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Our Editors’ Adventures in the Snowy Wonderland of Niseko, Hokkaido: Horseback Riding, Snowmobiling & Other Fun Activities

Our Editors’ Adventures in the Snowy Wonderland of Niseko, Hokkaido: Horseback Riding, Snowmobiling & Other Fun Activities

Date published: 20 April 2023

March may still be chilly in Japan, but that doesn't stop the snow from melting in some areas. Being a Taiwanese editor for LIVE JAPAN, I didn't want to miss the chance to experience the winter wonderland in Niseko, Hokkaido.

In this article, I'll share with you some of the best snow activities recommended by a Hokkaido native, along with the personal stories of two Taiwanese editors who are new to Hokkaido snow sports. I'll also give you some tips on when and where to enjoy these activities, so you can start planning your own snow adventure for next winter! Get ready to embrace the cold and have some fun in the snow!

Table of Contents
  1. Meet Hokkaido Native Writer Rimi and Taiwan Writers Chia-Chi and Alice - Your Guides to Hokkaido Travel
  2. The Charm of Hokkaido in Winter and Why You Should Visit - A Must-See Guide!
  3. Experience 1: Horseback Riding in a Romantic Winter Wonderland Tour
  4. Experience #3: Enjoy the thrill of snowmobiling - perfect for beginners too!
  5. Experience Other Snow Activities at Niseko Hanazono Resort!
  6. Winter Fun in Hokkaido: Rimi's Extra Recommendations
  7. Apres-Snow Fun: Don't Miss Out on Soaking in Hot Springs!
  8. Delightful Hokkaido: Food, Nature, and Beauty

Meet Hokkaido Native Writer Rimi and Taiwan Writers Chia-Chi and Alice - Your Guides to Hokkaido Travel

Meet Hokkaido Native Writer Rimi and Taiwan Writers Chia-Chi and Alice - Your Guides to Hokkaido Travel

Chia-chi (top right)
Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Chia-chi has been living in Japan for seven years, and this is her first trip to Hokkaido. She enjoys "healing" trips focused on indoor activities but also wants to gradually venture outdoors and try more fun Japanese experiences through non-strenuous activities. For her first outdoor adventure, she chose a horseback riding experience with adorable animals as companions, finding healing and enjoyment in their company throughout the experience.

Alice (bottom right)
Originally from Taiwan, Alice has been living in Japan for seven years and enjoys cold climates and outdoor activities, particularly trying new things. This trip was her first time experiencing both horseback riding and snowmobiling, allowing her to get up close with animals she doesn't typically encounter and feel the rush of speed while dashing through the snow.

Rimi (left), the native Hokkaido writer
Originally from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Rimi spent her childhood skiing and playing various winter games such as sledding and snow tubing until the sun went down. She enjoys running on icy roads, and has a passion for good food and wine.

The Charm of Hokkaido in Winter and Why You Should Visit - A Must-See Guide!

Photo: PIXTA
Photo: PIXTA

Hokkaido's powder snow is renowned worldwide, captivating even the locals with its mesmerizing beauty. According to Hokkaido native writer Rimi, the best time to enjoy the fluffy powder snow is in January or February at Niseko. "You'll experience pure joy as you find yourself rolling around in the freshly fallen snow—it's incredibly soft and comfortable!" she exclaims.

Rimi also recommends trying snow horseback riding and snowmobiling, especially for first-time snow sports participants or people from tropical countries who have never skied before. "TThese activities are perfect for those seeking a novel experience that isn't too extreme," she adds.

Hokkaido is also known for its breathtaking natural scenery, such as Mount Yotei, also known as "Ezo Fuji," which the editors of Live Japan visited. "The stunning beauty of the landscape is right before your eyes, especially in winter when the mountain appears mysteriously amidst the pure white snow," Rimi shares.

Besides the powder snow, the cuisine of Hokkaido is another reason to visit the region. "Fresh seafood, milk, Jingisukan barbecue, and other Hokkaido-exclusive winter cuisine are sure to make you fall in love with Hokkaido!" Rimi concludes.

Don't Miss Out! A Guide to Winter Fun in Hokkaido

Photo: PIXTA
Photo: PIXTA

According to Rimi, the best time to experience Niseko's renowned fluffy powder snow is in January or February. She highly recommends visiting during this time, describing the newly fallen powder snow as "soft and fluffy like a mattress." She added that jumping or rolling around in it can bring pure joy.

