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.

Niseko
Overview

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 is a designated “heavy snowfall region” – when it snows here, it snows long and hard. And thanks to its northern locale at latitude 42 degrees north of the equator, the climate makes for much more regular perfect powder days than many locations down south.

Niseko Powder Phenomenon

The best case scenario for the ultimate powder trip would be to experience the “Niseko Express”. This phenomenal weather pattern occurs when a swirling low pressure system sets up over the ocean to the north of Hokkaido, delivering a constant north-west air stream for up to weeks at a time.

These low pressure systems suck cold, dry air off the frozen expanse of Siberia, send it across the Sea of Japan where clouds pick up moisture, then unload incredulous amounts of super light, dry powder on the coastal ranges of Hokkaido.

One of those ranges just happens to be Niseko’s Annupuri Range, a rugged spine of large peaks rising as cliffs from the ocean before carving a swathe through flat farmlands. Just a small valley, cut by the Shirebeshi river, separates the range from the region’s highest peak, the ubiquitous symmetrical volcano, Mt Yotei.

This unique geological condition produces Niseko’s incredible powder snow. As the weather slams into the range, momentum pushes the snow southwards and rips through the valley between Mt Yotei and Mt Annupuri, disgorging itself and leaving behind unprecedented amounts of snow all over the countryside.

Niseko
Resorts

Niseko United is the name given to the four independently owned ski resorts on the southeast face of Mt Annupuri (1,309m). All resorts have slopes and terrain to suit complete beginners to professionals, and you can ski, board or bus between all with ease.

Niseko Annupuri is a part of the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park and is the most eastern park of the Niseko Volcanic Group. With its rich variety of terrain and beautiful winter woods, Niseko offers an unforgettable experience for all levels of skier/snowborder.

Niseko United Photo
NISEKO HANAZONO

Powder, piste, pipe and parks: Hanazono is a family-friendly off-piste powder haven.

NISEKO GRAND HIRAFU

Centre of the action: Hirafu has the widest variety of accommodation and entertainment.

NISEKO VILLAGE

West of Hirafu, beyond the out-of-bounds bowl: home to up-market and slower-paced Higashiyama.

NISEKO ANNUPURI

Book-ending Niseko to the west: Annupuri is a laid-back village with hidden stashes of powder.

Lift Passes
Niseko Lift Pass

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.

If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powderlife we’ll arrange your lift passes for you.

Ski Hire

Every resort in Niseko has at least one ski gear rental store, and Hirafu has several to choose from to suit all budgets. Beginners gear to advanced powder skis and boards can be rented, so we will hook you up with someone that can look after all your travel party’s needs.

Everything required to get out on the slopes can be hired, from skis and boots to gloves, jackets and beanies.

If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powderlife we can arrange every piece of equipment you need.

Ski Lessons

There’s no need to be nervous about learning to ski in Niseko – thanks to the fresh snow falling almost every day, the slopes are kept soft and cushioned throughout the winter, unlike the ice-skating-rink-hard slopes found elsewhere around the world.

Ski schools cater for crying toddlers through to nervous adults – they’ve seen it all before and will get even the most tentative of skiers gliding down the mountain.

If you book your Niseko accommodation with Powderlife we’ll arrange your ski lessons for you.

Niseko
Activities

Skiers and boarders love Niseko for its powder snow, however it’s more than just a winter destination. There are so many reasons to visit Niseko – at any time of the year!

Year-Round Activities

Spa Treatments: ease your muscles with a one-hour deep tissue massage in the privacy of your own villa.
Kids Club: international childcare centre for children aged 1 to 6 years.
Karaoke: sing your favourite songs with all-you-can-eat and drink package in a private room.
Adventure Park: move from tree to tree 5 – 13m above the ground while challenging the elements.

Niseko Massage
Niseko Kids Club
Niseko Karaoke

Winter Activities

Naturally, Powderlife will arrange everything you need to get on the mountain skiing, snowboarding and having fun, no matter what your skill level. We also know that not everyone who comes to Niseko wants to go skiing, so we can also help you organise other winter activities suitable for the whole family!

