Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido is probably the most famous Japan resort amongst international skiers and boarders. For those that love powder, Niseko Japan is the number one pick for a ski holiday because it seems to constantly snow, and the deep, deep powder is way too enticing. Niseko the snow factory is one big powder playground!
Niseko Ski Resort Terrain
The Niseko ski resort gets the Powderhounds award for the best ski terrain in Japan. Niseko also gets other "best skiing in Japan
" awards for best powder, best off-piste terrain, best slackcountry (easily accessible backcountry), and best overall resort in Japan. The Powderhounds obviously think that Niseko has a lot going for it!
Niseko is suited to all types of skiers and boarders. There are a large variety of groomed runs that are ideal for families, beginners and intermediates. For powderhounds Niseko has great off-piste skiing. The slackcountry and backcountry options are also very impressive, and thankfully both off-piste and out of bounds riding is permitted. Another element that sets Niseko apart from many other Japanese ski resorts is the combination of both alpine and tree skiing.
Fair weather skiers who want to get a tan are the only ones that might not like Niseko. Niseko rarely sees the sunshine and has plenty of cold weather, but powderhounds don’t mind because it’s the bad weather that brings all that fabulous powder. And don’t worry about the cold because Niseko is equipped with various gondolas and hooded chairs. You can ride in comfort even on nasty weather days.
Niseko is the largest ski resort in Japan and is made up of four interconnected areas: An’nupuri; Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama); Hirafu; and Hanazono. The ski resort of Moiwa
is also interconnected, but a separate lift ticket is required for this resort.
Where is Niseko?
Niseko is located in Hokkaido Japan, 100km southwest of Sapporo
and the New-Chitose International Airport. Niseko is situated near Mt Yōtei (the "Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido") in a perfect spot to capture all the snow.
A shuttle bus is the best way to get to Niseko from either Sapporo or the airport. See the Niseko travel
page for more information.
NB There is negligible Niseko accommodation left in the Xmas to New Year's period (2013) as part of Niseko ski packages. There are a few accommodation options left if you book directly with the property which you can do by using the search box below. Similarly, there is very limited accommodation left in early January 2014 so your best bet is to use this search facility.
There is a huge range of Niseko accommodation
options including traditional Japanese pensions, hotels, lodges, and lots of apartments. Some of the properties are ski-in ski-out, but many require a short walk or a shuttle bus to get to the ski area.
There is accommodation in the villages of An’nupuri, Niseko Village, Hanazono, and Niseko Hirafu. The four ski areas are interconnected by the lifts and slopes towards the top of the mountain, but the base areas are not next to each other. Consequently the first choice regarding accommodation needs to be which village to stay in. See our Niseko accommodation
page for information on the different villages, a Niseko map, and for accommodation bookings.
Niseko Restaurants & Nightlife
Niseko has the best nightlife and choice of restaurants of all the ski resorts in Japan. There are Niseko restaurants
across all areas but most of the dining opportunities are in Hirafu. Hirafu is also the nucleus of the vibrant nightlife that Niseko is so famous for. There might be a few rowdy Aussies (and Chinese) hanging about late at night, but you can choose to either join in the fun or avoid them. And if you really want some peace and quiet, stay in An’nupuri, Niseko Village or Hanazono.
Culture and Language
If you’re a little nervous about travelling in a foreign land where English is not the first language, then Niseko is the place to go. Niseko caters really well to the international tourist and is a great introduction to Japan.
Communication at Niseko is much easier for English speaking travellers than at any other ski resort in Japan. English is spoken by many of the staff at the accommodations and restaurants, and signage around the resort is generally in both English and Japanese. Most restaurants have English menus, or occasionally there are just menu pictures or kitsch food models!
The international popularity of Niseko has lead to it being not as cheap or unique as other Hokkaido ski resorts
. Some harsh people have called Niseko “little Australia”, but this is a major exaggeration. Whilst Niseko is somewhat westernised, there is still enough Japanese culture and food to make Niseko a culturally interesting ski holiday destination.
Summary of the Pros and Cons of Niseko
- What sets Niseko apart from other Japanese ski resorts is the fabulous powder that falls in abundance (15-16 metres per season on average).
- Niseko is a large resort and off-piste and sidecountry riding is permitted, so there’s plenty of terrain variety.
- Niseko makes a great base to explore nearby ski resorts and there’s also nearby cat skiing and backcountry tours.
- Another unique aspect of Niseko is that it caters very well to English speaking families with young children. Child care and kids’ group ski lessons are available from English speaking staff.
- Other huge advantages of Niseko include the great village vibe, the range of activities on offer, good shopping, the many restaurants, and a very colourful nightlife.
- Niseko is one of only a few Japanese ski resorts that offer a range of accommodation options, including hotels, apartments, houses and backpackers.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- Niseko is no longer a hidden gem. The ski area is often very crowded (especially over Xmas and during January) and freshies in-bounds don’t last for long, but with the snow factory frequently pumping out more snow, another powder day is never far away.
- Many of the chair lifts are antiquated, which is surprising considering the number of lift tickets they sell.
- Proportionally there isn’t that much ski-in ski-out accommodation.
- There’s still a distinct Japanese culture apparent, but the Hirafu Village in particular is very westernised. This comes with advantages such as the abundance of apartment accommodation and the amount of English that is spoken (including ski school and the ski rental shops).
- During the peak of winter don’t expect too many fine weather days. Of course all that wonderful powder doesn’t fall from blue skies!
Multi-Resort Tours that include Niseko
||Niseko Whiteroom Tour | 8 Nights - 4 Resorts
|This tour is ideal for a first-time visitor to Hokkaido; exploring the best powder stashes around Niseko with the bonus of visiting 3 other top Hokkaido resorts including Rusutsu, Tiene and Kokusai..
||Power Trip | 6 Nights - 4+ Resorts
|This tour doesn't actually include Niseko however it starts in Niseko so is an ideal add-on to a Niseko holiday. This is for EXPERT skiers & boarders only and is an action-packed chase the snow adventure..
||Hokkaido Unplugged | 9 Nights - 7 Resorts
|Get off the beaten track to some of Hokkaido's hidden gems such as Tomamu, Furano, Kamui Links, Asahidake, Sapporo Tiene, Kokusai, Rusutsu as well as the big kahuna; Niseko...
||Niseko Powder Tours | 7 Nights - 4 Ski Areas
|Whilst this tour is based in Niseko for the duration of the tour, it is a fully hosted & guided packages with guided visits to Rusutsu, Chisenupuri and Moiwa. This package is exceptional value...
||Japan Powder Pilgrimage | 13 Days
|Can't decide on Niseko in Hokkaido or Hakuba in Honshu? No need to with this tour as you get to experience both plus ski a legendary active volcano in central Hokkaido...
||Hokkaido's 3 volcanoes Backcountry | 10 Days
|This tour is for skiers & boarders looking for a real adventure. Whilst some of the terrain is lift accessed, you will earn many of your turns and be rewarded with the best powder on the planet...
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||Twin Island Epic | 18 Days 9 Resorts
Join Epic Ski Adventures on a journey through Honshu on bullet trains to experience some amazing ski resorts, then transfer to Hokkaido to enjoy some of the lightest powder that mother earth can provide.