Niseko is an increasingly popular destination for powder hungry skiers and boarders, and nearly alone among Japan's ski resorts is drawing increasing numbers of overseas visitors year-on-year as well. Niseko is highly favored by Australians, and more recently, Asian tourists. The resort boasts four ski areas: Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama) and Annupuri. Most activity is centered around the village of Hirafu, approximately 20 minutes from the main town and administrative centre in the area, Kutchan.
Understand that in winter it snows most days and during a fortnight visit you may not see the sun at all. Be prepared for harsh winter conditions. Prepare for Niseko
Skybus is a convenient door to door private airport transfer servicing all hotels in Niseko, operating 365 days a year. Bookings are essential. More information at Skybus
During winter months, numerous limousine bus services are provided to various ski resorts in Niseko at a cost of ¥1900-¥2300 each way. In addition, two public bus lines run buses from New Chitose Airport (NCA) to Hirafu. Both operate on a regular timetable during the ski season, with the Chuo Bus having 5 trips each way daily while Donan Buses have 4 each way.
Times are subject to change from season to season, but each can be contacted by phone (Chuo-Bus +81 11 231 0500, and Donan-Bus +81 123 465701). In the 2006/7 season, the cost of a one-way ticket is ¥2300 and a return is ¥3850. The trip takes about 3.5 - 4 hours, depending on the road conditions. This is an excellent way to see the countryside, the snow covered farm lands and the quaint houses.
In the 2011/12 season both bus lines offer a discounted return ticket including a strongly discounted one-day ski pass.
Reaching Niseko from Sapporo by train is a tricky affair, requiring a transfer of trains at Otaru, and perhaps a long wait as well; there are only six daily local trains between Otaru and Niseko. But, if it's between December and March, and you decide to leave Sapporo at around 8:00 or 12:30, you can get to Niseko on a direct train. The limited express train, appropriately named the Niseko Ski-Express, makes the run in 2 hours at a cost of ¥4560. Return Ski-Express trains depart from Niseko at 10:00 and 16:00. There is no charge for this train with the Japan Rail Pass.
Mt. Yotei (羊蹄山). This 1,898m peak is directly opposite Hirafu at Niseko. The peak makes for great views in the winter. In the summer, many people climb it, and it is possible to stay on top of the mountain in the Mountain Hut (山小屋). This mountain is sometimes called Ezo Fuji (蝦夷富士) due to it's strong resemblance to Japan's iconic Mt. Fuji, with Ezo being the former official name for the island of Hokkaido.(42.827350,140.808225)edit
Skiing. Skiers love the deep, reliable powder, tree runs and relative ease to find untracked snow. There are no real steeps here (max slope is approx 35 degrees) but there are lots of great runs, serviced by good quality lifts, most of which are gondolas or covered chairs. Niseko is renowned for its huge amount of powder brought from Siberia by northern weather patterns.edit
Onsen. Onsens, Japanese hot springs, are popular places to relax. Some are natural, and some are not.edit
Hiking. In the summer, there are several wonderful day hikes.edit
Snowboarding. Niseko is a snowboarder's snowy-cultural paradise. The area averages 12-16 meters of light snow every season to slide sideways, shred, surf and slash. Niseko United includes the four resorts of Hanazono, Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village Higashiyama and Annupuri on one all mountain pass (29 lifts, 3 gondolas) From deep powder runs to your pick of 3 terrain parks, Niseko offers a lot to enjoy.edit
Black Diamond Tours, ☎ 09020548687, . Black Diamond Tours offer a variety of tours around the Niseko area as well as wider afield in Hokkaido. They are the most famous backcountry guide company in Japan having guided for, among others, TGR; MSP; Poorboys; Level-1; Field Productions; Meatheads.edit
Java Massage, . A great place to unwind and relax those well used muscles after a big day on the slopes. Relaxation, remedial, deep tissue or sports massage.edit
Niseko Base Snowsports (NBS), 190-34 Aza Yamada, Kutchan cho, Abuta gun, ☎ +81 (0)136 21 5050, . 8AM-8PM. English-speaking ski school and rental shop. Located directly across from the Ace Family lift in the ground floor of Alpen Ridge. Experienced team of international instructors provide adults and children's lessons. Rental equipment includes K2, Aramada, Head and more. On snow accessories for sale including shoe spikes, goggles, helmets and more from Oakley, Dakine and Smith. edit
Larry Adler Ski and Outdoor, offers free overnight storage and a large range of Ski and Snowboard hire. Best value in town and right next to the Ace Family lift. Also sell Clothings, googles and gloves for your ski holiday. www.larryadler.com 0136-214050 open December to end of March
The diversity and quality of Niseko's cuisine scene is part of its appeal as a travel destination. Eating out will definitely be one of the highlights of your visit to Hokkaido. Local specialities include potatoes and seafood. There are also a large number of restaurants that specialize in Italian, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Nepalese and other ethnic foods. Families on a budget will also be pleased with the variety of outlets offering quality meals at affordable prices.
