niseko, first began in 1977 when they built a modest lift, day lodge and small hotel. Surrounded by outstanding nature, hot springs and blessed with abundant powder snow, Chise quickly became a local favorite. Unfortunately, it closed its doors in 2012. However, from the 2016/2017 ski season the Chisenupuri ski area and historic warming hut have been re-opened for cat skiing day trips. - the snowcats allow small groups up to 16 skiers and boarders to be shuttled to the top of the old ski runs giving you access to your own, Japanese powder experience and a guided ski resort for the day. Chisenupuri can be booked as individuals or a private group.

Mount Yotei Backcountry

Japan's ultimate intrepid ski adventure - for the seriously skilled only.

For experts only, the good news is that this region-dominating perfect volcanic peak is ski-able. It’s an almighty trek up, but the rewards are tremendous - this has to be one of the most epic ski days in the world! Conditions can be temperamental, thus the local knowledge of a guide is essential. The hike up takes between five and eight strenuous hours, but the ski down makes it all worthwhile. Once you’ve reached the crater, you can make lines through the fluffy, untouched snow in the bowl before a descent of several hours through seemingly bottomless powder. The weather will need to be on side, so we’ll book the trip before you travel and the Niseko guides will determine a day when summiting is realistic. Safety is all important - Mount Yotei takes no prisoners. Every year people get into trouble up here and we insist on only using the most experienced and knowledgeable guides, with all safety equipment in check.

Ski in Rusutsu or Kiroro

Two resorts close to Niseko, each every bit as good...but with fewer people skiing.

Head over to nearby Rusutsu or further afield Kiroro for the day to enjoy groomed pistes, untracked powder and outstanding tree runs. And fresh tracks are all the more possible, and you're unlikely to have to queue for a lift even once. You can either head over by yourself - Different Snow will provide all the information you need, including finding the bus stops, prices, logistics, ski guide etc. - or we can book you on a group or private tour with transport, lift pass and mountain guide included.

Snowmobiling in Niseko

The most fun you can have in snow...when not wearing skis. 

Take an adventure through Niseko's renowned powder snow on your very own high performance snowmobile. From the sun-dappled forest trails of Hanazono’s (summer-time) golf course to snow covered pastures and backcountry bowls dusted with deep powder, there’s a whole winter world to explore beyond the ski slopes. There are three routes to choose from in Hanazono: 30, 60 or 90 minutes; all on state-of-the-art, light-weight snowmobiles. Longer journeys will involve learning how to take on powder and more challenging terrain as they lead to more remote areas, revealing spectacular views of Mount Yotei, the Niseko Mountain Range and the Sea of Japan.

Snowshoeing & Cross-Country

Explore the snowy wilderness...

Tread the powder snow and slip unobtrusively into the quiet backcountry. There are several routes possible, all depending on time, fitness and your enthusiasm levels. You can choose a morning or afternoon departure, and most tours take around two to three hours. There are is also an evening snow shoe tour, hiking with either stars overhead, or snow fluttering down, and a mixture of the noises of the night around you. This tour is suitable for the whole family and includes dinner. All tours can be booked on a private or group basis.

Otaru & Yoichi Distillery

Day trip to the harbourside city and Nikka whisky's prestigious distillery.

A self-guided day, for when you need respite and recovery form the slopes. Different Snow will provide all the touring notes you need to head, by train from Kutchan, to the nearby city of Otaru - a very pleasant small harbor city - and the Yoichi distillery. Nikka Whisky, one of Japan's top whisky makers, and they offer a self-guided walking tour following the whisky making process from start to finish. You will learn about the different steps taken to produce whisky from English information displays and audio guides. Of course, it all culminates in a tasting session!

Stay in a Ryokan

A traditional Japanese inn - sleep on a futon, soak in an onsen and dine kaiseki style

Whilst there are no real ryokan options in Hirafu village, there are a few wonderfully authentic options nearby on Hokkaido Island. After several days skiing, what better than to indulge in traditional Japanese hospitality, soak in naturally heated onsen waters and enjoy a multi-course fine dining experience. We know the best ryokans in the region - some modern, other more traditional - and can easily incorporate this ultimate Japanese experience in to your itinerary.

Japanese Cookery Classes

Lunchtime classes, centred on authentic Japanese food. You get to eat what you create! 

Three hour fun cooking workshops teaching you to prepare an amazing meal. Held in the a purposely-created kitchen studio, seven days a week, your chef will teach you everything you need to know, from preparation and cooking through to plating and arranging - and of course partaking in the results! During the course you will receive recipes, so you can show off your newly developed skills at home. From 11am to 2pm - a minibus will collect you from your accommodation, and return you after the completion of the course.

Ski Concierge

Different Snow can include transfers, equipment hire, ski school, guiding, backcountry tours, activities, excursions, onsen visits and food hampers in your package. The price you pay will at best be cheaper, at worst be the same, as what you would pay locally. In Niseko, it is wise to have everything booked in advance; it's a popular resort and availability is often a problem.

We can also make restaurant reservations for you, which are essential during peak periods. Different Snow have created a Niseko Dining Guide, as well as a Onsen Guide – call us and we'll happily send you copies.

Lift Passes

The Niseko United all-mountain ski pass covers all four resorts. Moiwa, an adjacent resort linked by shuttle bus, is not included – a separate lift pass is required if you chose to pop over on a powder day. Night skiing until 9pm is included on all lift passes.

There is a 1,000 Yen lift pass deposit included which will be immediately refunded when you return the pass to one of the ticket machines at the end of your stay.

Children are from 7-12 years, youths from 13-15 years and seniors are 60 and over. Other than that, you are an adult. Oh, and anyone under 7 gets their pass free!

Equipment Hire

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned powder hound, there is an extensive range of high quality skis, snowboards, boots and helmets. Based on where your accommodation is, we will choose the most convenient rental supplier – but always staying well away from one or two cowboys who have recently opened up in Niseko.

For those staying in middle or lower Hirafu Village, the rental shops will allow you to store your skis and poles up at the top of the village each evening.

Lessons

There are several reputable ski schools operating in Niseko – aand one or two Johnny-come-lately cowboys. It's all rather unregulated. We work with those we know and trust, with excellent English-speaking, fully-qualified instructors. When making our choice, we will consider where your accommodation is in relation to the various meeting points and what standard of skier/boarder you are; some excel for beginners whereas others specialise in those wanting to improve their powder technique.

Travel Insurance

Winter sports travel insurance is an important part of your holiday booking and we strongly recommend that you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all your winter sports holiday requirements. We're happy to be able to offer our customers a 10% discount on all policies from Ski Club Travel Insurance.

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