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Niseko Ski Resorts: See Why the World is Wild for 'Japow'! (Guide/Hotels/Tickets)

Niseko Ski Resorts: See Why the World is Wild for 'Japow'! (Guide/Hotels/Tickets)

Date published: 9 January 2020
Last updated: 15 February 2021

Head to any of the Niseko ski resorts in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and you'll hear everyone raving about the "Japow" - a portmanteau of "Japanese powder." You'll soon understand why!

The Niseko ski resorts are conveniently located southwest of Sapporo City, about a 2-hour drive from New Chitose Airport. Tourists from all over the world visit this area and during the high season, more than half the people there are from overseas, making it a unique place.

Niseko has some of the best Japow - and some of the best powder in the world. The ski resorts here are as fashionable as any you'd find in other renowned areas. Plus the Niseko area offers delicious cuisine, hot springs, and a cheerful atmosphere making for an enjoyable and captivating stay—all of which account for the many repeat visitors.

Niseko Ski Resorts: Enjoy 'Japow' at This Powder Snow Paradise

Niseko Ski Resorts: Enjoy 'Japow' at This Powder Snow Paradise

The burn is reset after one run! In Niseko, you can enjoy luxurious skiing like nowhere else, with abundant snowfalls allowing for constantly changing conditions. Each new day is different than the one before!

The snow that falls in Niseko has more water content compared to other areas in eastern Hokkaido because of its proximity to the sea. So the snow not too light or too heavy, but has just the right quality best described as being an ultra-creamy Japow powder that is a joy to ski.

Niseko is the perfect place to enjoy slopes covered with such powder—and once you try them, you will definitely get hooked!

Wild Off-Piste Skiing

Wild Off-Piste Skiing

The earliest skiers who gave thought to how the great Niseko’s natural environment could be safely enjoyed spent countless long hours with local municipalities constructing what became known as the Niseko Rules:

According to the Hokkaido Niseko Town website, the Niseko Rules are as follows:

1. You must leave the gate outside the ski course.
2. Don't slip out of the ski course through the rope.
3. It is strongly recommended to wear a helmet and avalanche beacon outside the ski course. (This is mandatory from the winter of 2020-2021.)
4. Do not go out of the ski course when the gate is closed.
5. Never enter restricted areas. Search and rescue and investigation activities are excluded.
6. Skiing outside the ski course is prohibited only for elementary school students.

Following these rules ensures being able to arrive at wonderful points by accessing them from the slopes, and if snow and weather conditions permit, the best runs ever!! The thrill of skiing these slopes will hook you like no other, but only if you remember to give top priority to following the Niseko Rules.

When is the Best Time to Ski in Niseko?

When is the Best Time to Ski in Niseko?

The best time for skiing in Niseko is undoubtedly January and February when there is consistent snowfall at the several Niseko ski resorts.

Since Niseko ski resorts see a relatively heavy amount of snow during this period, the ski tracks left behind will be covered in fresh snow immediately, maintaining the ski slope's condition. However, Niseko resorts' high demand during this period means that lift ticket prices are also higher. If you are looking to ski at more affordable prices, try visiting when the crowds are thinner, such as during the early season when the ski slope just opens, or the spring season which begins in March.

This year, due to the La Niña phenomenon, winter is expected to be harsh and accompanied by good snow conditions. Hence, the winter season from 2020 to 2021 might just be the perfect chance to do some skiing in Niseko!

How to Get to the Niseko Ski Resorts

How to Get to the Niseko Ski Resorts

The town of Niseko is approximately two hours away from New Chitose Airport by car. In winter, it is necessary to exercise more caution when driving. Visitors who feel uneasy about driving in winter can consider public transport as an alternative option.

There are buses and taxis from JR Kutchan Station and JR Niseko Station, which are headed for various ski resorts in Niseko's mountain ranges.

JR Train
Rapid Airport train from New Chitose Airport to Otaru Station (72 minutes)  Local trains from Otaru Station to Niseko Station (approximately 90 minutes)

Bus
There are Chūō Buses that run from New Chitose Airport and Sapporo Station to Niseko directly (https://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/niseko-access/).

Once you arrive at Niseko United, which encompasses four ski resorts located on Niseko Annupuri, traveling between ski resorts is exceptionally convenient thanks to the Niseko United Shuttle Bus.

If this is your first time in Japan and you are alone, signing up for a tour can help relieve some of the anxiety from traveling solo. Some of these tours may even greatly minimize hassles by allowing you to book flights and accommodation at the same time. A tour with a translator on board will also help with the language barrier there.

