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Hangetsuko - Niseko

2021

Hiking opportnities abound here in Niseko and a great option suitable for the whole family is Hangetsuko or Half Moon Lake. The trail head is just 5 minutes drive from Hirafu and the hike itself takes between 30 to 60 minutes depending on the route you take and your fitness level. The easiest and perhaps most scenic route takes you down to lake level and only takes about 40 minutes return depending on how long you enjoy the views for at the bottom.

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A two story building with a pointy roof and stained glass windows.
The trail head has a large parking lot and distinctive toilet block.

The trail meanders through beautiful dense silver birch forest through which dappled sunlight lights the path. It is a great place for kids to experience nature and adults to unwind from the stresses from the week.

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A trail map of Hangetsuko
The two routes give you the choice of circumnavigating the lake (about 45 minutes) or descending into the crater to lake level 45 minutes return.

Hangestuko is located on the side of the iconic volcanic peak Mount Yotei and is a calders lake that was formed after an eruption around 3000 years ago, not long ago at all in geological terms. 

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A child sits on a rock beside a picturesque lake.
The Hangetsuko trail is a a hike the whole family can enjoy.

Upon reaching the lake there are some areas just off the trail where you can set your self up for a rest and a snack, during the warmer months insesct repellent is a must. On the day this photo was taken unfortuntaley the magnificent Mount Yotei is obscured by clouds but on the right day the views from here are spectacular. 

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A forest view down to lake Hangetsuko and up to the ridge of Mount Yotei.
The trails around and down to Hangestuko offer delightful views of Yotei and the lake itself.

Being just 5 minutes drive from Hirafu village a trip to Hangetsuko is the perfect way to fill a morning or afternoon and embrace the natural surrounds that have put Niseko on the map. If you'd like any information on Hangetsu - Ko or are interested in visiting Niseko in the winter or summer please feel free to get in touch (res@holidayniseko.com).

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A child walks across a steep slip face holding a rope
A little challenge on the way up and down the course!

       


Kihaku - Lower Hirafu

2021

Kihaku is the latest edition to Holiday Niseko's portfolio of vacation rental properties and it is a stunner. Set in lower Hirafu Village far enough away from the center to enjoy peace and quiet yet close enough to be convenient and within easy walking distance of some of the most popular bars and eateries including Ebisu Tei and the famous fridge door bar, Bar Gyu. 

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Kitchen and dining area with large windows in the back ground
The kitchen has plenty of space and is equipped with everything you need for meal preparation.
  

Kihaku is split over 2 stories with 2 bedrooms downstairs and the master bedroom, kitchen, living and dining upstairs. High vaulted ceilings add to the feeling of spaciousness in the living and kitchen area and the oak flooring throughout lends to a bright, light filled feel. The house is thoughtfully and stylishly appointed throughout with quality furnishings and appliances.

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Two arm chairs and a black leather lounge with large windows behind
A spacious lounge with high vaulted ceilings.

The large windows in the lounge area enjoy great views up to the resort which promise to be magical as night falls and the resort lights illuminate the ski runs. The lounge is cozy and again nicely appointed with thoughtfully chosen furnishings. 

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A large made up double bed with white bed spread in a light wooden floored room.
The master bedroom with ensuite.

Kihaku's simple uncluttered style is continued into the bedrooms with large windows in the master bedroom offering leafy views to the south. The remaining two bedrooms downstairs are made up of 1 bunk room with 4 beds and the second room which can be made up as 2 singles or one double. The bunk room is perfect for the kids and each bunk has its own light and power point.

To make a booking at Kihaku or if you have any questions about this great new property feel free to get in touch (res@holidayniseko.com) and for full details on Kihaku check out the listing page here - https://holidayniseko.com/kihaku .