Rimi also advises visitors to dress warmly with clothes that have both warmth and waterproofing capabilities. She recommends wearing a warm scarf, gloves, and winter boots that cover the ankles with waterproof and slip-resistant features to avoid getting snow inside. Bringing extra socks is also a good idea to prevent discomfort from wearing wet socks. "It's important to wear clothes that can protect you from the cold and snow, especially for those who are not used to the winter weather."

It's worth noting that after March, , Hokkaido experiences minimal new snowfall, and while the accumulated snow may still appear pristine from a distance, it can become slightly dirty up close due to its prolonged presence. Rimi advises visitors to plan accordingly, saying, "If you want to experience the snow, it's better to come earlier in the season."

During the peak season, snow activities tend to book up quickly. Rimi advises visitors to plan ahead and make reservations in advance, emphasizing that most snow activities require prior booking. She also warns that the high demand during peak season can make it challenging to secure reservations, so it's important to double-check reservations and plan accordingly.

In the winter, visitors can take a three-hour direct bus from New Chitose Airport to Niseko Ski Resort, with three companies operating the route and offering online reservations. If traveling from Kutchan Station, it's possible to take a taxi or bus to the ski resort. In the summer, visitors can take the JR Airport Rapid to Otaru and transfer to the JR Hakodate Line to Kutchan Station, with the journey taking around three hours and costing about 3,000 yen. (Reserved seats require an additional fee.)

Rimi advises visitors to double-check transportation schedules and plan accordingly, especially during peak season.

Experience 1: Horseback Riding in a Romantic Winter Wonderland Tour

Experience 1: Horseback Riding in a Romantic Winter Wonderland Tour

The first activity that our Taiwanese editors experienced was the snow horse riding tour (白銀の世界で乗馬体験ツアー) booked through Niseko HANAZONO. It's important to note that the location of the experience is not within Niseko HANAZONO ski resort, but at Niseko Country Farm, which requires arranging transportation and timing in advance. The farm owner mentioned that the majority of guests who come for horse riding are foreign visitors, so they provide English guidance as well as Japanese. Initially, the staff leads everyone in practicing horse riding within a circle on the farm premises before venturing into the forest trail. If anyone feels uneasy, the staff is there to guide and walk with them, ensuring a worry-free experience.

Chia-chi said, "I was really nervous at first! But Mr. Kawai, the staff, patiently assisted me during practice, and almost always led the horse for me. When I got familiar with it, he let me ride by myself. With Mr. Kawai always nearby and the horses being intelligent, I didn't have to worry about losing control. In the end, I gained more and more confidence, and now I'm eager to give it another try!"

While the horses are intelligent and the horseback riding process can be very safe, it is crucial never to stay directly behind the horse. This is because being in that position can startle the horse and potentially lead to kicking, which can result in injury.

Furthermore, it is important not to carry a backpack or any accessories that may interfere with the reins while riding a horse. This is necessary to ensure the horse can respond effectively to the reins. It is also not convenient to take selfies while holding the reins. Therefore, the staff will make appropriate stops along the way to take pictures for everyone. Riding a horse in the snowy world offers a dreamy and luxurious experience, especially for busy modern individuals.

Lastly, you can buy some carrots for 150 yen as a treat to reward your equine companions! The horses carrying our editors seemed to enjoy this snack time very much!

Alice shared, "The horses were so gentle and didn't bite our hands. We even stood beside them to take some photos. The horse I rode was called 'Monaka.' Maybe he wanted more food (or wanted to play with me?), so he came over and nibbled on my sleeve, but his actions were gentle and super cute!"

Chia-chi: "In the end, I bought a horseshoe as a souvenir to keep the wonderful memories of this experience alive!" After the horse-riding experience, you can also visit the small shop at the farm.

The editors bought a horseshoe (1000 yen, including tax) as a souvenir, and the staff also included a photo of the horse they rode together. It's a great way to remember the cute appearance of the horse when you take it home.

