Niseko is no longer the secret it once was and is by far the most well-known place to ride in Japan. It is synonymous with deep, fresh pow, where quality really does meet quantity. As anyone who’s watched a few shred movies knows, Niseko’s unique weather patterns roll in regularly from Siberia, bringing some seriously large (and consistent) snowfalls that are among the driest and lightest in the world.
- Highest Point: 1200m
- Descent: 940m
- No. lifts: 15
Niseko’s one ‘united’ mountain is comprised of four different ski areas, An’nupuri, Niseko Village (previously named Higashiyama) Hanazono and Grand Hirafu. They all link up to the top of the mountain and one lift pass can be bought covering the whole resort. Almost the entire area in Grand Hirafu is floodlit every night until 9 pm – so when it’s snowing in Niseko you can ride pow all morning, take the afternoon off and go back out in the evening to find that all the tracks have been filled in. Even better, there’s hardly anyone else around. Riding the trees at night is a truly surreal experience and something every rider should try at some point in their life.
It’s worth mentioning that you should avoid Niseko during Chinese New Years. This is by far the busiest time and the resort is almost 100% booked out – accommodation, restaurants, you name it – with visitors from Hong Kong, China and Singapore. The date for Chinese New Year changes every year so look it up and avoid it at all costs!
The Parks – 2/5
If you’re looking to ride park then Niseko probably isn’t first on the list of dream destinations, but after a week or two of shredding waist-deep pow it’s always fun to mix it up and hit a kicker or two. These days the local parks have been scaled back somewhat as popular demand dictates more freeriding, but there are a couple of pleasant surprises lurking.
“After a week or two of shredding waist-deep pow it’s always fun to mix it up and hit a kicker or two”
The first park most riders come across in Niseko is the compact but well-shaped King Park set-up, located near the bottom of the gondola in Hirafu. Here you’ll find a simple but flowing series of features – once you get past the sheep-herding style drop-in that is. The jumps here are true-table style and vary in length from about 15 to 30ft. The jibs range from super-mellow ride-on boxes to round bar down rails.
Over in Hanazono there’s a similar set up near the resort base, but this one’s a little flatter so make sure you land everything bolts else you’ll unstrapping to get top the bottom. The park crew like to get a little creative, so look out for some mellow tranny options around their table top jumps.