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 is home to an enormous 1,308m mountain called “Annupuri,” with four different ski slopes utilizing the horizontal terrain. These slopes are collectively known as NISEKO UNITED and have been recognized as the Best Japanese Snow Resort four years in a row at the World Ski Awards in Austria.
When is the best season for skiing in Niseko?
The best time to ski in Niseko is during January and February, when the snow is most regular.
During these times of heavy snowfall, the tracks left by other skiers quickly disappear, and the slopes are generally always clean and fresh. Of course, these periods are naturally the most popular times to visit, and you’ll likely encounter crowds of skiers alongside higher lift prices.
If you’d like fewer crowds and lower prices, we recommend visiting as soon as the slopes open during the “early season” or around three months later in the “spring season.” This year, the La Niña effect is predicted to yield a harsh winter with ideal snow conditions.
What makes Niseko's snowfall so special?
The luscious, abundant snowfall of Niseko constantly resets the tracks to zero, seemingly recreating the ideal skiing conditions over and over again every night!
Due to the proximity of the ocean, the snow that falls here has more moisture than that of the Doto region of Hokkaido. Being the perfect weight and having the ideal crunch, powder snow this heavenly is a true rarity! Being able to enjoy this natural winter wonderland to your heart’s content is one of the biggest appeals of Niseko, and if you’re lucky enough to get the right conditions, you’ll surely join the horde of dedicated Niseko fans who virtually worship the place!
What kind of ski resorts are in Niseko?
Each slope of Niseko has its own unique characteristics ranging from beginner to professional. No matter your skill level, you’ll be able to find a slope that suits you!
Plus, to ensure that skiers can relish the great outdoors safely, the locals of Niseko have worked alongside the government to establish the special “Niseko Rules,” which include points like always using gates when entering backcountry areas and not ducking boundary ropes.
Owing to these, skiers are able to reach other incredible hidden gem spots from the slopes, which are even better when paired with perfect weather and the right conditions.
Once you have the experience, so-called “mountain skiing” is an entirely different kind of thrill than slopeside skiing and is sure to become an addiction! However, be sure to check out the Niseko Rules beforehand and follow them to a tee.
How to get to the Niseko ski resorts
The town of Niseko is around 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.
Rapid Airport train from New Chitose Airport to Otaru Station (72 minutes) ➡ Local trains from Otaru Station to Niseko Station (approximately 90 minutes)
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.
7 Recommended Niseko ski resorts
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.
Niseko HANAZONO Resort and its neighboring Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu share a common lift ticket.
Partial List of HANAZONO, Grand Hirafu Shared Lift Tickets
(Regular Season: December 17, 2022 - March 19, 2023)
・5-Hour Ticket - Adults: 5,500 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 4,300 yen; Elementary school students: 3,300 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: :6,600 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 5,400 yen; Elementary school students: 4,000 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adults: 40,100 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 32,100 yen; Elementary school students: 24,000yen
・Season Ticket (December 3, 2022 - May 7, 2023) - Adults: 105,800 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 79,400 yen; Elementary school students: 63,500 yen
"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.
"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.
328-36 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho,Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0082, 044-0082
Kutchan Station （Hakodate Main Line）
9 minutes by car
- Phone Number 0136-23-0103
- Address 328-36 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho,Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0082, 044-0082
2. Niseko Tokyu Grand Hirafu: The largest ski resort in Niseko
Niseko Tokyu 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!
Grand Hirafu shares common lift tickets with Niseko HANAZONO Resort.
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.
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: 11,000 yen; Junior (under 12): 8,800 yen
・Ski Set/Snowboard Set (Standard) – 1 Day Rental
Adults: 6,000 yen; Junior: 4,800 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.
Health & Safety Measures
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 2022-23 ski season, 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.
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.
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:
(Peak Season: December 18, 2027 - March 19, 2023)
・Morning ticket or afternoon ticket - Adults: 5,900 yen; Elementary school students: 3,600 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 4,500 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: 6,800 yen; Elementary school students: 4,100 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 5,100 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adults: 41,100 yen; Elementary school students: 24,600 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 31,500 yen
・Season Ticket - Adults: 67,600 yen; Elementary school students: 35,700 yen; Middle school students and senior citizens: 47,300 yen
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.
