Why Visit Niseko?
Niseko is known as the Meccah of Japan Powder Snow, called “JAPOW”. Niseko is located in Hokkaido the northernmost island of Japan.
If you enjoy riding and love snow, you will cherish this place forever. The first time we went there, we could not believe that it was possible to have so much snow in one place.
READ ALSO: 20 AWESOME THINGS TO SEE IN HOKKAIDO
Check out this video for a Sneak Peek into Niseko
NISEKO SKI AREAS – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!
Niseko’s reputation as the “Powder Capital of the World” is well-earned. The region receives an average of 15 meters of snowfall annually, creating a pristine powder that attracts skiers and snowboarders from around the globe. The consistency and quality of the snow make Niseko a dream destination for winter sports enthusiasts of all levels.
The Niseko United ski area is made up of four interconnected resorts: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. Each resort offers a unique experience, from challenging slopes for advanced skiers to gentle runs suitable for beginners.
With these five main ski resorts, and more than 48 km of slopes (5.6 km for the longest), the reputation of the Japanese ski resort is well-known around the world.
1. Gran Hirafu, the most popular one
Grand Hirafu is the largest and most popular ski resort in Niseko, offering a wide variety of terrain and excellent facilities for all levels. If you are visiting Niseko for the first time this is where you want to stay!
Grand Hirafu is often considered the heart of Niseko United. Skiers and snowboarders from around the globe flock to Grand Hirafu to experience the unparalleled joy of gliding through this light, fluffy snow that Niseko is celebrated for.
Grand Hirafu offers the coveted ski-in/ski-out experience, allowing you to step out of your accommodations and onto the slopes effortlessly.
2. Hanazono for freestyle enthusiasts
Renowned for its pristine powder snow, diverse terrain, and family-friendly atmosphere, Hanazono is a haven for those seeking an unforgettable ski experience in the heart of Hokkaido.
For thrill-seekers and freestyle enthusiasts, Hanazono features terrain parks and adventure zones that add an extra layer of excitement to the skiing experience. From jumps and rails to natural features, these areas provide a playground for those looking to test their skills and enjoy a different aspect of the mountain.
3. Niseko Village for a chill stay
Niseko Village Resort is another great ski resort in the Niseko United Area.
The Resort is situated at the base of Mount Annupuri and offers a variety of meticulously groomed slopes catering to all skill levels.
4. Annupuri, our favorite one!
Annapuri is framed by the grandeur of Mount Annupuri, one of Niseko’s iconic peaks. This majestic backdrop sets the stage for unforgettable rides!
There is something about Annapuri that always makes us want to come back! the powder, the shape of the slopes, the offpiste! We simply love it here!
We still prefer staying at Hirafu though, and just come to Annapuri for the day via the connected gondola.
>>READ ALSO: 6 BEST SKI RESORTS IN HOKKAIDO
IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO PREPARE FOR YOUR SKI TRIP TO NISEKO
1. Experience the legendary JAPOW
Niseko has probably one of the best snow in the world. It snows almost every day in winter and every day you have a nice fresh coat of powder. It’s just a dream. No snow cannons, only real snow that covers the whole mountain with a thick carpet of powder.
With the Siberian wind coming to Niseko, the areas are covered with light snow whose humidity does not exceed 8%. Thus, it is not uncommon to have powder up to your knees! Or waist…
With that, not everyone is used to riding in so much snow! We recommend practicing first before getting into the full powder slopes! Also, rent or bring the appropriate equipment (ski or snowboards) which are made for powder rides!
2. Experience Japan off-piste in Niseko
Free-riding is the main draw here. 15+ meters of snow annually and Japan’s most progressive off-piste policy guarantee that powder hounds will go home happy. Within the resort boundary there is plenty of shredding to be done between the nicely spaced birch trees, and natural pillow lines are in abundance.
Guys, it’s a dream!!!! We go to Niseko every year for the last 10 years, as nothing beats the snow and the off-piste experience here! (well perhaps Alaska… but we’ve never been…)
Very few areas are roped off, but instead marked by a ‘Gate’ system and it’s essential to abide by the rules if you want to keep your lift pass. If you cut the ropes, the consequences can be pretty severe.
For first-timers, we recommend taking a guide to show the best off-piste, where you should be careful, and what you should look for!
