Niseko is Asia’s number one luxury ski destination, a unique resort in Japan’s northern island Hokkaido, with views of the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan and the Volcano, Mount Yōtei. With more and more ski enthusiasts craving great snow, unique adventures, wonderful cuisine and fascinating culture, Japan is rapidly becoming the go-to destination.
Powder Byrne Travel Consultant George Kershaw is passionate about all things Japan, having spent two years working there, so we asked him to give us the inside scoop on what makes Niseko such an addictive place to ski.
I couldn’t be a bigger fan of this amazing country. It’s a place unlike any other, where old meets new, where tradition melds with modernisation, it’s truly unique and unlike anything I’ve experienced outside of Japan. The culture is so rich and diverse; you have to see it to believe it.
Niseko is famous for its light and abundant powder snow, night skiing, hot springs, quality restaurants and spectacular views of the Mount Yotei volcano. From gentle terrain to world-class tree runs and backcountry bowls, it is a skier’s paradise. The ski season runs from December until April, often with more than 15 meters of snow falling each season, so it’s no wonder it is a powder paradise.
The Niseko United area, made up of Annupuri, Grand Hirafu, Hanazono and Niseko Village, offers skiers more than 60 ski runs and 32 lifts situated between the elevations of 300 and 1,200m.
For advanced skiers looking for some exceptional powder skiing and gorgeous views too, choose a clear day and take the single seat ‘King Lift’ (number 4) to the highest lift point in Niseko, before taking the 20-minute hike to the famous Grand Hirafu Peak. With 128 vertical metres of elevation, the hike is quite strenuous but the spectacular views from the top of the Sea of Japan, Pacific Ocean and the Mount Yōtei Volcano make it totally worthwhile. It is breathtaking!
From here, you can ski down the front of the mountain and enjoy the view of Mount Yōtei and the wide open powder fields, that are some of the steepest in Niseko, before skiing down through the tree line.
Alternatively, you can choose to drop into the west-facing back-bowl towards Annupuri for some even more challenging powder skiing. As it is such an expansive ski area, using a mountain guide and safety equipment is essential when venturing off the pistes and into the powder.
Niseko is one of the largest areas for night skiing in the world and it is a must to try, both because it makes it possible to pack in loads more skiing on quiet slopes after the sun sets and because it’s a completely unique experience, totally different to skiing during daylight hours.
Niseko is unlike any other ski resort in Japan or, in fact, in the world. Once a sleepy rural region with narrow roads surrounded by rice paddies and farms, Niseko has transformed into one of the most popular holiday destinations in Asia, thanks to its five-star accommodation, fantastic après ski scene and incredible powder snow. As a result of Niseko’s transformation into a modern-day winter wonderland it caters to just about every desire.
Niseko’s après ski and nightlife is legendary so make sure you don’t spend every evening night skiing or you’ll miss out. It is easily the only ski resort in Japan with so many options to enjoy a complete variety of nightlife. From craft beer pubs to bars with DJs or ultra-sleek nightclubs, there will never be a lack of activities to fill your evenings.
Niseko also features very varied dining options. From Michelin-starred French cuisine to local izakayas pubs and authentic Japanese soba, there are options that will satisfy everyone's taste buds and let you explore new and exciting flavours.
There is also a wide and varied range of accommodation options that cater to different needs, from the finest high-end luxury to those looking for a more low-key break.
When you visit, apart from experiencing the mind-blowing skiing, there are a few things you have to try while in Niseko: slurp noodles at Niseko Ramen, enjoy the freshest sushi at Ezo Seafood, hire a private karaoke room in Kutchan, sip cocktails in Gyu Bar (aka ‘Fridge Door Bar’), take part in Powder Yoga at the Hilton Hotel with a range of classes including pre and post-powder ski sessions, and soak in the rejuvenating hot springs of Annupuri’s natural onsen.
Visit Niseko with Powder Byrne and our very own local ski guides in their distinctive red Powder Byrne jackets will ensure you make the most of Niseko's legendary slopes, while children will be in their element with English-speaking ski tuition in small groups with our brilliant local ski school partner.
Niseko is easily accessible from Sapporo Airport, enabling you to the ski mecca in just two hours.
For a Japanese ski experience that you won’t soon forget, call 020 8246 5300 or click here.