Lake Shikotsuko Camping

2021

Camping opportunities in Hokkaido abound with fantastic campsites within an easy drive from Niseko. Just an hour from Hirafu is lake Shikotsuko which has a number of camping spots, one of the most popular being Morappu Camping Site. Many visitors to Niseko will be familiar with the beautiful Lake Shikotsuko as it is on the route from the Chitose Airport to Niseko. The lake is stunning in winter or summer and in summer the area comes alive with people flocking to the area to enjoy the many outdoor pursuits on offer.

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A stand up paddle board sits on the side of a glassy lake.
Lake Shikotsuko is a great place for water sports with stand up paddle boarding fast becoming one of the most popular.

The camping ground at Morappu has good facilities with toilets and communal sinks for washing up. There is parking for about 150 cars and in mid summer you can expect these to be pretty well occupied. There is also a small store and reception desk where you will pay for your campsite when you enter or if reception is closed when you arrive the next day. You can rent barbeque equipment and buy charcoal here too. All other food and equipment must be bought in and you'll need to take your rubbish out.

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Two children eating at a table with a glassy lake at sunset in the back ground
The Morappu Camping Site is family friendly and an awesome place for the kids.

Tents are pitched along the shore of the lake which is for the most part pebbles so you need some decent bedding if you want a good night's sleep. The beauty of this is that you have the lake quite literally on your doorstep and the sound of the waves lapping the shore will send you to a peaceful sleep. Sunsets are stunning and you will often be greeted by a little morning mist draped like cotton wool over the lush green hills.

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A curving lake shore framed by green foliage.
Lake Shikotsuko is an idilic spot from every angle. The Morappu camping ground lines the shore line visible here.

There are many great hiking trails to explore in the area including Mount Tarumae (visible in the top photo) and an excellent hike up the active volcano. If you prefer more aquatic pursuits, standup paddle boards or kayaks are the weapon of choice and a great way to take in the surrounds. If you don't have your own vessel small boats and swan boats are avilable to rent for reasonable prices. Lake Shikotsuko is one of the deepest caldera lakes in Hokkaido and her crystal clear waters remain cool and refreshing through out the summer. The lake is home to many species of Japanese trout including ame masu, sakura masu, hime masu, niji masu (rainbow trout) and brown trout.

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A solo Camper and lantern sits in front of a glassy lake at sunset.
A solo camper enjoys the serenity of the sunset

Although the campgrounds are busy during the peak month of August they are for the most part quiet and peaceful despite the number of campers. Camping in Japan is taken seriously and camping setups range from large scale family glamping homes to purposefully curated set ups for one where even the scent of the firewood is chosen with care. If you have the opportunity to experience camping at Lake Shikotsuko don't miss it. It is a stunning area and an easy extension to your itinerary if you are staying or passing through Niseko.

          


Summer time in Niseko

2021

Every season in Niseko offers something special, with cherry blossoms in the spring, festivals through the summer and the emotive colours of the Autumn. Summer is of course one of the best times to visit with warm settled weather and temperatures hovering around 25 degrees, just perfect for sightseeing, hiking, rafting and many more of the fantastic activities the area has to offer. Below are 5 awesome summer activities Niseko has on offer.

Rafting season begins in the spring and runs through to Autumn. In the spring time the snow melt raises the river level and it is at this time it is the most exciting. During the summer the river runs slower and the experience is a little less action packed but the water and weather is warmer and the surroundings more scenic with lush greenery colouring the riverside. There are number of excellent rafting operations in the area and Holiday Niseko will be more than happy to make bookings for you or put you in touch with the right people.

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A sun sets behind the waves at a sandy beach in Shakotan
You can find great coastal spot for camping, sightseeing and much more less than 90 minutes drive from Hirafu.

