Hirafu Village at Niseko resort has about 150 properties within 500 metres of the lift. Even those properties that aren't ski in/ski out or walk to the lift are no further than a couple of minutes from the free all day shuttle service. Many pension and lodge owners make it even easier by providing their own transfers to and from the lifts at specified times. There is a variety of pension, lodge and self-contained accommodation. Clean and comfortable Hotels provide good 3 star facilities, Pensions and lodges offer budget to moderate standards B&B style accommodation.
Izumikyo areas 1, 2 & 3 (also known as east Hirafu village) are located on the road between Hirafu and Kutchan. There are limited dining options in Izumikyo, otherwise it's a short walk or bus ride back to Hirafu. The free shuttle service accessing these villages is separate to the main Hirafu village shuttle.Niseko Village (formerly known as Higashiyama) offers ski in/ ski out from the Hilton and Green Leaf hotel's. Dining options are limited to the in-house hotel restaurants, this is a self contained resort with on site ski school, kids club, a range of activities including cross country skiing, first tracks cat skiing, snow shoe tours, snowmobiling, Reindeer sledding, horseback riding and snow rafting. Shuttle services operate from the hotel to Hirafu village, about 15 minutes by coach or taxi.
Annupuri village is located at the southern end of the mountain, furthest from Hirafu. It's about 25 minutes coach ride from Hirafu village and has a few accommodation and dining options. It also boasts some of the nicest Onsen's in the Niseko area.
Hanazono is the closest base area to Kutchan and currently only has 1 main accommodation option. Perfect if you want to get away from the crowds and like the remote feeling. Also great for getting first tracks down strawberry fields before the Hirafu crowds make it across. Hanazono also offers snowmobiling, rafting and a zipline.
Niseko An'nupuri Mountain has four resorts, with four distinct trunks up and down the mountain. The four resorts are (from South to North) Niseko An'nupuri, Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama), Niseko Hirafu and Hanazono.
Niseko is famous for its deep and fluffy powder snow. The ski-able resort area starts from close to sea-level and rises to an altitude of 1200m (peak of 1,308 metres), with about 1000m in elevation.
Niseko is made up of 57 runs consisting of 38 lifts and gondolas and totaling over 47 km in groomed slopes. Longest run is 5.6km, and as well as the powder, the terrain offers first timer slopes, half-pipes, quarter pipes, table tops, mogul fields, tree runs and lot's of natural hits to ensure everyone's tastes are catered for.
There is a good mixture of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, with skiers and snowboarders welcome everywhere.
Lift facilities are great and operate for over 12 hours a day - starting at 8:30am and last ride up closing at 8:40 pm Hirafu, 9:00pm in Anuupuri. In peak season an early morning lift pass is available from early Jan to early Feb for a ¥500 surcharge for first tracks at 8am. Top lifts may close when it's windy, and fewer lifts are open at the end of season starting from around 6th April.
Hanazono quads 1 and 3, the King Triple at Hirafu, and Jumbo quad at Annupuri are hooded opening and closing automatically. There are Gondolas at Annupuri, Niseko Village (Higashiyama), and Hirafu. Not all lifts have protective covers and Niseko weather can be extremely cold. Skiers and boarders should be fully prepared with warm gloves and face masks. These are available in the village and on the mountain. Prices start from 1000 yen. Refer to tips
for general information on ski wear safety, important customs.
There are seven different on-mountain restaurants/cafes to eat or rest in and more at the base of ski lifts. Most prices are very affordable with a good variety of eating options.
The Grand shuttle bus runs around Hirafu Village from 8:30 am to 9pm every 10 - 20 minutes and constantly in peak periods. The transfers from accommodation to the lifts and back are free and this shuttle service can also be used for transport around the village. There is also a Hanazono Courtesy bus and the 'Free passport bus' is available for all mountain pass holders for transfers between Hirafu-Higashiyama-An'nupuri.
