Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Niseko is a great resort to explore, especially for big groups and families, with a range of abilities. Officially called Mt Niseko-Annupuri, it is split into four resorts: Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono. They are all accessible with an All-Mountain pass but they all have different things to offer a rider. Comparing terrain, facilities and accessibility, it’ll help make the choice easier when deciding which resort to visit and where to go skiing in Niseko (first).
First of all, Annupuri: it is the smallest resort on the mountain, but boasts the fastest access into the back-bowls. It has one gondola and five lifts which mean it is only a short and fast ride to the top. From the top there is a short hike (5 minutes) to get into the back-bowls and a slightly longer (20 minutes) hike to get to the peak. Although there are a few black runs within boundary ropes, the main pistes range through green and red, so if you’re a first-timer or intermediate skiing in Niseko, this is probably the best place for you The lower parts on Annupuri are perfect for getting first timers and newbies started and advancing quickly through the first stages. There are a number of restaurants at the base of the mountain including three that are ski-in ski-out. Lift lines are usually short, however, when there is loads of snow the gondola gets busy in the morning.
The next resort is Niseko Village, which has great sidecountry gates and a long ride from top to bottom. If you wish to access the peak from this resort you will have to board over to Annupuri from the top or walk over to Hirafu’s peak gate. This is a tricky place for beginners as the green runs from the top are steep and slightly narrow. The lower parts of the mountain are very flat and require speed to make it to the gondola without skating. It has three gondolas and five lifts to choose from and, like Annupuri, offers quick routes to the top unless its a pow day! There is a restaurant at the top and there is a Hilton at the base, but get there early as both get very busy.
Hirafu is the busiest resort on the mountain, but has the most facilities, lifts and runs. It has a wide variety of green, red and black runs and a number of gates to offer quick access to sidecountry. There are endless options for food and drink on the mountain, and even more if you take a short walk, ski or bus into the town. It has one gondola and eleven chair lifts, taking you all over the resort. Although busy, it offers great pistes and lift options for first timers and beginners, not to mention easy terrain through trees which is a hit with the kids skiing in Niseko! The top lifts in Hirafu will give you access to hike the peak and get great off piste all the way to the base of the mountain. It is worth mentioning that lifts to the top in Niseko Village and Hirafu mean you have to ride a one seat lift, with no safety bar, but it’s totally worth it! Hirafu also has a terrain park towards the base just before reaching the gondola. It has a number of rails, boxes and jumps aimed at the more advanced rider.
The final resort in Niseko is Hanazono. Hanazono has very popular gates and off-piste options for people not wanting to hike or work for it - minimum input with maximum output. It has long and winding runs of all difficulties, running from top to bottom. It has a large terrain park which is spread along a large area which offers riders boxes and jumps for all abilities snowboading and skiing in Niseko. There is not much in terms of facilities until you reach the base of Hanazono where there is a great coffee hut, a large canteen style restaurant and one slightly fancier option.
Before finishing, it is worth mentioning Moiwa, which is the resort next to Annupuri that can be accessed by bus or via backcountry options (but only if you know the way). Moiwa requires a separate lift pass to Mt Niseko-Annupuri but can be worth it as when the rest of the Niseko area is teeming with people, Moiwa can be quiet. It is also, due to the prevailing wind, where the snow hits first and offers crazy deep pow days. ENJOY!