Heli-Skiing: ski 3,000 meters of vertical with 6 drops x 650 metre runs.
Cat Skiing: ski line after line of fresh tracks without queueing for lifts or hiking.
Snowmobiling: an adventure through forests and snow-covered pastures with views of Niseko range.
Snowbiking: group or private tours with access to over of 100km2 terrain.
Backcountry Guide: improve your skiing, hunt fresh powder or simply have a friendly guide show you around.
Snowshoeing: walk through the forest at the base of Mount Yotei and discover frozen Half Moon lake.
Cross-Country Skiing: explore the countryside by gliding through quiet valleys and forests using longer, thinner skis.
Snow Tubing: snow tubing is great for kids and for those who want to act like one.

Niseko Heli Skiing
Niseko Backcountry Guide
Niseko Snowbiking
Niseko Snow Tubing
Niseko Snowmobiling
Niseko Snowshoeing

Summer Activities

With such stunning beauty all around, Niseko is a wonderful summer destination. After the snow melts away you’ll find a range of summer activities to keep the family enthralled!

Worldclass Golf: choose from six golf courses within an hour drive of Niseko.
Cycling: explore the local area in very healthy fashion with a guided tour.
Mountain Biking: head off-road, explore the countryside on quiet roads or cruise from cafe to cafe.
Fly Fishing: try your hand at fishing the rivers of Hokkaido with a local fisherman.

Niseko Golf
Niseko Fly Fishing
Niseko Cycling Tour

Niseko
Restaurant & Bar Guide

Everyone who has been to Niseko has a story about THAT restaurant that you just have to try when you go to Niseko. Actually we have a list of about 20!

But what happens if you arrive for your first trip just after Christmas, and you drop past the famous A-Bu-Cha or Kamimura to book and they tell you: “Our next open table is at the end of February.”

Niseko has a 100-day winter season, and there are tens of thousands of people in the resort every day who all want to do the same thing – ski and experience Niseko’s famed dining scene. So read on to learn a little more about how restaurants work in Niseko in winter.

SHOULD I BOOK AHEAD?

Yes and no. If you come in summer, you can walk into any restaurant you like any day of the week and you’ll be very unlucky to be turned away because they’re fully booked.

But if you come in winter, many restaurants will be booked out by the evening, a few will be booked out a week or more ahead, and some will be fully booked until the snow starts to melt and winter is well and truly over.

In the two peak periods – Christmas through New Year and Chinese New Year – you literally have very little chance of finding a table for two, let alone 10, in the main villages.

So you’re reading this as you’ve arrived on Christmas Day and you haven’t booked – never fear. There’s very little chance that you’ll have nowhere at all to go. You just won’t have your pick of in-village restaurants – you might need to ring around (or get your concierge to help you if they offer that service) or jump in a cab and head out of the village. This is actually where you might find some of the most rewarding cultural adventures that not everyone gets to experience!

Niseko
Neighbourhoods

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 roughly two to three hours by bus, car or train, southwest of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido.

Beyond Niseko

Adjoining Niseko United is a fifth ski resort called Moiwa west of Annupuri. Within a couple of hours drive are two more resorts: Rusutsu and Kiroro.

The Lodge Moiwa 834 Outdoor Area | Moiwa

Moiwa

Niseko Moiwa, adjacent to Annupuri, can be skied to from Annupuri but is not currently connected by the lift system.

MOIWA GUIDE
Niseko Rusutsu Heli Skiing

Rusutsu

Only 45 minutes drive from Niseko, offering year-round attractions including an amusement park and golf courses.

RUSUTSU GUIDE
The Kiroro, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel Outdoor View with Snow | Kiroro

Kiroro

Kiroro is huge and always less people compare to Niseko, so advanced riders can share powder nicely at powder area.

KIRORO GUIDE

Niseko
Accommodation

If you’re looking for world-class ski accommodation, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Niseko. This was the first Japanese ski resort to be discovered by the rest of the world, and continues to be the resort that attracts by far and away the most investment. As such, you’re spoilt for choice between five-star hotels, chalets and condos right down to hostels and bed-and-breakfast-style “pensions” run by local families.

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.

