is a town
located in Abuta District
. Although in Japanese, Niseko principally refers to a municipal area, overseas, the name has come to refer to a wider area of ski resorts encompassing Hokkiado's Mount Yōtei
and Annupuri ranges.
The town had an estimated population
of 4,667 as of 2008 and a density
of 23.7 persons per km²
. The total area is 197.13 km².
Niseko is composed of seven ski areas, in order of size:
- Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu, centered around the village of Hirafu is perhaps the best known field but is actually part of the neighbouring Kutchan township.
- Niseko Higashiyama is the less popular neighbor of Hirafu but has the best front valley skiing.
- Niseko Annupuri is hit with the strongest winds and worst weather in the area, causing occasional closures.
- Niseko Hanazono
- Niseko Moiwa
- Niseko Weiss
Of the seven ski areas, the main area is four interconnected resorts known as Hirafu, Higashiyama, Annupuri and Hanazono. Together they form 2191 skiable acres of what is known as the Niseko United.
Niseko also has back-country ski-courses that are unofficially on the maps. To the furthest right of Annupuri lies Sannozaka, an area prone to avalanche but with high quality snow. To the far right of Hirafu lies Higashi One, also prone to avalanche but with a challenging back-country terrain. Near the lower half of Hirafu is a forest route called Strawberry Fields, which is perhaps the most famous run in Hirafu. Climbing Mount Yōtei also provides back country skiing.
For the first time, in March 2008, Niseko was voted into the world's top 10 ski resorts. Coming in at #6 it was the highest ranked of the new entries in the poll.
Because of its northern location, Niseko is fed by weather streams that come from Siberia
rather than from Eastern Japan
. The resort is internationally renowned for its consistently good falls of the lightest powder snow. The snow is not as dry as other areas in Hokkaidō, but the volume is high, with the average snow depth in March reaching 351cm.
Niseko was named as the world's #2 snowiest resort in December 2007 with annual average snow fall of 595 inches (15.11 metres) First place went to the Mt Baker Ski Area in Washington State with 641 inches.
Infrastructure and development
Niseko, although a growing area, does lack public and private infrastructure in certain areas. Simple public items such as rubbish bins, street lighting and winter footpath clearing are left wanting in comparison to other international ski resorts. Private infrastructure includes shopping and retail areas from which both are still in growth phase. These facilities, along with entertainment and a wide range of nightlife, are best accessed in Kutchan
a short 7 minute drive away.
Counteracting this lack of infrastructure is the high demand for real estate. Foreign owned companies are developing in the area along with Japanese companies. Purchase demand has expanded from Australian markets to include Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China.
Nightlife and accommodation can be found at and around the main village of Hirafu. The village is an eclectic mix of the old, new and traditional bars, restaurants, hotels, and pensions. The Japanese dining experience is extremely popular among foreign visitors.