Niseko, Japan: A Powder Paradise for Skiers and Snowboarders

The snow-covered Mt. Yotei
Mt. Yotei (photo: Andrew K. Smith)

Tucked inside the western edge of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Niseko is a world-renowned powder paradise for skiers and snowboarders alike.

Anticipation for the each Winter season starts when the first snows begin to fall atop Mt. Yotei, known as the “Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido.”

Due to its proximity to Siberia, Niseko benefits from weather patterns bringing cold air across the Sea of Japan, where moisture collects, and is later dumped in the form of snow across the region. Lots of snow.

An average of a little over 595 inches (15 meters) per year qualifies Niseko as one of the top three snowiest ski resorts in the world.

And it’s not only the volume of snow that sets Niseko apart, it’s the quality too. With an average Winter temperature of 17.6F (-8C), the snow tends to of the dry, champagne powder variety.

It’s this combined reputation for consistent, high quality snowfall, that draws tourists from around the world to a town of no more than 5,000 people in northern Japan.

Niseko - February 2014
Niseko – February 2014 (photo: Perfect Zero)

How to Get There

The closest major city and airport is Sapporo, a two-hour flight from Tokyo or a four-hour flight from Shanghai, China.

Once in Sapporo, it’s another two and a half hours by private taxi or coach, or three hours by train, to Niseko.

It’s recommended that transfers be booked two weeks in advance, while train tickets can be bought on arrival.

Snowboarding in Niseko
Snowboarder (photo: Andrew K. Smith)

The Niseko Resort

Niseko features 69 runs serviced by 28 lifts and gondolas.

There’s a wide variety of terrain to suit everyone’s interests, including groomed trails, trees, moguls, and the Hanazono terrain park, featuring a half-pipe and rails.

The lifts operate 12 hours daily, from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Needless to say, with hours like these, night skiing is available

The All Mountain lift pass provides access to Niseko, plus three additional and interconnected ski areas (known collectively as the Niseko United Area).

A wider range of Winter services are available, including:

  • Ski and snowboard equipment rentals
  • Backcountry/avalanche equipment rentals
  • Private and group ski lessons, plus a special kids program
  • Private backcountry tours
  • Catskiing tours
  • Snowmobile tours
  • Spa services, including oil, hot stone and shiatsu massages
  • Access to natural 15 hot springs (onsens)
  • Car rentals
  • Assistance in arranging day trips

Accommodations run the gamut from ski in/out mountain chalets to house rentals, townhouses, apartment rentals and hotels of all sizes. There’s even a Hilton.

And due to the international nature of tourism here, it’s possible to find a wide range of American and European cuisines, in addition to Japanese.

Like many ski resorts, when the snow gives way to warmer weather and fresh flowers, Niseko begins to attract a different kind of visitor.

Whitewater rafting, hiking and golfing are just a few of the many ways one can pass the Summer months, while waiting for those first snowflakes to fall atop Mt. Yotei, signaling the beginning of a new Winter season.

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This post was brought to you by Hanazono Niseko.

Comments

  1. says

    That last picture that you posted in the article makes me want to be in Niseko for first chair this season … alas, I’ll be in Latin America! Adding this place to my bucket list!

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