Located on the southern peninsula of Hokkaido Island, the Niseko United ski resort complex is the largest and most famous destination in Japan. Niseko United is truly the powder paradise rumors claim it to be—it gets 590 inches, or almost 50 feet, of powder snow on average per season. But it’s not only Niseko's powder that’s the best in Japan; for expert skiers and riders, nothing competes with Niseko’s off-piste, side-country skiing.
Located 62 miles from the bustling city of Sapporo, Niseko, and the main base village, Grand Hirafu are quite accessible for both international travelers and city site-seers. The resort is very near Mt. Yōtei or “the Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido,” and the views contribute to Niseko United's status as the star of Japan’s ski resorts.
The resort is comprised of four interconnected base areas: Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono, all of which offer a unique dining and lodging experience.
...by flying into New Chitose Airport, then taking a transfer or driving about 2 hours to get to the resort.
…the backcountry around Goshiki Onsen with a guide to show you all the secret stashes.
…yourself to a daily soak in an onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring.
...JaPOW! 500+ inches of snow annually at the four resorts on one mountain.
…local whiskey cocktails at Bar Gyu+.
…local catches at Ezo Seafoods, reservations recommended.
While the off-piste and out-of-bounds powder skiing is legendary, the on-piste blues and greens should not be dismissed either, meaning every type of skier and rider can enjoy the Niseko experience. Chances are likely that it will snow throughout the duration of your trip. However, gondolas and hooded chairlifts make the snowy weather more than bearable.
Out-of-bounds adventuring is permitted thanks to a relaxed ski-patrol policy at Niseko, especually when compared to other Japanese resorts. Guides are available and highly recommended, especially if you aim to climb and ski or ride the backcountry areas surrounding Mt. Yōtei.
It’s nearly impossible to get bored of Niseko's on-piste, off-piste and sidecountry terrain, but if you want to experience something else, heli skiing is available. It’s also possible to ski to the interconnected Moiwa resort, but a separate lift ticket is required.
Of all Japanese ski resorts, Niseko is known to have the best restaurants and the Grand Hirafu base area dining is especially noteworthy—as is the nightlife. Here, you’ll find a lot of Australians and more Westernized hotspots. For quieter, more traditional dining experiences stick to An’nupuri, Niseko Village or Hanazono.
Of all the Japanese resorts, Niseko is the best for uninitiated travelers. English is widely spoken across Niseko, so the resort is well-suited for an international tourist. In fact most of the resort and hotel staff speak English, and both English and Japanese restaurants offer English menus.
On the flip side, Niseko is the most modern and populous in Japan, but there’s still plenty of traditional Japanese restaurants and cultural attractions to appease a traveler seeking authentic experiences.
With a low base elevation and most of its terrain being blue and green, Niseko does qualify as a beginner-friendly resort. The beauty of being a beginner at Niseko United is you aren’t limited to just one resort. Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono all have options for individuals still building their confidence skiing or who are learning how to ski.
If you can envision yourself trenching through the deepest powder in the world, enjoying traditional sushi dishes and relaxing in natural hot springs every night, make a ski trip to Japan a reality this season.
Ski.com guests will get to explore Niseko United, Moiwa, Rusutsu, and Kiroro alongside the best guides Hokkaido has to offer. After skiing, retire to world-class accommodations at the Green Leaf Hotel in Niseko Village.
Book your guided trip today: To The Mountains Trips: Southern Hokkaido
Niseko SkiingSkiing in Japan is very different, the resorts have such diverse terrain and typically get tons of snow. Japow is a term used often among the regulars who love the deep, light power Niseko offers in abundance. Unfortunately in 2020, very unusual weather patterns created a less than stellar snow fall, in fact some resorts reported the worst on record going back 45 years! The good news was a bad snow year in Niseko means a 6 foot base instead of a 6 meter base, this still makes for plenty of great skiing. To get the best of your experience, hire a ski guide to take you to areas you normally wouldn't go, it's an incredible experience and some of the best skiing we've ever done. If you decide to go to Japan, know it'll be a very different experience, from the single chair ski lifts, constant snowfall and incredible tree skiing, to the hotels and restaurants. Be prepared, but know these differences make for a very unique and worthwhile experience. It's only my second time in Niseko, but a place I hope to return again and again.
Great Tree Skiingvery interesting terrain, beautiful birch forests, excellent lift access to off-piste skiing and good quality snow. For a lift accessed skiing, Niseko offers a unique ski experience. There is enough variety to satisfy an adventurous skier.
Green-Leaf Hotel: Great ski-in, ski-out hotel with a large buffet breakfast.These purpose built hotels with ski-in, ski-out is perfect. The hotel has great transportation to the local restaurants which there are many small unique places to eat. One should invest in micro-spikes as the street sidewalks are very icy. The hotel has customer service person, an American to help with any problems of translation of details. The outdoor onsen is a beautiful place to relax and have the snow fall on your face. Will return again.
Winter WonderlandNiseko is a winter wonderland! My husband and I had a great experience in Niseko. The package from ski.com made the trip very easy and accessible. Staying in the main resort area was definitely a highlight and a recommendation (versus the Hilton Niseko Village). There were amble dining options and area shutlles/walking made it easy to get around. If Japan is on your list, Niseko is an ideal destination!
Best Powder on the PlanetNiseko is a hidden gem, if you're into powder skiing and travel, Japan is a great spot to enjoy both. Niseko is a relatively small area with 4 different resorts, but the unique weather phenomenon that dumps remarkable amounts of snow in the mountains makes it one of the best ski experiences I've ever had. (And I've skied all over the world). Of course it helps if you don't mind skiing on snowy days and enjoy the deep stuff! I'd highly recommend skiing with a guide, they take you places you wouldn't normally go and keep you safe in unfamiliar areas, that makes for quite an enjoyable experience. I'll definitely be back.