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Resort

Niseko

Sapporo Chitose Airport
coach or private vehicle
980 metres

Super snowy and justly popular, Niseko has the widest appeal of any of the Japanese ski resorts.

Swaddled in the shadow of Mount Yotei and blessed with perpetual snow – dry, deep and glorious – is Niseko. This is Japan's show-stopper; their internationally-celebrated ski Mecca. It should be compulsory for all skiers and boarders to ride here at least once in their life, but very few do...because if you come one time, we know for a fact you'll be back again. The on- and off-piste bounty demands it. 

Bustling Hirafu village is at the centre of the action off the slopes with its inviting après-scene of fantastic restaurants and buzzy bars. Because the international ski fraternity discovered Niseko in the 00's you'll benefit from a great selection of accommodation and an accessible, English-speaking culture. 

Dinner can be a different affair every night, from mouth-watering local noodles joints, izakayas offering boozy snacks to the more familiar pizza, curry or Thai options; the vast majority is that of characteristically high standards, even a handful of Michelin stars thrown in to the mix.As far as drinking holes go, they are uniformly atmospheric but pleasingly varied – rustic and traditional, sleek and sophisticated, or some just downright quirky. 

Niseko

Resort Card

Beginners:
Intermediate:
Advanced:
Snowboarders:
Après Ski:
Families:

Our Opinion

"Japan’s most sophisticated and complete ski resort, both on and off the mountain. Similar to Whistler, Val d'Isere or Verbier, this is a ski resort you need to put a tick beside and Niseko simply doesn't ever underwhelm or disappoint, even in such esteemed company. Impossible. But there are a few things you should know before focussing exclusively on Niseko for your ski holiday. More so than anywhere else in Japan, Niseko gets very busy over peak dates (Christmas, Chinese New Year, January in general), and this is the only place in Japan where there can be lift queues of any real substance. Consequently, finding fresh tracks is becoming harder and harder, usually meaning we need to venture beyond the tracked-out inbounds territory. And the village, whilst great and enjoying a real buzz, is developing at such a heck of a pace that any sense of being in Japan is being slowly, though increasingly, erased."

Nick Coates Founder
Niseko
42.8597°N 140.7418°E

Skiing in Niseko

In a nutshell: Niseko's a winner for everyone. Varied terrain incorporates everything from gentle, sweeping runs lined with snow-dusted trees to heart-in-your-mouth off-piste skiing. A 'Niseko United' ski pass provides access to four ski areas; Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Hanazono and Annupuri, all conveniently interconnected on the mountain or bu ski shuttles between the base stations.

Up to the tree line, lifts are speedy and reliable; we love the bad-weather hooded chairs – a little respite from the snowfall – and the pleasing absence of surface-tows! Higher up, things are decidedly creakier, but the affectionately named suicide chairs get you almost to the summit all the same.

Off Piste & Backcountry

A liberal attitude towards off-piste exploration means that most of the land within the resort boundaries is your playground. There's also some seriously challenging backcountry skiing, accessed via gates off the mountain peak. Think huge expanses of powder in back bowls pitch perfect tree skiing. 

Different Snow can organise excursions, with safety-conscious experienced and qualified guides, to nearby peaks such as Iwaonupurri, Nihonupurri, Chisenupuri and even towering Mount Yotei – surely the ultimate!

Also, having based yourself in Niseko you should also factor in day(s) in nearby ski resorts such as Moiwa, Rusutsu and Kiroro - we wouldn't usually recommend staying in either one of these purpose-built ski resorts (the off-mountain experience is a drag, compared to Niseko), but their respective off-piste bounty is truly outstanding. This is your opportunity to escape other people, finding your very own powder stash away from the hordes.

Safety is vital – make a knowledgeable guide, the Niseko Avalanche website and the savvy gate patrollers your best friends. As anywhere else in the world, it is paramount to have proper avalanche safety equipment before venturing into the backcountry. This includes a beacon, probe, and shovel in your backcountry pack, as well as the knowledge of how to use it properly.

Experts

There are a handful of more challenging runs from Niseko Village and on the Alpen Super Course – mainly un-groomed runs, kept fairly even by the regular snowfall. But if you're looking for an abundance of black runs, you won't find them here – but you will find true satisfaction by heading off-piste for an ultimate powder adventure.

Miharashi and Strawberry Fields are well-known tree runs, but the landscape can also be pretty open, making Niseko a great place to perfect your powder skiing without the worry of too many trees.

Moiwa, an adjacent resort connected by shuttle bus but not part of the Niseko United ski pass, is well worth a day trip – even more so if it's been snowing hard. Steal first tracks on a fresh powder day on the un-groomed Giant Run or Shirakaba Slopes, this being the stuff of dreams.

