What it's like to visit the 'Aspen of Japan,' where billionaires and actors dine on sushi in ski lodges and relax in natural hot springs on the side of an active volcano

Scott Markewitz/Getty ImagesNiseko is home to the famous ‘champagne powder.’
  • Niseko is an up-and-coming hotspot located on Japan‘s northernmost island that’s home to some of the best ski slopes in the world.
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported that several well-known luxury hotels plan to move to the area.
  • The area currently consists of four main resorts, which comprise Niseko United skiing.
  • Along with its fresh powder and natural hot springs, the area is also home to impressive restaurants and bars in the resort villages.

Niseko, Japan: Home to “champagne powder,” a variety of luxury chalets, and an under-the-radar skiing hotspot where millionaires can eat fresh sushi in ski lodges.

It’s no wonder that Niseko, one of the snowiest spots in the world, has caught the attention of luxury hotel chains and wealthy skiers.

In a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, Kosaku Narioka reported that while an assortment of expensive chalet rentals are already built up in the area, a fleet of luxury hotels will soon join the high-end offerings: A Park Hyatt will be completed at the end of this year, a Ritz-Carlton is forthcoming in 2020, and a W Hotel is set to arrive in 2021.

Read more: 7 cold-weather destinations every winter lover should visit

According to The Real Deal, the recent increase in hotel construction is mainly due to the rise in wealthy investor interest. This includes Francis Yeoh, whose company is responsible for the construction of the Ritz-Carlton and W Hotel.

Rentals aside, the area gained attention after the construction of “The Red Bull House,” home to Chalerm Yoovidhya, one of Thailand’s richest men and heir to the Red Bull company fortune.

Movie stars such as Hugh Jackman and Sam Neill have been known to frequent the area, which also includes a lively nightlife and extensive dining options. A feature by Vogue noted the area’s incredible seafood, which sets it apart from other inland ski resorts around the world.

A visitors’ guide published by Travel + Leisure said, “If Snow Country has a crown jewel, Niseko is probably it.”

Keep reading for an inside look at one of the world’s best ski spots.


Niseko is consistently ranked as one of the top skiing locations in Japan.

SEASTOCK / iStockThe ski season in Japan lasts about 6 months.

Source: Powderhounds,Lonely Planet, Forbes, Snow Japan


The resort has been compared to major luxury destinations like Aspen, Colorado …

ShutterstockAspen, Colorado.

Source: Wall Street Journal


… St. Moritz, Switzerland …

Stefano Politi/ShutterstockSt. Moritz, Switzerland.

Source: Wall Street Journal


… and Whistler, British Columbia.

Source: Wall Street Journal


Niseko is located on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

Source: Google Maps


Hokkaido is the second largest island, and Japan’s coldest region.

Source: Google Maps


Though it is technically a town title, for most visitors, “Niseko” refers to the entire region near Mount Yōtei.

Source: Google Maps


Mount Yōtei is an active stratovolcano located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

Source: Japan Travel


The area is also beautiful in the summertime …

Courtesy of Niseko Village

… and visitors can golf at one of three main courses with the volcano as a stunning backdrop.

Courtesy of Niseko VillageGolfers enjoy a beautiful view of the snow-capped Mt. Yōtei during warm weather.

Source: Niseko Tourism


However, the mountain is mostly famous for its winter activities. The mountainside is covered in the highly coveted “champagne powder” — high-quality snow that’s perfect for skiing.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: Travel + Leisure


It’s listed as one of the snowiest spots in Japan.

Courtesy of HANAZONO Niseko ResortThe area receives an average of 14 meters, or 45 feet, of snowfall per year.

Source: Holiday Niseko


To begin their trip, guests fly into New Chitose Airport, followed by a two and half hour car ride to the mountain.

Source: Holiday Niseko


Four major ski resorts make up Niseko United, a group of ski slopes and accommodations.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source:Niseko United


First, Annupuri is located on the southeastern side of the mountain, and offers a family- friendly atmosphere.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United


The ski area features 13 courses, from beginner to advanced levels, and also offers night skiing on some courses.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United,

Niseko Annupuri Info


Grand Hirafu is the largest ski resort, and perhaps the most well-known.

Kris Gaethofs/Getty ImagesMt Yotei, also named Ezofuji due to its resemblance to Mt Fuji, as seen from the ski resort town of Hirafu in the middle of winter.

