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.
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!
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.
Useful points to consider when buying gloves for Niseko -
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.
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.
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 http://www.winedineniseko.com/niseko-restaurants/niseko-brewing and in Kutchan, the excellent Nihon Bashi.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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!
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?
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?
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.
If you have a booking with us and are interested in booking Shimamaki Snow Cats please contact your Holiday Niseko agent today.
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!
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.
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
Want to know what culinary delights you can expect from a trip to Niseko?
Take a look at this video from Snowboard.com 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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
Ryusei Takahashi (guest appearance)
Capita Snowboards Aus/NZ
Union Binding Co. Aus/NZ
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