Inside The 4 Main Niseko Ski Resorts

Inside The 4 Main Niseko Ski Resorts

In Niseko, there is a large mountain with an elevation of 1,308 meters called Annupuri. There are four interconnecting resorts spread across its width; the slopes are unique to each terrain.

Collectively these are called Niseko United and have received the Best Snow Resorts award at the World Ski Awards held in Austria for three consecutive years. The unique features of each slope afford all levels of skiing for beginners to pros.

1. Niseko HANAZONO Resort: The Largest Terrain Park in Hokkaido

1. Niseko HANAZONO Resort: The Largest Terrain Park in Hokkaido

Due to its location in the north, sunlight does not reach Niseko HANAZONO Resort directly even in the day. As a result, the snow condition does not change much, which means visitors can experience fluffy powder snow for the entire day. The ski trails available include routes with broad and gentle slopes as well as ungroomed trails where you can enjoy powder snow to your heart's content.

Also, HANAZONO Resort is also home to "HANAZONO Parks," tricky terrain parks fitted with jumping platforms and hurdles. With the most extensive terrain parks in Hokkaido, HANAZONO Resort is definitely a must if you want to challenge yourself!

The official website for Niseko HANAZONO Resort is updated with the latest information about lift tickets, discounts on rental fees and promotional deals, so be sure to check it out.

Lift tickets
Niseko HANAZONO Resort and its neighboring "Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu" share a common lift ticket.

●Partial Price List for the HANAZONO-Grand Hirafu Lift Ticket (Regular season: December 11, 2020 – March 21, 2021)
・5-Hour Ticket - Adults: 5,200 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 4,100 yen; Elementary school students: 3,100 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: 6,300 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 5,100 yen; Elementary school students: 3,800 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adults: 48,300 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 38,700 yen; Elementary school students: 29,000 yen
Season Ticket - Adults: 100,800 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 75,600 yen; Elementary school students: 60,500 yen

Ski school
"Niseko International Snowsports School (NISS)" is a school directly run by the ski resort. Staffed by instructors from all over the world, the school offers lessons in languages besides Japanese and English. "Magic carpets" with canopies have been set up at the school, so students can easily access the practice area even on their skis.

Rentals
"NISEKO SPORTS" is a rental shop in HANAZONO Resort managed directly by the resort. Here is where you can get reliable advice and fitting services when you rent ski equipment. However, do take note that goggles and gloves are not available for rent at HANAZONO Resort, so be sure to bring your own, or purchase them from the shop.

Partial List of Rental Fees
・Premium Range - Ski/Snowboard only
1 Day: 5,000 yen; 2 Days: 9,500 yen; 3 Days: 14,000 yen
・Mid-Range - Ski/Snowboard only
1 Day: 4,000 yen; 2 Days: 7,500 yen; 3 Days: 11,000 yen

Current Measures Against COVID-19
Shops and facilities are disinfected, sterilized and cleaned./ Sanitizers are available./ Spaces will be disinfected after every customer leaves./ Ventilation in shops and within facilities is ensured./ Partitions have been installed./ Staff are required to wear masks, wash their hands, use sanitizers, gargle and undergo temperature checks./ The number of customers within the shop space will be regulated and distancing between seats will be enforced./ Customers who are unwell will be barred from entering the shops./ Customers are required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks.

2. Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu: The Largest Ski Resort in Niseko!

2. Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu: The Largest Ski Resort in Niseko!

Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort in Niseko United. Thanks to the wide range of ski trails and slopes available, even intermediate and expert skiers will find something interesting to do here.

In fact, many people visit Grand Hirafu to challenge the "Super Course," a ski trail in which multiple elements such as steep slopes and undulations are condensed onto a swamp-like terrain where snow accumulates easily.

We recommend the "Miharashi Course," where skiiers can attempt glade skiing through the forest for those who wish to experience Niseko's legendary Japow.

Visitors who simply want to enjoy the beautiful scenery while skiing leisurely can head to the open area, which is more than 1,000 meters above sea level and has a view unobstructed by trees.

With hotels, restaurants and shops available at the foot of the mountain, visitors can ski to their hearts' content the entire day!

Lift tickets
Grand Hirafu shares common lift tickets with Niseko HANAZONO Resort.

Ski school
Private and group lessons are held at Grand Hirafu and are available in English as well. Beginners will be carefully taught from scratch, starting from how to put on skis when on snow. Visitors who can already ski can take up private lessons and have the instructors guide them to the best spots for skiing.

Home to the largest skiing school for children in Niseko, Grand Hirafu is a highly recommended resort for families. Parents can challenge the harder ski trails while their children are practicing in the skiing school.

