Japan has no shortage of mountains — literally hundreds of ski areas are scattered among the peaks of the Japanese Alps — which account for over 80 percent of the land. However, there is one that stands out amongst “powder enthusiasts”, and that is Niseko (ニセコ), which overlooks the Mt. Yotei volcano.
In 2007, Niseko was named as the world's second snowiest resort, with an annual average snowfall of 595 inches (15.11 meters). First place went to the Mt. Baker Ski Area in Washington State with 641 inches (16.3 meters). The following year was another first for Niseko, as it was inducted into the world's top 10 ski resorts. Coming in at No. 6, it was the highest ranked of the new entries in the poll. The reason is a combination of many things — huge amounts of reliable snowfall, excellent powder conditions, and varied, challenging terrain.
Because of Niseko’s northern location, Siberian winds dump huge volumes of snow from November to March. The long ski season, which runs from late November until early May, is a huge draw for powder seekers. The snow is not as dry as other areas in Hokkaido, but the volume and quality is high, with the average snow depth in March reaching 351 centimeters.
Niseko's high quality powder and luxury accommodations are just a couple of reasons why it has exploded in popularity with Australian skiers and boarders. The après-ski life is said to be the best in Hokkaido. From traditional Japanese restaurants to Irish pubs, Niseko has it all. If you are the type of traveler who enjoys trying local specialties, you cannot pass up the opportunity to sample some home-grown Hokkaido rice sake or Kutchan’s famous potato flour noodle, gosetsu-udon. However if you are feeling a little homesick, there are plenty of western delights to sooth your soul. Australian wine flows like water, French-style bakeries are abundant, and even Vegemite can be picked up at the local convenience store.
What are you waiting for? Get out here and experience the natural beauty of Niseko for yourself.
For more detailed info in the runs at Hirafu check out our Grand Hirafu trail guide.