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Powder Hound Guide - Part 1


There's nothing much more exciting than visiting a ski resort for the first time and just imagine visiting a resort in Hokkaido Japan for the first time, wow!

You will have no doubt seen the photos, watched the videos and even heard the vocab with phrases and hashtags like Japow, Japanuary and many more that will, with out a doubt, have you frothin' ! After a seemingly endless summer (or winter), you are here in Niseko, standing at the base of the Hirafu Gondola, fresh after a comfortable sleep in your Holiday Niseko arranged accommodation and staring up at snow caked trees and runs. The big question you have is where to go?

Niseko United is a big ski area with 3 gondolas, 30 lifts and thousands of acres of skiable terrain plus further incredible front, side, slack and back country opportunites. The area is made up of 4 connected resorts Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri and each one of these have there own secret pow stashes. We're not going to tell you them all but we'll shed some light on some of the gems, starting with Hirafu. Hirafu can be seen as the center of the Niseko area and leads the way in terms of accommodation, shopping, restaurants and bars and if this wasn't enough it is also one of the funnest places to ride with a great mix of terrain and of course plenty of awesome tree skiing.


The Niseko United Trail map
The Niseko United Trail map

Need pow fast? Take the Ace Quad / Center 4 quad straight up, strap in, head skiiers right and you're on your way to Hone or Super Ridge. Drop in early for some great steep tree runs or stay on the traverse to the ridge and choose your line down from there. These are some of the best inbounds steeps you'll find on Hirafu. Alternatively you can keep traversing accross the bowl to where the trees begin again and here's where you can usually find some awesome pow stashes even late in the day. Always stay skiiers left of the main ridge and keep in mind there is a creek at the bottom, especially early season! 

Don't miss Miharashi! If you've started from the Hirafu Gondola when you get to the top walk down the stairs and turmn right, walk up the hill 50m and pick your line down. From the top of the ridge heading skiiers left will take you into some great trees and you will come out about midway down the Family Course, heading right into the open slope will take you to the areas name sake run, Miharashi. This is a great wide open run and pretty epic if you are the first down but if you've partied the night before and missed the first gondola stick to the treed side for some of that hangover curing cherry cherry pow pow you came for, yeooow!



Gloved up in Niseko


Thinking of a new set of gloves for this winter? Great idea! Gloves are an essential item in your Niseko ski kit and your choice in gloves can make or break a days skiing here. The options are as you would expect seemingly infinite but for Niseko, the number 1 factor you should take into consideration is unsurprisingly warmth, for you and of course the tiny hands of the little ones! Glove styles abound but the go to for Niseko especially for the kids is the classic Mitt. Mittens won't let you down and although you may lose a little dexterity once you've enjoyed the warmth mittens provide you'll never go back.


A snowboarder digging a deep powder turn
Mittens will keep you warm on even the deepest and coldest days!

Useful points to consider when buying gloves for Niseko - 

  • Warmth - Get the warmest gloves you can find, Niseko resort temps usaully hover around -10 from December through to mid February and can get cosiderably colder than this especially at night. There are many insulating materiials but a good start is to go for a glove with a high count of Prima Loft fills.
  • Versatilty - Gloves and mittens often come with removable liners so that you can regulate temperatures. These sound like a great idea but you will be sacrificing a little convenience as gloves without liners are always easier to put on and it's one more thing to keep track / in your pocket.
  • Dexterity - Gloves over mitts for this race but check to see how flexible gloves are and think about how easy it will be to grip your poles, do up your bindings or grip the deliciously warming little can of coffee from the vending machine! 
  • Water Prooofing - Another key to warmth is staying dry so choose your materials carefully. Good old Goretex is a waterproofing guarantee hard to go past and technology now enables premium shell materials such as leather to be close to 100% waterproof. Applications of bees wax derived products such as Snowseal will also lengthen the life of leather gloves and make them more waterproof too.
  • Cuff length - The longer the cuff the more warmth a glove will provide but make sure that your jacket will go over your gloves or vice versa and if you have thumb gussets in your jacket that your jacket cuffs will still go over your gloves if you are using these. The shorter the cuff length the more likely you will be to expose skin to the elements but there is a trade of for how easy it is to get your gloves on and off.
  • Spring time - Planning to come to Niseko in March or April? Disrregard all of the above regarding the importance of warmth and come perpared with a lighter set of gloves. From mid March temperatures will be comparitvely mild and mittens and warm gloves will be too hot and may quite rapidly acquire a less than pleasent aromor! 
  • Price - Quality gloves will last at least a couple of winters and if you want a balance of warmth, waterproofness and style you should be looking to spend  $120 - $200 USD for a decent set of adult gloves or mitts. Gloves are an essential accesory and having a quality pair will most certainly improve your Niseko experience, especially for the those epic nighta's, yeooow!


