Small-town hospitality awaits snowbound adventurers

Photo : japantimes


Frequently described as a winter wonderland, Niseko’s unique location makes it a “must-see, must-ski” hotspot for winter sports enthusiasts.

Niseko, on the northern island of Hokkaido, is situated at the base of Mount Yotei — a dormant volcano that is similar to Mount Fuji, known as Ezo Fuji — and next to one of the most beautiful rivers in Japan — the Shiribetsu River. As such, Niseko is well-positioned to offer a variety of exciting winter activities that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. Its rolling countryside and beautiful ski slopes are attracting ever-increasing numbers of visitors from abroad.


The ski resort has come a long way since visitors had to hike the mountain for a day’s skiing and the only accommodation was the bed-and-breakfast lodging offered by local farmhouses.

One hundred years later, the resort has seen considerable change and, though the friendliness of the local people and warm hospitality remains, the resort now features a wide range of accommodations, an eclectic selection of restaurants and offers both traditional cultural experiences and modern sporting activities.

Skiing and snowboarding

There are four main areas in the Niseko ski resort area — Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu and Hanazono — and from November to April a prevailing wind blows in from the Russian mainland, blanketing the region in deep powder snow. The weather patterns that form over western Hokkaido and the Sea of Japan cause snow to fall regularly in this region and are why this area has some of the island’s highest snowfall.

The champagne powder snow and pristine ski slopes attract skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. With wide-open runs, tree routes, backcountry, off-piste, first tracks and night skiing, Niseko caters all levels, from beginner to expert.

For those wishing to go a little bit further, hiking trails lead from the highest lifts to the summit. An extensive lift system covers the 64 runs and includes gondolas and covered chairlifts. With the lifts meeting at the summit, skiers have access to Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri resorts, which combine to make Niseko United — one of the largest ski spots in Hokkaido.

Other winter activities

Snowmobiling in Niseko is a must if one needs a day off the mountain. There are a large variety of courses on offer, both at the foot of the mountain and further afield. Whether one is looking for a scenic ride through the forest or an adventurous tour through knee-deep powder and steep terrain, Niseko has it all.

Great fun for thrill seekers, nonskiers or families, are snow rafting and tubing. People can sit in a raft or inner tube while being towed around a course by a snowmobile at varying speeds on fast or gentle runs. This offers a great thrill for those looking for something different.

Away from the bustling village, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, trekking through snow-covered forests and exploring the scenic countryside, quiet backwaters and ice-covered lakes. This gentle approach to nature takes visitors into the heart of Hokkaido’s countryside and is a very good way to get close to the native flora and fauna, some of which is unique to the island, without disturbing its fragile habitat. Snowshoeing in Niseko is a very peaceful and relaxing way to escape the crowds and enjoy Niseko’s surroundings.

How to get to Niseko

Conveniently located in the southwest corner of Hokkaido, Niseko is situated 50 kilometers southwest of Japan’s fifth-largest city, Sapporo, and 80 kilometers west of Hokkaido’s international New Chitose Airport. There are extensive bus, train and road links to the area.

Official Niseko app

The 2017-18 official Niseko app is available in the app store for iPad, iPhone and Google Play for Android.

This resort-recognized app provides integrated resort information such as the latest Niseko United lift service information, avalanche information and restaurant and activity information, which are listed by areas and categories, allowing guests to find what they need so much faster.

Equipped with GPS functions, the app tracks the Niseko United Shuttle location, and includes a Taxi Caller function and detailed transportation information, including day tours to other resorts or scenic spots close by such as Kiroro, Rusutsu, Otaru and Hakodate; allowing visitors to get everywhere easier when staying in Niseko.

During downtime, visitors should make sure to open the E-Guides section and read this season’s 50th Edition Powderlife, available in English, Chinese and Japanese.

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