Snow Horseback Riding Experience (White World Horse Riding Tour)
  • Cost: 10,000 yen per person, minimum of 2 people per reservation, maximum of 4 people per group
  • • Season:
    Winter experience: December to March
    Summer experience: May to October
    (* The dates vary each year, please refer to the official website for details.)
  • Experience time: 45 minutes
  • Experience period: 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m.
    * Experience can also be reserved at 3:00 p.m. in March.
    * Prices, experience time and content may change depending on the season.
  • Age limit: elementary school or above to under 65 years old, weight under 85 kg
  • Notes:
    ・There is no pick-up service, please go directly to the horse riding venue for assembly
    ・Please wear warm clothes that are comfortable for activity, it is recommended to wear a full set of ski clothing and gloves
    ・Shoes that are too wide may not fit into the stirrups, shoes can be rented at the venue on the day (additional fee required)
  • Language service: English or Japanese guided tour available
  • Niseko Country Farm
    • Address Address: Takasago, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0076
    • Phone number: 0136-55-5564 (acceptance time 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)

Experience #3: Enjoy the thrill of snowmobiling - perfect for beginners too!

Experience #3: Enjoy the thrill of snowmobiling - perfect for beginners too!

The day after our thrilling snow horseback riding experience, we headed to HANAZONO to try out snowmobiling! However, since we didn't have the appropriate gear like snow jackets and pants for activities in the snow, we first went to HANAZONO 308 Store to rent skiing attire and snow boots.

Here, the staff are attentive and will carefully measure your feet and help you choose the right size based on your body shape.

Even if you're a first-time visitor to the ski resort, there's no need to worry about picking the wrong size due to unfamiliarity with the equipment. It is highly recommended to make reservations in advance, especially during peak season (January and February), to avoid the disappointment of not being able to rent the necessary gear.

The staff members here are also fluent in English, so it's completely fine if you don't speak Japanese.

Every pair of feet is measured with great care and attention.
Every pair of feet is measured with great care and attention.
  • HANAZONO 308
    HANAZONO 308
    • Address 328-36 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0082
    • Phone Number 0136-23-0911
    • Winter Operating Period: From early December to early April each year. ※The dates vary each year, please refer to the official website for detailed information.
      Operating Hours: 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM
      * Last admission for rentals is 30 minutes before closing time.
      * Nighttime operations end at 5:00 PM.
      * Snow jackets and snow boots have a uniform design, no need to choose.

Before your snowmobiling experience begins, there will be instructors who will provide guidance. The staff members responsible for teaching us were fluent in both English and Japanese, so language shouldn't be a major concern when coming here for the experience.

Riding a snowmobile feels quite similar to riding a regular motorcycle, and those who are familiar with motorcycles can quickly get the hang of it. The passenger seat also has handrails to hold onto, and since the riding speed during the experience is not too fast, it is considered very safe and stable.

To control the speed of the snowmobile, it's important to use throttle control just like on a motorcycle. Avoid instantly opening the throttle all the way, as it can result in excessive speed that becomes difficult to manage.

A rope connected to the brake is attached to the right hand. In the unfortunate event of a fall, when the rope detaches from the vehicle, the automatic braking feature is activated. In the event of an emergency requiring immediate braking, do not hesitate to press the stop button located on the right side to come to a halt instantly.

By keeping these key points in mind, you can safely enjoy the snowmobiling experience!

HANAZONO offers three different routes for snowmobiling: 45 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes. Since it was our first time trying snowmobiling, we opted for the shortest duration of 45 minutes to test the waters.

When we hit the road, the snowmobiles were lined up one after another, and the speed was kept moderate, allowing us to fully appreciate the stunning silver-white natural scenery.

Alice: "During the experience, the guide took us up the slopes and to an open area where we could take a break, get off the snowmobiles, and take photos. If the weather is clear, we might even catch a glimpse of Mount Yotei. On this day, being the first group to go up the mountain, the snow was fresh and powdery. As soon as the guide said we could get off the snowmobiles, the first thing I did was jump off and lie down in the snow, fully immersing myself in the snowy fun!"

Riding a snowmobile while enjoying the breathtaking scenery is truly a delightful experience! Alice: "If there's another opportunity in the future, I would choose a longer route to see more scenic views. It would definitely be even more thrilling!"

Chia-chi, who was sitting in the back seat and responsible for admiring the scenery, added, "The snow scenery around us was incredibly beautiful and dreamlike. I couldn't stop pressing the shutter! During the 5-minute break halfway through, the three of us took the chance to capture stunning photos and couldn't resist playing in the snow. We just wanted to keep playing!"

It seems like this first-time experience was a great success, and the Taiwanese team was highly satisfied!

