If you are serving in the US military or have SOFA status chances are you may have heard something about Hokkaido.
Whilst the sights of Kyoto and Tokyo offer amazing cultural experiences and are certainly ” must see’s ” if nature and adventure are more your thing that Hokkaido is really were you want to see spend some of your leave time and experience more of Japan.
We hope the rest of this website and some of our blog articles give you some insight into why you should come to Hokkaido but perhaps the trickier question is when you should come to Hokkaido.
We think the easiest way to think about this question is divide your plans into “Winter travel ” and as the locals up here call it ” Green season ” which is essentially travel for anytime that your not skiing or snowboarding.
The Niseko ski resort typically opens around the last week of November to the first week of December and runs through to early June.
This table shows the resort opening dates over the last few years.
Based on the previous 10 years of data you can be pretty much guaranteed top to bottom snow anytime from the 4th of December.
Niseko’s Peak season is usually deemed to start the 18th of December. You can see further information about this on the Niseko United website but below is the season cut offs in table form
|Early season||December 3, 2021 (Friday) -December 17, 2021 (Friday)|
|Regular season||December 18, 2021 (Sat) -March 20, 2022 (Sun)|
|Spring season||March 21, 2022 (Monday) -April 3, 2022 (Sunday)|
It’s also important to remember that Peak season attracts a higher lift price and also higher accommodation costs due to increased visitor demand.
Of course it’s peak season for a reason that these are the dates where you are almost guaranteed to experience the epic powder and snowfalls that make Niseko famous. For more advanced riders the backcountry gates usually open around the 1st of January and offer amazing access into the unpatrolled wilderness of the backside of the mountain. You will need experience and your own avalanche safety gear to tackle this option and for first time visitors we recommend ( and can also assist with booking) a reputable guiding service.
If you are travelling with younger children Niseko ML strongly recommends you consider early spring skiing too. Spring skiing for kids some advantages. It’s cheaper than peak and the days are often a little more sunnier and warmer making it much more comfortable. We would caution against late spring after early April as sometimes it can get icy and that can lead to an increased risk of injury. Spring is also better for riders that like to ride Park and perform jumps.
So in a nutshell we are blessed with a relatively long winter season up here in Niseko but out hot tip is try for for anytime from the 10th to 18th of December to get the best value, peak season for the very best soft powder snow or consider early spring for families on a budget.
You can see a graph on the average temperatures in Niseko on the link below
Another good resource for snow and weather forecasting is Snow Forecast.com 6 day chart
Here things get a little more exciting. It’s our opinion that green season travel in Hokkaido is still one of the worlds best kept secrets in how much fun can be had up here. We think Niseko in particularly is well on it’s way to becoming the ” Queenstown New Zealand ” of Asia.
Summer here really kicks of from mid mid June and they days are warm without the humidity that can plague Okinawa and Tokyo over this time. White water rafting is our top pick here in early Summer with the peak flow around Late may early June. You can raft here all green season but it becomes more of a scenic family outing more suitable for children from July onwards. There is also great swimming to be had in some of the large freshwater lakes. Due to some thermal heating Lake Toya is often a more comfortable swim than it’s colder cousin Lake Shikotsu.
The fly fishing is also great from early summer onwards and is certainly a more comfortable experience.
For those wishing to see Autumn in Hokkaido that get’s really amazing in late October. Early Autumn is also harvest season so the food is all fresh from the farm. In fact the Niseko Food festival is built around this fact and if group tours appeal to you can reserve your spot on our Autumn tour on the link below
We are of the opinion that the color of the autumn leaves in the forests up here is far more pretty that the Cherry blosums of May and certainly worth finding a nice onsen hotel in the mountains to watch the colors transform. Autumn temperatures are also the most pleasant in Hokkaido with warm days and crisp evenings but not so cold that being outdoors becomes uncomfortable.
Spring can be very nice in it’s own way and you will certainly have a great time up here but it’s not our first recommendation to see Hokkaido if it’s your first time. Melting snow can be muddy and brown the striking greens really don’t come out until early May. Not that it sucks here by any means, it’s just that there are other more spectacular times to visit if your schedule allows.
Niseko ML would be delighted to answer any queries or get you quote for discounted accommodation options too. We would very much like to hear from you 🙂