Intermediates

Niseko is an intermediate's paradise. You can happily cruise away the days perfecting your technique on sweeping pistes ideal for high-speed carvers; and it's a great place to stretch yourself by trying tougher slopes or delving into that delicious powder. Giving skies mean that sometimes the powder can be knee-deep, posing a new challenge if you're used to the hard-packed stuff.

If you get a taste for it, head over to Annupuri and Hanazono, which offer groomed runs as well as the chance to dip your skis in and try a little side-country skiing.

Novice skiers & snowboarders

This is a great place to make your first forays, with innumerable wide, well-groomed pistes. More snow means less ice, and fewer embarrassing tumbles!

All four of the main ski areas have runs for beginners – you can take your pick, or explore them all by taking a shuttle bus between them. As you improve you'll soon be able connect on the mountain. We think the Niseko Village base area is the best beginner's hangout.

Accommodation

Niseko's range of accommodation sets it apart, with some particularly enticing high-end options. That said, there really is something to suit everyone, from cheap and cheerful lodges to characterful boutique hotels, snug townhouses and chalets, a couple of luxury ryokans and plenty of apartments.

 

Hirafu Village is where most choose to stay, for the convenience and a buzzy village atmosphere. However, there are also options out at Niseko Village and Hanazono, two quieter bases. Truth be told, there are so many options in Niseko - the following is merely a hand-picked selection of our trusted favourites.

Hotels & Ryokans

Luxurious, verging on the lavish. Close to the slopes, this is Niseko’s ultimate boutique hotel.

Deluxe
Hirafu (Upper Village)

Discreet elegance in this classic, yet modern Japanese inn. Zen & the art of skiing...

Opulent
near Hanazono

Boutique hotel in the centre of Hirafu Village - shops, bars & restaurants surround.

Medium
Hirafu (Middle Village)

In Niseko Village, with direct slope access. Nice rooms, funky interiors & lovely onsen.

First Class
Niseko Village

A great value 104-room hotel, just outside of Hirafu village. Think urban chic.

Medium
Kabayama

An authentic Japanese Inn, complete with onsen and kaiseki dining.

Opulent
Konbu Onsen

An affordable 'pension', with friendly Japanese owners.

Budget
Hirafu Village

Embrace wabi-sabi aesthetics in a quiet ski-in, but not quite ski-out location.

First Class
Niseko Village

Homely lodge in a middle village location, western style rooms with shared facilities.

Budget
Hirafu (Middle Village)

Apartments, Chalets & Houses

The ultimate six-bedroom chalet, right in the heart of the village. It's oh..so nice!

Opulent
Hirafu (Middle Village)

A unique two-bedroom property; starkly modern externally, supremely comfortable within.

First Class
Kabayama

Brand new, with the best....everything (location, views, restaurant, service...etc)

Deluxe
Hirafu (Upper Village)

Two five-bedroom chalets, next door to each other, set in pretty woodland.

First Class
Hirafu Village

Several unique ‘konkuriito’ (concrete) townhouses scattered throughout the village.

First Class
Hirafu (Lower Village)

Ski-in, ski-out apartments and hotel rooms, at the base of the gondola.

Deluxe
Hirafu (Upper Village)

Niseko's one and only ski-in ski-out, stand-alone luxury chalet.

First Class
Hirafu (Upper Village)

A luxurious house, with views of majestic Mt. Yotei from the balcony, bedroom, or jacuzzi.

Deluxe
Hirafu (Middle Village)

A selection of unique self-contained, free-standing houses across the village.

Medium
Hirafu (Lower Village)

Ski Guiding & Activities in Niseko

Want to know where the secret powder stashes are on Niseko mountain? Want to find those perfectly-spaced trees you saw on that YouTube clip? Hiring an off-piste guide in Niseko is de rigueur and no-one ever regrets it. And why limit yourself to Niseko? The resorts of Moiwa, Rusutsu and Kiroro are all within easy reach and each offers something very different. 

 

Close to Niseko are several of Japan's best cat ski operations - and we've skied them all. Some are better suited to strong-intermediates, others for the more experienced powder monkey. Let us advise which may be ideally suited to you. We can also include snow mobile and snow-shoe activities, as well as authentic Japanese experiences to try offer you a sense of place.

On the mountain

Only a 40-min drive away from the Niseko crowds, you can ski untracked lines all day.

Join some like-minded souls and head out with a guide to seek powder, wherever it may be!

Hire an experienced, qualified, locally-knowledgeable private ski or snowboard guide.

Only 12 lucky people get to ski or ride the deep powder of Weiss mountain each day.

Skiing in the powder snow requires a different technique - once learned, paradise awaits.

Off the mountain

Day trip to a harbourside city and Nikka whisky's prestigious distillery.

Lunchtime classes, centred on authentic Japanese food. You get to eat what you create!

