About Niseko and Kiroro
In the 2009/2010 season it is said that Niseko had more than 18 meters of snow fall over the whole season. In January 2011 it snowed 29 out of 31 days, with about half of those being pow days of over 30cms. On January 14th, 2014, it snowed 53.5cms in one 24hr period - according to the local snow measuring experts 360niseko.
Now that’s a lot of fresh snow!
Niseko United Ski Resort
Niseko ski resort, or Niseko United (by official title), is located on Mt Annupuri in the South West of Hokkaido, some 20kms from the Sea of Japan. Niseko is made up of 4 linked resorts; Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono.
Niseko is seen as Japan’s premier resort and certainly not without reason; a snowfall of over 14m’s per season; a continuous vertical drop of 1000m; a massive selection of terrain including off-piste, trees, park, pipe, night skiing, long groomers, bumps and one of Japan's most progressive backcountry policies – the list never ends. It’s an epic mountain with something for everyone, even breathtaking views of Mt Yotei, a dormant conical shaped volcano.
Kiroro Ski Resort
Kiroro Ski Resort is found to the west of Sapporo, and is about 50 minutes drive north-east of Niseko. Kiroro is known for its regular snowfalls, accumulating prodigious amounts of light and dry powder snow. It also has one of the longest season's in Japan.
As the lesser known resort in the region, Kiroro is considered by many as a hidden gem. It is frequented mostly by Japanese skiers and riders, with others holiday makers traveling from parts of Asia and, more recently, day trip guests from Niseko. Usually receiving more snow than its sibling resorts, locals come to Kiroro to escape the lift lines and find deep untracked tree-skiing. Lift lines are rare and even when the snow does stop falling, fresh tracks can be found for days on end.
Located in the west of Hokkaido close to the Japan Sea, Niseko is actually the name of a small rural town surrounded by farming land a few kilometers from the ski resort area. This can cause some confusion for first-time visitors as it's become the name used by internationals for the whole area. The main part of Niseko where tourists stay is Hirafu Village, at the base of Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski area. This is where our courses are run out of and where 90% of people who visit 'Niseko' actually stay.
The three other linked Niseko United ski areas (Niseko Village, Annupuri and Hanazono) have small hamlets around the base areas. The biggest town in the area is Kutchan, which is about a 10 min drive from Hirafu Village. Here you will find major supermarkets, home ware stores, a train station and many traditional restaurants and bars.
Of the different villages in the Niseko area, Hirafu is by far the most developed and exciting. Being close to Kutchan is also a huge advantage for longer-term visitors like participants on our 10 or 13 week courses. Hirafu caters extremely well for its international guests who like to eat out, have a quiet drink, or party the night away. There are a staggering 200 restaurants in the Niseko area and most are either in Hirafu or Kutchan. As you would expect, it’s easy to find wonderful Japanese cuisine. There are well-known sushi and sashimi joints, and plenty of yakitori, okonomyaki and ramen restaurants. And for the less adventurous types, Hirafu has got you covered with steaks, pizza and burgers through to Indian and Mexican.
If you enjoy drinking and partying into the early hours then Hirafu is definitely the place to be. The Snow-search Japan guidebook rated it 5 out of 5 for Evening Entertainment. There are a plethora of bars offer happy hour specials and all-you-can-drink deals (Nomihoudai in the local tongue) and a number that run well into the early hours. Niseko Hirafu does have a more ‘western’ atmosphere when it comes to the party life, but it’s still easy to escape it if Japanese-style evenings are more appealing.
Fortunately enough, the ski resort runs shuttle services to Kutchan (until 11pm) and to each of the mountains three base areas (during lift operating times), allowing you to explore the whole area.
The Surrounding Area
Skiing and riding doesn't stop at Niseko United. There are numerous other ski areas close by including Moiwa, Rusutsu and Kiroro, that are all worth exploring when you need a change.
Approximately 70kms North lies the port town Of Otaru, in the Ishikari Bay. This popular tourist town (the sister town to Dunedin in NZ) has amazing sea food, great locally brewed beer that can be enjoyed along the canal areas or numerous bazaars. It's even rumored to have hte best sushi in the whole of Japan!
Sapporo City (the 5th largest city in Japan) is approximately 100Km from Niseko. A modern city whose name is most commonly associated with the local beer, and the annual snow festival that attracts over 2 million visitors a year, Sapporo has one of the largest nightlife districts in Japan - Susukino - and is well worth a night out at some point during the season.
Niseko is the area that put Japan on the world map for international skiers and snowboarders and it continues to be one of the most popular ski resort towns in the country, simply because of the massive amounts of high-quality powder that falls here.