G'day, and welcome to Niseko,
Australia's Japan's highest profile snow sports desitinations. It's no surprise that a resort blessed with 15 metres of annual snowfall has quickly become a favourite of international thrill seekers, particularly Australians. But while Niseko is no longer the secret powder haven it once was, don't let that dissuade you.
The international attention has meant a strong flow of investment, impressive mountain infrastructure and an efficient lift system with many gondolas and covered chairlifts shielding patrons from the elements. And beyond the tourist trap, Niseko remains a veritable treasure trove of culture and gastronomy. While the well trodden paths of upper and lower Hirafu can appear overrun with louts, the selection and variety of cuisine and nightlife is unmathced by other Japanese resorts. Sure you might have to look a little further afield to find a traditional Japanese cultural experience, but the potential for a traveller to marry that with a comprehensive and enjoyable nightlife scence is unique in a country not known for its Apres ski hours.
Niseko is made up of 5 different resorts: Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, Hanazono and Moiwa with the first four accessible with a common ski pass. The famed powder falls in delicious great flakes and is often unyielding from January through March. The terrain is interesting and engaging if not spectacularly challenging.
Have you been to Niseko? What do you think? What restaurants and bars did you go to?