Niseko, in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, is easily the most popular skiing area in the country. It’s famous for getting lots of dry powder snow (usually upwards of 15 meters) every year and is one of the few places in Japan you can enjoy off-trail skiing. What’s more, the major uptick in international visitors has made Niseko Ski Resorts more accessible than ever.
Here’s a quick guide to the basics of Niseko—how to get there, what slopes the resort is made up of, and how much it will all cost you.
Getting from Tokyo to Niseko: Transportation options
The Hokkaido Shinkansen has made it a lot easier to get to Niseko by train. In a little over 4 hours, you can get all the way to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, from which it’s another 3–4 hours by train to Niseko. The ride is around ¥23,630 one-way, unless you’ve got the JR Pass, in which case the cost is covered. After the ride on the Shinkansen, you need to take express/local trains to get to Kutchan Station, which is the closest to Niseko. Without a JR Pass, this costs about ¥5,310.
Alas, Hokkaido is far from Tokyo, so flying to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo is usually an easier option than the trains. The flight from Tokyo to Sapporo takes about 1.5 hours. From the airport, it’s a 3- to 3.5-hour train ride on JR lines to Kutchan Station, at a cost of about ¥2,880 if you don’t have a JR Pass (if you do, the trains are covered).
It’s also possible to take a bus from the airport in Sapporo to Niseko. Look up the Niseko Bus website for prices and timetables or take a look at Voyagin's offers.
Niseko ski resorts: Passes, prices and other information
From biggest to smallest, the ski resorts at Niseko are: Niseko Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Hanazono, Niseko Moiwa and Niseko Weiss (access to this last set of slopes is restricted to certain private tours). Some, like Moiwa, offer discounts when passes are booked online, usually around 10% of the price.
A great bundle of ski tours and trips are available for Winter 2020, including a Niseko back-country ski/snowboarding tour for a sweet starting price of ¥37,500.
|Hirafu||Late November to early May||¥6,200||¥5,700 (8 hrs)||¥2,900|
|Niseko Village||Early December to early April||¥6,100||N/A||N/A|
|Annupuri||Late November to early May||¥5,500||¥5,000||¥2,300|
|Hanazono||Early December to early April||¥6,200||¥5,100 (8 hrs)||N/A|
|Moiwa||Early December to early April||¥4,500||¥4,000 (4 hrs)||N/A|
Niseko United All Mountain Pass
There’s also the Niseko United All Mountain Pass that you can use at Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu, and Hanazono. A full-day pass is ¥8,000 and a 12-point pass that limits the uses in a day for ¥4,800. These four areas are all interconnected, so they’re the best for getting all your snow sports fun in one place.
Note: Ticket prices at the resorts may drop in their off-season and late season.
Hangout with Snoopy and the gang at the newly reopened Snoppy Museum in Tokyo.
Grand Hirafu is the largest of the Niseko ski resorts, and with a foreigner-friendly town at its base to boot. Here, you can find restaurants, bars, and all kinds of accommodations, including the reasonable Absolute Niseko hotel. Hirafu is a 15-minute bus ride from Kutchan Station.
Niseko Village is in between Grand Hirafu and Annupuri, and has the added bonus of being open during Golden Week. It has hotels around its base like Hilton Niseko Village, and The Green Leaf is close to the beginner areas and the Upper Village Gondola. There are also some dining and shopping options.
Niseko Annupuri and Moiwa
Annupuri’s slopes are comparatively less steep and wide, but there is a run that connects to Moiwa. Both are less crowded, which makes them ideal for beginners and people who don’t want the crowds of the others. Neither have much dining and nightlife around, but there are hotels and pensions for easy access to the slopes.
Hanazono is part of the area known as Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu, together with Grand Hirafu. You can buy a “Hanazono and Grand Hirafu Lift Ticket” at either resort to ski on both. Its forest route, Strawberry Fields, is arguably Niseko’s most famous run.
Niseko tour packages
If you prefer to just click, pack and go, a combo package is probably the easiest way of experiencing Niseko–and there are some reasonable deals around.
Hokkaido Ski Resort Bus Tours from Sapporo
For a convenient Hokkaido ski experience, maybe alongside some other exploring of the island, book a 1-day bus tour from Sapporo.
Round trip transportation and ski passes are included so all you need to do is turn up with your gear at the meeting point (or rent it when you get there at additional cost). Prices for Niseko tours start from ¥5,900 and depend on availability.
1-day Niseko Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Tour
On this adventure, a local guide will take 1-2 people on a tour through Niseko’s backcountry, starting at ¥37,500. There is also a photo service provided.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated by Mareike Dornhege in January 2020.
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