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On the southwest of Hokkaido Island, in the shadow of dormant volcano Mount Yotei, lies the town of Niseko. The mountains that surround the town are dotted with natural hot springs, and famed for their lavender meadows in the warmer months. It is the winter though that draws the crowds to the greater Niseko area. Thanks to its geographical location, Niseko experiences winter weather conditions blown across from Siberia - namely exceptional quality, deep powder. As a result, the skiing and snowboarding here are considered some of the best in Japan, if not the world. A great range of runs for all abilities, and fluffy backcountry pistes, draw international crowds throughout the high season - which stretches from late November until early May. With the arrival of spring comes numerous opportunities for outward-bound activities - including hiking, rafting and golf - against a backdrop of soaring peaks.
The Niseko area comprises four main ski routes: Annupuri, Grand Hirafu, Hanazono and Niseko Village. All of them are linked at the top of the mountain, so that it is possible to ski freely from one to the other. What's more, a single ski pass allows access to all four. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the mountain, the resorts are about 10 minutes apart by car.
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With three terrain parks and sidecountry access, Hanazono is particularly popular with freestyle and tree skiers. It is also home to a half-pipe - the only one left in Hokkaido. Towards the base of the mountain is a forest route called Strawberry Fields, which is perhaps the most famous run in Niseko.
Ski Grand Hirafu
Hirafu is particularly popular with families and beginner skiers, and boasts the largest number of runs for intermediates among the four zones. Additionally, Hirafu is the center of the area’s nightlife scene.
With a great range of slopes, including four black runs and five lifts, Annupuri has something for everyone and it is all very easily accessed. There is a cafe halfway up the mountain where the green runs begin, and in the valley are a range of facilities - including ski school and Kids Land Annupuri.
Ski Niseko Village
Formerly known as Higashiyama, Niseko Village is excellent for beginner and intermediate skiers, though it boasts a couple of black runs too. In the village itself are numerous restaurants, resorts and onsens, making for a relaxing apres scene.
Back-Country Ski Courses
Another feature of Niseko which Remote Lands skiers might want to consider are the “unofficial” courses that are less known and used. There is Sannozaka, which has high quality powder, Higashi One, and also a forest route which is known as “Strawberry Fields.” The latter is probably the most famous of Niseko’s runs.
Picnicking and Hiking
Spend the day on the slopes skiing or hiking, depending on the time of year you are here. As Hokkaido is the northernmost island of the four major islands that make up Japan, temperatures tend to be cooler and there is significantly less humidity than on Honshu, Kyushu or Shikoku. This makes it a wonderful retreat for local Japanese for picnicking or hiking as the island is lush and green at this time of year.
Niseko is also attracts snowboarders thanks to the excellent powder and convenient infrastructure. The runs are ideal for beginners and intermediates while the off-piste slopes, dotted with trees, lure more advanced riders. Tricksters, meanwhile, can hone their skills in the terrain parks.
For a different kind of thrill, snowmobiling offers plenty of fun on the slopes, with the opportunity to explore the terrain and enjoy the stunning alpine scenery.
Nightlife and Dining
The old and the new meet and mix in Niseko Town. There are bars, lodges, restaurants and many Japanese dining and culinary options awaiting Remote Lands clientele.
Travel from snowy ski slopes to steaming hotsprings on this magical 9-day luxury journey through southern Hokkaido. You’ll spend time in one of the world’s best ski resorts, meander through Sapporo’s Christmas market, and see the region on ski, snowmobile, or perhaps even horseback, while staying at luxury hotels.
With its magnificent views of Mount Yotei and the striking natural beauty of the surrounding scenery, Hilton Niseko Village is a luxury ski-in ski-out hotel that pampers, rejuvenates and exhilarates guests from the moment they step into the welcoming grandeur of the main lobby. Hilton Niseko Village is the only resort in the area with exclusive, top-tier accommodation throughout the estate. Located at the foot of Niseko Annupuri Mountain, the hotel is only a moment from the slopes and the Gondola station, where guests are whisked to the very top of the resort in just seven short minutes – ideal for even the most seasoned skiers. Highlights include the indoor and outdoor onsen hot springs, where guests can luxuriate and rest mountain-weary legs at any time of the day. An extra perk during autumn and spring mornings is the chance to see the spectacular Unkai (Sea of Cloud) mists as they roll down from the snow-peaked mountains.