In keeping with the watery theme, the next on the list is a trip to the coast. Although not what we usually associate with Niseko the area is a fantastic base from which you can access some incredible coastlines to the south and to the west. Shakotan is a crowd favourite with spectacular coastal scenery, delicious seafood, camping, fishing, onsens, sea kayaking and plenty of places for a swim. If you are staying in Niseko for more than a couple of nights a seasside excursion is an easy and rewarding activity.  Check out the following links for more on some of the great coastal adventures at your finger tips from your Hirafu accommodation Bikuni, Shakotan, Kamoenai, Okishi.

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People climbing across a trees ropes course in Hirafu.
Are you up for the challenge? The NAC Adventure Park has courses for everyones age and level of confidence.

Take to the trees! One of the few activities that can be enjoyed winter or summer is one of the areas 3 tree adventure parks, the largest and first to be opened is the NAC adventure park which is also conveniently located in Hirafu, so just a few minutes walk from any lower village property you'll book through Holiday Niseko. Test your confidence, immerse your self in nature, enjoy great views and keep the kids entertained. There are a total of 8 courses suitable for kids over 115cm in height, and 2 courses for those that are 140cm or taller, all courses are completely supervised and have 100% emphasis on safety.

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A golfer drives down a fairway with Mount Yotei in the back ground
Incredible views compliment the Fukui Golf Course to a tee.

Get into golf. If you are a golfer you will love the courses around Niseko. With a wide variety to choose from and the Hilton and Hanazono courses on Hirafu's doorstep you don't have to go far to enjoy some of the best courses the area has. If you're looking to go a little further a field there are more excellent options too check out  more on A Brand, Rusustu and Hanazono here and more on Fukui, Hilton and Niseko Golf & Resort here.

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A display counter with multiple flavours of ice cream.
Niseko Gelato's flavours are extensive, deep and just what you need to cool off on a hot summers day.

After all this activity you may be feeling the heat and the kids getting grumpy, for either affliction there is one sure cure, ice cream! There are a number of great places for an ice cream in Niseko but the top pick has to be Niseko Gelato loacted in NIseko View Plaza just a 15 minute drive from HIrafu. Niseko Gelato is owned and operated by Dennis Van Den Brink, who is also behind a number of other great restaurant in the area including Niseko Green Farm where almost everyone who has been to Niseko in the last 10 years has probably visited for a coffee! The Gelato is fantastic with a wide variety of delicious flavours often made from the areas seasonal produce. Yum!!

If you have the chance to visit Japan in the summer Hokkaido is an essential stop on any itinerary and Niseko an easy place to base yourself in comfortable convenient accommodation. It is just over an hour from the city of Sapporo, even less to a great number of beaches and must see locations as well as having some awesome activities right on the doorstep. If you are interested in visting Niseko winter or summer please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have on accommodation or activities in the area.

 


Night Rider

2021

Ever dreamed of riding bottomless powder all through the day and into the night? Well, in Niseko you can do exactly that with the lifts running until 9:00pm and a huge skiable area illuminated, so much in fact that it even possible to ride powder in the sidecountry trees. The night skiing experience is truly one like no other and not to missed if make a trip to the area. 

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An aerial view of Hirafu Village at night with ski resort illuminated by flood lights.
Hirafu village from above and below showing the area skiable at night.

10 years ago the night skiing area was even bigger with lights running all the way to the top of the 6C or Roku C lift (now known as the Kind Hooded Quad Lift #3) and down the length of the family course. With so much illuminated you could almost ski as if it were day time! Currently only the area pictured above is lit up. When we say only this is still a huge area and it is still arguably the best night skiing in the world!

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A skier throws up a spray of powder snow at night.
Night skiing turns like these will have you coming back to Niseko time after time.

It is not just deep powder turns on offer either the groomed slopes are less busy at night and night time can often present an opportunity to leave the kids with the better half or baby sitter and get your self into the zone. Night time brings cold temps, better snow quality and less crowds and the novelty of skiing under lights is one quite like no other.

Night skiing in Niseko is incredible and an experience not to be missed and below we've got 3 key tips tips to make the most of your Niseko Nighta experience.

