Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido is home to magical feather-light snow known as Japanese Powder or “Japow”. The island enjoys a long snow season — from December to early April — and among its ski towns, Niseko has long been a favorite destination among skiers, snowboarders and travelers who come to experience some of Asia’s most stunning winter landscapes.
Spread over four different ski resort villages — Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, and Hanazono — Niseko boasts light fluffy snow and majestic slopes that tempt both powder and on-piste skiers. But there’s more to Niseko than just amazing ski runs. It’s also a great destination for non-skiers who can’t be bothered with talk of ‘dumps’ and ‘carving’.
Here are a few ways you can experience a magical winter holiday in Niseko without having to pull on a bulky winter suit and strapping on ski boots.
Take in stunning snow-blanketed sights from a gondola
At Niseko, the gondolas aren’t just for skiers and snowboarders. The Grand Hirafu Gondola and the Annupuri Gondola are great ways to get a bird’s-eye view of the winter wonderland. You’ll be whisked up to 950 meters above sea level for panoramic vistas of the resort town and its snow-covered peaks and valleys. You can also watch skiers descending the slopes or spot a few mountaineers heading up to the summit of Niseko’s mountains.
Get an adrenaline rush on a snow tube or a snow raft
Bundle up in your coziest winter gear and head for Hanazono where you’ll find tube-friendly terrain and pristine passes that can accommodate bulky snow rafts.
The bottom of Hanazono ski resort has an area reserved for sleds and tubes. Entirely secure and marked out, these snowy descents are perfect for introducing the little ones to their first sensations of sliding down snow in a comfortable inner tube while the older kids — and you — can take turns racing down the slope.
But for sheer invigoration, nothing tops gliding across soft powder snow on a raft while being towed by a snowmobile. The cold, crisp air and the rush of speeding across a shining silver wonderland are guaranteed to awaken the senses.
Explore this winter wonderland on horseback
Enjoy Niseko’s natural charms at a more relaxed pace atop a docile steed. Ride along scenic trails, across gleaming white pistes, and past awe-inspiring views at the foot of Mt. Yotei, Niseko’s grandest peak; or go horseback trekking around Lake Toya, an hour away from Niseko.