The delay in the construction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line is predicted to push low-cost Japanese airlines to target the Niseko market. Airlines such as Skymark already offer web seat sales as low as ¥7800 one way from Tokyo to Sapporo, and by the end of 2012 the prices are forecasted to drop even lower as the competition for the Niseko market will grow.
The decision to develop a Hokkaido Shinkansen line (between Aomori and Sapporo) was made back in November of 1973, but the first construction work did not begin until 2005. The Aomori to Hakodote portion of the line is on schedule for the 2015 completion date, but according to Nikkei.com, a maximum of 24 years has been allotted for the construction of the Hakodate to Sapporo line, which pushes the possible completion date to fiscal 2035.
As soon as Honshu is connected to Hokkaido by the Aomori-Hakodate Shinkansen line, the economy of the areas along the line are expected to boom. Most likely this will not affect business in Sapporo nor Niseko until the rest of the line is complete.
When the Shinkansen line eventually extends all the way to Sapporo, the projected journey time from Tokyo will shrink to 3 hours and 57 minutes. At the moment it takes over 8 hours, and therefore airlines have the opportunity to dominate the Niseko market until this line is fully completed. 2012 will most likely see smaller airlines, such as Starflyer and Solaseed Air, that currently fly only within Honshu and Kyushu, begin to extend their flights to Hokkaido.
(Interesting fun fact: The Seikan tunnel, which currently connects Honshu to Hokkaido with the Kaikyo JR line, is both the longest and deepest operational tunnel in the world. Track level is about 140m below seabed and 240m below sea level, and 23.3kms of the tunnel runs under the seabed).