One of the highlights is night skiing. The illuminated area is huge (one of the largest in the world), and visibility good. Even tree runs are accessible. A powder night session is a must! Hanazono area does not currently have night skiing.
VERY FRESH SUSHI
Niseko buzz is Japan countryside goes cosmopolitan. Japanese food is of course famous for the best fresh produce, attention to detail and presentation, and a unique range of flavours. What is less well known are the great variety of affordable mini meals - noodle and rice based dishes and more hearty but still very affordable set menu offerings which do a wonderful job balancing budget and diet without compromising the all important 'taste'. Memorise the word 'oishii' (Oh-ee-shee) - 'delicious' before you travel to Niseko and remember that amongst other foods Hokkaido is famous for fresh seafood and ramen noodles. Niseko also offers international cuisine catering to the Japanese palate. International dishes are often small portions by western standards, and price is affected by the cost of ingredients but there is definitely something different and worth trying in everything from Japanese Italian to Japanese Nepalese. For the less adventurous Pizza's and other western food are available throughout. The village of Hirafu is packed with eateries and Izakaya (Japanese pubs). Most restaurants have English menus and English speaking staff, and are within walking distance of your accommodation and the lifts.
There are wine-and-dine directories with discount coupons to some of the bars and restaurants available in the village. Please note that cash is king in Japan and still the only form of payment accepted at many establishments. Thanks to International demand the number of properties in Niseko accepting credit cards is increasing.
Niseko ADSL and wireless infrastructure has greatly improved internet connectivity in the past few years. Wireless can be accessed at most properties and some provide PC's for internet access. If there is no Internet at your accommodation then PowPow, JoJo's, and B's cafe all have an Internet cafe. The Alpen coffee shop and other cafe's have wireless internet, if you need to use your laptop. WiFi is also available at the welcome centre.
Cash/ Credit Cards And Travellers Cheques
International credit card usage - it may be a good idea to advise your credit card providers you are travelling overseas. Card issuers may put an automatic stop on cards after an overseas transaction occurs in order to reduce the instance/risk of international fraud.
Arrange to have adequate Yen in cash for your stay in Niseko. Niseko is rapidly becoming an international town, but there are still many businesses including most hotels / lodges/ pensions that do not accept credit cards or travellers cheques. Most restaurants and bars do NOT accept cards/ travellers cheques. The options for money change in Niseko proper are very limited.
There is an international ATM machine located in the base of Yama Shizen apartments in the upper Hirafu village. In the nearby town of Kutchan there is one located in the post office and 7 Eleven. The post office ATM's accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, VISA Electron, Plus, Cirrus Maestro, JCB, Diner's Club International, Unfortunately they are reported to have reliability issues, not accepting international cards on some occasions.
NGS can exchange Australian dollars cash and Yen Travellers cheques - if large amounts required please make your request in advance. Sapporo (Chitose) airport's banking facility closes at 5:00 pm., Travelex has opened an outlet at Chitose airport operation 365 days a year - hours of operation 07:15-20:45. Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai airports also have banking/money change facilities. Operating hours are 06:00 - 23:00 note there are several money change facilities and they rotate their early/late on duty /off duty schedules. At least one facility will be open between 06:00 and 23:00. Purchasing some Yen cash in advance of departure, and Yen travellers cheques for exchange in Japan may be a cost effective strategy.
3g mobile phones should work in Japan if you have enabled international roaming, other mobile phones will not. Note charges can be very high when using your phone overseas, check with your provider before travelling to avoid the shock of a large bill on your return.
Short term mobile phone rentals are available from the NGS office, located at the welcome centre. Local pre paid Sim cards can be rented for your 3g phone (except Iphone 4 and other micro sim phones) from the Softbank store at Tokyo and Sapporo airport's for 105 Yen per day. Buying a pre-paid phone for temporary use is not an option due to Japanese rules and regulations.
SKI RESORTS IN JAPAN