Rentals
Grand Hirafu boasts a wide range of rental equipment, from the basics, meant for building foundations, to the latest models from the world's top brands like "OGASAKA SKI" and "BLASTRACK." One of the rental plans available covers the entire set of equipment, including a pair of skis, ski gear, a hat and gloves, which means that you could arrive empty-handed but still get to ski here!

Partial List of Rental Fees
・Full Set (Standard) – 1 Day Rental
Adults: 10,000yen; Senior Citizens: 8,000 yen; Kids: 8,000 yen
Ski Set/Snowboard Set (Standard) – 1 Day Rental
Adults: 5,300 yen; Senior Citizens: 4,240 yen; Kids: 4,240 yen

Make your reservations online to get a 10% discount! Visitors can proceed to rent the equipment on the same day after making a prior reservation. Please check the resort's official web page (available in both Japanese and English) for more details.

Current Measures Against COVID-19
Shops and facilities are disinfected, sterilized and cleaned./ Sanitizers are available./ Spaces will be disinfected after every customer leaves./ Ventilation in shops and within facilities is ensured./ Partitions have been installed./ Staff are required to wear masks, wash their hands, use sanitizers, gargle and undergo temperature checks./ The number of customers within the shop space will be regulated and distancing between seats will be enforced./ Customers who are unwell will be barred from entering the shops./ Customers are required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks.

For the winter season of 2020 to 2021, the number of visitors boarding the ski lifts will be restricted. Also, rental equipment that comes directly in contact with the skin, such as ski gear and boots, will be fitted with non-woven fabric. Goggles will not be available for rent over this season, so please be sure to bring your own or purchase a new pair from the shop.

  • NISEKO Mt. RESORT Grand HIRAFU
    • Address 204 Yamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, 044-0081
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Hirafu Station (Hakodate Main Line)
    • Phone Number 0136-22-0109

    Reserve a Lift ticket in advance

    • [Advance] Prince x Tokyu x NSD Multi-Resort Premium Lift ticket
      • 1-Day Ticket
      • Adult
      • Weekday
      5,000JPY
      View Deal

    The ticketing website is available only in Japanese. Please use a translation plugin to view it in your language.
    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, details and conditions may vary.

3. Niseko Village Ski Resort: Enjoy a Wide Range of Ski Trails and Activities!

3. Niseko Village Ski Resort: Enjoy a Wide Range of Ski Trails and Activities!

With 27 ski trails, Niseko Village Ski Resort has the largest number of ski trails among the resorts in Niseko United. The beginner trails are located in the lower area of the resort.

Meanwhile, the advanced trails can be found in the upper area of the resort. Here, you can ride the Niseko Gondola that climbs to an altitude of approximately 1,000 meters, and go around to try out the different trails.

There is a wide range of trails with uncompressed snow to choose from so you can ski freely in the Niseko powder.

Besides skiing, the resort offers a variety of snow activities such as reindeer sledding, snowmobiling, snow rafting and so on, so that even visitors coming into contact with the snow for the first time can enjoy the experience powder to their hearts' content.

Lift tickets
There are two types of lift tickets for Village Ski Resort – the morning ticket (opening time – 1:00 p.m.) and the afternoon ticket (12:00 p.m. – closing time).

Partial List of Niseko Village Lift Fees (On-season: December 11, 2020 – March 21, 2021)
・Morning ticket or afternoon ticket - Adults: 5,400 yen; Elementary school students: 3,300 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 4,100 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: 6,200 yen; Elementary school students: 3,800 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 4,700 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adults: 37,400 yen; Elementary school students: 22,400 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 28,700 yen
Season Ticket - Adults: 61,500 yen; Elementary school students: 32,500 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 43,000 yen

Ski school
Niseko Village Snow School (NVSS) is a skiing school that is directly run by the resort. The lessons here are conducted by outstanding instructors from Japan and abroad in various languages, including Japanese and English.

Participants will have their skiing abilities assessed before being assigned to a suitable class. Children from the age of three to 12 who are completely new to skiing or snowboarding can join the "Niseko Kids Snow School" for a fun-filled learning experience.

*Group lessons at the Niseko Village Snow School have been suspended for the 2020-2021 season in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Rentals
Besides adult and children's skis and snowboards, the rental shop also offers high-grade models targeted at adult intermediate and advanced skiers.
*For the season of 2020-2021, goggles, gloves and hats will not be available for rent. These can be bought at the shop.

