An introduction to riding Niseko
The Niseko Resort is located about 2 hours drive east of Sapporro city on Japan’s North island of Hokkaido. It is widely considered to be one of if not the worlds best powder resorts. When Snow lovers refer to ” JAPOW” it’s usually the light fluffy and plentiful Niseko Powder that is the benchmark of Japan’s powder snow.
A little history may be helpful. Niseko started out as not one Resort but rather 4 resorts that are independently owned and ticketed that meet at the summit of the Mountain and that situation technically continues to this day.
Some visitors have their favourite resort and choose to buy tickets for just one but most punters take the opportunity to purchase a “ Niseko United ” all mountain pass that allows them to roam all 43Km of the mountains tracks. Our suggestion is the all mountain pass is the best way to see what Niseko has to offer.
If you purchase an all mountain ticket you are also eligible for a free shuttle bus that connects all 4 resorts and gives you chance to see a bit more the terrain and local village.
Another great thing about riding all 4 resorts is that the weather does not affect the mountain equally. Sometimes one resort can be sheltered from strong winds or a evenings snowfall can really favour one particular run. It’s worth checking the weather report and asking a local rider for advice.
Here is our take on what you can can expect to get from ridding each resort.
1. Grand Hirafu
Grand Hirafu (GH) is the largest resort of the 4 and it’s most peoples first introduction to riding Niseko. As it’s located directly above the town of the Hirafu it forms the soul of the Ridding Niseko which does mean it can get crowded in peak seasons. It’s not unusual to see cues forming for the Gondola and chairlift.
GH has something to offer all levels of ridders with big open beginner runs to steep tree runs and some great off- piste powder sections. If you are are moderate to advanced ridder take the time to soak in ” Super ridge ” for a taste of Niseko backcountry ridding but makes sure you aren’t tempted to drop into the Avalanche area of the back.
Niseml would suggest GH should be your first place to hit as you will get some great runs, good understanding of how the mountain fits together and some breathtaking views of Mount Yotei.
Hanozono is the smallest of the 4 resorts but it punches above it’s weight.
It has the best terrain for Park ridders and those that like a little air time and also some great speed runs at the top. For those with families Hanazono at the time of writing this has the best kids ski school. Absolute beginners sometimes find the terrain a little steep at first but there are plans to install a new lift more gently terrain.
Our recommendation here to ride ” Strawberry Fields ” . It’s a non groomed area inside the resort that is a great place for intermediate ridders to explore there powder ridding abilities. There is also some great pizza at cafe 308 at the base of the lift.
3. Niseko Village
Niseko Village is the ” Dark horse of the 3″. It contains the steepest runs of the 3 and is our pick to ride when the powder is fresh and deep. It also has ” The hilton ” at the base of it with heaps of resturant options and a great Onsen. A little locals trick is to take the free shuttle bus with a change of clothes to the Hilton, do a days ridding then purchase an after ski soak on the Onsen of the hotel which has one of the best views of Mount Yotei and a great cafe/bar
If you are more experienced rider our recommendation here is the mighty Gate 11 which attracts the most passionate powder hounds from miles around when the resort gets a fresh dump. This is truly natures playground.
A personal favourite of yours truly and the resort that we recommend you spend the most time at once you have got familiar with the mountains layout. It’s often the least crowded of the 4 resorts meaning you are spending more time skiing instead of waiting in lift lines.
Annupuri has very gentle slopes at it’s base making it the ideal spot for begginers and it also has some amazing back country out of gate 8 and gate 1 ( Av gear required ) that will entertain more advanced ridders and provides access to the true backcountry experience that more experienced pow riders seek.
Annupuri has a great Japanese restaurant at it’s base with pretty good and reasonably priced Ramen and that would be our pick.
No matter where you chose to ride you should find some great uncrowded lines that match your ability.
Welcome to Niseko