We have already covered where to ski in Japan. But if your mind is set on Niseko, then you still have some thinking to do a some decisions to make in terms of where to stay in Niseko…
When Niseko is referred to, it is generally considered as the area around Mt Annupuri. There are other mountains in the Niseko area, but Mt Annupuri is the one with the ski lifts, facilities and great terrain. On this mountain there are several ski fields and several resorts where you can stay to access these ski fields. Here is a quick run down, but we will cover the areas in more detail in individual articles about the resorts.
There are four areas that are connect on the moutnain by ski lifts, and their towns are connected by shuttle bus. Niseko Village, Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Annupuri, and Niseko Hanazono. You can buy an 'all mountain' pass and ride all of these resorts on the same pass, and could conceivably ride them all in one day. Niseko Moiwa is also on Mt Annupuri, but is not easily accessible by ski runs and does require a separate ticket. It is however accessible by bus from the other resorts.
Here is a brief outline of the resorts and the terrain on offer in their respective ski fields.
Niseko Grand Hirafu
Considered as the main resort, and often referred to as little Australia because of the number of Australians frequenting the resort. The town is largely english speaking and there is a surprisingly low number of japanese people in Hirafu. The town has lots of accommodation options from backpackers to high-end luxury apartments. Bars, restaurants and shops are plentiful. Access is as easy as it gets in Niseko with regular airport shuttles in high season and regular bus access from Kutchan Train Station.
The ski field is the busiest in Niseko but the ski lifts are numerous and access some fun terrain. Their is a terrain park and half pipe, but neither is very impressive.
Niseko Annupuri is a quieter little township, with many locals and ex-pats choosing to live there. If you are visiting Niseko purely for the skiing, it is not a bad option. There are a few nice restaurants and some lovely lodges in Annupuri.
The terrain here is awesome. The slopes are quiet, wide open and steep in parts. The off-piste is great. The Annupuri back-bowls are great for the more experienced skier and have some of the longer powder runs on the mountain. This area is recommended for beginners as the pistes and a great place to learn and there is some easier off-piste to learn your first powder turns. Advanced rider will love the back-bowls. There is also a limited terrain park with a couple of jumps and one or two rails.
It takes half an hour extra by bus from the airport, but the bus routes are well serviced.
Formerly known as Higashiyama, Niseko Village really has just the one accommodation option, the Niseko Hilton. This is the place for stress free visit as all you need in pretty much in the one building and the ski lift is just ousted the door.
Niseko Village has some great powder runs and boasts 'Niseko's Best Powder' in the Mizuno-no-sawa area which has controlled access for two months of the season. There aren't many runs here but they are great for a quick powder fix over the weekend of for a short stay. Not a great area for beginners, but good for powder hounds!
Niseko Village lies in-between Annupuri and Hirafu and requires a shuttle bus or car for access.
The closest resort to Kutchan, but the bus route is not as well serviced as Hirafu. There are not many places to stay, but the place is quiet and picturesque. Not a place to stay if you want to party, but great if you are taking the kids on their first ski trip.
The terrain is varied and there are some awesome off-piste zones with easy access. A great place to learn how to ride those famous pillow lines. LIft access is good with hooded lifts keeping you warm and dry. There is Niseko's best park and pipe here, with a limited beginner park.
A small resort largely separated from the rest of the resorts because of the separate lift pass required. Also small in terms of lifts and ski runs. But well worth a visit for a day. When conditions are good, the powder here is hard to beat. Apart from the busiest two weeks of the season the lifts and runs are quiet, while the powder is deep.
We hope that helps, but here is some even more concise advice. If you want luxury stay in one of Hirafu's top accommodation spots. If you want to party stay in Hirafu. If you would like everything under one roof stay in the Niseko Hilton. If you want a Japanese experience, Annupuri or Moiwa are your best bets. If you want park or pillows head to Hanazono. But remember the ski fields are inter accessible, so pick your stay based on where you want to stay.