What is it like to snowboard in Niseko? What can I expect from my snowboarding in Niseko?
Snowboarding in Niseko is a pretty unique experience. Here is a run down of how it is.
The terrain is similar throughout the whole area; there are no real steep areas and the terrain is for the most part, small scale. The lack of scary big stuff is overcome by the array of fun features and great conditions. There are lots of little drops and pillows to keep you in the air all day long. There are enough gullies and side hits to keep you happy from top to bottom.
The terrain, for three months at least, is generally covered by the light and abundant powder snow that Niseko is famed for. December has new snow every day and January follows suit with maybe one or two sunny days. February slows a little, but still has a lot of fresh snow. As you might expect there are a few more hazards in the first few weeks and it takes time for the grass and shrubbery to get covered by the snow. The terrain is for the most part covered by mid-January and all areas are safe to ride. The natural features are constantly changing and a feature will be buried in a week, while a new pillow will pop up in a couple of days.
If you are after powder runs rather than features, you will have to make a bit more effort. If you get up the hill early you will get a couple of runs of easy freahies, but the real powder runs are found high up the mountain. The peak of Mt Annupuri provides the longest powder runs in Niseko, and is only 20 minutes hike. The one-man chair lifts at the top of the skifields provide unobstructed powder, but get tracked-out pretty quickly.
There are a handful of parks in Niseko, but for the most part they are not very good. There are two nice half pipes and a few fun competitions throughout the season. The best way to practice new tricks and have some freestyle fun is to go into the not to distant backcountry and build a jump. If you look, there will be a few jumps already made, which will just require a little maintenance.
The main resort areas can get busy. However, if go outside of the main tourist areas there are some small, quieter ski fields, where a que is rare. However in comparison to other parts of the world, the ques are relatively small, and outside peak periods, they are almost non-existant. There may be a rush in the morning or at the very top lifts just before the peak opens, but Japanese resorts are relatively quiet.
The runs are pretty mellow, and when the snow coverage is good, pretty safe. The runs are not particularly challenging and if you stay on-piste there is nothing to challenge your nerve. The beginner areas are okay, but not great. Some ski schools have their own designated beginner area, so if you are a first time snowboarder, these schools are recommended. Intermediates will find plenty to explore and lots of fun stuff to develop their skills on. Advanced riders will have to look a little harder for an adrenaline rush, but it can be found. I would say most of Niseko's ski fields are brilliant for intermediates, but the soft snow and great conditions make it a relatively pain-free place to learn.
Advanced snowboarders will enjoy options away from the lift line, such as Cat Skiing or Backcountry Tours. There are plenty to choose from and there are a few areas that have no ski lifts on them. So if you are up for a snow-shoe, hike, or split-board session then there are some great places to indulge in Niseko.
Whether you a begginer or an expert, one thing you will have in common is the smile on your face!