During winter, Niseko becomes a paradise for powder skiing and the scenery is strikingly unusual. The volcanic range is littered with natural thermal hot springs and relaxing onsens, to soak away the day’s woes. Each year the resort receives an abundance of the lightest, fluffiest, driest snow you can’t even imagine, 15 metres of it! Fresh powder almost every day, you can't get tired of that.
Niseko Annupuri mountain is actually split into four village bases each linked by ski lifts and shuttle buses under Niseko United and all is covered by the Niseko All Mountain pass. The main hub is the vibrant village of Hirafu. More of a small town with endless bars, restaurants and accommodation options. Niseko Village and An'nupuri are smaller and offer the ultimate ski in, ski out convenience. Last but not least is the peaceful Hanazono, which sits a little further out. Here you can enjoy some wonderful tree skiing and the incredible Strawberry Fields run.
You won't want to miss Mount Yotei looming in the distance. Often shrouded in cloud, on a clear day you’ll never get tired of the lonely mountain rising out of the plains of Hokkaido into the deep blue sky. But it’s not just the landscape that makes Niseko so special, it's also the food. Tourists come in their throngs to sample Hokkaido’s finest, freshest produce. Being an island and so close to the sea (you may be able to glimpse it on the bluest of days) it’s famous for seafood. An unusual delicacy for a ski resort and a thoroughly delicious one at that. It’s not hard to see why it’s consistently voted Japan’s top ski resort.
Skiing in the resort
What you will enjoy is amazingly incredible snow. It seems to fall constantly all season and whilst the resort is open from December to April, it’s January and February that brings days of skiing waist-deep powder and the softest pistes we've seen. Hair-raisingly steep doesn't exist here, but that’s not why you go skiing in Niseko.
Heavy snowfall means on-piste snow is incredible you cut through the lumps and bumps like slicing through a cloud and the off-piste is truly exceptional – wide open bowls and plenty of tree skiing. For the most part, out of bounds skiing in Japan is forbidden but thankfully Niseko is the exception to the rule. Gated areas at the top of the mountain open up for the more adventurous skiers who want to explore the backcountry, giving you access to a powder-filled paradise. Just make sure you take a guide.
With the cruisier on-piste terrain, Niseko is suitable for all abilities, a great place to learn and fantastic to improve your powder technique. Explore the wide variety of slopes the mountain has to offer. If you fancy something slightly different, go night skiing. It’s a surreal experience skiing after dark, especially through the trees, but means you can carry on long after the sun goes down!
Fancy even more adventure then don’t overlook Mount Yotei. Where else would you get the chance to ski down into the bowl of an active volcano? 20 seconds of the best powder conditions you will ever experience, and then you get to ride the outside of the mountain, which can take up to an hour of exhilarating skiing.
To borrow from Velvet; Niseko, from piste to powder is ‘soft, soft, soft’.
The après scene is a little more chilled than some European destinations. But you can find the party to dance on the tables if you look hard enough. Hirafu is home to some great little bars and pubs including one you enter through a fridge door, a great spot for some funky blues and jazz.
But really it’s all about the food. It’s delicious. We recommend venturing out to sample as much as you can. Most of the restaurants are in Hirafu, where there’s everything from local delicacies (sushi, ramen and sukiyaki) to good old western grub and even Michelin starred French cuisine. So whether you’re at a lively Yakitori (grilled meat skewers) or sitting back around low tables for some Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) it’s a unique and delicious après experience.
The other villages are quieter, however, buses run between Niseko skiing village and Hirafu until the early hours and the other villages until late evening so you can easily pop out for a meal and explore Hirafu – it doesn't take long.
Unsure whether Niseko is right for you? check out our Niseko vs. Rusutsu blog to see if Rusutsu may be more up your street.