Partial List of Rental Fees
Ski Set (Skiis, poles and boots) / Snowboard Set (Snowboard and boots) - Standard
1 Day - Adults: 5,900 yen; Kids: 4,500 yen
Ski Wear (Jacket and pants)
1 Day - Adults: 4,800 yen; Kids: 4,300 yen

Current Measures Against COVID-19
Shops and facilities are disinfected, sterilized and cleaned./ Sanitizers are available./ Ventilation in shops and within facilities is ensured./ Staff are required to wear masks, wash their hands, use sanitizers, gargle and undergo temperature checks./ Customers who are unwell will be barred from entering the shops./ Customers are required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks.

4. Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area: Best for Backcountry Skiing!

4. Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area: Best for Backcountry Skiing!

In addition to extensive ski trails with gentle slopes, Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area is spacious and boasts unobstructed views. This ski area is an ideal choice for families and beginners who want to experience powder snow.

Of all the Niseko United resorts, the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area has the highest number of gates leading to the backcountry and is visited by many advanced skiers.

Visitors here for the powder snow should try out the ski trails "Deep Snow Forest Course" or "Marchen Course," which are most enticing in the morning right after a day of snowfall.

Many staff here speak English; other languages are supported through the use of translation devices.

Lift tickets
A variety of lift tickets and season tickets are available for the Regular Season, Early Season (November 28, 2020 – December 10, 2020), Spring Season (March 22, 2021 – April 4, 2021) and Final Season (April 5, 2021 – May 5, 2021).

The Regular Season is divided into two periods. Lift ticket prices differ for the two time periods.

Partial List of Lift Ticket Fees for the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
Regular Season ①(December 11, 2020 – December 18, 2020; March 8, 2021 – March 21, 2021)
・5-Hour Ticket - Adults: 4,600 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 3,400 yen; Elementary school students: 2,800 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: 5,100 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 3,900 yen; Elementary school students: 3,100 yen

Regular Season ②(December 19, 2020 – March 7, 2021)
・5-Hour Ticket - Adults: 4,600 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 3,400 yen; Elementary school students: 2,800 yen
・8-Hour Ticket - Adults: 5,100 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 3,900 yen; Elementary school students: 3,100 yen

Ski school
The "Niseko Annupuri Ski & Snowboard Snow" is a reputable school that has been officially recognized by four skiing and snowboarding federations. Participants will be guided patiently by instructors who are extremely knowledgeable about Niseko. Individual lessons are available in English as well.

Rentals
You can rent equipment from "Sports Rent Ciao Nook Annupuri," located in the Center House. It offers a range of equipment from models targeted at beginners and children to expert models for advanced skiers.

Partial List of Rental Fees
Ski Set (Skis, boots and poles) / Snowboard Set (Snowboard and boots) – Standard
5 Hours - Beginner – Advanced: 5,000~; Children: 4,000 yen
1 Day - Beginner – Advanced: 6,000~; Children: 5,000 yen

Online reservations are entitled to a 10% discount. Please check the official website for more details (in Japanese only).

Current Measures Against COVID-19
Shops and facilities are disinfected, sterilized and cleaned./ Sanitizers are available./ Spaces will be disinfected after every customer leaves./ Ventilation in shops and within facilities is ensured./ Change trays are used./ Partitions have been installed./ Staff are required to wear masks, wash their hands, use sanitizers, gargle and undergo temperature checks./ The number of customers within the shop space will be regulated and distancing between seats will be enforced./ The number of admissions into the premises as well as reservations will be restricted./ Customers who are unwell will be barred from entering the shops.

Also recommended! Three little-known slopes in Niseko

Due to their increasing popularity over the years, the Niseko ski resorts and the area tends to become crowded.

However, some places are still relatively undiscovered, such as the smaller-scale Moiwa Ski Resort adjacent to the Annupuri International Ski Area. Although it has fewer lifts, it has other redeeming features, such as the high drifts of powder snow in the afternoons!

Also, the Kutchan-cho Asahigaoka Ski Resort near Kutchan Station is a family-friendly place with plenty of local feeling, where even beginner families can relax and enjoy themselves.

Furthermore, extending to the westernmost part of the Niseko federation, there are other international ski resorts not mentioned in Niseko, where you can get a view of the Sea of Japan. Snowcat tours are also offered here.

  • Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort
    ニセコモイワスキーリゾート
    • Address 448, Niseko, Niseko-cho Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1511, Japan

    Reserve a Lift ticket in advance

    • [Advance] Lift ticket
      • 1-Day Ticket
      • Adult
      • All-Day
      6%OFF
      4,800
      4,500JPY
      View Deal
    • [Advance] Lift ticket
      • 1-Day Ticket
      • Senior
      • All-Day
      7%OFF
      4,300
      4,000JPY
      View Deal
    • [Advance] Lift ticket
      • 1-Day Ticket
      • Student (16+)
      • All-Day
      8%OFF
      3,800
      3,500JPY
      View Deal
    • [Advance] Lift ticket
      • 1-Day Ticket
      • Child
      • All-Day
      1,000JPY
      View Deal

    The ticketing website is available only in Japanese. Please use a translation plugin to view it in your language.
    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, details and conditions may vary.

