Niseko’s back-country ski runs have champagne-powder-sprinkled descents through Hanazono’s seemingly endless silver-birch and pine forests on the slopes of Mount Yotei. Strawberry Fields is the most-vaunted, but daredevils can take the lesser-mapped black runs at Sannozaka and Higashi One. On your way down, watch for juhyo (the monster-like icy forms of frozen trees). Alongside snowboarding, tubing and shoeing, you can hop on horseback, or hike 6,000ft northwards to the the volcano crater’s edge, for views of the Sea of Japan and Pacific in the distance. Après-piste, pull up to a timbered tavern to warm up with a tot of Japanese whisky or green tea, or a lively sake saloon. Sasa (bamboo shoots) hail the arrival of spring, when visitors ride the white waters of the thawed Shiribetsu River, hike and bike. Tradition prevails here: local woodworkers still don happi kimonos, onsen springs soothe angered muscles year round, and fascinating celebrations (Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, Kutchan Summer Potato Festival) fill Niseko’s calendar.
When to go
Niseko’s main draw may be its snow-blanketed winters, but the scenery is just as spectacular come summer.
PlanesThe New Chitose International Airport is the closest to the resort town. For international travellers, connections are available through both of Tokyo’s airports (Haneda and Narita).
TrainsKutchan station is closest. JR Rail operates services to this station from other Japanese cities, including Sapporo and Otaru on the coast.
AutomobilesNiseko is the nearest town, a 20-minute drive away. From the city of Sapporo, the drive will take around two hours.