Snowmobile (Rabbit Route - 45 minutes)
  • Season: From early December to early April each year. (The dates vary each year, please refer to the official website for detailed information.)
  • Experience time slots: 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM, 3:30 PM (available from late January)
  • Price: Single rider (13 years and above): 9,000 yen per person, Double rider (7 years or above, minimum height 120cm): 12,000 yen per vehicle
  • Meeting point: Gather at the Activity Desk inside HANAZONO 308, 20 minutes before the scheduled start time
  • * Minimum of 2 participants required (maximum of 7 vehicles, 14 participants).
    * Children under 13 years old must be accompanied by a guardian who is 18 years or older.
    * Other route options available: Big Snowfield Route (60 minutes), Private Super View Route (90 minutes).
    * Prices, experience duration, and content are subject to seasonal changes.

Experience Other Snow Activities at Niseko Hanazono Resort!

In addition to snow horseback riding and snowmobiling, Niseko Hanazono Resort offers a variety of other activities that you can book and experience. Let's take a look at some of them! (Only a selection of activities will be introduced.)

The Niseko Hanazono Resort we visited this time is located in the renowned powder snow paradise, Niseko. Not only can you admire the majestic Mount Yotei, but also experience the highest quality powder snow. Situated in the northeast direction of Mount Annupuri, the resort enjoys a longer snow season and allows you to avoid crowds while enjoying the pristine powder snow. Apart from the many ski slopes, the resort offers various snow activities, indoor children's play areas, nursery rooms, and other facilities, ensuring a fun-filled day for both adults and children. Additionally, there are several snow activities listed below that you can try out!

HANAZONO ZIPFLIGHT: One of the World's Largest Aerial Zip Line Experiences

Photo: Niseko Hanazono Resort
Photo: Niseko Hanazono Resort

Introducing HANAZONO ZIPFLIGHT, which made its debut in the summer of 2022 and can also be experienced during winter (with different operating hours for winter and summer).

With a total length of 2,591 meters, it boasts the title of the longest zip line in Asia! Reaching speeds of over 110 kilometers per hour, this exhilarating aerial zip line experience offers breathtaking views of Mount Yotei. It's truly a mesmerizing adventure!

Snow Tubing: Fun for All Ages!

Photo: Niseko Hanazono Resort
Photo: Niseko Hanazono Resort

For a delightful family adventure, make sure to visit HANAZONO Tube Park and experience the joy of snow tubing, a beloved activity enjoyed by both adults and children! No special skills are required, and you can revel in the exhilarating sensation of speed. It's a safe, thrilling, and ideal choice for families to create lasting memories together!

Embark on a Snowshoeing Adventure in Niseko’s White Wonderland

照片來源:Niseko Hanazono Resort
照片來源:Niseko Hanazono Resort

If you want to leisurely explore nature and get closer to the HANAZONO forest, snowshoeing is the perfect activity for you. It offers a serene opportunity to appreciate the beauty of natural landscapes, and you may even have the delightful chance to encounter wildlife along the way! Suitable for participants aged 13 and above, snowshoeing provides a delightful and inclusive experience that the whole family can enjoy together.

Winter Fun in Hokkaido: Rimi's Extra Recommendations

Image photo (Photo: PIXTA)
Image photo (Photo: PIXTA)

In addition to the mentioned snow experiences, Japanese editor Rimi also recommends the thrilling snow tubing and leisurely snowshoeing to appreciate nature, plus stargazing night tours, exhilarating snow rafting, and ice fishing for Wakasagi smelt to fully enjoy Hokkaido's breathtaking winter!

Rimi: "I highly recommend the ice fishing experience, which is suitable even for beginners! Digging a hole on the frozen lakes or rivers and catching Wakasagi smelt to make tempura and eat it right away is truly a heavenly delight."

Apres-Snow Fun: Don't Miss Out on Soaking in Hot Springs!

Photo: PIXTA
Photo: PIXTA

When Japanese people visit Hokkaido for snow activities, they often take the opportunity to stay in hot spring hotels to relax and rejuvenate before continuing their journey. Let's take a look at some excellent hot spring hotels for your reference. If you have the chance to go skiing or enjoy the snow, why not learn from the Japanese and extend your enjoyment by staying at a hot spring hotel?

Delightful Hokkaido: Food, Nature, and Beauty

After completing these two experiences, we can say that our beginner's journey in Hokkaido was a resounding success! The Taiwanese team is already discussing plans for future visits to Hokkaido specifically for snow activities, particularly during the months of January and February when the snowfall is at its heaviest and the landscapes are adorned with the purest snow. Let's look forward to the winter season and challenge ourselves with even more fun and diverse snow experiences 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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