# 1. Dress for the occasion - Night temps are significantly colder than the day time so you need to dress warmly, really warmly. Merino or polyprop base layers, fleece and a layer of down beneath a goretex shell are a good good start. You'll also want a face mask / balaclava, warm beanie and extra warm gloves or mittens. Bonus tip, stop by the Sapporo Drug Store on Hirafu Zakka and pick up some hand warmers to go inside your gloves.

# 2. Night vision - A clear goggle lense is the weapon of choice, if you don't have one yellow is probably the next best option. An interesting note on vision, on a heavy snow day if you get the goggles right visibility at night can actually be better than during the day as the light is coming from below the clouds rather than above it and the artificial lights provide better definition.

#3. Timing is key - For the best visibility wait until it is completely dark before heading up, during twilight the light will be considerably flatter than when it's dark.

If you'd like to know more about night skiing or are interested in making an accommodation booking please feel free to contact us anytime.

 


Gigi in Japan

2021

Ski and snowboard videos are what hungry powder hounds feast on during  the summer months and the more video's you watch the more you realise Japan is the place to be if you want deep, dry all you can eat powder.  Japan video parts are timeless and one man that defines snowboarding in Japan is Gigi Ruf. Gigi has been filmed in Japan by countless videographers and production companies over the last deacde and every part leaves you wanting more, none less than his part from the Union Team Movie, Stronger.  Enjoy.

 

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A snowboarder jumps through snowy trees
Gigi Ruf blasting one in the Hokkaido Backcountry

 


New Lifts for Hanazono

2021

Over the last couple of years the Hanazono area in Niseko has undergone some big changes. First the park Hyatt has built an impressive hotel at the base which features ten lounges, bars and restaurants, including French cuisine, sushi, robata, teppan, Italian and Chinese. The hotel has raised the bar for luxury hotels in the area and all Hanazono skiiers will also be raising the bar on a brand new 6 seat POMA lift complete with leather seats and footrests. This new lift will whisk you up to the 1589 meter mark in just 5 minutes and 30 seconds and although the lift will be dropping you off at the same place as the original Hanazono # 1 lift, you will get there faster and in more comfort. 

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A picture showing newly planned lifts.
Exciting news with construction already started on a new 6 seater chair and gondola. (Source - Hanazono.com)

If the new 6 seater wasn't enough, construction has also begun on a second new lift, the Hanazono Symphony Gondola. This will be delivering beginner and intermediate snow goers to the top of the newly constructed intermediate course "Colly's Folly" and has a mid way station that riders can use to access the new "Juicy Fruit" beginners course. Although not opening up much new terrain the new gondola will most defintely alleviate pressure on the Hanazono #1  lift which is great news for everybody.

  


Property Spotlight - Fumoto

2021

If you are looking for a convenient, comfortable, well laid out and nicley appointed 3 bedroom home away from home look no further than Fumoto.  Lower floor living and bedrooms up top make for a roomy lounge and kitchen plus nice views from the bedrooms. The house has a distinctly holiday home feel and is light and spacious. The lounge area has a comfy sofa and dining table beside the kitchen.

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Wooden dining table with sofa in background
The lounge and kitchen enjoy lots natural light and plenty of space to spread yourselves out.

The upstairs bedrooms can be configured as 1 double or single beds in each room and all rooms are very close to the bathroom and toilet which sits between bedroom # 2 and #3. The bedrooms have great views of the surrounding snow smothered village plus glimpses of the mountains beyond.

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two single beds with white sheets and white rolled towels
All of the 3 bedrooms can be configured as 2 singles or one double and all rooms have a nice light feel.

There is a second bathroom and toilet downstairs along with a large washer and drier. The laundry area also has plenty of places to hang gloves and outerwear out to dry. The kitchen is well laid out with plenty of bench space and of course is fully eqipped everything you need to prepare meals at home when your legs are too tired to make to to restaurant (this is a real risk, exacerbated by the back to to back powder days that are common place here). As you can see there's plenty of space for the kids in the lounge and like all Holiday Niseko managed accommodation the house comes with Apple TV and Netflix.