A skier in deep powder
Ski or Snowboard, mitts or gloves make sure you're toasty warm every turn.






Van included- get more out of your Niseko holiday.


Are you planning a trip to Niseko and wondering how you will get around?

Although the Hirafu village is compact and relatively easy to negotiate on foot or with the aid of the free village shuttle Holiday Niseko has another solution for you - book a property that comes with a vehicle.

Properties with vehicles offer superb value when you take into consideration the cost of a rental vehicle and best of all a van allows you the freedom top explore more resorts, restaurants and must see attractions. They are also the answer to any supermarket worries and allow you to drop the kids off at ski school at your convenience. 


A snow covered St Moritz bridge in Hirafu
Experience the extra freedom a vehicle brings

As if this wasn't enough, consider the fact that the greater Niseko United area is made up of 4 resorts ( Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri) all of which are no more than a 30 minute drive from Hirafu. A vehicle gives you the freedom to start your day at any one of these resorts giving powder hounds the best chance for first chair and for for the more adventurous there are 2 more fantastic resorts 1 - 1.5 hours drive from your accommodation -  Rusutsu and Kiroro.


A snowboarder digging a deep powder turn
First Tracks are all the more accessible with a vehicle

Feel like a day off the slopes? Try the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi ( don't forget your desiganted driver!) just 1 hour from Hirafu.

Getting hungry? A van gives you the freedom to dine in neighbouring towns such as Niseko and Kutchan. In Niseko you might like to try Niseko Brewing and in Kutchan, the excellent Nihon Bashi.


Several plates of delicious colourful sushi
Access local restaurants with ease

All of the vehicles on offer are late model 4WD Hiace Regius vans that seat up to 9 passengers, are equipped with English navigation and of course snow tyres.

So what properties come with a van?

Himawari - A value concious option located in Kabayama, just 2 minutes drive from Hirafu Village.

Ikigai - One of our most popular properties loctaed in peaceful St Moritz and less than 5 minutes drive to the Hirafu Gondola.

Kabayama Townhouses - 4 x 4 bedroom townhouses all of which come with a van and are just a couple of minutes drive from the village.

Kabayama House - A beautiful 3 bedroom stand alone home tucked away in a peacful corner of Kabayama. Again just a couple of minutes drive from the resort.

Koho - Located in the lower Hirafu Village this classic alpine chalet comes 3 bedrooms and bathrooms and is tastefully furnished. 

Mountain Butterfly - Another 3 bedroom property that enjoys the peace and tranquility of the St Moritz area and fantastic Mt Yotei views.

Shiki & Koyuki - 4 x  modern 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhouses located away from the hustle and bustle in Izumikyou 2. The van will have you at the gondola in just minutes.

Ori - Where James Bond would choose to stay!  This luxury super modern 5 bedroom home sleeps up to 18 guests and is located in the Lower Hirafu Village.

Yoteiyama House - A spacious 4.5 bedroom home that comfortably sleeps up to 12 guests. The van will have you to the lifts in minutes.

If you'd like to know more about any of these properties or you have any questions please feel free to contact us anytime (

March madness - late season in Niseko delivers


Significant snowfalls this winter began early to mid December and with them came very cold temperatures that kept the snow in incredible condition until the second half of February when the storm cycles slowed and settled weather remained.

Many thought this would be the last of the powder but come mid March the tap was turned back on and ever since we've been enjoying some great snowfalls from week to week.

First up more ripping turns from Shimamaki Snow Cats with classic March blue skies and fresh powder to boot.

Now if that wasn't enough to wake the green eyed monster here are some more epic turns from Central Hokkaido, wow!

Finally the greater Niseko snow community celebrated the life of Sam Kerr with the annual send it for Sam fundraiser.

The event was once again a success and we will look forward to the next one in March 2020!

