Niseko is where international sophistication melds with old-world Japanese culture in a dream-like powder covered landscape. It’s unlike any other ski resort in Japan, or any other ski resort in the world for that matter.
Once a sleepy rural region with narrow roads surrounded by rice paddies and farms, Niseko has transformed into one of the most popular holiday destinations in Asia, thanks to its five-star accommodation, fantastic après ski scene and incredible powder snow.
As a result of Niseko’s transformation into a modern day winter wonderland, it caters to just about every desire: you’ll find onsens, an amazing choice of restaurants with Michelin Star chefs, funky bars and, of course, incredible powder snow that attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.
Niseko’s snow falls in great volumes and is up there as the best powder in the world. No one can really agree on the average annual snowfall as there’s too much of it to keep track of, but it’s usually somewhere between 10 – 15 metres a season.
Siberian weather patterns bring fabulous dry snow over the Sea of Japan, however although the temps on the mountain are usually very cold and the powder dry, the climate in the villages at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri is very agreeable throughout winter.
Niseko is suited to skiers and boarders of all ability levels. There are a large variety of groomed runs that are ideal for families, beginners and intermediates.
For powder hounds Niseko has great off-piste skiing. The slackcountry and backcountry options are also very impressive, and thankfully both off-piste and out of bounds riding is permitted.
Hanazono is where it’s all happening for freestyle action. There are three terrain parks with jibs and jumps for beginners, intermediates and advanced riders.
If you’re prepared to earn your turns there are an abundance of fantastic options for Niseko backcountry skiing and split boarding. If you’ve got superhuman fitness, you can even climb Mt Yotei. Or if you prefer to save your energy for riding down the hill, Niseko heli skiing or Niseko cat skiing are other options.
Niseko is one of the most popular ski resort regions of Japan. Located on the southern slopes of Mt Niseko Annupuri and with stunning views of nearby Mt Yotei, it has iconic views as well as magnificent powder.
Hokkaido is the second largest island of Japan. It has coastlines on the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and also the Pacific Ocean. Hokkaido is home to the largest number of ski hills in Japan. While the majority of them are very small, some of the larger ski resorts are amongst the most famous in Japan.
Niseko is two to three hours drive from Hokkaido’s international airport, New Chitose Airport, just outside Sapporo. It is an international airport but not all airlines fly direct to Chitose. Most international visitors will have to catch a domestic flight from Tokyo via Narita international airport or Haneda domestic airport:
The bus is the cheapest form of transport from the airport in winter. Buses depart about every 30 minutes from the airport to drop-off points in the three major resorts in Niseko – Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri. They take about 3 hours, and most include a rest stop halfway and some drop-off at Rusutsu. One way will cost about ¥4,000 per person.
Powderlife works with several companies offering a door-to-door transfer service from the airport to Niseko or Sapporo from ¥30,000 per vehicle. Wi-Fi and DVD systems included in each vehicle.
There are basically three options for getting around Niseko: shuttle bus, taxi and rental car. If you’re staying in Hirafu, pretty much everything you need will be on the free village shuttle bus route. If you want groceries or to head out of town at night you might want to take a taxi, and if you want ultra mobility, think about hiring a car:
Shuttle buses connect the resorts and different areas of Niseko including nearby Kutchan. Some are free or included in the cost of lift passes.
Taxis are readily available, particularly in Hirafu, and can be hailed on major streets. Taxis cost about ¥2,500 for a ten minute trip. Drivers probably won’t speak English, and you will need a business/place name and map for where you are going – often if you just have the address they may not be able to find it. For best chance of success, take directions / street names in Japanese if possible. Many taxis have roof racks but they may have difficulty fitting in large ski or board bags.
Renting a car is a great way to explore Niseko and surrounding areas. You just have to have to be prepared to negotiate the snowy/icy roads. Before you drive in Niseko, read our driver survivor tips first.
Niseko United comprises four ski resorts interconnected via lifts and the slopes towards the top of the mountain.
Annupuri has great groomed runs for beginners and intermediates and access to sidecountry skiing.
Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama) is largely a beginner and intermediate area, with a couple of black piste runs.
Grand Hirafu has something for everyone with the largest skiable terrain.
Hanazono is good for tree skiing, sidecountry access, the best snow quality, and terrain park fun.
Moiwa is inter-connected with Niseko United but it’s not considered part of the resort and has a separate lift ticket.
The Niseko All Mountain Pass provides access to all 4 resorts (Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and An’nupuri) as well as the Niseko United Shuttle service while the Grand Hirafu Pass enables access to the Grand Hirafu and Hanazono zones only.
Lifts are open until 8.30pm every night of the week from mid-December to late March and night riding included on full day and consecutive day lift passes.
From JPY ¥5,100 per adult
From JPY ¥3,100 per child (7-12yrs)
Kids 0-6 yrs FREE
If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powderlife we’ll arrange your lift passes for you.
There is a huge range of Niseko accommodation options including hotels, pensions, lodges, and lots of self-contained apartments and chalets. Some of the properties are ski-in ski-out, but many require a short walk or a shuttle bus to get to the ski area.
Book your accommodation in Niseko via our Niseko accommodation search engine below. Or send us an enquiry and we’ll do the ground work for you to help you plan the perfect holiday. Tell us exactly what you want, including preferred dates, location, number of guests and budget and we’ll make it happen.
There are various Niseko ski rental shops located near the slopes that can provide you with all your snow equipment rental requirements, including those all important fat skis and long snowboards for the deep powder. The quality of the rental equipment is generally higher than many other Japanese ski resorts.
Whilst there are a good number of ski rental shops in Niseko, it always pays to pre-book your rental equipment especially if you want performance gear.
If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powerlife we’ll arrange your ski rental for you.
There are several choices of ski and snowboard schools (also known as snow sports schools), with at least one Niseko ski school program on offer at each of the four Niseko ski areas.
Most ski schools have a pickup service or have several meeting points for private lessons so you don’t need to worry too much about where they are based. Contact our team to help prepare for your trip.
If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powerlife we’ll arrange your ski lessons for you.
Niseko is renowned for the fabulous nightlife and the amazing choice of restaurants. It’s Japan’s best ski resort for the après, restaurants and nightlife!
Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono all have restaurants and bars, yet Hirafu is the heartbeat of Niseko, with most dining and nightlife options centred around this village. Some Niseko restaurants and bars don’t accept credit cards so make sure you’re cashed up with yen.