Niseko Pizza (ニセコピザ), 〒044-0081 北海道虻田郡倶知安町字山田１８８−９, ☎ 0136-21-6888. A pizzeria, pasta, and cafe with a family atmosphere. Sells pizza, salad, and bread baked in a stone-fired pizza oven. Prepared with locally grown ingredients.380-4300円. edit
A-bu-Cha. A bakery by day and Japanese izakaya by night. Serves sweets, sandwiches, bagels, and baguettes.380-4300円. edit
Ezo Pub, (Inside Hilton Niseko Village). Offers fresh-baked pizza and light meal selections. Happy hour and drink discounts available. Free shuttle bus to and from Hirafu. Live DJ during ski season.edit
Onegiri Cafe Komekichi. Offers Komekichi's rice balls, made of freshly milled and steamed rice and filled with Hokkaido ingredients. Also sells fresh-baked breads and soup.edit
Rest House Ace Hill. Restaurant with nice views of Mt. Yotei and the top of Mt. Annupuri.edit
Bang Bang Cafe. Japanese pub-style cuisine in the heart of Hirafu, with dishes like tofu and yakitori. Specializes in Japanese and local dishes.edit
Fuji Sushi. Fresh sushi and sashimi from the nearby Shakotan Peninsula.edit
Paradise Hut. A cafe on the slopes of Niseko Annupuri mountain.edit
Melt Grill and Bar. A nice selection of local and imported cuts of prime beef, seafood and more, located in the Hilton Niseko village. Has nice value lunch deals.1500円 lunch buffet. edit
EN In-house fine Dining. The chefs cook a fantastic dinner in your holiday home. This food catering company does delivery to all Niseko locations.edit
Niseko Gourmet, . Is a catering company which will come to your property, prepare and serve a meal and then clean up.edit
Wild Bill's, ☎ 0136-22-5652. The 2nd floor is a tasty Mexican restaurant with burritos, quesadillas, tequila, and more. On the first floor, there are two bars -- one with a pool table, and the other with darts.edit
YUMMY'S Restaurant & Bar (ヤミーズ), 〒044-0081 北海道虻田郡倶知安町字山田１７０−１７５, ☎ 0136-21-2239. Handmade pizza, salads, cold beer, and music.(42.857976,140.707486)edit
Yo, 155-416 Aza Yamada Kutchan Abuta-gun Hokkaido (Lowder Hirafr Village), ☎ +81-(0)136-22-6979, . 19:00. Traditional Japanese cuisine with tasty sake and selected wines. Free pick-up and Drop-off service in Hirafu village and Kutchan stationJPY3000-4500. edit
Kabuki, 170 Aza Yamada (40m down from Seicomart), ☎ 0136 212233, . 5-9.30pm. Kabuki 1 is Okonomiyaki and Teppanyaki do it your self style, cook on your own hotplate. Kabuki 2 is full service Teppanyaki were the skilled chefs cook as you like seafood, steak and various Japanese specialties.2000-4000. edit
There is an active night life in Niseko, even on weekdays, with plenty of live music, hopping pubs and a good collection bars and small clubs with both resident and visiting DJ's and a wide variety of live music most weekends. International acts, like the ever-popular "NoJazz"  and the Australian Chamber Orchestra featured in the annual Winter Music Festival  add a bit of sophistication to the entertainment offerings and round out the varied night-life scene. While many try to get a good nights' sleep and catch the fresh powder in the morning, for night-owls, party animals and music-lovers there is plenty to do, and a plethora of quirky and fun places to enjoy a drink or three and some great tunes.
Wild Bill's. A large Western style pub with good music, pool, drinks and darts. An excellent restaurant early, turns into a pumping nightspot later, with live music often and regular dj's on weekends.edit
Tamashi Bar. A very popular pub that attracts younger more hip crowds. It has live music, billiards, darts, good drinks and decent Japanese "drunk food" like ramen noodle soup. Twice-weekly, locals swarm the place for the locals' darts comp, but visitors are still welcome to come along and watch the darting fun!edit
Blo*Blo. A quirky bar, with crazy Asian-influenced lounge areas reminiscent of an old opium-den. Has good tunes & decent cocktails, and a pole to dance with (or watch while someone else gets their sexy on). Partner bar, "The Ice Bar", adjacent, is a fun experience too, just watch out for falling icicles!edit
Gyu Bar (aka the fridge). A fantastic little bar only a short stroll downhill from the Seicomart traffic light. Amongst the regular drinks, serves excellent hot cocktails and rare whiskeys, with music provided by spinning vinyls and regular live musicians. Entrance is through a small old-style fridge door.edit
Jam Bar. A fun little restaurant/bar with an insanely loud sound system, which regularly hosts all-night DJ parties, often with one ticket getting you entry into Jam and one or two other nearby bars for collaboration parties, and a free drink or two on entry.edit
Ezo Seafoods Oyster Bar, 170-165 Aza Yamada Kutchan (next to M Hotel), ☎ 0136223019, . 5-10. Popular seafood shack in central Hirafu location well known for its oysters, crab and cooked seafood dishes. from ¥2500. edit
Wabi Sabi, 170-5 Aza Yamada, Kutchan Cho, Abuta Gun, Hokkaido, Japan (On main road opposite seicomart, between Tamashi Bar and Fuji Zushi Restaurant. e), ☎ 0136 21 5115. Best Value Japanese in town - Classic rice bowl Japanese, family style taste. Donburi restaurants are the most popular restaurants in Japan, with chain restaurant names such as Sukiya, and Yoshinoya. www.nisekowabisabi.comedit
The Barn, 170-323 Aza-Yamada KutchanCho (Easy), ☎ 81 0136-23-0888, . 6;00pm. A little place serving Grandmothers French Food,and some pretty good service, too.6000 yen. edit
In recent years, Niseko has transformed from a sleepy village into one of the hottest ski and outdoor recreation resorts in the world. Significant investment from Australia and SE Asia have seen a dramatic increase in western style apartments and chalets becoming available. Japanese investment in the region is also on the increase.
