When it comes to winter sports, one would be hard pressed to find a resort area more impressive than Niseko in Hokkaido. Renowned for its high-quality powder and varied runs, Niseko has become an international mecca for winter sports enthusiasts who flock to its resorts every year to get their fill of Japan’s best snow.
Located in the southwest of Hokkaido, Niseko is 50 kilometers away from the prefecture’s capital, Sapporo. From Sapporo, travelers can reach Niseko’s resorts by taking a two-hour train ride to Kutchan Station, where most accommodation providers will pick up travelers and take them to their respective destinations. Alternatively, travelers can also take taxis, or buses, depending on the season, to reach their accommodations from the station. Those traveling to Hokkaido by air can reach Kutchan Station by train from New Chitose Airport, with a one-way journey taking approximately 2.5 hours.
A winter resort paradise
The resorts around the Niseko mountain rainge comprise a winter wonderland for skiers and boarders. The mountain’s most notable resorts, Annupuri, Grand Hirafu, Hanazono and Niseko Village, each features their own distinct contributions. Located at the base of a large national park, Annupuri has some of Hokkaido’s best snow, while Niseko Village offers a wide variety of skiing options and Grand Hirafu has a diverse selection of accommodations.
This winter, one resort area in particular will enhance its hospitality with exciting new offerings. Hanazono is known for its amazing powder snow and is surrounded by acres of some of the country’s deepest snowfall. From December, the resort will undergo a transformation that will turn it into Asia’s premier international ski and resort destination.
At the heart of this transformation is the new Park Hyatt Niseko, Hanazono, that is slated to open on Jan. 20. Overlooking Niseko’s base and beginner slopes, these ski-in ski-out accommodations will form the new centerpiece of Hanazono and feature extensive retail and dining options.
The Park Hyatt’s establishment will coincide with the opening of Hanazono Edge, a new two-story ski center with a slope-side restaurant, cafe and bar. Hanazono will also open its new activity center for children, Galaxy of Kidz, replete with climbing walls, a net playground, and other exciting playgrounds, in addition to a restaurant catering to children.
Unparalleled variety of runs
At the heart of Niseko’s appeal is its enormous variety of runs for skiers and snowboarders. From wide-open courses to tree runs, backcountry, off-piste, first track and night-skiing courses, Niseko has it all. The mountain’s 71 courses are covered by an extensive lift system with gondolas and covered chairlifts that meet at the summit, from where riders can easily access Niseko’s resorts.
Niseko’s runs are suited to skiers and boarders of all abilities. Whether a beginner looking to learn the ropes, an intermediate rider hoping to improve their skills or a thrill-seeking veteran, Niseko offers riding terrain and courses for all. These varied runs and terrific, abundant powder have launched Niseko into international stardom among the world’s skiers and snowboarders.
Unique activities off the slopes
Niseko is indeed a wonderland for skiers and snowboarders, but its offerings also include unique activities for visitors to experience the mountain area’s pristine snow off the slopes.
Those wanting to rest their legs from a long day of skiing and snowboarding can experience varied courses on a snowmobile, enjoying scenic rides through forests or adventurous rides through deep powder and steep terrain.
Another popular winter activity is snow rafting and snow tubing, in which visitors sit in a rubber raft and are towed by a snowmobile. With both fast runs and gentle tows, these activities are perfect for families and thrill seekers alike.
For a pleasant outing away from the slopes, people need look no further than snowshoeing. Visitors can strap on beginner-friendly snowshoes and explore Hokkaido’s scenic countryside, appreciating the region’s abundant native flora and fauna, quiet backwaters and ice-covered lakes along the way.
Though not a winter sport, rugby will have a strong presence this year in Niseko. To celebrate the 2019 Rugby World Cup taking place in Japan through Nov. 2, select restaurants and bars will coordinate rugby viewing parties and events for visitors to get in on the sporting action. For further information, see www.nisekotourism.com/whats-on/event/2019rugby .
Premium rest and relaxation
For many Japanese, no winter outing is complete without some rest and relaxation at an onsen (hot spring). Niseko does not disappoint in this regard. From luxurious hotels to casual day spas, the Niseko area is filled with various onsen facilities whose soothing mineral-rich waters will leave visitors’ revived after long activity-filled days. For an intimate onsen experience with nature, guests can soak in rotenburo (open air baths), where they can take in the region’s beautiful sights and sounds from the comforts of Niseko’s refreshing hot springs.
A major attraction of Hokkaido is its cuisine, characterized by fresh vegetables and seafood from the prefecture’s fertile land and vast seas. Thankfully, Niseko has numerous bars and restaurants where visitors can relish in local flavor. In addition to authentic Japanese dishes prepared with locally grown produce, Niseko’s establishments serve a variety of dishes, including hamburgers and ramen, as well as favorites such as rice balls and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). Combined with the culinary skills of local chefs, Niseko’s dining options and the use of fresh produce will delight the palates of winter travelers.