When to Visit
When is the Best Time to Visit Niseko?
The different parts of the Niseko ski season have their pros and cons. The best time to visit Niseko is dependent on your priorities and whether you want to chase the best quality powder, want to score freshies, avoid the crowds, enjoy fine days, or benefit from discounted lift passes and accommodation.
Niseko Ski Season
The typical Niseko ski season for the Hirafu and Annupuri ski areas is late November to early May. For Hanazono and Niseko Village it’s early December to early April. Night skiing generally goes from mid December to mid to late March. The actual Niseko ski season opening and closing times is dependent on snow conditions at the time.
Early Dec to Pre-Xmas
The Niseko ski season is underway! Hokkaido is renowned for good early season snow (much better than Honshu) so there is generally enough snow on-piste for beginner and intermediate riders. Off-piste areas are likely to have sasa bamboo poking through in places, but the upside is that there is generally very little competition for the fresh powder (and you get to escape all those boring Xmas parties back home!).
Of course there is no guarantee of an adequate snow base at any ski resort pre-Xmas, and whilst the odds are better at Niseko
(the powder factory), there’s always the risk of not having enough snow.
Lift ticket prices are discounted prior to mid December and accommodation deals can often be found. Notes that some ancillary services and shuttle buses only commence in early December.
Ski Niseko Christmas to New Years
Well you can’t help it if this is the only time you can take a holiday or vacation. Otherwise, what the hell are you thinking??!!! Niseko at Xmas time is absolutely crazy. Availability for most of the Niseko accommodation
is gone by August, and you have to pay a massive premium for being there at the absolute peak time. Of course flight prices are also hiked up, as are many Niseko ancillary services. And good luck getting into your Niseko restaurant
Visit Niseko in January
Whilst most European and North American ski resorts are quiet at this time, Niseko is very busy. Australian school holidays go for all of January, and many Australians without kids also take holidays at this time. Early January in Niseko is particularly hectic.
The pros of snowboarding and skiing at Niseko in January is that it nukes a lot of snow, temps are generally very cold, and the powder quality is at its best. Downsides of January are the inclement weather (for those that like fine weather, or lifts and gates may be closed) and that freshies don’t last too long.
Niseko for Chinese New Years
If you’re thinking of a trip to Niseko in late January to mid February, it’s best to check the timing of Chinese New Year (the first day of the Chinese New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February). Lots of folks from China and Singapore descend on Niseko over the Chinese New Year period (which can extend a long way either side of the actual new year).
Accommodation availability can be scarce, accommodation prices tend to increase, and getting a table at most Niseko restaurants can require patience. Chinese skiers have more of a tendency to remain on-piste – it’s the ex-pats you’ll have to compete with for off-piste fresh powder.
Ski Niseko in February
In early February the weather patterns tend to be similar to that of January and it’s a great time for powder. The powder in late February is generally excellent too. With the exception of Chinese New Year’s, February is less busy than January, and in late February the crowds dissipate.
The Sapporo Snow Festival
is held in early February.
Niseko in March
March brings more fine weather days (you’ll actually get to see Mt Yotei!) and it’s an enjoyable time for piste skiers and snowboarders to visit.
There are still powder days but these are intermingled with some warmer temps, so snow quality can be completely variable. During March, there is very little competition for the fresh powder at the resort. Of course March is also a great time to head into the backcountry, although if you want a guided tour
or to go heli skiing
or cat skiing
, these operators may finish up towards the end of March (depending on snow conditions).
Lift ticket and accommodation discounts tend to apply from late March.
April is the best time to visit Niseko if you want low costs, no crowds, and plenty of fine weather.
All the powder skiers and snowboarders have cleared out (unless they play golf) because there’s not much powder and lots of bluebird days. Whilst the off-piste skiing might have gone sour, the decent snow cover on the trails is likely to remain, so it’s a good time for beginners and intermediates.
Lift tickets and accommodation are cheap, but be mindful that some ski schools, equipment rental shops, tour operators, and restaurants may have shut up shop for the season.