Niseko; the powder capital of the world, and one of the most renowned ski resort hubs across the globe, is a wonderland of magnificent ski resorts on Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island. The resorts run from the summit of Mount Niseko Annupuri, over a thousand meters down to its base, enjoying a long ski season between November and May. With amazing views of the dormant volcano of Mt. Yotei, the Mt. Fuji of Niseko, some of the world’s most amazing luxury chalets, looking out to breathtaking scenes are found at Niseko which sees amazing 15 meters plus of light, dry and consistent powdery snow per season.
The four main Niseko ski resorts are Niseko Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri, and Niseko Hanazono with Hirafu and Hanazono collectively known as Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu; each creating their own distinctive character and atmosphere and all promising an unforgettable experience. The resorts can be skied using just one pass, whilst ski lifts, gondolas, and shuttle buses enable easy access to and connection between all the Niseko resorts. With an international reputation, Niseko’s après-ski action is just as exciting with hip bars and gourmet eateries as well as more secluded and family-friendly areas.
Niseko boasts incredible tree runs, long trails, and big powder bowls. Experienced skiers can enjoy the thrill of going off-piste, which is not common in Japan, with gates leading out from the resorts to backcountry trails as well as tours heading to Mt. Yotei for off-trail skiing too.
Along with skiing, whatever level you are, you can also try heli-skiing, snowmobiling, cat-skiing and snowshoeing. Apart from offering some of the finest skiing on the planet, Niseko is much-loved for its incredible hot spring onsen bathing and is popular vacation activities out of the ski season too. During the summer months, visitors enjoy golf, hiking and trekking, and white-water rafting as well as cycling, horse riding, and fishing; enjoying a marvelous view of Niseko’s beautiful landscape from a gondola.
To help you decide on which area to stay in Niseko, here are four of the resorts that made up Niseko United.
1. Niseko Grand Hirafu
The largest ski resort in Niseko, on the southeastern side of the mountain, Grand Hirafu has it all and is perfect if you are traveling with family or want to be in the hubbub of a busy ski and après-ski location. As well as wondrous slopes, the base at Hirafu includes a kids’ snow park area where little ones can go snow-tubing, play in the snow and even build igloos and snowmen.
There are many ski lifts at Grand Hirafu, including pair and family lifts, and skiers and non-skiers can ride the gondola up high before descending to the base packed with shops., bars and restaurants. Niseko Grand Hirafu has a cool vibe, with some famed hip nighttime spots such as the jazzy and quirky Bar Gyu, known as The Fridge Door and renowned for its cozy ambiance, cool fridge door in the snow entrance and magical forest views.
In the summer, you can enjoy hiking, summer gondola rides 500 meters up the mountain, and mountain biking with a downhill course running dramatically through the courses for thousands of meters and a trail that flows down in a gentler way for less experienced riders.
Visit website at www.grand-hirafu.jp/winter/en/
2. Niseko Village
Arguably showcasing some of the best skiing in Niseko, with certainly some of the longest trails, Niseko Village, also on the southeastern side, is smaller than Grand Hirafu which lies to the east. However, you can still find a welcoming village atmosphere at the base with a few shops, restaurants, and bars. This area is less buzzing and more focused on creating a relaxed ski vacation ambiance. There is an upmarket vibe too with spas and excellent hot springs, whilst families enjoy the balance between nature, skiing, and après-ski activities which are less full-on than in Grand Hirafu.
Some of the steepest runs are found at Niseko Village, with a gondola heading to the peak, while the Wonderland Chair lift heads to outstanding powder runs, with easy access to the other resorts in the area from here too. There are also great opportunities for novice skiers as well with lifts that cater for beginners and gentler ski slopes.
Families enjoy visiting the well-known Milk Kobo dairy farm and farm shops in the area. Flowers bloom in summer, whilst golfing is popular on the village’s two courses along with summer gondola rides too. There are plenty of high-adrenaline activities, with Pure at Niseko Village presenting Japan’s longest zipline at nearly one and a half kilometers as well as treetop adventures.
Visit website at www.niseko-village.com/en/
On the southeastern side of the mountain. along with Grand Hirafu and Niseko Village, Annupuri promises to be a more laid-back destination. This ski area of Niseko particularly attracts families and those looking for a less buzzing ski resort. The slopes are well-groomed and at the base there are natural onsens as well as some dining and a kids’ area.
Whilst action-seekers can still enjoy backcountry skiing as well as mountaineering, Annupuri is perfect for all levels of skiers In the summer, Annupuri visitors can enjoy gondola rides and all the outdoor pursuits Niseko has to offer.
Visit website at annupuri.info/winter/english/
On the northeastern side of the mountain. and a secondary base to Hirafu, Hanazono is perfect for beginners with dedicated areas to learn. There are also terrain parks with rails, pipes. and jumps plus slalom runs. There is great fun to be had tubing with thrilling lanes and magic carpets taking you up to the top again.
The variety of activities in Hanazono appeals to families and those seeking a more relaxed experience who enjoy staying outside of the main resorts yet still within reachable distance. There are exhalating challenges here for more advanced skiers too, with off-piste Blueberry Fields and Strawberry Fields well-known as real backcountry ski gems.
Hanazono 308, at the base, is the main dining place with a range of international foods and magnificent views out onto the slopes as well as lunchtime music performances. In the summer, Hanazono pursuits include golf, rafting, mountain biking, and for adrenaline-seekers, exploring canyons and pools.
Visit website hanazononiseko.com/en/winter