3. Getting Lessons for first-timersKlook.com
Niseko boasts a team of highly skilled and certified instructors who are well-versed in teaching skiers of all levels. These professionals understand the unique challenges and joys of skiing in Niseko’s powder, and they are dedicated to imparting their knowledge and expertise to ensure a positive learning experience.
Ski schools in Niseko offer lessons tailored to different skill levels, from absolute beginners to advanced skiers looking to refine their technique. Whether you’re strapping on skis for the first time or aiming to conquer more challenging terrain, there’s a lesson suited to your individual needs and goals.
4. All you need to know about Ski Pass
The price and list of packages are available on the Niseko United website.
Most of the time we take the “8 hour” package for All Mountains (Hirafu, Hanazono, Annupuri and Niseko Village), which allows us to go pretty much everywhere in the mountains and always find the best powder spots.
To the question you should buy the ski pass in advance, the answer is no, it’s not necessary. In the event of strong winds and strong snow storms, the ski lifts/cable cars may close.
5. Equipment Rental in Niseko
We always go to Rhythm Snow Sports for equipment rental, waxing or shopping. It is by far the best shop in Niseko. They are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The service is really good, fast and professional.
You can also change equipment as you wish with premium packs. This means you will be able to try many different premium boards and skis and change pretty much every day according to your needs and the terrain you intend to tackle.
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN NISEKO?
1. Please your palate with Hokkaido’s most amazing food
You won’t be disappointing any foodies with a ski trip to Niseko. It has a wide range of food options to satisfy every type of tastebud after a long day on the slopes. Our personal favorites are Abucha and Bang-Bang.
Most restaurants are located in Hirafu. That’s also one of the reson we recommend staying there.
2. Relax at one of Japan’s famous onsen
Immersing yourself in an onsen (Japanese hot spring) is an experience not to be missed while traveling in Japan. Naturally occurring volcanic hot springs are a source of welcome relief from tired muscles and joints after a long day on the mountain.
In this post you can find out about the best onsens in Niseko.
Our personal favorite is Goshiki Onsen. This onsen was once ranked one of the best onsen in Japan! We love the traditional outdoor area!
>> READ: ONSEN ETIQUETTE IN JAPAN
3. Explore other nearby powdery resorts
A great alternative not too far from Niseko is Rusutsu. Usually less crowded even though it’s only a 45-minute drive from Niseko, the weather patterns can be completely different – it can be snowing heavy in Niseko but clear skies and no fresh snow in Rusutsu (or vice-versa).
A little bit further but worth the trip (trust us!), is KIRORO. Great powder, great off-piste, you won’t be disappointed! You can book a day trip to Kiroro here.
4. Enjoy the great nightlife
Although in Japan, the “après ski” is nothing compared to Europe, Niseko has a fun nightlife scene with a few bars and nightclubs. Unlike other parts of Hokkaido.
Throughout the week you will find a huge number of events held here at the various bars and pubs that line the main strip and many of these play live music in the evenings. Our ultimate top place is Bar Gyu aka The Fridge door bar (you’ll know why it has this nickname once you see it) – it’s located in HIRAFU (HERE).
5. Go snowshoeing, one of the best things to do in Niseko in Winter
Snowshoeing in Niseko is a very peaceful activity, thanks to the great escape. Having a day off at the mountain and using snowshoes to walk in the wild in Niseko, is one of the best experiences!
Try snowshoeing and cross-country athletics within the Niseko-Hirafu space and explore the stunning landscape with a good chance to see unique wildlife.
6. Climb the legendary Mount Yotei
You can’t miss it. Mount Yotei is a striking, 1,898-meter-tall volcano that dominates the landscape here in Niseko. Mount Yotei is beautiful from every angle, serene by nature but still commanding of respect.
Its summit is reachable, but only by those who possess enough stamina and courage – along with the right backcountry gear and a knowledgeable guide of course! We’ve personally not done it yet but it’s definitely on our bucket list!
7. Have some fun snow rafting in Niseko
Fancy rafting in a river surrounded by tons of snow? Sounds extreme, indeed, but how fun would that be?
For this activity, you will enjoy 2km on the river with a group of fun people! It’s a great way to discover another side of the beautiful Niseko resort and its wilderness.
We highly recommend this fun activity. BOOK HERE NOW!
