Niseko is comprised of three main ski fields, Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Higashiyama and Niseko Annupuri. Niseko Grand Hirafu is divided into two sub areas, the Hirafu area, and the Hanazono area. The peak of Mt. Niseko An'nupuri, provides access to the three main ski fields, and with the all mountain pass, enables use of all 28 lifts.
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
Just over 100km from Sapporo on the South Western end of Hokkaido.
Very reliable powder, often deep. Large mountain with an all resort ticket. A peak to climb. Extensive off groomed terrain. Extensive trees. Official relaxed attitude to off piste skiing. Good lift system except for the upper mountain including a new 8 person high speed gondy in Hirafu for season 2011/2012. Town well situated to the field, and quite centralised. Vast array of dining, drinking and accommodation options, from cheap and cheerful to fine dining, in both Japanese and Western styles. major regional centre (Kutchan) a short drive or bus trip from the resort which makes stocking up on supplies easy and convenient. Very english speaking friendly. Very kid/family friendly.
Some flat and long lower run sections. Many lifts are getting on and are not particularly fast when compared to North American or European Resorts. The lift layout also means that you are required to take a number of lifts before reaching the top. Lifts close quickly during high wind conditions making it difficult to move from one ski area to another. Possible to ski all groomed runs in a few days. Increasingly popular and gets tracked out pretty quickly on inbounds areas. Also, Niseko has limited steep terrain compared to many other resorts.
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www.niseko.cc offers independent travellers a great one stop booking service with real-time rates and availability on literally hundreds of accommodation options as well as booking a wide selection of services such as airport transfers, lift tickets, mountain guides and ski lessons.
Most people fly into Chitose Airport, and it's easiest to catch a bus direct to Niseko, but there are many options, all promoted online - coach, private transfer, train. If you go by coach, many companies offer very good rates on lift ticket bundles (Single Day, Multi Day, etc) when you purchase a return ticket.
If you are going to Sapporo first(one hour from Chitose Airport), then it's easiest to take the train.
JAPANiCAN .Major Japanese travel agent with 12 accommodation options in Niseko both on and off mountain, starting at ¥6,100 per night. http://www.japanican.com/hotels/List.aspx?anl=niseko&so=c
- Owashi Lodge Backpacker's hostel
- Woody Note
- Full Note
- Red Ski House
NISEKO ACCOMMODATION [http://www.nisekoaccommodation.com Offering accommodations both on the Niseko side, and the Annupuri side of the mountain, Niseko Accommodation facilities are a 5 minute walk, or less to lifts, marts, bus stops, or local dining.
NISEKO HOLIDAY [http://www.nisekoholiday.com Offering bed and breakfast style accommodations in Niseko, as well as Annupuri. Just a short walk to the lifts, and door-to-door service from the airport.
NISEKO IZUMIKYO [http://www.izumikyo.co.jp Offering a wide range of affordable rental properties, Niseko Izumikyo are the longest running property management and sales company in the area. Let us introduce you to the real Niseko.
OWASHI LODGE A mere two minute walk from the main quad lift, Owashi is a backpackers's hostel designed to cater for the modern independent skier and boarder. A combination of small private rooms and great communal spaces gives guests the option to relax in quiet comfort or party with fellow snow enthusiasts.
THE NISEKO COMPANY  Offering Niseko's best luxury self contained accommodation options, The Niseko Company's high level of professional friendly service ensures a memorable visit to Niseko. Contact us and we will work with you to arrange everything you need to enjoy the powder in winter and the beautiful surrounds in Summer.
THE SETSUMON by Niseko Alpine Developments (NISADE) Central village location: walk to ski lifts, Japanese thermal baths (Onsens), the village nightlife and restaurants. Architecturally designed under Niseko's premier blue chip property developer.
SKIJAPAN.COM SkiJapan.com SkiJapan.com offers a large selection of Niseko accommodation, with more than 50 properties to choose from.
THE CHALETS AT COUNTRY RESORT - Located on the outskirts of Hirafu Village, less than 3 kilometers from the Grand Hirafu snowfields, with over 30 luxury self-contained chalets, a cafe/restaurant and regular shuttle service, Country Resort is perfect for families and groups wanting a peaceful base from which to explore the greater Niseko area.