If you are interested in booking Fumoto for the 2021/22 winter or you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch. Winter rates start at just ¥36,720JPY per night for up to 6 guests.


Finding Niseko

2021

Niseko has is firmly established as an internationally acclaimed resort destination and the name now synonymous with incredible snow, mouthwatering food and an ever increasing range of fantastic accommodation. Niseko has become the brand for the area but it can be a little confusing as to where Niseko actually is. When you look up the accommodation you are thinking about booking you will most likely find that it is in Hirafu which looks to be10 kilometers from Niseko and actually part of a town called Kutchan... Confused? Read on for an explanation.

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A street on a hill with footpaths and trees blanketed in snow.
Hirafu Zakka is the main street of Hirafu Village leading to the base of Grad Hirafu Resort

A quick explananition is that Niseko has become the name of the greater area including and surrounding Mount Annupuri which is the home of the Niseko United Ski Resorts, which is where you'll be skiing and snowboarding if you come here. Colloquially Niseko is used to refer to the folowing areas: Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village, Niseko Town, Annupuri, Mount Moiwa and to some extent Kutchan. 

So what are all these places with Niseko in the name?

 - Niseko Town is just south of the resort area known as The Niseko United Resort. It is very unlikely you will book accommodation in Niseko Town but there is a train station there and some nice restaurants too. It is also very unlikely the station there will be a practical arrival or departure point.

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The view of Mount Yotei across the groomed runs of Hirafu Ski resort
From wherever you are in Niseko Mount Yotei is never far from view, seen here from the slopes of Grand Hirafu.

- Niseko Village is one of the ski areas on the Niseko United Resort and is home to the Hilton Niseko Village one of the largest hotels in the area and a prominent fixture on the landscape, the Niseko Village Gondola and Niseko Village itself which is a quaint shopping and restaurant area with some fantastic food, in summer the Niseko Village Golf Course and Gate 11 which has some of the best lift accessed off piste terrain in the area. 

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A crowd of people watch fireworks from a snowy Niseko Village.
Niseko Village is a fantastic place to enjoy New Years fireworks. (Photo - Niseko Tourism)

- Niseko Cho (ニセコ町) is one visitors don't have to worry about too much but interestingly this the official area that encompasses Niseko Town and has Annupuri Ski area within its borders too. 

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Niseko untied ski area trail map
The Niseko United area including Niseko Annupuri, Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono

Things to remember

- The majority of restaurants and accommodation are in Hirafu Village and from here you can reach all the resorts on the Niseko United area on skis or snowboard via the connected lift system or via the shuttle system. Holiday Niseko book and manage properties almost exclusivley in the Hirafu Village area.

-If you are planning to take the train to Niseko and are staying in Hirafu your final destination should be Kutchan, not Hirafu Station or Niseko Station.

- Hirafu and Hanazono areas are covered under one pass but if you want to explore Niseko Village and Annupuri too you will need to purchase an all Mountain lift Pass which Holiday Niseko will be happy to arrange for you in advance and have ready for you when you arrive. An all mountain pass is more expensive but offfers much more freedom to explore the resort. You can start in Hirafu, go to Niseko Village for lunch ski Annupuri in the afternoon and ski back to Hirafu when you are done.

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Mount Annupuri from Niseko Bridge
An evening view of Mount Annupuri in the spring from the iconic yellow Niseko Bridge in Niseko Town, approximately 10 minutes drive from Annupuri Ski Area and 15 minutes from Grand Hirafu.


