THE amazing snowfall Niseko receives attracts thousands of international tourists to the area, but when they arrive, they realise Niseko is so much more than just a ski hill.
There’s a rich culture, warm hospitality, amazing cuisine, vibrant nightlife and an endless range of unique activities to experience. Whether you want to make a snowman, take a Japanese cooking class, or get behind the handle bars of a 150hp snowmobile, there’s something for everyone to do off the mountain in Niseko.
We’ve rounded up a comprehensive list of activities on offer for those days, and nights, when you want to take off the skis or board and experience something else Niseko has to offer. You won’t be short of options!
STAYING IN THE SNOW
A number of companies run fully-guided, hands-on snowmobiling tours in Niseko’s backcountry. With terrain suited for all levels from beginner to expert, you can simply drive slowly around a track or venture out to the far reaches of the deep powder backcountry to places that are unattainable by foot, ski or board. Costs range from ¥1000 for a quick burn up, to around ¥40,000 for full and half days tours. Check www.powderlife.com/activities for companies.
One of the special attractions in Niseko is to walk on a lake of solid ice, especially when you discover the same lake is a popular swimming hole in summer. Scott Adventure Sports (SAS) runs snowshoeing tours to Hangetsu-ko (Half-Moon Lake), that people of any age can enjoy. They will pick you up from your accommodation and take you on the short 10-minute drive to the lake at the foot of Mt Yotei before you strap into the snowshoes and head off. The walk into the lake is beautiful and peaceful, and once you’re on the lake your guide might fill a saucepan with snow and boil you a cup of tea and supply you with some snacks. If you’re really lucky he might sing you a Nepali lullaby while you rest. You can traipse out on the lake for as long as you like before you decide to return to the van. A great day out that everyone can enjoy. Call SAS for bookings on +81 136 21 3333 or go to:
Boukenkazoku offers a range of activities but one of the most unique is igloo camping (¥7350 per person, includes two meals, minimum two persons). More information at www.bouken-kazoku.com.
Hanazono Adventure Park
Loads of activities for both big and small kids to enjoy daily, from 9am to 4pm. Drive your own snowmobile on a summertime golf course for ¥1100 yen, drive for 8km on the Rabbit Course for ¥6400. Covered magic carpets offer lift access for snow play fun on sleds and snow-tubes. Tubes are ¥1800 per hour, or use the premium sled, complete with brakes and steering mechanism, for ¥1500. Snow-rafting whisks you around a specially designed course of berms for ¥1500 for adults and ¥1000 for children. And enjoy a guided tour and strap on some snowshoes. An hour for ¥3000 for adults and ¥2500 for kids. More info at www.skihanazono.com.
FUN FOR THE YOUNG ONES
Kids Land Annupuri
Tobogganing and tubing for the little ones between 9.30am and 4pm at Annupuri. Tobogganing is ¥300, and tubing is ¥500 per hour. For more information call +81 136 58 2080, or check www.cks.chuo-bus.co.jp/annupuri.
Hirafu Alpen Kids Park and Zoo
Tobogganing and tubing all day for free from 11am to 5pm. There is also a zoo with penguins, rabbits and llamas, open from 10.30am until 5pm. Cost is ¥500. For more information call the Alpen Hotel on +81 136 22 1105.
Niseko Kids at Niseko Village
Tobogganing and tubing for free from 8.30am to 4.30pm. Go to www.powderlife.com/activities for details.
Kids’s Snow Adventures
Designed for the little ones aged four to 12 years, experienced instructors ensure children enjoy themselves with a variety of snow activities on these half and full-day programs. ¥5000 for a half day, or ¥11,000 for a full-day including lunch. More information at www.powderlife.com/activities.
ACTIVITIES WITH A DIFFERENCE
Hilton Niseko Village Pure Action
Step inside from the cold and have some fun at Hilton Niseko Village’s huge inflated adventure park. Drop metres on to an inflated landing pad or joust with your friend on an elevated cylinder – the loser plummets to a soft rubber landing below. Open every afternoon ¥1350.