See the Niseko United site for more information and prices.
Fast Fun [http://www.fastfun.jp/ Owned by Scott Walker, Fast Fun has the backing of a global, and experienced master instructor. They are able to accommodate any level of skiier, and can handle everything from lift-passes, to rentals.
Rent-a-Ski [http://www.rentaski.com.au/ Larry Adler has schools in many locations, including Niseko. With decades of experience, it is the perfect school for skiiers and snowboarders just starting, or already advanced.
Niseko International Snowsports School There are a number of different ski schools on the hill, from the research I have done we will be using NISS, they have the Milo Club (TicTac) program. Our oldest (6) is familiar with this so we think it's a better option. Also the NISS ski school has longer days so you can register them earlier than the other schools without having to pay additional rates for early drop off (8:30ish).
Niseko Base Snowsports (NBS)
NBS is located directly across from the Ace Family lift on the ground floor of Alpen Ridge apartments next door to the Vale. It's basically ski in/ski out and you can also get all your rental skis, snowboards etc. there as well. Makes it really easy to swap equipment and they have equipment storage. Their ski school has experienced international instructors that speak English as well as many other languages. The Kid's Club program is really great, the staff are nice and the kids get hot chocolate. Early drop-off for kids is available. There's a couple of good cafes nearby and because the Ace Family lift is the closest to the bottom of the mountain it's a bit more convenient than some other schools.
Please be aware that, in peak times, classes fill quickly and you may not find a place for your child in the appropriate level, or at all. You can pre-book online to try to ensure a place.
We are using Hirafu Kids for our 2year old and will try to source a nanny to split the time. Hirafu Kids looks great and is on a shuttle stop so easy access. Also the rates look okay (if the Aus $$ gets better), You can book direct with them or through Hokkaido Tracks.
Niseko Base Snowsports (NBS)
NBS has two pick-up locations for rental equipment, one at their main store in Alpen Ridge apartments and one next-door to SkiJapan. They stock a wide range of skis, snowboards, helmets and other accessories for rental including major brands like Armada, Head, K2 and Ride. At the Alpen Ridge store they sell on-snow goods and accessories like spikes, helmets, goggles, neckwarmers, face-masks and more with products from Oakley, Dakine and Smith Optics. Their convenient location means it's easy to swap your gear on the mountain and you can even store your gear with them to make the trek back to your accommodation or nearby restaurant that much lighter.
There appears to be a store at the base of Annupuri which offers telemark gear hire.
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KABUKI Serving Okonomiyaki, and Teppanyaki style food, Kabuki is a great (and fun!) way to enjoy a traditional Japanese style meal. They have recently added another level to their small restaurant to accommodate growing business.
EN in-house fine dining. Why go to the restaurant when they come to your house. The chefs cook a fantastic dinner in your holiday home. This food catering company also does delivery to all Niseko locations.
A great source of information on restaurants, bars, accommodation, snow-reports and more is Powderlife Niseko
Bars & Entertainment
Jam Bar - Good food, goods drinks and often have parties/djs/live music throughout the season.
Gyu+ (aka. Fridge Door) - Seasonal favorite. Great selection of Japanese whiskey, and some of the best cocktails in town.
Grocery or food shopping is limited in the resort itself with two convenienve stores (Seicomart & Lawson) being the only outlets. Like convenience stores everywhere they are handy to grab some smaller items but not recommended for grocery shopping.
New for 2011 / 2012 is an online shopping and delivery service - Shop Niseko. Shop Niseko accepts online orders and payment, with orders placed before 12 noon delivered sameday. This is a great way to avoid the hassle of the bus down to Kutchan, deciphering Japanese labels, and trying to bus / walk back to your accommodation with shopping bags full of groceries on the sloping icey roads.
Out of Bounds
Great back country area accessed by walking from the top chairlift up to the summit then skiing/boarding off the back. The 15 minute walk to the top can be quite tiring and cold (depending on weather) but it is well worth it. Once you reach the top you can shelter in the summit hut before skiing over the back. Great relatively untracked snow with some open bowls followed by tree skiing. It is recommended you take avalanche gear and better still go with an experienced guide. Not all tracks lead back to Niseko so you need to know where you are going.
