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 every year and is one of the rare places in Japan you can enjoy off-trail skiing. What’s more, the major uptake in Australian and Chinese visitors has made the area very accessible to foreigners.
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, which is about 2.5 hours by train to Niseko. The ride is ¥22,690, 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.
Alas, Hokkaido is far, so flying to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo is always another solid option. The flight from Tokyo to Sapporo is about 1.5 hours. From Haneda, JAL and ANA flights are anywhere between ¥12,000–¥36,000 and flying by Skymark costs from ¥9,000–¥26,000. Narita is even more expensive if you fly with JAL and ANA (¥30,000–¥36,000). BUT, budget airlines like Vanilla Air, Jetstar, and Spring Airlines start as low as ¥4,380.
Niseko ski resorts
From biggest to smallest, the ski resorts are Niseko Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Hanazono, Niseko Moiwa, Niseko Weiss.
|Hirafu||Late November to early May||5,500 yen||4,900 yen (8 hrs)||2,700 yen|
|Niseko Village||Early December to early April||5,500 yen||5,000 yen (8 hrs)||2,000 yen|
|Annupuri||Late November to early May||4,600 yen||4,000 yen||2,000 yen|
|Hanazono||Early December to early April||5,500 yen||4,900 yen (8 hrs)||N/A|
|Moiwa||Early December to early April||4,300 yen||3,800 yen (4 hrs)||N/A|
There’s also a Niseko All Mountain Pass that you can use at Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu, and Hanazono. A full-day pass is 7,400 yen and half-day (8 hrs) is 6,300 yen. These four are all interconnected, so they’re the best for getting all your snow sports fun in one place. Ticket prices at the resorts also drop in their off-season and late season.
Grand Hirafu is the largest of the resorts, and with a foreigner-friendly town at its base to boot. Here, you can find restaurants, bars, and all kinds of accommodations. It’s 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.
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.
Venture out and take a trip to Niseko Ski Resort from Sapporo
From ¥9,200, this 1-day tour has everything you need. From Sapporo or Chitose Airport, you get a round-trip bus ticket to either Hirafu or Niseko, which is about 3-4 hours away. If you choose Hirafu, the lift ticket is for 6 hours, while Niseko is for 8 hours. You will get access to all of the four connected resorts like you would with the Niseko All Mountain Pass. There is also a chance to enjoy the local hot springs before you head back.
Take a trip to Niseko via ski bus from Sapporo in Hokkaido
This bus can take you from Chitose Airport and hotels in Sapporo straight to Niseko. Once there, it drops off at several of the ski resorts and hotels, making for a hassle-free trip. Keep in mind that while the buses leave every hour from Chitose Airport, they only pick up from the hotels from 7:30am-8:30 am. But for ¥5,500 per person, it’s a fast and easy way to get to your fun on the slopes.
Enjoy a Niseko backcountry ski & snowboard tour
In this tour, a local will guide up to two people on a tour through Niseko’s back country, starting at ^price amount=37500]. Whether you ski or snowboard, are a beginner or advanced, the tour is tailored to accommodate you. There is also a photo service provided. Feel free to ask for recommendations for local restaurants and relaxation as well.
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