It sometimes comes as a surprise to foreigners that karaoke originated in Japan. Here it’s usually done in private booths, which is a great way for those who are a little shy to have a go, and they’ll discover it really is a fantastic, liberating experience. For a list of Niseko karaoke joints go to www.powderlife.com/activities.
Winter river rafting cruises
Just the thought of how cold local rivers must be in winter is enough to make you shiver. But drifting down the local Shiribetsu River under the guidance of a professional local rafting guide gives tourists the opportunity to experience Niseko’s amazing snowbound landscape from a completely different perspective. Tours with Hokkaido Lion Adventures and NOASC are roughly 1-2 hours and cost about ¥4000, less for kids. For details check www.powderlife.com/activities.
Snowshoeing is fun, but snowshoeing while trying to shoot your friends takes it to another level. Snowshoe Paintball is on the outskirts of Hirafu. ¥6300 per person for 150 paint balls. Minimum of six people to play. Open 1.30pm-3.30pm.
For contact details go to www.powderlife.com/activities
Indoor rock climbing
Had enough of working your legs outside in the cold? Maybe it’s time to balance things up a bit by giving your upper a body a workout on Niseko’s indoor climbing wall. Located inside NAC (Niseko Adventure Centre), there’s walls of varying heights and difficulties for kids to adults. JoJo’s cafe upstairs overlooks the 10m main wall, which is great for a post climb lunch, dinner or snack. Open 8.30am-10pm every day.
Situated on the golf course at the base of the Niseko Village Hilton, dog sledding is something that everyone should try once in their lifetime. Upon arrival, you will be shown to the course from the office, passing about six out of eleven (on a rotation system) excited Alaskan huskies outside their own snow cave home. Firstly, the sledding guides will get you on the back of a snowmobile to show you the course – a simple loop, somewhat similar to a small racetrack. Once you get your bearings, you’ll stand on the small, wooden-framed sled and learn to get around the one tight corner. There’s a small seat at the front of the sled for the little ones, to get everyone involved. Before you know it, two friendly, pumped up dogs are clipped on and you’re off. Around the 400m track, around the corners and up and down the mini-hills, the dogs run the last leg with enthusiasm for the prize of vegetable soup waiting at the finish line. Dog sledding runs from 10am-3pm, but Powderlife’s tip is to get the earliest booking you can, when the dogs are full of energy and the snow is fresh. For ¥3,675 for adults and ¥2,675 for children, dog sledding is a great experience that people of all ages can try. For more information go to www.powderlife.com/activities.
Onsens (hot spring baths)
Niseko is home to many great onsens. Bathing in these steaming hot baths with family and friends is one of Japan’s favourite cultural past times, and the perfect relaxing answer to a long day up the mountain. Onsens vary in price, but average around ¥600-800 per person. For a list of Niseko onsens and a list of cultural onsen dos and don’ts, go to
Japanese language classes
One of the great things about visiting a foreign country is communicating with the locals in their own language. Learn basic Japanese with Sarah and Yon (who write Powderlife’s ‘Japanese for Powder People’ column, see p25). Learn useful words and phrases. Cost: ¥1000 (includes one drink). For time and location details go to www.thedailyenglishshow.com/nisekojapanese.
Kutchan Cultural Tours
Want an authentic Japanese cultural experience? Try Kutchan’s Cultural Tours, a hit throughout the season. These tours of ‘K-Town’ offer a taste of the orient with an insight into a Japanese tea ceremony, a natural history museum and a Niseko sake brewery. Tours depart from the Niseko Safety Information Centre (next to Seicomart). For more information, call +81 136 23 0222.
Japanese cooking workshops
Want to try and recreate that superb dish you had at that izakaya last night? Niseko Gourmet offers Japanese cooking workshops during winter. For details see www.niseko-gourmet.com.