  • Suiboku Indoor Dining Area with Wooden Floor | Upper Hirafu VillageSuiboku Exterior with Snow | Upper Hirafu Village

    SUIBOKU

    Upper Hirafu Village – Apartments
    2, 3 Bedrooms

    Edgy city style meets modern Japanese chic in the sumptuously designed Suiboku building.

    US $900
  • Sale!
    Odile Exterior at Night | West HirafuOdile Dining Area | West Hirafu

    ODILE

    West Hirafu – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Odile is the most impressive new designer chalet in Niseko this winter.

    US $645 US $548
  • Miyabi Living Area | Lower HirafuMiyabi Outdoor Area with Snow | Lower Hirafu

    MIYABI

    Lower Hirafu – Chalet
    4 Bedrooms

    Miyabi is a spacious Japanese-chic alpine chalet affording supreme comfort and luxury furnishings.

    US $1,151
  • Sale!
    The Maples Niseko 06 Two Bedroom Ski Side Lounge Area | Upper HirafuThe Maples Niseko Exterior at Night | Upper Hirafu

    THE MAPLES NISEKO

    Upper Hirafu –Hotel/Apartments
    1, 2, 3 Bedrooms

    The Maples is ski-in/ski-out to the Ace Family Run and also opens onto Hirafu’s main street.

    US $356 US $267
  • Sale!
    Snow Crystal Lounge Area | Upper HirafuSnow Crystal Outdoor Area | Upper Hirafu

    SNOW CRYSTAL

    Upper Hirafu – Apartments
    2, 3 Bedrooms

    Snow Crystal is a premium apartment building 50m from the Ace Family Chair lift in Upper Hirafu.

    US $665 US $532
  • Sale!
    Kira Kira Dining at Day Time | Upper HirafuKira Kira Outdoor View | Upper Hirafu

    KIRA KIRA NISEKO

    Upper Hirafu – Apartments
    1, 2, 3 Bedrooms

    Cool modern digs with beautiful scenic views in the beating heart of Upper Hirafu.

    US $234 US $210
  • Sale!
    Panorama Niseko Living Area with Wooden Floor | East HirafuPanorama Niseko Outoor View at Night | East Hirafu

    PANORAMA NISEKO

    East Hirafu – Chalets
    4, 5 Bedrooms

    Panorama Niseko is a collection of 12 luxury chalets on the bank of the Shiribetsu River.

    US $1,513 US $1,134
  • Sale!
    sosekiSoseki Living and Dining Area | Lower Hirafu

    SOSEKI

    Lower Hirafu – Chalet
    6 Bedrooms

    Soseki is an amazing chalet with cool bunk bedroom for the children and media room.

    US $1,520 US $1,216
  • Sale!
    Komorebi Chalet Seating Area | East HirafuKomorebi Chalet Outdoor Area with Snow | East Hirafu

    KOMOREBI CHALET

    East Hirafu – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Komorebi Chalet is set in a beautiful mountain valley surrounded by nature.

    US $362 US $271
  • Sale!
    Koa Niseko Outdoor View with Snow | HigashiyamaKoa Niseko Sofa with Cushions | Higashiyama

    KOA NISEKO

    Higashiyama – Chalets
    3 Bedrooms

    Scandinavia meets Japan in these harmoniously designed dream chalets in the woods.

    US $400 US $360
  • Kasara Townhouses External Night | Niseko VillageKasara Townhouses Lounge | Niseko Village

    KASARA TOWNHOUSES

    Niseko Village – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Kasara Townhouses epitomise Japanese architectural style with contemporary elegance.

    US $1,668
  • Sale!
    Muse Niseko Living Area with Mountain View | Middle HirafuMuse Niseko Exterior with Snow | Middle Hirafu

    MUSE NISEKO

    Middle Hirafu – Apartments
    1, 2, 3, 4 Bedrooms

    Muse is a contemporary luxury apartment building on the main street of Hirafu.

    US $383 US $268
  • Sale!
    Loft Img ViewsLoft Niseko Kitchen Living and Dining Area | Middle Hirafu

    LOFT NISEKO

    Middle Hirafu – Apartments
    2, 3 Bedrooms

    Loft Niseko is a boutique block of chic luxury apartments like nothing else in Niseko.

