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Niseko

Since hitting the big time in the nineties, Niseko’s quickly found a spot among the titans: it has some of the best backcountry on the planet, and is one of the world’s snowiest resorts. The powder hasn’t gone to its head though, and half the charm here's the chilled, culture-rich Japanese character it’s long been loved for.

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At a glance: • World-beating powder • Japan's premier ski resort • Gourmet East Asian cuisine

Great for: • Snow sure • Off-piste • Foodies

Since hitting the big time in the nineties, Niseko’s quickly found a spot among the titans: it has some of the best backcountry on the planet, and is one of the world’s snowiest resorts. The powder hasn’t gone to its head though, and half the charm here's the chilled, culture-rich Japanese character it’s long been loved for.

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Niseko Resort

Niseko’s famously the capital of the “potato kingdom” - North Japan’s island of Hokkaido - but we don’t just ski here for the spuds. It also reigns supreme in the snow department, receiving a mighty 50ft (the length of a bus) of ridiculously dry, light fluff each season.

Overlooked by the formidable silhouette of Mount Yotei (an extinct volcano, Hokkaido’s answer to Fuji), Mount Niseko-Annupuri is the home of all this wonderful white stuff. Its ski area, ‘Niseko United’ is split into 4 sectors and wrapping around the bottom of the mountain, each sector has a resort base of the same name.

At one end is Annupuri - the peaceful one - where alpine-style chalets, steaming onsens and a few high-end eateries edge into the wonderful wilderness of the National Park.

Niseko United’s most central is ski-in, ski-out Niseko Village (‘Higashiyama’, back in the day). This is a funky hub of traditional wooden Machiya townhouses, laden with boutiques, galleries, spa hotels and chic Asian restaurants.

The largest is Grand Hirafu, a town where clusters of chalets, restaurants and shiny apartment blocks draw skiers off the slopes and onto the main après-ski stage. Neighbouring Hanazano (at the far end of the ski area) is on the smaller side but has big offerings, including an adventure park, multiple snow parks, a 3 Michelin star restaurant and the 308 Snowsports Centre.

Gondolas and chair lifts directly link each of the villages with its ski area, and more lifts and trails seamlessly connect the 4 ski areas on the mountain. You can also get from village to village by a shuttle bus (usually included in the lift pass) and a fifteen minute bus ride from Hirafu takes you to the city of Kutchan, home to more restaurants, a bigger nightlife and urban accommodation.

Wherever you stay, the main event’s up on the mountain. The green, red and black pistes that snake down the sectors mightn’t have the mileage of the 3 Valleys, but their powdery make-up is a delight to ski. The backcountry – well it’s like nothing else on earth: seemingly bottomless and heavenly light.

Stats & FAQ

Location: Southwest Hokkaido, Japan

Established: 1923

Open: November - May

Downhill: 48km

View our detailed Niseko snow forecast or snow report and see all live webcams, piste maps, road and travel maps and lift pass prices. For a picture of historic snow conditions see the snow depths month by month with our Niseko snow history.

Nearest Airport & Transfer Time:
120 km from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport2.5 hours by public bus
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • 18km 30%

  • 25km 40%

  • 18km 30%

Top Altitude:1,308m
Bottom Altitude:300m
Resort Altitude:300m
Longest run:5.6km
Slope Orientation:N
Vertical Drop:900m
Skiable Vertical:1200m
Night Skiing:Yes
Glacier:No

Snow Report

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  • Forecast
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Web Cam

Niseko web cams
Downhill Runs:48km
Beginner slopes:30%
Intermediate:40%
Advanced slopes:30%
Lift Pass Price: £173 (adult 6 day)
Nearby resorts:

Skiing/BoardingSkiing in Niseko

All areas have fantastic facilities for beginners: in Niseko village, after conquering the basics on the beginner area, do the rounds on the cleverly named ‘Next Stage’, then follow a confidence-boosting succession of greens from the Country Road chair, all the way back to base. Hanzano has less by way of green runs, but it does tend to be quieter – the 3.3km ‘Silver Dream’ beginner run is the longest run in resort, ideal for building up a rhythm. The other sectors have their fair share of greens too, with favourites including the tree-lined ‘Holiday’ in Hirafu, and ‘Paradise’ at the bottom half of Annupuri.

