Located on Hokkaido Island, right off the northern coast of Japan, Niseko is awash with an abundance of activities to thrill the kids and adults alike. One of the most popular ski destinations in the world, Niseko is renowned for its amazing ski conditions and excellent quality powder snow. Of course, given the varying climatic conditions that occur during the winter seasons, you can expect a few changes when it comes to the night skiing, entertainment, accommodation, and more. To help you plan the trip of a lifetime, we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider so you can determine what’s the best time for you to go to Niseko.
Niseko Guide: The Best Time to Go to Niseko for Your Ski Trip
Photo Credits: Ryan Kartzke (Flickr Creative Common 2.0)
The Beginning of Ski Season
Insider Tip: It’s quite easy to make a reservation in the very first weeks of ski season since there isn’t a lot of demand. However, we still recommend that you book in advance to avoid any potential issues.
If you’re visiting between late November and early December, you’ll land in Niseko right at the very beginning of the ski season. This is the ideal time to visit if you would like to avoid the crowds, if you’re an inexperienced skier, or if you’re traveling as a family and have young children with you.
Here’s what you can expect if visiting Niseko between the last week of November and first week of December:
- Ease of access to the lift: Walk right up to the lift without even having to wait in line thanks to the lack of vacationers.
- Average snowfall (based upon the 2018/2019 season): Approximately 84cm
- Average temperature: – 1°C to 6°C in November and -1°C to -7°C in December
- Accommodation costs: Most prices are flexible and budget-friendly during this period
In terms of entertainment, you’ll find that most restaurants and nightclubs open for the season during the first week of December. If you’re visiting late November, rest assured that you will still have a handful of dining options to choose from. This is the best period to visit with your family since the party scene has not quite set in yet. Night skiing is not available.
Photo Credits: Villa Finder
Niseko in Peak Season
Insider Tip: We would strongly urge you to make your reservations before ski season opens in April. This is the busiest time in Niseko and it can be hard to land the perfect place to stay if you wait until the very last minute. Check out our extensive range of beautifully-appointed Niseko ski chalets here.
Between Late December and Mid-February is the busiest and liveliest time to hit the slopes. This is also when you can expect excellent ski conditions with plenty of exhilarating night skiing opportunities. With abundant dry powder, Niseko offers open Backcountry gates during this season.
However, we would urge you to ensure that you’re familiar with the Avalanche Danger Scale before hitting the slopes. Of course, it goes without saying that you should also expect plenty of lines at the lifts due to the surge of skiers visiting during Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year. Night skiing is available every day between 4:30PM and 8:30PM.
In peak season, you can expect the following conditions:
- Average temperatures: -7°C to -1°C in December and -10°C to -2°C in February
- Average snowfall (based upon the 2018/2019 season): 333cm (Dec), 285cm (Jan), 198cm (Feb)
- Ease of access to the ski lifts: Head to the lifts early because you’ll most likely have to wait in line
- Accommodation costs: Expect peak season prices
There’s no denying that Niseko flares to life during peak season with an abundance of dining and entertainment options open until the early hours of the morning. If you would like to savor an authentic Japanese meal, check out restaurants such as Sushi Hanayoshi known for its omakase and kaiseki. After an exhilarating day on the slopes, you can also soothe your muscles in one of the many onsens (hot springs) that dot the area. Popular options include the Kanronomori, Goshiki, and Ikoi No Mura onsens. Prices range between ¥800 and ¥1000 for adults.
Bear in mind that peak season in Niseko can be a bit on the pricey side; so if you’re traveling on a limited budget, you may want to head there during peak or shoulder seasons.
Visiting in Shoulder Season
Insider Tip: Advance bookings are still recommended during Shoulder Season. This period may not be as busy as peak season, but you can still expect moderate crowds due to the drop in prices. July would be the ideal time to book a villa in Niseko if you’re planning on vacationing there during the Shoulder Season.
Shoulder Season starts after the second week of March and it’s the perfect time to visit if you’re on a mid-range budget but still want to soak up plenty of that vibrant Niseko vibe. Experienced skiers might want to avoid this season because skiing options are much more limited as from Mid-March.
Night skiing is only available until late March (from 4.30pm to 8.30pm daily) and while the Backcountry gates are open, access is largely dependent on the weather conditions.
- Average temperatures: 0°C to 9°C in April and 5°C to 15°C in May
- Average snowfall (based upon the 2018/2019 season): 198cm (Feb), 45cm (Mar)
- Ease of access to the ski lifts: You may need to wait in line for a while if you’re visiting until early March. The lift lines may start to dwindle at the beginning of April.
- Accommodation costs: Prices will only start to dip as from the second to third week of March. You can expect discounts and special offers as from end of March
Mid-March to early April is quite a popular season for families because of the school holidays. As such, you’ll find plenty in terms of kid-friendly amenities and entertainment. What are you waiting for? It’s time to plan a trip to Niseko!