    US $766 US $536
  • Sale!
    Hideaway on Escarpment Bath and Living | Lower HirafuHideaway on Escarpment Exterior with Snow | Lower Hirafu

    HIDEAWAY ON ESCARPMENT

    Lower Hirafu – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Hideaway on Escarpment is a stunning designer residence in an exclusive estate.

    US $683 US $513
  • Silver Dream Bunk Beds with Sofa and TV | West HirafuSilver Dream Exterior with Snow | West Hirafu

    SILVER DREAM

    West Hirafu – Chalet
    5 Bedrooms

    Silver Dream exudes quality and abounds in spacious luxury for families or friends.

    US $1,870
  • Sale!
    Hokkaidaway Living and Dining Area | West HirafuHokkaidaway Outdoor Area with Snow | West Hirafu

    HOKKAIDAWAY

    West Hirafu – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Hokkaidaway is a bright and stylish contemporary chalet set amidst snowy forest.

    US $413 US $309
  • Tsudoi Exterior at Night | East HirafuTsudoi Lift Area | East Hirafu

    TSUDOI

    East Hirafu – Chalet
    6 Bedrooms

    Tsudoi is one of the most luxurious new chalets in Niseko and has its own gym.

    US $3,990
  • Sale!
    Tanoshii Chalet Sunken Bathtub | East HirafuTanoshii Chalet Living, Kitchen and Dining Area | East Hirafu

    TANOSHII CHALET

    East Hirafu – Chalet
    3 Bedrooms

    Tanoshii Chalet is a cute traditional mountain lodge for the quintessential Japan ski holiday.

    US $431 US $323
  • Owashi Lodge Outdoor View | Upper HirafuOwashi Lodge Billiard Table and Table Tennis | Upper Hirafu

    OWASHI LODGE

    Upper Hirafu – Lodge
    Private, Shared Bedrooms

    Owashi Lodge is a hostel with the mostest – awesome vibe, great value, unbeatable location!

    US $82
  • Sale!
    Kuma Cabin Exterior with Snow | Lower HirafuKuma Cabin Lounge Area with TV | Lower Hirafu

    KUMA CABIN

    Lower Hirafu – Chalet
    2 Bedrooms

    Kuma Cabin is a cool and comfortable little chalet set in metres of fluffy powder.

    US $356 US $320

Practical
Information

Getting There

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:

COACH TRANSFER

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.

PRIVATE TRANSFER

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.

RENTAL CAR

Renting a car is a great way to explore Niseko and surrounding areas. You just have to be prepared to negotiate the snowy/icy roads. Before you drive in Niseko, read our driver survivor tips first.

Getting Around

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 BUS

Shuttle buses connect the resorts and different areas of Niseko including nearby Kutchan. Some are free or included in the cost of lift passes.

TAXI

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.

RENTAL CAR

There are several car rental companies operating in Niseko, you just have to be prepared to negotiate the snowy/icy roads. Before you drive in Niseko, read our driver survivor tips first.

Etiquette

Japan is perhaps the most courteous country in the world. A bow can be used to say thank you, sorry, hello, goodbye and excuse me. It is impolite not to return a bow. The deeper the bow, the more polite it becomes. This is just an example of how you can show your respect for Japanese culture.

BODY LANGUAGE

Please refrain from public displays of affection as Japanese people are rather bashful. Avoid eating while walking and do not wear your shoes on tatami mats (straw mat flooring) or in most indoor residences.

EATING

At most casual dining Japanese restaurants (Izakaya) meals are ordered for the table and shared. You will often receive a small snack with your first drink which may or may not be billed. Rest your chopsticks across the top of the bowl or plate – never leave them sticking out of the rice!

DRINKING

It is tradition in Japan to pour from a bottle into your guest’s small glass regularly. Kampai is the Japanese word for cheers – use it readily! Also please remember to stay well behaved when under the influence.

GARBAGE

Hokkaido has some of the strictest garbage separation rules in the world. Please try to follow them, follow the signs on the bins to the letter.