The Niseko ski experience is extremely good value when compared to other major ski resorts. Accommodation options range from shared facilities to ultra luxury, fully self contained chalets and wonderful boutique hotels. There are also 'pensions' or lodges that cater for groups and individuals.
Black Diamond Lodge, ☎ +81 (0)136 44 1144, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. 300m from the Niseko Village lifts. Black Diamond Lodge is Niseko’s accommodation of choice for serious recreational and professional skiers and snowboarders alike. They organise backcountry tours which follow the freshest powder all over Hokkaido.from ¥3,100. edit
Captain Hirafu Bed & Breakfast, ☎ 0136 226028, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. In the heart of Hirafu village. The non-smoking cottage is run by friendly Japanese and Australian staff who, in addition to their housekeeping and cooking duties, are happy to show you around their favourite spots on the mountain and in the village.¥6,000. edit
Milky House, 482-1 Aza-Niseko Niseko-cho Abuta-gun, ☎ 0136582200, . checkin: 1PM; checkout: 10AM. Established in the 1980's and 200 metres from the world-famous Annupuri Ski Resort. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price.¥8,000-12,000. edit
Niseko Backpacker Aspara Lodge, ☎ 0136-22-3126, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. Opened in 09/10 winter season. Dormitory bed room separate men's and women's. Japanese-style rooms with bedding for up to four people. ¥3,300.edit
Niseko Freedom Inn, ☎ 0136-22-3322, . A 16-room red-brick boutique hotel located in the Hanazono area. The Inn is the only hotel within walking distance of the Hanazono ski lifts and is located 200 meters above the Hanazono 308 base lodge and a 5-minute walk to the Tokyu Golf Course. About ten minutes by car from the Kutchan Train Station.edit
Shizenkan Lodge & Backpacker, ☎ +81-136-234351, . Run by a Japanese family, and with both Japanese and native English speaking staff. Hearty breakfasts to start the day and a large lounge area that is for sharing adventures over a drink at day's end.edit
The Chalets at Country Resort, 30-149 Aza Kabayama, Kutchan cho, Abuta gun, ☎ +81 (0)136 555 122, . checkin: 5PM; checkout: 12 Noon. 30 + Luxury Chalets at budget prices just two km from Hirafu ski lifts. Serviced by a regular shuttle service that runs through the day and into the evening and a first rate concierge service that makes sure you have the best holiday experience possible. Each chalet comes with a fully fitted western style kitchen, wireless internet and cable TV.edit
Hurry Slowly, 155-416 Aza Yamada Kutchan Abuta-gun Hokkaido (Lower Hirafu Village), ☎ +81-(0)136-22-6979, . checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. 1BDR and 3BDR condominiums are located in lower Hirafu village. 2 min drive to ski hill and 1 min walk to a bus stop for ski shuttle. Free car service is available for local cruise(first come first served basis)from 5333/pp. edit
Australia House, 170-40, Aza Yamada Kutchan cho (7km from Kutchan train stn - opposite seicomart in the center of town), ☎ 0136 21 2222. checkin: after 11am; checkout: any time. The original longest held Lodge owned by Ex-pat from Australia Scott Walker since 1997. It is fine Colonial style building with beautiful architecture. In winter has a cafe with fine Japanese food with good Australian wine, deserts and coffee. It has beautiful polished flooring and fine style.4,000 - 9,500. edit
Niseko Izumikyo, 132 AzaYamada, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, ☎ +81-136-23-3301, . checkin: 1500; checkout: 1100. Accommodation provider in the Niseko region of Hokkaido offering a wide range of affordable rental options well suited to group and family stays. Properties range from basic cabins to luxury houses. All are fully equipped and set up to allow a self catering holiday. Full assistance with holiday arrangements.edit