The ski resort of Niseko is a special place, because here about 15 m of snow falls per season – more than anywhere else in Japan ! So from a distance, small buildings look like mushrooms with huge snow-white hats. Fascinating mountain landscapes and magical snowfalls contributed to the fact that the small 5,000-strong village of Niseko turned into the center of skiing, first in Japan, and then throughout Asia. Today, in addition to snow-starved Australians, Europeans and Russians are increasingly coming here. After all, a vacation in Niseko is a unique opportunity to go skiing with a breeze and touch Japanese culture. Check clothingexpress for information about visa to Japan.
The slopes here are not much different from European ones, but the view of the huge Yotei volcano, gradually appearing before your eyes, will remain in the memory of the skier for a long time.
How to get to Niseko
Speaking of Niseko, most often they mean the resort area of Niseko United, which includes the villages of Grand Hirafu, Annupuri and Niseko Village. A 15-minute drive west of this cluster is the city of Niseko, with a train station where most buses and trains arrive from Sapporo Airport and other Japanese cities. Read more about how to get to Sapporo here. It should be noted that Aurora Airlines flies to Chitoza International Airport from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The ticket costs 21,980 RUB, the flight time is 1 hour 20 minutes. Departures are on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 16:25.
During the season (December-March), many bus companies run flights from Chitose to Niseko. The bus covers a distance of 100 km in about 3 hours. Round-trip ticket – 6500 JPY. During the rest of the year there are no regular routes.
You can also come to Niseko by train, even out of season. True, you will need to make a transfer to Otara. The trip lasts 3 hours and costs 3200 JPY.
A little more traffic goes to the city of Kutchan, a major transportation hub in Hokkaido. Buses depart every hour from the local bus station to Grand Hirafu (15 minutes drive), Niseko Village (30 minutes) and Annupuri (45 minutes, winter only).
The main resorts are located on Mount Niseko-Annupuri. The largest of them (Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri) occupy the southeastern slope and are connected to each other by ski runs and bus routes.
To try all of them, you need to purchase a Niseko All Mountain ski pass. One- day pass costs 7400 JPY, 3 days – 19,800 JPY, 5 – 32,200 JPY, 7 – 44,600 JPY.
Grand Hirafu is the largest resort in Niseko United. It is the only one that includes a city called Hirafu. There is a large selection of hotels, boarding houses and holiday homes, many restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The town is crowded with foreigners, and sometimes it seems as if you are somewhere in Europe – by default they bring menus in English, stores are overflowing with food familiar to Europeans, the language of Byron and Shakespeare literally drowns out Japanese speech.
Kutchan, the largest city in the region, is 15 minutes from Hirafu. There are even more opportunities for shopping and entertainment, although as a ski base it is not very convenient – the ski lifts are far away.
The second most important resort is Niseko Village (formerly known as Higashiyama), which is west of Grand Hirafu. There are several large hotels, including the Hilton, a number of guesthouses and a village of restaurants, bars and boutiques.
A little further west is Annupuri. Its slopes are not as neat and wide as in Grand Hirafu and Niseko Village, but there are no crowds of skiers here. Annupuri has one hotel and several boarding houses and guesthouses. There are no restaurants or nightclubs.
Holidays in Niseko are not limited to skiing. For example, you can enjoy swimming in thermal springs, walking along the slopes of the mountains on snowmobiles, going to discos, karaoke and other events.
Every year in early February, the world-famous Snow Festival is held in neighboring Sapporo, one of the most popular winter holidays in Japan. City parks are decorated with ice and snow sculptures, and city streets are decorated with houses made of snow and ice.
The ski season in Niseko lasts about 5 months, from late November to early May. The high season starts on December 21st and ends in mid-February. This is the snowiest time of the year, but the snowplows work perfectly, so there are practically no drifts on the tracks. True, it should be borne in mind that at this time there are very few sunny days, and strong winds blow, due to which the operation of some lifts may be suspended. The air temperature is -2 °C…-11 °C in the villages and -15 °C…-25 °C at the top.
Accommodation in Niseko
As for living in Niseko, there are several features that are not typical for most Japanese ski resorts. Firstly, there is accommodation for every budget: from hostels to luxury hotels such as The Vale, Ki Niseko or Chalet Ivy. Secondly, there are many offers of apartments, which is also uncharacteristic for the Land of the Rising Sun. A night in a good hotel will cost about 26,600 JPY per person, in a hostel – 4,000 JPY.