With tonnes of the fluffiest champagne powder snow imaginable, beautiful scenery, delicious Japanese and international fare, soothing onsen baths and easy accessibility, the question isn’t why is Niseko so popular, but what took so long for the world to discover it?
Located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, two-and-a-half-hours’ drive from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, Niseko ranks as one of the world’s best ski resorts. Developed during the 1960s and 1970s, the resort was discovered by Australian skiers less than 20 years ago, and its global reputation has snowballed since.
Even so, outdated infrastructure has been Niseko’s greatest drawback, though it’s upgrading at speed. New lifts and gondolas have recently opened or will do so in time for the 2017/18 season, mostly servicing lower slopes. Construction of new accommodation is happening at record pace (so you might want to get in quickly in crowds aren’t your thing), and there are general improvements going on like the burying of ugly electricity cables and the paving of footpaths.
Surprisingly, Niseko has less than 50 kilometres of piste trails, 80% of which are classified as beginner or intermediate. The lift base is at 300 metres above sea level and the highest lifted point is 1,200 metres, well below the base of Courchevel in France and sister city St Moritz in Switzerland.
But statistics never tell the full story. Niseko’s snowfall — on average about 14 metres of the finest powder each year — would make Europe’s resort operators weep and send powderhounds into ecstasy.
Annupuri provides great skiing and a beautiful backdrop