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Niseko
Pic: istock.com/Kenneth-Maxwell

Niseko

Niseko is a ski resort area consisting of four different resorts—all on the slopes of Niseko-Annupuri—in the Shiribeshi sub-prefectural region of Hokkaido.

The area is famous for its powder snow in winter and, as such, attracts powder hounds from around the world—but particularly Australia.

The four resorts are Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri. All are joined at the top, so snow enthusiasts can take the gondola or chairlift up any of the four ski areas and make there way down through any of the others. They also promote themselves together under the Niseko United banner—and they each offer lift passes for just their own area or for the four resorts together.

Getting there

Although it looks close to Hokkaido’s largest city Sapporo on the map, Niseko is at least two to three hours travel from either Sapporo or more commonly Shinchitose Airport no matter which way you cut it. Bus options from the airport include White Liner, the Hokkaido Resort Liner, Niseko Bus or Chuo Bus. Be sure to book in advance as the buses fill up quickly.

Hirafu Welcome Center | Photo by Gregory Lane

It’s also possible to get to Niseko by train by taking the Airport Express to Otaru and then changing to the Hakodate Main Line to Kutchan Station. Hirafu Station is closer to the resort, but there are no transport facilities there so you should only get off here if someone is picking you up. Similarly, Niseko Station is quite remote from the ski resorts. If alighting at Kutchan, you can either take a taxi to Hirafu for about ¥2,500 or the bus, which is approximately ¥480 to the Hirafu Welcome Center.

Route Airline One-way Fare Booking
Tokyo => Sapporo SAM Columbia ¥5,220 (US$51) Details
Tokyo => Sapporo Jetstar ¥5,543 (US$54) Details
Tokyo => Sapporo Japan Airlines ¥21,147 (US$203) Details

Route Airline Return Fare Booking

Getting around

If you’re in or around Hirafu township or any of the four resorts, then you can get around using the free Niseko United shuttles. There is no special place to stow your gear so you have to squeeze in while carrying everything. There are also taxis and regular (not free) public buses. If you’re staying at a hotel or lodge, they may have a van for transfers or for dropping you off around town.

Places to stay

From December through to early March, the limited accommodation is in serious demand so prices for all types of accommodation are high. If you don’t mind taking the bus each day from Kutchan, you can find some cheaper accommodation—minus the après ski nightlife options available in Hirafu. If you’re looking to hit the slopes on a budget, then dormitory-style accommodation is your best bet. First Cabin Niseko or First Cabin Niseko Pon no Yu both on the outskirts of Kutchan township, have capsule-like rooms with their own buses ferrying guests to the slopes each day.

First Cabin coach at Hirafu Welcome Center | Photo by Gregory Lane

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