THINGS TO DO OUTSIDE NISEKO
1. Visit the cute town of Otaru
Otaru was once the gateway to Hokkaido, where American, British, and Russian sailors came to negotiate – hence its nickname “Northern Wall Street”. Today, there are only streets on the side of the Otaru Canal and old stone storage stores converted into restaurants, shops, and hotels along Sakaimachi Street. These streets decorated with Victorian lamps are the main attraction of the city.
Today, Otaru is best known throughout Japan for its high-quality sushi (especially sea urchin), and its spider crab. The city is also known for Otaru Beer, its very popular brewery.
BOOK: if you intend to visit more places in Japan, traveling by train is the easiest way. You can purchase your JR PASS at a cheaper price here. The JR Pass allows you to take all trains in Japan as a multi-use ticket. Buying a JR Pass offers the best value for money!
2. Have fun at Hokkaido’s main city: Sapporo
Located in Hokkaido Prefecture in Japan, Sapporo is one of the largest and most interesting cities in the country! Known in particular for having been the location of the first industrial brewery in Japan, it hides many other advantages. Temples, parks, mountains, and various monuments to visit. Sapporo has many surprises to offer. Here are some of the highlights in Sapporro:
Pass by Odori Park to enjoy a stroll through this magnificent place. It is 1.5 km long and is divided into 5 parts: Exchange, Border, Oasis, Meetings and Flowers. Each part of the park has its own environment.
BEST ACCOMMODATIONS IN NISEKO
Niseko has many options, from budget travelers to extremely high-end luxury places. And these days it tends to have more options on the high-end side. We recommend staying somewhere in Hirafu for more convenience. You will be closer to the slopes. shops, restaurants etc. And it’s the prettiest part of the resort.
During our many trips to Niseko, we stayed at many different hotels and apartments. If you have a bigger budget, we highly recommend Ki Niseko Hotel. This ski-in/ski-out hotel is located right next to the Gondola in Hirafu. Ki Niseko has it’s private onsen area, ski valet, cafe and restaurant. The rooms are spacious and beautifully designed.
If you are a bit more on a budget, we recommend Flow Niseko, a very nice apartment located in lower Hirafu. The location is also great, near restaurants and onsen, just a few minutes walk to the chairlift, or the bus stop. Our stay at Flow Niseko was great.
NISEKO DURING THE GREEN SEASON
While Niseko is celebrated worldwide for its winter wonderland and legendary powder snow, the summer season unveils a different facet of Niseko.
From vibrant green landscapes to outdoor adventures, cultural explorations, and relaxation, Niseko in summer offers a diverse array of activities for every traveler seeking a refreshing escape.
1. Enjoy many summer activities
As winter snows melt away, Niseko transforms into a lush green landscape, inviting hikers to explore its picturesque trails. Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a casual walker, the region offers a variety of trails, each providing breathtaking views of Mount Yotei and the surrounding mountains.
You can also enjoy Zipline, rafting, fishing, kayaking, horse riding, cycling and so much more which you can explore here.
2. Golfing with a View:
Niseko’s summer charms extend to its golf courses, where enthusiasts can enjoy a round amidst stunning vistas of the mountains. The Niseko Village Golf Course, surrounded by nature’s beauty, offers a challenging yet rewarding experience for golfers of all skill levels.
3. Music and Festivals:
Summer in Niseko comes alive with vibrant festivals and events. From music festivals to cultural celebrations, there’s always something happening in the region. Check local event calendars to coincide your visit with festivities that add a touch of excitement to your summer retreat.
HOW TO GET TO NISEKO?
By Bus from Sapporo
The best way to go to Niseko is to fly to Sapporo and then take a bus. The journey by bus from Sapporo takes about 2.5 hours. It is highly recommended to book the bus way in advance as during the peak season it is quite often fully booked. We usually book with White Liner, as they are really reliable.
If you are coming to Niseko as a group, then a private transfer might not be more expensive and will certainly be much more flexible. For more info on private transfers from Sapporo to Niseko, click here.
A trip to Niseko in Japan is always memorable. Expect breathtaking landscapes, pure air, tones of snow, bamboo forests covered with frost, and rare wild animals. You will also fall in love with Mount Yotei, considered the small Mount Fuji. Skiing in Niseko is a unique way to discover the country of Japan. Enjoy the powders on the slopes. Niseko is known as the white diamond, you’ll understand why.
We ranked Niseko as one of our favorite places on Earth. YUP, that’s right (not a hyperbole)!
For more fun in Hokkaido, make sure to visit Furano for a few days. We highly recommend it.
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