Lift count : 3 x Gondolas 32 x Chairlifts
Pass (Low/High Season) : £34.78-40.70 Day, JPY0-28800 Week
Niseko United is probably the most well know resort in Japan and certainly the place everyone thinks of when it comes to riding powder.
The one mountain is composed of 3 areas, An’nupuri, Higashiyama and Grand Hirafu but they are all linked and can share the same lift pass.Each area has its own base area with Grand Hirafu being by far the most developed. The resort has breath taking views of Mt.Yotei, a dormant conical shaped volcano.
The word is definitely out on Niseko, by the start of every season stacks of new buildings have sprouted up to cater to the huge demand. The place has retained character, though not necessarily Japanese character and resembles a Colorado town.
Many of the restaurants, bars and lodges are owned and run by westerners and you never really need to know a word of Japanese. There are still a few authentic Japanese restaurants but they have become the exception to the rule.
Freeriding is the main draw here. Fourteen metres of snow annually and Japans most progressive off-piste policy guarantee that powder hounds will go home happy.
The highest lifts are all within a few hundred metres hike of the top of the mountain (1308m). From here you can ride down backcountry to Goshiki Onsen (hot springs) on the opposite side of the mountain. To get back you'll need a taxi or the rather infrequent bus. Be careful though, this mountain does have avalanches so be sure to check with the ski patrols to get the latest info. There are plenty of companies that offer guiding services and it is best to use them.
Within the resort boundary there is plenty of shredding to be done between the nicely spaced birch trees, and natural pillow lines are in abundance. Very few areas are roped off and it’s essential to abide by the rules if you want to keep your lift pass.
The 900m of continuous vertical will give those looking to clock up the miles on the pistes plenty of opportunity. It’s mainly a mixture of reds and easy greens, the black runs are generally left un-groomed and in a semi-permanent mogulled state.
Freestylers don’t worry, you certainly haven’t been ignored, there are 2 halfpipes and 4 main terrain parks spaced over the resort.
Almost the entire area is floodlit and is open every night until 9pm. The lights are so bright that you can still board through the trees between the pistes, it is a strange but incredible experience and often the slopes are very empty.
The lift system is modern with gondolas and express chairs whisking you up to the top of the treeline. Above the treeline things change and due to a change in environmental law, the resort is no longer allowed to develop this area so you’ll find lots of slow one-man chairs taking you up to the peak. This can lead to bottle necks when crossing between An’nupuri and Higashiyama areas.READ NEXT: Freeriding, terrain parks and Pistes