*For the 2022-2023 season at the Niseko Village Snow School, due to Covid-19 measures, group lessons are offered only for Level 1 for adults and Levels 1-3 for children (lunch not included).
Besides adult and children's skis and snowboards, the rental shop also offers high-grade models targeted at adult intermediate and advanced skiers.
*Goggles, gloves, and hats will not be available for rent during the 2022-2023 season. These can be bought at the shop.
Partial List of Rental Fees
・Ski Set (Skis, poles and boots) / Snowboard Set (Snowboard and boots) - Standard
1 Day - Adults: 6,400 yen; Kids: 4,900 yen
・Ski Wear (Jacket and pants)
1 Day - Adults: 5,000 yen; Kids: 4,500 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.
Higashiyama, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido hot spring, 048-1592
Niseko Station （Hakodate Main Line）
- Phone Number 0136-44-2211
- Address Higashiyama, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido hot spring, 048-1592
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.
There is a variety of different lift tickets available for each season and length of stay, including the Regular Season (December 17, 2022 - March 19, 2023), Early Season (December 3-16, 2022), Spring Season (March 3 - April 2, 2023), and the Final Season (April 3, 2022 - May 4, 2023). The Regular Season is also split into two sections and fees differ depending on the period.
Partial List of Lift Ticket Fees for the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area
(Regular Season（December 17, 2022 – March 19, 2023)
・5-Hour Ticket - Adults: 4,900 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 3,600 yen; Elementary school students: 3,000 yen
・1-Day Ticket - Adults: 5,900 yen; Senior citizens and middle school students: 4,400 yen; Elementary school students: 3,500 yen
The Niseko Annupuri Ski & Snowboard School 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.
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: from 5,500; Children: 4,400 yen
1 Day - Beginner – Advanced: from 6,600; Children: 5,500 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.
485, Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1511
Niseko Station （Hakodate Main Line）
- Phone Number 0136-58-2080
- Address 485, Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, 048-1511
5. Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort
Despite the increasing popularity and growing crowds, there are still hidden gem slopes in Niseko that remain a local secret!
One of these is the small-scale Niseko Moiwa Ski Resort, located next to the Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area. Although the number of lifts is small, there’s plenty of fun to be had here and the powder snow often lasts long into the afternoon!
Niseko Moiwa Ski Resortニセコモイワスキーリゾート
- Address 448 Niseko, Abuta District, Hokkaido 048-1511
6. Kutchancho Asahigaoka Ski Area
Another of these hidden gem slopes is the Kutchancho Asahigaoka Ski Area near Kutchan Station, which boasts a more local feel with family-friendly slopes. This is a great spot for beginners or those with children in tow!
Kutchancho Asahigaoka Ski Area倶知安町旭ヶ丘スキー場
- Address 95 Asahi, Kutchan, Abuta District, Hokkaido 044-0083
7. IWANAI RESORT
For those willing to head out to the far western point of the Niseko Mountain range, the IWANAI RESORT and its breathtaking Sea of Japan panoramas await! There are also snowcat tours available here too.
IWANAI RESORT (Previously: Niseko Iwanai International Ski Area)IWANAI RESORT（旧：ニセコいわない国際スキー場）
- Address 350-4 Nozuka, Iwanai, Iwanai District, Hokkaido 045-0024
We asked foreign skiers & snowboarders why Niseko is so great
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!
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 in 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 Tokyu 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."
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."
All Mountain Pass: 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 17, 2022 – March 19, 2023)
・1-Day Ticket - Adult: 8,500 yen; Seniors and middle school students: 6,800 yen; Elementary school students: 5,100 yen
・7-Day Ticket - Adult: 51,100 yen; Seniors and middle school students: 40,900 yen; Elementary school students: 30,700 yen
Recommended Hotels in Niseko
Text by: Minna no Kotobasha
*Article information is as of November 2022
▼ Early-bird lift tickets are recommended for winter skiing in Japan ▼
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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