Niseko prides itself for being the snowiest resort on the planet and has gained cult status among die hard skiers and snowboarders on a global scale.
But there’s more to learn about Niseko than just perfect powder and endless skiing. Here are eight surprising things you probably didn’t know about Niseko, Japan’s snowy ski Mecca.
1. Niseko Has its Own Microbrewery
Besides the world-class skiing, Niseko is known for offering great pubs and nightlife. What many people don’t know is that Niseko also has its very own microbrewery!
Niseko Beer was established in 2014 and offers standards like pale ale, pilsner, stout and also produces quirky seasonal beers including pumpkin beer. You can try out the beers at the brewery’s own restaurants, Niseko Tap House, which also serves hearty Japanese cuisine.
2. You Get Spring Water on Tap
Throughout Japan, tap water is very safe to drink and this is especially true in Niseko, where the water you get from your chalet’s tap is actually sourced from mountain springs. In the main village of Hirafu, water is mainly sourced from the majestic Mount Yotei.
The area enjoys steady rain and snowfall throughout the year and as many of the mountains are protected National Parks, the water quality is consistently great. Driving around Mount Yotei, you can often spot locals filling huge plastic tanks with fresh spring water right at the source.
3. Night Skiing in Niseko is Fantastic
So you know Niseko offers great skiing – but have you tried hitting the slopes after nightfall? Many of Niseko’s pristine slopes are illuminated by flood lights after nightfall which give you a totally new skiing experience. The strategic lighting provides great visibility and a totally unique ambiance.
Most resorts in Niseko keep selected lifts open until 8.30pm. Skiing in the dark is not a passing trend, either – the Hirafu resort has been offering after-dark skiing for over 50 years.
4. Biking in the Snow is a Thing
There are many sports you can try out in the snow. Skiing, sure. Snowboarding, of course. Snow shoeing, snowmobiling and skating all sound legit – but what about biking in the snow? Opening in December 2017, Explore Niseko’s new Activity Centre will begin offering fat bike hires.
The sturdy bikes are specifically designed for the frosty conditions and the bike tours take you through forest bike trails designed according to international standards.
5. Great Coffee Does Exist
We all want to be the first ones to hit the slopes – but first, coffee. Luckily, artisan coffee shops have gained a strong footing in Niseko and you don’t have to settle for stale 7/11 coffee or sad cups of instant brew.
Sprout Outdoor Espresso in Kutchan has a cool window display where you can watch beans being roasted every morning, so you know the coffee is going to be fresh! A little closer to home in Niseko Town, Takano Coffee is half café, half coffee roaster and 100% caffeine-tastic. Besides these artisanal coffee roasters, Niseko has a good selection of cafes, including The Mountain Kiosk, Hana 1 and Gloorious Coffee.
6. The Coolest Ski Gear is Made Locally
You don’t have to settle for mass produced skis and snow boards while navigating the slopes of Niseko. Brands like Roko Skis offer custom made skis designed, tested and handcrafted in the Niseko area.
The Roko team is made up of die-hard powder hounds who have spent years scaling the Niseko mountainside, so you can be sure your new skis are tailor-made for the local conditions. And it doesn’t exactly hurt that the finished product is adorned with super cool art from local artists.
7. Helicopters are the New Ski Lifts
Venturing beyond the basic ski trails just got a little easier. Hokkaido Backcountry Club offers helicopter packages delivering you to the 1100-metre high Shiribetsu-Dake volcano which offers dreamy white powder.
A full-day package will treat you to a whopping 3000 metres of vertical, so this is a dream come true for serious powder junkies. The epic runs don’t come cheap, with prices starting at JPY ¥160,000 (USD $1,400) for a six-run tour – but then again, can you really put a price on those mountainside thrills?
8. There’s Accommodation to Suit All Budgets
If you think a ski holiday in Japan requires very deep pockets, it’s time to think again. While it’s true that there are some amazing luxury chalets in the area – we’re thinking of the fabulous USD $3000 a night AYA Villas and the seven-bedroom mega-chalet Greystone – there are also plenty of more affordable options available in Niseko.
Estates like The Orchards Niseko offer incredibly stylish chalets at a terrific value. As the chalets can accommodate larger groups, the nightly rates can come as low as USD $60 per person. If you’re looking for true value, you can even bag a compact chalet like Heiwa Lodge for just USD $273 a night. Lesson learned? If you know where to look, there really is something for everyone in Niseko.