Kids in Niseko

2021

Coming to NIseko with kids can be a bit of a daunting prospect but i doesn't have to be. Kids usually love the snow and getting out and about in it, throwing it and and sliding down it. Ski & snowboard lessons are of course the go to if you want the kids to make the most of their on snow time and lucky for us Niseko has a wide range of snowsports schools with tailor made kids programs. You can contact Holiday NIseko anytime to book these and we can help you choose the right provider to suit your needs and budget. Ok so obviously the go to activity is skiing or snowboarding, what else would you do in one of the snowiest places on earth? Below are 5 top activities for the kids when for whatever reason you take a day off slopes.

# 1 - Go to the Niseko Adventure Center  NAC as it is better known is your go to for keeping the kids busy and somewhere where you can easily spend a few hours. The center has a large indoor climbing wall complex, an excellent cafe and one of the best kids spaces in the village.

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A children's play area with plastic slides a ball pit and tunnels.
The NAC kids Garden is a saviour for parents looking for place to entertain the kids on a down day.

The NAC Kids Garden is open from 09:30am to 9:00pm and features a fun playground and space for kids 2- 12 years old. If your children are primary school age or above you can also enroll them in climbing school, if they still have energy to burn after skiing, this runs from 17:00 to 19:00. The bouldering section is also a great option anytime of the day for ages 13 and above. All this activity will work up an apetite and you need look no further than JoJo's cafe upstairs for a wholesome healthy lunch.

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A table set with hamburgers and orange juice
Jojo's do excellent burgers, coffee and all served with a view of Mount Yotei

#2 Hanazono snow tubing - Not quite off the slopes but you won't need to buy a lift pass or ride the chair lift. Snowtubing at Hanazono is a brilliant option for sharing fun times with the whole family. 

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A family enjoys snow tubing
lots of fun for the whole family!

From Hirafu Village acessing Hanazono is easy and free on the village shuttle which during a normal winter runs every ten minutes. Snowtubing is suitable for ages 3 and above and costs ¥2500 for one hour pp, operating hours from 09:00am - 4:00pm.

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A large swimming pool
The Alpen is home to a pool, an onsen, childcare facilities and a hot stone sauna.

# 3 - Niseko Alpen Pool Many of you may have walked past the Niseko Alpen thinking it was just another hotel but did you know it is also home to a full size swimming pool, onsens and a hot stone sauna facility all of which are open to the public? The pool has a shallow kids zone plus some great spa baths to sit back and relax in.

#4 - The NAC Adventure Park -  Bought to you once again by the masters of Niseko adventure NAC brings you challenge and excitement. This is a climbimg and ropes course quite like no other and it can be accessed on foor from anywhere in Hirafu. With an emphasis on safety and adventure there are courses to suit all levels, kids just need to be 115 cm or taller and there are kids specific courses. Everything is done under the supervision of a guide so you family will be 100% safe all of the time. One of the beauties of the adventure park is it's location, located along the side of the Ace Family Quad it can be easily accessed from anywhere in the village.

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Two people climbing on a ropes adventure course in snowy surrounds
Are you ready for this adventure!?

#5 Reindeer rides. Possibly the ultimate kids Christmas activity in the snow! Niseko Village hosts daily Reindeer sledding form 12/23/2020 - 2/14/2021. The rides last just 5 minutes (for the protection of the animals) and cost ¥3,100 for an adult and ¥2,100 for children. Niseko Village is easy to access via the village shuttle which departs from Hirafu every 15 minutes. Open days can be weather dependent so please check before you go T: +81(0)136-44-2211. Please also note the following unavialble dates. 2020: 12/28,29 2021: 1/4,5,12,13,18,19,25,26 2/1,2,8,9. The Holiday Niseko front desk team is always more than happy to assist with any enquiries you have on reindeer sledding or any of the activities above and can also make bookings where needed. Please feel free to contact us anytime (frontdesk holidayniseko.com).

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A man and child ride a sled pulled by a reindeer
Kids will love Reindeer sledding in Niseko Village.

 


Hokkaido Government Travel agent Licence No. 3-777
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