Niseko United is Hokkaido’s largest joint ski area, an umbrella name for one mountain with four bases. Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Village, Niseko Mt Resort Grand Hirafu, and Niseko Hanazono Resort. The region receives a massive annual snowfall of more than 42 feet (13 m), producing an average snow depth of 12 feet (3.7 m).
The powder here (if you haven’t heard already) is phenomenal. Niseko is located in the western part of Hokkaido, and just happens to sit in a direct line with Siberian weather fronts. The ski area is inundated with a bounty of snow from these storms, which has led to Niseko being named the world’s second snowiest resort.
The vast terrain of Niseko United offers myriad off-piste options and phenomenal tree skiing as well as impeccably groomed slopes and beginner areas for intermediates and learners.
The resort has gained immense popularity since being the first to firmly grab the attention of Westerners who realized they could ski thigh to waist-deep snow straight off the chair lifts without hiking for miles or spending thousands on helicopters.
Now Niseko is brimming with brand new Western accommodation as well as traditional Japanese lodgings. Restaurants are at a level of sophistication surpassing those of many other Japanese resorts. The village heaves with nightlife, dozens of onsen (hot springs baths) and apres options, and Western-style gentrified services such as bakeries and elite liquor stores are now part of the scene here.
The nearby town of Kutchan has a sister city the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz.
Resort Lodging, Accommodation & Hotels
There are three main areas to choose to stay in Niseko Hirafu, Niseko Village, and Hanazono. The main and largest area is Hirafu which is further broken into three areas. Main Village, East Village, and West Village.
The Hirafu Main Village offers an extensive choice of Western self-contained apartments, condos, and hotel rooms along with Japanese styled accommodation with some ski in ski out, and many a short walk to the lift. Prestige properties include MUSE Niseko, Loft Niseko, Aspect, and if you are looking for more value Niseko Landmark View.
The Niseko Village offers ski in ski out accommodation via a gondola that departs from the Hilton Niseko Village or you can choose to stay next door at the Green Leaf Niseko Village. Hanazono has the new flagship ski in ski out Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono.
Niseko Ski and Ride Terrain
If you like to ski powder, powder, and more powder, then Niseko has you covered, literally! It’s not just the staggering amount of snow that sets Niseko apart, but it’s also the dryness of the powder that spoils you for choice. The Grand Hirafu area offers 30 trails over 803 acres of mainly fall-line skiing with a vertical drop of 3,051 ft (930 m). From the top of Grand Hirafu, you can access the other three ski areas.
Niseko Village has some fabulous long runs and off-piste skiing with a vertical drop of 2,919 ft (890m) and 27 marked trails to choose from. Skiing back down to the village, you are greeted by the impressive Hilton Hotel that rises out of the wilderness like an interstellar starship.
The Hanazono area offers a smaller variety of terrain including an abundance of friendly intermediate slopes along with a dedicated beginner area. the Strawberry and Blueberry Fields are a must-ride on a powder day, and if you are into pipe and parks, Hanazono has you covered with world-class facilities.
The Annupuri ski area is another smaller offering with plenty of groomed runs that interconnect with the other ski areas and offers a vertical drop of 2,480 ft (756 m).
How To Get To Niseko
The New Chitose Airport is the gateway to Niseko and there are shuttle bus transfers from the airport to your accommodation and the transfer takes around 2.5 hours. If you are an experienced traveler, there are also options to travel by train and bus.
Niseko Lift Tickets
There is a combined ski pass that grants you access to all four ski areas. All four areas usually open the first week in December and run through until early April. There are passes for adults, children, youth, and seniors. Niseko is a member resort of the IKON ski pass and the Mountain Collective.
Niseko Ski School
There are five ski schools to choose from. At Grand Hirafu, there is the Grand Hirafu Snow School and the Gosnow Ski School. Niseko International Snowsports School (NISS) operates out of Hirafu and Hanazono and there is exceptional beginner terrain at Hanazono. Niseko Village Snow School operates out of Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri Ski Snowboard School operates out of Annupuri.
Resort Things To Do, Activities, Facilities & Tours
The main reason to visit Niseko is the powder skiing and relaxing in the onsens (Japanese hot springs). Other winter activities include: Reindeer Sledding, Snow Rafting, Tube Park, Guided Snowshow Tours, Cross-Country Skiing, Hanazono Powder Guides, Snowmobile Tours, Weiss Cat Skiing, and nature Hiking programs.
Niseko Cat Skiing
Cat Skiing is available through Weiss Powder Cats and offers 8 lucky people their own private ski resort for the day. The program is operated by Hanazono Resort at My Weisshorn, which was once a ski resort but is now exclusively used for cat skiing. The terrain is mostly intermediate and the powder turns are endless.
Niseko Restaurants & Dining
A trip to Niseko is a feast for foodies and will have you coming back for more at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everything you ever wanted to experience eating and fine dining is available from over 100 restaurants and bars. The main area for dining is Hirafu Village. In busy times bookings are essential. Mouth-watering traditional dishes include Sushi, Udon, Tofu, Tempura, Yakitori, Sashimi, Ramen, Donburi, Natto, Oden, Tamagoyaki, and Soba. The seafood is outstanding and so are the barbecue dishes and delicate pastries, soups, local beers, and wines. Also, beware some restaurants are cash only.
Niseko Après & Nightlife
The nightlife in Niseko in Hirafu is rocking with music spots, quite local beer bars, and wine bars. It’s only a short walk through the powder from one good time to the next. Wild Bill’s is a popular nightspot as is Jam Café Bar for music and a great relaxed vibe.
Niseko offers one of the best ski resort shopping experiences in Japan. Modern ski shops, clothing, souvenirs, and accessories. The central hub of the best shopping is along the main street of Hirafu-zaka.