ONSEN

Buy a ticket, strip down – no swim suits are allowed in hot spring baths, you’ll be asked to keep your clothes in a basket, your valuables in a locker. Take a little towel only into the onsen with you, wash and scrub your body well before you go in to the bath. You can fill your towel with cold water before you enter the onsen. Do not put your towel into the onsen water – leave it on your head and squeeze the cold water out when you get too hot (it’s best not to bring drinks into the onsen). After bathing rinse off under the shower. Finally dry your body well before you walk back into the changing room.

TEMPLES

Please adhere to the very strict local dos and don’ts when visiting a Japanese temple or place of worship.

TIPPING

Although tipping is not generally done in Japan, some restaurants and bars will include a service fee for groups.

Health & Safety

Japan is extremely safe. There are very few cases of visitors being injured or killed in Niseko and crime is virtually non-existent. The advice we provide is a general guide only and does not replace the advice of a doctor trained in travel medicine:

MEDICAL CLINICS

Treatment for minor injuries and common traveller’s health problems is easily accessed in local medical clinics in Niseko. For serious conditions, foreigners are best served at Kutchan-Kosei General Hospital in Kutchan, which caters to tourists and expats. Ensure your travel insurance will cover you. In cases where your medical condition is considered serious, you may be evacuated by air ambulance to Sapporo or beyond.

PHARMACIES

Many over-the-counter drugs in the West require a prescription in Japan. Ensure all medications you bring into the country are packed in their original, clearly labelled containers and bring a signed and dated letter from your doctor as well as any written prescriptions.

REQUIRED VACCINATIONS

There are no vaccinations required for travel to Japan.

WATER

Tap water in Niseko is safe to drink. Bottled water is widely available and cheap, however Powderlife encourages visitors to keep a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic consumption.

Need to Know

Here’s the absolute essentials explained:

CURRENCY

Japanese Yen (¥) is the local currency, universally accepted all over Japan. Credit cards are accepted in most establishments and there are several cash machines (ATMs) – so you do not need to plan too far ahead – although it is advisable to carry some cash on you.

LANGUAGES

Japanese is the native languages spoken by locals but English is widely used in tourist areas.

Good morning = Ohayōgozaimasu
Good afternoon = Kon’nichiwa
Good evening = Konbanwa
Good night = Oyasuminasai

Thank you = Arigatōgozaimashita
You’re welcome = Dōitashimashite
How are you? = Ogenkidesuka?
I’m fine = Daijōbudesu
Excuse me = Sumimasen

Yes = Hai
No = Īe

Sorry = Gomen’nasai
Open = Aita
Close = Tojiru
Eat = Taberu
Drink = Dorinku

1 = Ichi
2 = Ni
3 = San
4 = Shi
5 = Go
6 = Roku
7 = Shichi
8 = Hachi
9 = Ku
10 = Juu

11 = Juuichi; 12 = Juuni
21 = Nijuuichi; 22 = Nijuuni

100 = Hyaku
1,000 = Sen
10,000 = Man
100,000 = Juuman
1 million = Hyakuman

How much is this? = Ikura desu ka?
Price = Kakaku
Expensive = Kōkana
Cheap = Yasuidesu
Great = Yokatta

My name is = Namae wa
What is your name? = Onamae wa Nan desu ka
I am = Desu
I don’t understand = Wakarimasen

Cool! = Kakkoii!
Uncool! = Yabai!

Good weather! = Ii tenki!
Amazing! = Sugoi
I’m going! = Ittekimasu!
Take care! = Itterasshai!
Let’s meet again! = Mata Aimashou!

TELECOMMUNICATION

Japan’s country code is +81. Data speeds of 3G and faster are the norm across Niseko. Most accommodation include broadband Internet and free WiFi is common in cafes and restaurants.

TIME ZONE

Niseko is on Japan Standard Time, which is nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) / Universal Time.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is absolutely essential for every traveller. A typical travel insurance policy will have coverage for a traveller’s main concerns, including trip cancellations, medical emergencies, travel delays, and lost luggage. Most policies are built to be comprehensive to protect travellers from a variety of events that may cause financial loss before or during their trip. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ which can include skiing, renting a local motorcycle and even trekking.

WORLD NOMADS

Worldwide travel insurance is available at World Nomads and you can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

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