1. Niseko, Hokkaido

While the mountains of Honshu are known for their steep lines, Hokkaido is famous for the deep, light powder that has become synonymous with skiing in Japan. The ski resorts and the surrounding side and backcountry of Niseko has terrain appropriate for different skill levels, making it a great option if you’re skiing with a group that has a wide range of abilities. The terrain of Niseko United is mellower than what you’ll find skiing in Jackson Hole or Chamonix for example, but there are many groomed runs that are perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers. For backcountry enthusiasts, it’s pure gold.

niseko-backcountry-skiing
The skiing on Shiribetsu-Dake offers incredible powder. Photo: Tracy Lenard Collection

Level up your ski abilities in Niseko

For those looking to head into the backcountry, but aren’t sure how their skiing abilities will hold up in Japan’s deep and fluffy snow, Niseko United offers a graduated environment, moving from the many ungroomed pistes found in the resort to the sidecountry accessed through the gates of the resort and then away from the resort altogether into the surrounding backcountry. Think of Niseko as the perfect place to gradually level up your backcountry abilities.

Niseko United is made up of four different ski resorts which are all connected and easy to get from one to the other. Annupuri Resort is ideal for groomed runs suited to beginners and intermediates. There is also gated access (Gates 1, 2, 7 and 8) to some of the best sidecountry skiing on the mountain. Niseko Village also has beginner and intermediate zones with a couple of expert, non-groomed, runs sprinkled throughout. It is also where you access Gate 11 into Mizuno no Sawa, over 1500 feet of vertical off-piste skiing in an avalanche control area, one of the few in Japan to mitigate the avalanche hazard with explosives. Hirafu has a good mix of everything, kind of a best for the whole family. Hanazono is great for its tree skiing, terrain park, and it’s sidecountry access.

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