Freeriders should head straight to the peak. After a 20min hike from the top chair you reach the peak of Mt Annupuri. From here your options are close to 360 degrees with views from volcano to sea. The terrain is endless with open powder bowls, trees and gullies. The length of your ride is governed by how far you want to hike to get back inbounds. The hike back is along a cat track however some runs off the peak can get you back to a lift without hiking. The backcountry is sensational with plenty to choose from all within easy access of the resort.
Make sure you check out the conditions before you head out of bounds. There are plenty of status updates printed and placed at the bottom of the Gondolas and any lift that accesses the gated areas. You are only allowed backcountry by going through one of the 5 gates, if the gate is closed then you’re not allowed in that area. There aren’t enough patrollers to man the gates all day, so heed the warnings and get the knowledge off the staff to make sure you know where you’re heading. If you don’t have all the backcountry gear then it is available to hire or buy, but it’s simply not worth heading out there without it.
Backcountry tours are available from:
Niseko Outdoor Adventure Sports Club (www.noasc.com) tel +81 136-23-1688, which has a shop and office near the Hirafu base. A full day will set you back ¥10,000 (£60).
Within the resort boundary you can go pretty much anywhere that isn’t roped off. One major no no is the area under the Nisko Gondola between Hirafu and Higashiyama, but it is clearly marked.
Freestylers are well catered for with 2 halfpipes and 4 terrain parks. The terrain parks range from pro to beginner and are well made and maintained with a good variety of hits and rails. The main park & pipe is in the Stomping Ground in Hirafu and accessed by the Hanazono lift. It starts with the halfpipe and leads onto 2 separate lines. Each one consists of 2/3 kickers and a few rails. At the bottom of the park is a huge bus to slide on, and round the corner 5/6 more rails.
The second halfpipe is located again in Hirafu, tucked away on the the Kokutai run on the same piste is another parked geared towards the beginner/intermediate freestyler.
Higashiyama has a smaller intermediate/advanced park serviced by the Wonderland one-man chair, and there’s some beginner bumps down towards the base.
Not to be outdone , An’nupuri has a park but it is a bit more scattered around the mountain and features a few intermediate kickers. Also if you look hard enough you will find plenty of hits built by enthusiastic locals and there is plenty of natural terrain to hit.
Piste riders can take advantage of the 900m of vertical Niseko-Hirafu has to offer. There are plenty of long wide runs especially heading towards the Hanazono area. The well groomed terrain provides awesome runs for everyone from beginner to experts.
Beginners can start on their own slope without feeling in the way and then slowly graduate up the mountain at their own leisure. With easy runs available from top to bottom beginners can also enjoy the 900m of vertical Niseko United has to offer.