  • Kutchancho Asahigaoka Ski Area
    倶知安町旭ヶ丘スキー場
    • Address Asahi, Kutchan-cho Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 044-0083, Japan
  • Iwanai Resort
    IWANAI RESORT(旧:ニセコいわない国際スキー場)
    • Address 350-4, Nozuka, Iwanai-cho Iwanai-gun, Hokkaido, 045-0024, Japan

Reviews of Niseko by Foreigners Who Love Skiing and Snowboarding!

Just what is so appealing about Niseko, which often receives rave reviews from foreign skiers?

Let's chat with two foreigners about their Niseko experience and hear what they have to recommend about the four ski resorts at Niseko!

Ashley Dorin

Australia-born Ashley is a snowboarder who loves winter sports. She has experience working as a staff at a hotel in Niseko.

"I snowboard in my country as well, but because Australia is warmer compared to Hokkaido, the snow there melts more easily. So, most ski areas are made from artificial snow. However, the snow in Niseko is dry, and it's easy to snowboard even when the snow is thick. I think Niseko is great for how it offers lots of opportunities for backcountry snowboarding. Another thing is that there are lots of hot springs in the area, such as the Niseko Goshiki Onsen. Each resort has its own hot spring as well. It feels amazing to be able to soak in the hot springs after snowboarding."

Niseko HANAZONO Resort
"Snowboarding involves making large turns, so it's easy to snowboard on the wide trails at HANAZONO Resort. They have a wide variety of trails, and you can enjoy glade skiing regardless of whether you embark on their trails. It's exhilarating to slide through a forest of trees! Since there are few intersections on the same trail, the risk of colliding with other skiers or snowboarders is low. Because the slopes here are gentle, this resort is very suitable for beginners as well!"

Niseko Mountain Resort Grand Hirafu
"This ski area is extensive and has many lifts, making the entire skiing process very efficient and quick. It is popular with intermediate and advanced skiers. I did the Miharashi Course many times because I wanted that glorious powder experience. After that, I would leave the trail via the gate and enjoy myself in the open area, where there are no trees. It's a wonderful feeling, snowboarding on the powder snow while looking out at the scenery."

Xu Mingchen

Mingchen from Taiwan is working as an instructor at Niseko. He skied for the first time five years ago when he came to Hokkaido. He fell in love with skiing. Since then, he has gone on to obtain three technical certifications in skiing and snowboarding at Niseko.

"Taiwanese people often go skiing in New Zealand. The powder snow in Niseko is fluffy and in good condition. The snow condition at Niseko is best in January. But mid-January is when people in China and the Greater China area celebrate Chinese New Year, so it gets very crowded because of the influx of tourists from Asia. I think February is a better time for visitors who want to ski or snowboard at their leisure!"

Niseko Village Ski Resort
"This is the resort with the most number of snow activities in Niseko United. The activities, such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing, help one get used to the snow. Visitors who are new to skiing or snowboarding will be able to enjoy the beginners' course thoroughly if they stay for at least two to three days. Plus, Niseko Village's lessons are directly conducted by the resort. With Niseko Village's knowledgeable instructors guiding you, the experience even feels as if you were in a private resort."

Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
"I recommend Niseko Annupuri to beginners who want the experience of powder snow. I personally think that this ski area has the most conducive environment for practicing powder skiing. The slopes are wide with gentle inclinations. There are also slow lifts to accommodate beginners. It does not get that crowded during the season, so it's easy to ski or snowboard on the slopes."

For those who wish to visit all the ski resorts in Niseko!

Here at Niseko United, in addition to lift tickets for each of the ski resorts, there is also an "All Mountain Pass" available. This pass gives you access to all four ski resorts in Niseko United. It is perfect for visitors who wish to go around the various resorts or stay in Niseko for an extended period.

●Partial Price List for the Niseko United All Mountain Pass (December 11, 2020 – March 21, 2021)
・1-Day Ticket - Adult: 8,100 yen; Senior Citizens: 6,500 yen; Middle school students: 6,500 yen; Elementary school students: 4,900 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adult: 48,300 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 38,700 yen; Elementary school students: 29,000 yen

Text by: Minna no Kotobasha

*Article information is as of November 2020

Recommended Hotels in Niseko

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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