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United


The resort includes a bustling village at its base with lively nightlife and shopping. Along with expensive ski shops that sell name brands like North Face and Patagonia, the village features a custom hat shop.

Courtesy of HANAZONO Niseko Resort

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United,Niseko Tourism


Niseko Village is nestled between Annupuri and Grand Hirafu.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United


It also features a village with shops and hotels, though significantly smaller and quieter than Grand Hirafu. Items sold here include luxury Japanese purses and custom glasswork by local artists in the nearby city of Otaru.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United,Niseko Village


Finally, Hanazono is the second base of Grand Hirafu on the northeastern side of the mountain. Though smaller than the other ski areas, Hanazono still offers a ski school for both kids and adults.

Courtesy of HANAZONO Niseko Resort

Source: SkiJapan, The Luxury Signature, Japan Guide,Niseko United


Each of these four resorts features a variety of luxe accommodations …

Facebook/LOFT NisekoLOFT Niseko was previously listed in a Forbes article as one of the most luxurious rentals in Asia. Different sized apartments are available for rent, all with views of Mount Yōtei, beginning around $US5,000 per night.

Source: Forbes


… the most impressive of which might be the private ski chalets. While an all mountain day pass is inexpensive (approximately $US66), adding a chalet will quickly propel you up into the thousands.

Facebook/Niseko Alpine Developments-NisadeThe Glasshouse rental is a five-bedroom chalet available for approximately $US1,400 per night.

Source: Powder Life


The Annupuri Residences are one group of rentals …

Courtesy of Niseko Annupuri Residences

Source: Niseko Annupuri Residences


… located just minutes from the closest slopes.

Courtesy of Niseko Annupuri ResidencesRemaining lots for custom home builds currently range from $US533,000 to $US1.9 million for the property alone. The house itself, depending on design and size, may cost up to $US4 million or more.

Source: Niseko Annupuri Residences


Others private rentals are more secluded, such as the Keyaki Villas …

Courtesy of THE PAVILIONS HOTELS & RESORTS

Source:

The Pavilions Ginto Residences


… which offer beautiful views of the surrounding forests, rooms for adults …

Courtesy of THE PAVILIONS HOTELS & RESORTS

Source:

The Pavilions Ginto Residences


… and accommodations for younger guests.

Courtesy of THE PAVILIONS HOTELS & RESORTS

Source:

The Pavilions Ginto Residences


If wealthy skiers do not want to rent an entire property, luxury hotels such as the Green Leaf Hotel are available.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village


The hotel features a bar downstairs …

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village


… and an array of modern bedrooms.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village


For those looking to relax, the onsens — or natural hot springs — are a draw. The soothing baths are recognised for their purifying health benefits.

Gim Porntep/Getty Images

Source: Afar


The Green Leaf Hotel is also home to some of the area’s natural onsens.

Courtesy of Niseko VillageThe Niseko area includes 15 total onsens. Most, like Green Leaf, are a part of hotels and usually cost less than $US10 for entry.

Source: The Green Leaf Niseko Village, Niseko Onsen Guide


High-end hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton are on their way, but for now, the most prominent chain is a beautiful ski-in, ski-out Hilton.

Courtesy of Niseko VillageA twin room in the Hilton costs around $US250 per night. However, residences at the upcoming Park Hyatt are expected to cost between $US900,000 and $US10 million.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Hilton Niseko Village, The Real Deal


Many international power players, millionaires, and celebrities choose to vacation in Niseko, including actors like Hugh Jackman …

Kevin WinterHugh Jackman is known for his leading role in The Wolverine movies, and most recently starred as circus ringleader P.T. Barnum in ‘The Greatest Showman.’

Source: Powderlife


… and Sam Neil, who, according to Powder Life magazine, was spotted singing at Angel karaoke bar with Australian rugby union captain George Gregan.

Source: Powderlife


And then, of course, there’s the food. Among other great dining options, countless restaurants offer excellent seafood, thanks to Niseko’s proximity to the ocean …

Courtesy of Hanazono Niseko

Source: Vogue


… while others feature soba noodles, a Japanese staple made from buckwheat.

Courtesy of Niseko Village

Source: Vacation Niseko


Regardless which resort or chalet you choose to stay at …


… the incredible views alone make the trip memorable as you ski some of the best slopes in Asia.

Scott Markewitz/Getty Images

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