> Vast quantities of Japan’s best powder
> World-class facilities
> Loads of after-ski entertainment
What is it that makes the snow holiday experience at Niseko so addictive? Is it the free and easy off-piste policy? The nightlife? The parks, schools and variety of snow activities to choose from? The diverse spread of riders who visit the resort as families, mates, couples and solo shows that it’s all of this, and more.
Abundant in fresh local seafood and vegetables, Niseko also boasts beautiful historic sites such as the 4,000 year-old stone circle near its Higashiyama ski area. And tucked away nearby in the stunning Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park area is Konbu Onsen, a secluded hot spring enclave.
As an international ski destination, Niseko remained buried beneath the powder until the early 2000s. When Australian property developers caught wind of its enormous potential as a resort, with reliable champagne powder dumps averaging 14 metres a season, and a low-lying altitude within easy reach of facilities at the base and international airports, they made a move. For Australian riders, the added perk was no jet lag, and according to the local town of Kutchan, over 7,500 visited the area in 2005 – a massive increase on the just over 200 who visited in 2001.
The powder that brought them in comes with cold winds all the way from Russia, and is served in bulk from December to April. Ever light and fluffy, riders describe it as an icy cloud, giving them a feeling of weightlessness; its low moisture content, of less than 10% during the peak season, is what produces this incredible effect.
Niseko is made up of four resorts: Niseko Grand Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono, which have teamed up to form Niseko United, offering visitors streamlined access to some 2,000 acres of terrain for all levels. It is connected by an extensive network of 27 chair lifts and 3 gondolas, and with an All Mountain Pass, riders enjoy complete freedom to experience it all.
What makes a day in Niseko for many is the fantastic range of restaurants and bars to wind down at, between the quieter Annupuri and Niseko Village side of the resort, and the more lively Hirafu area.
Book ahead during the season, because with everything from fresh local sushi to Mexican on the menu, dining out is popular and very reasonably priced. After dinner, Hirafu is a happening go-to with its wide range of places to drink, including wine bars and izakayas – and with no curfews at many of the local lodges and other accommodation, there’s plenty of time to relax and enjoy them.
How long does the journey take from?
New Chitose Airport: 2 hrs 45 min
Sapporo: 2.5-3 hrs