Updated: May 10, 2018
Visited: December 2015
Where to begin. Japan is on it's own playing field when it comes to snowboarding. It truly is one of those bucket list resorts that you have to visit at least once in your life but be warned - you'll get hooked. It is infamous for it's snow for a reason: it is the best powder in the world. It is actually the trip that inspired us to come up with the PowDaze as we were travelling but I'll save that story for another day.
This was actually my first ever snowboarding trip so having the skills I have now, I realise how little I actually got to explore of the resort and the mountain, none the less I have experienced it and I'll tell you what I can.
As you can see from the resort map, Niseko has a lot to offer. We were staying in the Village resort, which was a perfect place for us as I was an absolute beginner on this trip.
As you climb higher up the mountain, you can see you can access all 4 resorts of the mountain and there is a pass that grants you that access, or you can get single resort passes. The runs are extremely varied and offers a lot for boarders of all levels.
We stayed for 1 week in the village and luckily the resort had just opened for the season. With 1 day of bad weather and 1 day to get sorted with kit - we had roughly 5 days on the mountain and it was a decent amount of time to do some exploring. We did not do any back country on this particular trip as I was only starting but there is a lot of opportunities to do so.
So the reason Japan is so infamous for snowboarding: the snow! And boy did we get blessed. With the exception of 1 day of raining, we were dumped on. Literally a powder dream. This made learning easy as it was a very soft landing - it did however give me a rude awaking to the sharp pistes of Europe but that is for another post! Japan sees the most snowfall in the world during it's winter and gives you a completely new experience of snowboarding. Powder boards are a necessity as you need to stay afloat - on & off piste.
Where To Stay
We were staying in the Hilton Village, which is ski in & ski out. Now we booked this as a luxury for the end of a 3 month trip around Japan. We booked an incredible deal which included breakfast and was phenomenal. Just to the left of the piste there is a little Village with a few shops & restaurants, which were nice but does not offer too many options. The Hilton hotel has a lot of restaurant options as well however being on a travellers budget, it was not friendly to our wallets so we travelled else where most nights to get dinner. Now although we had a great time at the Hilton, I don't think we would book it again for the reason of getting to explore more of Grand Hirafu. Grand Hirafu is really where it is happening.
Luckily for us, the area provides a free shuttle bus to & from Grand Hirafu from right outside the Hilton. Grand Hirafu is home to a lot of the seasonaires, great restaurants, supermarket & bars. So in hindsight we would have stayed here. With also having friends living in this area, we found we spent all of our time here. As for the other 2 resorts, we have not personally visited them but if The Village & Grand Hirafu are anything to go by, they will be lovely stays.
When To Travel
Japan's season ranges from end of November - March, with the best snowfall happening in January & February. Saying that, we arrived in Nikeso December 1st and there was snow everywhere. We were a tiny bit concerned as the reports where coming up dry the week prior to going but luckily the snow did come!
The best thing about the time we went is that it was decently empty! We had a lot of space on the slopes, which was great as it really gave me opportunity to learn. If I remember correctly, Tuesdays & Wednesdays did bring school students, which did get a bit busy but they stayed right at the bottom so very avoidable. I also think the time we went was why we managed to get such a great deal on our room at the Hilton. So bear that in mind when booking your trip.
Finally, there is a train station in Niseko which is very accessible from Sapporo Airport and from there we got taxis to and from The Hilton, arranged by the Hilton. The Japanese public transport system is incredible & honestly I could write a completely separate post on travelling around Japan - if you would like that please comment below!
So to round up - you have to go! Save, plan, budget & travel! That is all.
Hope this gave you a bit of insight and helps in planning your trip.