Niseko’s high-end deluxe resort hotel, Ki, has the unique attraction of being the only hotel in the region offering ‘ski-in ski-out’ accommodation. The second floor takes guests to the ski valet service center where your equipment and boots are stored (and dried and warmed), enabling them to step from the hotel straight onto the slopes - and some of the finest powder-snow on the planet. The lavish hotel rooms, suitable for two to three adults, are carefully designed to be the epitome of the modern Japanese aesthetic. Ki Niseko also has a choice of one and two bedroom condos – as well as the stunning penthouse suite. All rooms are furnished to maximise space, views and relaxation, with picture windows and snug armchairs to enjoy the magnificent vistas of the Yotei and Annupuri mountains. Après Ski, guests can rejuvenate tired bodies with a dip in the onsen hot springs or a hot-stone massage in Ki Spa, before indulging in the exquisite creations of Celebrity Head Chef Shinichi Maeda at the An Dining, Café & Bar – Ki Niseko’s in-house restaurant. This hotel offers Japanese alpine charm at its best.
Nestled in the heart of the Niseko Ski resort, is the Shiki Niseko. Boasting 69 beautifully crafted one, two and three bedroom turn-key apartments, the hotel is decorated in a luxurious contemporary Japanese aesthetic, finished with premium fittings and furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows, which flood the rooms with natural light, add extra drama to the already breathtaking views of Mount Yotei – creating a very special and unique ambience that cannot be surpassed. Evenings in the snow-capped mountains can be spent in the Michelin-starred restaurant Kamimura, or guests can make the most of the bountiful fresh produce available from the hotels in-house market, and prepare a meal in their own fully equipped kitchens - replete with cookware, kitchenware and glassware. All this, allied with the exceptional reception and concierge services, are just some of the reasons that the Shiki Niseko has become one of the region’s most desirable lodgings for skiers and non-skiers alike.
This 5-star luxury resort hotel is located right on the slopes of Niseko Hirafu village, one of the most exclusive locations in Niseko, and features awe-inspiring views of Mount Yotei itself, as well as the majestic surrounding area. The Vale’s 49 ultra-chic hotel rooms range from studios through to two and three bedroom apartments and, of course, the award-winning super-deluxe penthouse apartments. All the apartments come with premium fit-outs, roaring open fires and open-plan bathrooms. One of the most outstanding features has to be the onsen (Japanese natural thermal spring) - water is pumped from 2000 feet below the surface, on a reported 160 year journey through Mount Yotei, directly to the hotel. Guests can recline in their own personal hot tub and take in the incredible views - all the while soaking in the healing minerals of this very special mountain water. The perfect end to a perfect day’s skiing.
Green Leaf Niseko Village
Hokkaido’s Green Leaf Niseko Village blends local artistry and world-class design creating redefined luxury in this picturesque skiing village. This stunning year-round mountain lodge is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a discerning clientele. The 200-room hotel has a ski-in/ski-out base, and the nearby slopes receive 12 to 16 metres of snow annually. The hotel’s design takes influence from traditional European mountain chic and contemporary Japanese style. This hotel provides the perfect place to unwind after a day’s skiing: guests can warm up and soak away tension in the therapeutic natural volcanic hot spring. In the evenings, the resort comes to life with Niseko’s first rooftop beer garden.
Kasetsu Condo is a sublime fusion of Eastern and Western architecture, which pushes the boundaries of Japanese luxury accommodation. The three-story house can accommodate up to 17 people. The condo is well-lit with natural light and feels spacious and airy with impressive nine-meter high ceilings. There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The top floor is divided into a large open living area with kitchen, dining and lounge areas. There is a fully-equipped kitchen, complete with modern gas cooker, top-of-the-line appliances, and a huge island counter top. The expansive living room features a contemporary gas fireplace with ribbon flame on a bed of polished black stones. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer magnificent views of Mt. Yotei, which give out onto an equally-sizeable balcony, the perfect venue for entertaining or for a quiet relaxing moment. If you are looking for the ultimate in private luxury accommodation in Hokkaido, this state-of-the-art condo is almost certain to surpass all expectations.