What month to come?


Planning a trip to Niseko next winter and wondering when to come?

The short answer of course is anytime! If you are after a little more detail have a look below.

Hirafu is usually the first resort to open and shcedules it's opening day around the 24th of November, this is dependent on weather conditions and snow fall. 

The remaining resorts that make up the Niseko United, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono then usually open within a week of this.

So what can you expect when you arrive?

Late November / Early December


  • You can take your pick of accommodation and take advantage of some incredible deals!
  • There will be groomed runs open and this can be a good time to learn to ski
  • The likely hood of fresh snow is high and the slopes are uncrowded
  • The shuttle bus is running and all restaurants will be open.


  • The number of lifts open is dependent on snow fall
  • Resort opening is dependent on snow fall
  • Off piste skiing is generally limited


Hirafu ski resort
Autumn view of Hirafu Hanazono

Early to mid December


  • Fresh snow is highly likely
  • Early season excitement is running hot!
  • Less crowded in the village and on the slopes
  • Night skiing begins around the 10th of December
  • Excellent deals on accommodation with plenty of availablity
  • Again can be a great time to learn to ski and perfect technique on piste


  • Off piste skiing still limited
  • Open terrain and lifts dependent on snowfall


A skier carves the groomed
There are usually a number of groomed runs to choose from early to mid December

Mid December - December 20th


  • Fresh snow highly likely
  • Terrain begins to open up
  • Bars and restaurants are lively
  • There are still good deals on accommodation
  • The chances are good for some awesome uncrowded powder days


  • Although there will be increasing off piste opportunities most of the back country gates wil not be open


A snowboarder riding at night
Will Jackways making the most of his night pass

December 20th to mid February


  • Snowfalls are consitent and often constant through December, January and most of February
  • From first timer to seasoned pro, during these months there is something for everyone
  • Alternative activities such as snow shoeing and snowmobiling will all be in operation.
  • Most backcountry gates will open around Christmas (an awesome present!)
  • Snow conditions are excellent and the village will be humming and vibrant


  • Being the most popular months accommodation must be booked well in advance
  • The village and ski slopes will be busy, especially over the Christmas period
  • Airport transfers and ski lessons can sell out so are also best arranged in advance.


Deep powder skiing in Niseko
Enjoy powder like this!

Mid February to March


  • Snowfalls are still consistant during this tme and can be some of the best of the year
  • The snowpack is at its highest of the year and the tree skiing at its best
  • Slightly less people than earlier in the month
  • Bluebird powder days not uncommon!


  • Toward the end of the month storms are less frequent


The View of Mount Yotei from Hirafu
An incredible view each and everytime



  • Less crowds
  • Weather is more settled
  • Restaurants are all open but less busy
  • The terrain park is soft and great for the kids
  • A great time to learn to ski and lots of fun for the kids
  • Alternative activities such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing still great fun
  • Sunny days with soft snow are much more common than earlierin the season
  • Accommodation deals are excellent with many customers enjoying 50 - 60% off usual rates!


  • Storms and powder days less frequent


Spring time skiing in Hirafu with blue skies
March is a fantastic time to learn to ski or snowboard

April to close


  • Sunny days are the norm
  • You will have the place to yoursleves
  • The snow is soft and slushy (best skiing in the morning)
  • Accommodation is plentiful and realtively inexpensive


  • Hirafu resort will reduce operations fom 
  • 2019 Hanazono will close March 31st
  • 2109 Niseko Vilage will close April 7th
  • A number of restaurants in Hirafu Village will close
  • The Village Shuttle will only operate until April 7th


The View of Mount Yotei from Hirafu
April visits for spring skiing and great views!

Shimamaki Snow Cats


Shimamaki Snow Cats is said by many to be one of the best cat skiing operations in Hokkaido. Run by Black Diamond Tours they provide access to some incredible terrain and of course acres of bottomless powder.

Combine this with its unique oceanside location with incredible views of the surounding peaks and the Sea of Japan you have an experience not to be missed.

If this wasn't enough just imagine a 2 day tour with a Japanese Ryokan Style Hotel stay, onsens and an incredible dinner of freshly caught seafood and locally sourced ingredients.

Ready to go yet?


A snowy vista in Shimamaki
Shimamaki snow cats are a must do for every powder hound!

