Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort

Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Grand Hirafu Ski Resort

The Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu Ski Resort, or Hirafu for short, sits centrally as one of the four Niseko United ski resorts, and is inter-connected with Hanazono to the north and Niseko Village to the southwest.

Considering the village of Niseko Hirafu is the largest and has the most accommodation, it’s no surprise that Grand Hirafu is also the busiest of the Niseko ski areas. Particularly in the mornings, the three base areas of Grand Hirafu Ski Resort are sometimes heaving as the limited lifts struggle to uplift the many skiers and snowboarders. However, classifying a ski area as “busy” is contingent on your perspective. The Grand Hirafu Ski Resort is “busy” compared to what it used to be like two decades ago and relative to how some of the non destination Japanese ski areas are now (e.g. Japan powder gems), but many Europeans and North Americans visit Niseko Hirafu and think the crowds are very manageable and the powder quite fresh. It all depends on what you’re used to.

Niseko Hirafu is famous for its night skiing which occurs during the main season. Niseko probably has the best night skiing in the world! It doesn’t go particularly late (unlike some crazy Japanese ski areas that stay open until the wee hours of the morning), but the magnitude of the illuminated area is considerable. It’s not just for beginners as there are advanced slopes lit up too, and you can even go tree skiing in the Miharashi trees. It’s pretty magical going night skiing at Grand Hirafu when it’s dumping with snow, and the visibility is surprisingly much better at night than when it’s blizzarding during the day. Needless to say, you’ll want to wear your yellow or clear goggle lens at night.

Note that the terrain ratings provided are for Grand Hirafu only, whereas Niseko United as a whole scores better on all categories (see Hokkaido ski resorts ratings).


Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort has 9 lifts, which includes a gondola and a few quad chair lifts, of which only one has a hood. Otherwise the lifts are crappy old double chairs, and there’s also the infamous pizza box chair lift at the top which (if it’s open) often attracts some ridiculous lift lines. Lift queues are also often a problem at the base areas in the morning, but mostly due to inefficiencies in the way lifts are loaded.

For a resort that sells a mighty lot of lift passes, you’d expect the lift system to be much better.

Thankfully Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu will replace the Center 4 lift with a longer 10-person gondola, but unfortunately it will be open to sightseers as well, which may further contribute to lift capacity issues.

Niseko Hirafu Snow

The Niseko snow is world famous for the quantity and quality of the powder, which provides Japow at its finest. The Niseko Hirafu slopes have an east to southeast orientation which isn’t usually fantastic for snow quality elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, but the sun doesn’t actually come out all that often in Niseko in the middle of winter.

Beginner Skiing Hirafu

The Family run is a good beginner run, although it can get very congested. Other beginner runs are concentrated around the gondola base and aren’t that mellow for novices.

For the Intermediate

Grand Hirafu Ski Resort has a handful of intermediate runs that get a lot of traffic, but thankfully they are reasonably wide. There are also various short black runs that can be tackled by strong intermediates, depending on the size of the moguls.

Advanced Skiing Hirafu - On-Piste

Like a lot of Japanese ski areas, Niseko Hirafu is not that exciting for advanced skiers and riders if you just want to stay on-piste. The upper part of the ski area is slightly steeper and above the treeline, so it offers open wide slopes. This is of course if the upper lifts are running.

The lower runs tend to bump up quickly, and if it hasn’t snowed in a while, the moguls on Konayuki get rather large, so dropping in for a drink at Boyo-so becomes quite attractive.

Off Piste Skiing and Riding

Grand Hirafu Ski Resort offers lots of nooks and crannies in which to play off-piste. The terrain ranges from open slopes to glades to tight trees. These days it’s a race to get fresh tracks in the off-piste areas.

Sidecountry Niseko Hirafu

Niseko Hirafu Ski Area provides access to the number 9 sidecountry gate, the Waterfall Gate. Lines from there can be epic, especially on stormy days.

Gates 3, 4 and 5 are the go-to gates on fine days when the upper lifts are open. Lots of rabid powder hounds start drooling about the prospect of hiking the peak and try to beat the long queues for the single pizza box chair lift.

See the Niseko sidecountry gates page for more information.

You may wish to go on a private Niseko sidecountry/backcountry guided tour.

Note that skiers’ right of Hirafu Ski Resort is out of bounds. The terrain trap of Haru no taki is avalanche prone and has taken lives.


The Niseko peak accessed from Hirafu is also a gateway to other backcountry pursuits.