A traditional Japanese inn - sleep on a futon, soak in an onsen and dine kaiseki style.

Suggested itineraries featuring Niseko

These suggested itineraries will give you a starting point for what your ski holiday to Niseko could potentially entail. Sometimes we combine ski resorts and we often cherish the opportunity to explore and experience Japan beyond the ski slopes.

 

We hope these itineraries will inspire, excite and inform you as we begin the planning process. But note: they’re not set departures or tours, as every holiday we plan is completely tailor-made for you - consider these itineraries as inspiration only.

The Japan Ski Holiday - Itinerary
Itinerary

The Japan Ski Holiday

Powder snow, a bit of culture, snow monkeys, onsens and the capital! We can't improve on this.

two weeks
Niseko - Tokyo - Nozawa Onsen - Kyoto
Find out more
Our ‘Classic’ Niseko Itinerary - Itinerary
Itinerary

Our ‘Classic’ Niseko Itinerary

Niseko and then a couple of days in the capital. What more could you possibly want?!

10 days
Niseko - Tokyo
Find out more
Hokkaido Powder Unlimited - Itinerary
Itinerary

Hokkaido Powder Unlimited

An itinerary with a singular objective: to ride the finest, deepest powder snow in Hokkaido.

15 days
Niseko - Asahikawa - Furano
Find out more

Ski Concierge

Different Snow can include transfers, equipment hire, ski school, guiding, backcountry tours, activities, excursions, onsen visits and food hampers in your package. The price you pay will at best be cheaper, at worst be the same, as what you would pay locally. In Niseko, it is wise to have everything booked in advance; it's a popular resort and availability is often a problem.

We can also make restaurant reservations for you, which are essential during peak periods. Different Snow have created a Niseko Dining Guide, as well as a Onsen Guide – call us and we'll happily send you copies.

Lift Passes

The Niseko United all-mountain ski pass covers all four resorts. Moiwa, an adjacent resort linked by shuttle bus, is not included – a separate lift pass is required if you chose to pop over on a powder day. Night skiing until 9pm is included on all lift passes.

There is a 1,000 Yen lift pass deposit included which will be immediately refunded when you return the pass to one of the ticket machines at the end of your stay.

Children are from 7-12 years, youths from 13-15 years and seniors are 60 and over. Other than that, you are an adult. Oh, and anyone under 7 gets their pass free!

Equipment Hire

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned powder hound, there is an extensive range of high quality skis, snowboards, boots and helmets. Based on where your accommodation is, we will choose the most convenient rental supplier – but always staying well away from one or two cowboys who have recently opened up in Niseko.

For those staying in middle or lower Hirafu Village, the rental shops will allow you to store your skis and poles up at the top of the village each evening.

Lessons

There are several reputable ski schools operating in Niseko – and one or two Johnny-come-lately cowboys. It's all rather unregulated. We work with those we know and trust, with excellent English-speaking, fully-qualified instructors. When making our choice, we will consider where your accommodation is in relation to the various meeting points and what standard of skier/boarder you are; some excel for beginners whereas others specialise in those wanting to improve their powder technique.

Transfers to and from Niseko

You need to fly to Sapporo Chitose Airport, which ordinarily is a domestic flight from Tokyo, though are a few direct services in from Hong Kong, Australia and Helsinki.

From the airport its is a two to three hour transfer, either by coach or private charter.

A friendly word of warning for you ferociously independent travellers out there, watching every penny. Yo may not want to use Different Snow, which is fine. But be careful. Those who try book these transfers themselves often (usually?) end up with either no reservations because payment didn't go through the complicated Japanese admin process (though you don't know this) / getting picked up or dropped off miles away from where they need to be / using a cowboy operator, with poor vehicles and operating an undependable service. And arriving in Sapporo Chitose Airport and finding out you have no reservations, and all coaches / taxis / private transfers are booked solid for the next 48 hours, ain't fun. Don't be that guy.

And no, you can't get to Niseko by bullet-train from Tokyo. The new Shinkansen tracks to Sapporo (which will route via Niseko) doesn't open until 2028 - don't believe what other ill-informed tour operators tell you.

What our customers say

4.5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

We had a trip of a lifetime holiday

Different Snow presented us with an excellent itinerary to suit our budget and accommodated specific requests. We had a whistlestop tour of Tokyo followed by great powder skiing in Hakuba then a cultural exploration of Kyoto. A fascinating and rewarding trip!

S Macquaker  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Very happy honeymooners...

Wonderful experience from start to finish. The binder they send you is like your Bible when you are out there. It has everything in you will need, from hotel addresses to train times, to advice about what to do whilst you're there. Trust the binder! Definitely will be using them for my next Japan trip.

Ashleigh  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

Please visit our TrustPilot page to read the full reviews.

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