There is a feeling of solitude and serenity quite like no other in the mountains here, without another soul in sight, except of course your highly experienced guides and most importantly a Snowcat full of your friends.


A black snow cat in action
Taking you to where you want to be!


Snow covered tress and vistas
The feeling of serenity and solitude is like no other

If you have a booking with us and are interested in booking Shimamaki Snow Cats please contact your Holiday Niseko agent today.


Snowy vista, with skiers in foreground
Wish you were here (?)


A snowboarder dropping in
This could be you!

If you don't have accommodation booked, now's the time the snow in Febuary is incredible in Niseko and beyond, don't miss out this year!

Niseko, December 2018 - How is it out there?


Have you been wondering how the winter's going in Niseko? So far it has been amazing as ever but it it did start out a little slower than last year.

This year substantial snow falls began in late November, while last year they began around the 10th. Although a little late the snow has returned by the truck load and we've been getting consistent falls daily.


Sunsetting over Hirafu and Hanazono ski areas late November
Late November Sunset



Hirafu and Hanazono early December
Early December with Hirafu and Hanazono looking great!

The Niseko United area today is looking amazing with night skiing in full effect and plenty of fresh powder to be had.

Off trail things are still a little tight in the trees but day by day more terrain is opening up and if you know where to look you can find some epic lines and face shots all day!

A number of the gates will still be a couple of snowfalls off opening but we don't expect too long of a wait for these as there is plenty of snow in the forecast.

On trail conditions are great with the majority of groomed runs open and manicured to perfection, perfect for beginners and those wanting to start the day with some high speed turns.

Since the epic day above we've had the following snow falls, so if you're still wondering how the winters been up to now we'd say pretty epic!

Monday 10th Dec  - 18 cm

Tuesday 11th Dec  - 19 cm

Wednesday 12th Dec - 5cm

Thursday 13th Dec - 5cm

Friday 14th Dec - 25cm

Saturday 15th Dec  - 15cm

Sunday Dec 16th Dec - 6cm


Deep powder in Niseko!
Looking for turns like these? You know where to come!




Food glorious food!


Want to know what culinary delights you can expect from a trip to Niseko?

Take a look at this video from that gives you a glimpse of some of the incredible food on offer here. From sashimi to pancakes, ramen to bread this no non sense journey will leave you hungry for more!

Please excuse the odd passionate expletive.


A delicious looking plate of Sushi
Niseko - All the powder you can ride and all the most delicious food you can eat!


Make your day!


If you been wondering wether or not to come to Niseko this winter this video will make your mind up. This place is just too much fun!!

Produced by Neil Hartman well known for his videography and snowboard vidoe series Car Danchi this showcase of Hirafu has it all.


Fireworks over Hirafu
Definitely worth a watch!

It captures a beautiful slice of what's on offer here, incredible powder, terrain for all levels, a festive resort atmosphere an much more!

Make your day with this one!

Interested in booking yet? 

Check out these deals!


Elsewhere - Winter in Japan


If you love the mountains one watch of this video will likely result in two scenarios, either you'll want to make your first vist to Japan or you'll want to return.


Snowboarder doing a powder turn
Who loves powder turns?

The words below from Finnegan Laver, Elsewhere's Director, if you've been considering a trip here we think the following might be just what you need to see to make up your mind.

" Structured but sophisticated. Maintained but manic. Refined but raw.

Japan is defined by contrast.

Nowhere else balances the modern so well with the traditional while the mixture of culture, food, scenery and the warmth of the Japanese people are just a small number of reasons why I end up back here every year.

I hope watching Elsewhere motivates you to experience this incredible country for yourself."

Elsewhere - Winter in Japan from Finnegan Laver on Vimeo.

Jack Spence
Troy Sturrock
Jeremy Burns
Andrew Brown
Ryusei Takahashi (guest appearance)

Supported by:
Anon Optics
Capita Snowboards Aus/NZ
Union Binding Co. Aus/NZ
Rad Gloves

Music: Bayonne - Spectrolite

Director: Finnegan Laver
Producers: Jeremy Burns, Linton Naylor, Paul Colby
Voiceover: Ryusei Konno
Filmer: Finnegan Laver
Edit/grade: Finnegan Laver
Sound design: Finnegan Laver

Hokkaido Government Travel agent Licence No. 3-613
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