best ski resorts in japan

Hit the Slopes at Niseko United

Hokkaido Island is home to many of the most breathtaking mountain ranges in Japan. Scenic volcanoes, soothing hot springs and steady snowfall make Japan’s northernmost main island the country’s ultimate ski getaway.

One of the most popular ski resorts residing on the island is Niseko Ski Resort. In fact, the complex is a group of four separate resorts occupying the same mountain, Mount Niseko Annupuri. Each resort has its own unique characteristics but, collectively, the four are referred to as Niseko United.  

Niseko is easily accessible from New Chitose Airport and you can reach the resort in two to three hours by car, bus or train. Once there, you can get around by utilizing the free shuttle buses that transport visitors around town.

Skiers are treated to majestic views of Mt Yotei, an active volcano reminiscent of the world-famous Mt. Fuji, and some of Japan’s most picturesque backcountry landscapes.


Furthermore, the resort often receives more than 15-meters of light, powdery snow every winter reason. This has earned Niseko the title, ‘Powder Capital of the World’, becoming the top spot for skiing in Japan.

Let’s take a closer look at the four ski resorts that make Niseko United the ultimate winter paradise!

Grand Hirafu

Credits: Flickr

The primary hub of Niseko United, Grand Hirafu is where you will find the most facilities alongside the mountain. You will find numerous ski lifts that are wonderful for avid skiers or family-friendly adventures.

However, Grand Hirafu’s popularity makes it the most crowded resort and long lines often greet visitors at the gondola.

Explore the base which is filled with a fabulous selection of bars, cafés, restaurants and coffee shops. Head over to the ski shops to grab any supplies you need before your next run on the slopes.

Despite being the busiest of the four resorts, Grand Hirafu has powdery slopes guaranteed for an exhilarating ski run!

Niseko Village

NISEKO, JAPAN – DECEMBER 22, 2017 : Aerial view at dusk of night skiing in Niseko Village. Niseko is a popular destination for ski resorts in Japan

Niseko Village lacks much of the hoopla you will find at Hirafu but this cozier section of the mountain offers some of best snowboarding in Japan.

You will not find as many shops and restaurants as its counterpart, but it makes up for it with a more relaxed atmosphere, tranquil hot springs, spas and plenty of family-friendly activities.  

Adventurous skiers will adore Niseko Village for boasting some of the mountain’s longest and steepest trails.   


Snowboarder Riding Down the Mountain at Niseko United, Hokkaido, Japan

If you are hoping for one of the best winter vacations away from the hordes of tourists, then Annupuri is the resort made for you!

Away from the hustle and bustle of the adjacent Hirafu, visitors will find Annupuri to be more of a local vibe. There are plenty of areas where the kids can hang out and parents can relax in the nearby hot springs.

For seasoned skiers simply looking to escape the crowds, there are several accessible gates for fantastic backcountry runs.


Credits: Flickr

The opposite side of the mountain offers skiers of all levels plenty of exciting opportunities. Hanazono has lots of runs suitable for beginners and is perfect for a family getaway. The laid-back vibe at Hanazono is a wonderful escape during the busier times of the season.

Riders can practice their skills at the resort’s terrain park which contains a plethora of challenging obstacles. Moreover, veteran skiers can hit the backcountry along the pristine strawberry and blueberry fields. These powdery runs offer a thrilling ride through never-ending rows of snow-covered trees.

Hana 1 Café and 308 Café are refreshing places to warm up with a coffee or hot chocolate in between runs.