There is a cross country course located at the bottom of the Niseko Higashiyama mountain.
Parks & Pipes
Hanazono contains an FIS certified halfpipe.
It also contains a terrain park section with a number of jumps (including a quarter pipe and some normal kickers) and some rails.
There are some beginner jumps at the base of the resort (near Hanazono 308).
There is also a beginner section with some rails and boxes near the base (on the other side of the lift).
There is an intermediate park located on the lower levels of Hirafu which contains some (3 at time of writing) jumps and a number of rails and boxes.
There is also a halfpipe.
For much of the season Niseko receives legendary powder - meaning that most of the mountain is a powwder zone. Other Japanese resorts also receive similar quantities of snow, but Niseko's off-piste policy is the country's most progressive meaning that skiers are encouraged to chase fresh tracks so long as they do keep away from recognized closed areas. Best known of Niseko's powder areas would be
Strawberry Fields - Short, steep & feature filled. Easily lapped as it's right beside a chair. Can get seriously tracked. Lower elevation. Miharashi - A mix of open glades and great trees. You need to walk three minutes to access the upper section. Very riding / skiing. Gate 3 - The peak. Offering the longest open runs, you can choose the front and return back to Hanazono, the back bowl & return to Annupuri, or head north and west down to various independent exits in the Goshiki region. (This can be serious and committing terrain, almost never skied, and very avvy prone. You don't return to the resort. If you don't have an exit planned or are not 110% sure where you are going do not even attempt this area.) Gate 4 - Easy access to open fast powder fields, with a quick lap to get back on the lifts. Gate 5 - A series of wide gullies very easily accessed. Stick to the first gully / ridge and you can drop you straight back to the chair, head over two or three more gullies and you'll find more untracked pow but have an easy 10 minute walkout.
Situated in southwestern Hokkaido, Niseko is only around 35km from the Sea of Japan. The Niseko range is well aligned to take the full brunt of the northwesterly airstream that is predominant throughout the winter months. This airstream coming out of Siberia is cold and dry but picks up moisture as it passes over the relatively mild Sea of Japan. That moisture helps produce some of the most consistent and heaviest snowfalls found in Hokkaido. Close to the base of the mountain Kutchan at only 174m above sea level average 12.4m of snow each winter. Although there are no accurate records of snowfall up on the mountain itself, they likely average well in excess of 14m (46ft)per season, making Niseko snowfalls some of the highest recorded at any ski resort in the world. In Kutchan snow falls on average around 24 days a month during winter and up at the ski resort it's not unusual to have some snow recorded nearly every day of the month. Average temperatures are below freezing right to sea level throughout the winter months and on the upper mountain (around 1000m) temperatures rarely get much above -10 c.
Niseko was largely unknown outside of Japan before the 1990's. John Morrell started touring various areas around Hokkaido from the mid 80's and started sending small groups to Niseko from the early 90's. In those days you would rarely see any foreigners apart from a Swede by the name of Pär or Sapporo-based Aussies and Canadians. Very few Japanese would ski off-piste at all.
In the mid 90's Australians including Peter Murphy and Dale and Glenn Goulding skied the area and saw the potential for consistent powder skiing. They started tours for small groups staying initially in pensions but as their client base grew the accomodation choices diversified. Numbers increased quite quickly and other operators soon jumped on board.
In the early 2000's developers seeing the ever reliable snow conditions in contrast to some sketchy Australian seasons bought up the Hanazono area and started building apartment style accomodation for the mainstream Australian market. English language signage became prominant as well as Aussie style bars and restaurants, so it became very much a mainstream Australian destination.
It has more recently also become a major destination for Asian neighbours, particularly Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland Chinese.
- Niseko Lift Company Website website
- www.nisekotourism.com Official Niseko regional tourist site
- www.powderlife.com Daily Snow Reports from Niseko-based locals as well as great Niseko information
- www.shopniseko.com Online grocery delivery service across Niseko Hirafu
- www.powder.tv video ski reports