If you’re a red run skier or snowboarder, the mountain’s yours. Head straight to the peak where you can ski in any direction - ‘Wonderland’ starts a trail of reds (and greens if legs need a break) back to Niseko Village or ‘Youtei Sunset’, ‘Crystal Garden’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ snake down to Hanzano along the edge of the ski area. If you’re prepared to delve into expert territory, go to the top of Annupuri: after a short-ish black, the route down gets progressively easy via reds, then greens (with a detour via black ‘Challenge’ if you fancy it).

Experts can dart down the short blacks from the top of the mountain, then link reds and blacks down to each of the villages. We love the ‘Misoshiru’ in Niseko Village – also known as Miso Soup, it somehow seems to be different every time you’re on it.

Hanazono’s your place if you’re into freestyle, with three terrain parks – easily the best in Hokkaido. Put simply, Niseko has some of the best off piste on the planet. Easy-to-reach gates serve as entry points here, for hours of divine, floating descents. Get the Hanazono Power Guides to show you the Niseko Back Bowls from the top of the Hanazono ski area - it’s a 15 minute climb to the peak but that’s soon forgotten - the northeast bowl is crammed with 600ft of powder, while the north and south faces have 1200 and 1800 vertical feet of the fluffiest white, untainted by rocks or hollows. The Blueberry and Strawberry fields are a thrill-hunter’s heaven - head through the forest for steep gradients, sharp turns and more quality snow.

Niseko Apres Ski

We love that ski holidays here aren’t all about the skiing – they’re also a cultural rollercoaster through Japan’s traditions. The hub of après ski is the Hirafu area, where the Ice Bar is seriously cool… crafted each year by ice-carving eccentrics, you can take a shot of your own poison from a glass made of… you guessed it. Popular with seasonaires, Wild Bill’s has the Tardis effect – a small dance floor with all the noise and crowds of a nightclub.

Just down the road, Kutchan has a fabulous nightlife if a late one’s on the cards; the quirky Gyu Bar (a.k.a the Fridge Door Bar) is a good port of call for cocktails, sipped to the soundtrack of upbeat jazz - try the ‘Apple Pie’, for a taste of our beloved dessert with less of the KCAL.

In Niseko Village, The Cigar Bar’s your best bet for a more reserved evening sipping mind-blowing whisky, distilled just down the road. On its own level is Milk Kobo, a cake store that’s slap bang in the middle of the village, which sells heavenly baked goods, straight from the oven.

A world away from the Alps, dining out here gives the full Asian experience and most you’ll eat will have been grown or caught in Hokkaido. For some of the best home-grown grub, head to A-Bu-Cha in Hirafu which is a snug place to hole up in; order the Hokkaido salmon and veg Hotpot, and watch as it’s cooked in front of your eyes. Hanazono’s Restaurant Asperges is fabulous for fine dining, where head chef Hiroshi Nakamichi has three very well-deserved Michelin stars.

If you feel peckish on the piste, pop into the 1000m hut at Ace Pair Lift #3, for a mix of Japanese classics and Western home comforts, as well as their uber-chocolatey Niseko hot chocolate with lashings of thick cream. If you hear a bell ringing, it’s probably not last orders quite yet – it’s a long-standing tradition here to ring the bell outside and pray for the safety of everyone on the mountain.

Hanazono’s your place for activities, with a host of things to try from ziplining to snow tubing and winter rafting. Horse-rides are another popular pastime here or if you’re in search of pure relaxation, head straight to the nearest Onsen – dotted around the villages, a soak in these volcanic springs is a tradition engrained in Japan’s history.

Best time to go

Best time to ski Niseko

When is the best time to ski Niseko?

Niseko’s clearly in Mother Nature’s favour – every year, Eurasian winds gather moisture from the East Sea, forming snow clouds that drop some of the lightest, driest and deepest powder on the planet. Peak time to enjoy the white stuff is December through to February, when barely a day goes by without a dusting (if you’re caught in the middle of a snowfall, birch-lined runs like ‘Silver Dream’ should provide shelter).

Combine this with a trip for the Chinese New Year, and you’ll find yourself joining in with Japan’s biggest annual party.

March brings the sun and while children will prefer the milder climate, the powder can be a bit more temperamental. As a result, the focus shifts to skiing hard in the morning and retiring to an Onsen for the remainder of the day (you won’t hear us complaining!).

Peak Dates

Christmas in Niseko is epic – Santa’s been known to deliver incredible snow in recent years, and we’re hoping Niseko stays on his ‘nice list’ for many years to come. Browse Niseko Christmas ski holidays ‣

Ring in the New Year in Niseko, with a varied schedule that transforms this peaceful island into one big celebration. Browse Niseko New Year ski holidays ‣

February Half Term in Niseko's a blast, good snow, good food and the biggest blow-out in the calendar – if the dates coincide, Chinese New Year here is unmissable. Browse Niseko Half Term ski holidays ‣

You're likely to see some unforgettable sights during Easter in Niseko, when the sunshine brings out the magnificent Mt. Yotei in all its glory. Browse Niseko Easter ski holidays ‣

Niseko Ratings & Customer Feedback
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Average Rating 5 out of 5
The cool kids call this place ‘Ni-sick-o’, and the rest of us know it as a powder paradise – but we’re all in agreement that it’s a hop, skip and a jump ahead on the snowboarding scene. Racking up the numbers, this Japanese gift sits on its own pedestal, seeing 15m of dry, feathery snow each season. Making... + more
Rory,
5 out of 5
Blessed with a gargantuan average snowfall of 15m per season, Niseko has more fresh powder dumped on its slopes than any other resort on Earth. Blistering in straight from Siberia, the pow here is the lightest, driest, fluffiest you’ll ever experience. Previously bound by strict laws which kept all visitors wi... + more
Bryony,
5 out of 5
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"NISEKO SNOWBOARDING"

Rory
5/ out of 5
The cool kids call this place ‘Ni-sick-o’, and the rest of us know it as a powder paradise – but we’re all in agreement that it’s a hop, skip and a jump ahead on the snowboarding scene. Racking up the numbers, this Japanese gift sits on its own pedestal, seeing 15m of dry, feathery snow each season. Making the most of this world-class snow is the Hanazono: 3 multi-level terrain parks sit within its boundaries, where some of the most hard-core freestyling unfolds. The main park pulls in intermediates and churns them out as pros at a city-like speed, challenging daring boarders to massive lines, all to the buzzing backdrop of high-octane drum and bass. But, parks aren’t the only thing that wraps boarders around Niseko’s little finger. Freeride: one word that makes expert snow boarders weak at the knees, and this place is like no other. Take that 50ft of fluff, squeeze out the moisture, enthusiastically spray it over every nook and cranny, and you have Niseko’s backcountry. The Strawberry Fields is the crème de la crème here; tear through the trees, kick up blinding sprays of pow and land your best tricks on the natural pillows and banks that line the route. Correct country aside, this smashing snowboarding itinerary feels a lot like a real life Super Mario Bros session…

"Niseko's AMAZING off piste"

Bryony
5/ out of 5
Blessed with a gargantuan average snowfall of 15m per season, Niseko has more fresh powder dumped on its slopes than any other resort on Earth. Blistering in straight from Siberia, the pow here is the lightest, driest, fluffiest you’ll ever experience. Previously bound by strict laws which kept all visitors within the resort boundaries, this epic back and side country has been freed up for us powder hounds to enjoy. Just bear in mind that certain areas are still strictly no-go, and once you’re through the gates, you’re completely on your own (bringing a buddy is a MUST!). But all this is totally worth it because nowhere else can guarantee powder so deep you’ll be snorkelling down the mountainside, frozen smoke rolling over your shoulders. Drop through gates 1 or 2 straight into the An’nupuri bowls for massive verticals, big-ass cliffs and super deep trees to carve your way through. Let me warn you: after one taste of this route, you’ll be looping it all week long because there’s more incredible lines down through these bowls than you could ski all season. Traverse from gates 3 or 4 to the western flank, and after a small hike up to Mt Niseko’s peak there’s an awesomely long run all the way down through untouched champagne stashes which leads you back through the Hanazono trees. If you’re more inclined to stay inside the boundaries, I think this part of the resort is a real treat. I could spend days tearing through the lines of silver birches, making fresh tracks on down through the Strawberry and Blueberry Field areas.
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Rory
Bryony