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Ride some of the best on-piste trails in Niseko
Niseko is a resort known around the world for it's extensive powder snow, in which skiers and snowboarders from around the world come to hunt over the winter season. While you'll find most of the best snow off-piste, the resort still has plenty of terrain for intermediate riders looking to stay on-piste. The mountain has around 800m of vertical from the top lifts all the way to the bottom, so has plenty of long, wide-open trails to explore without heading into the trees.
In this guide, we'll take a look at the more difficult on-piste terrain that Niseko has to offer. This will be split into the trails that can be accessed from each base resort.
Ace Quad #2 Chair
This lift gives access to the some of the longest groomed runs in Hirafu. Staying skiers left after exiting the chair will put you onto Furiko or Kokutai which are great fun given the medium gradient and wide-open space. Continuing straight ahead over the Green trail will give you the option of Onsenzawa or Ni-kabe, of which the latter is groomed and heads toward the Gondola. Staying on the Green trail will direct you back towards the bottom of the Ace Quad #2, with the slope turning into a nice red trail before the bottom of the hill.
Staying skiers right after the lift will send you towards Super, an ungroomed black trail that is excellent fun when there's fresh snow. It dips down into a gulley that can be seen from the chairlift and is an excellent challenge for those looking to expand past the groomed trails. Following the trail itself is the easiest option, however you can traverse across the hillside on skiers right around halfway down the run, which will put you onto a steeper face. You can then drop down this face back onto the marked trail for a more challenging descent. Following the trail to the end will spit you back out at the bottom of the Ace Quad #2 Lift.
These runs can all be accessed via the Ace Quad #2 Lift by sking towards the base of the King Hooded Lift. Following the start of Green, the marked easiest way down to Hirafu's .Base, will eventually lead you to the start of Konayuki which is an ungroomed black trail as marked by the signs at the top of the run. It offers a steep pitch with plenty of terrain, as the trail forks into to individual runs at before the base. Skiers left has some nice trees to dip in and out of, great fun when there's fresh snow. It's also the best way to get to the famous Boyo-So restaurant, tucked in behind the trees towards the base of Konayuki.
King Hooded #3 Chair
Arguably Hirafu's most popular lift during the day, the King Hooded Chair allows access to plenty of red trails and introductory off-piste skiing. Skiers right after exiting the chair will take you down a groomed cat-track towards the 1,000m Hut, in which you'll be able to find Center. This is a groomed red trail with a varying gradient and a few rollers, making it perfect for big carves and plenty of speed. It will also give you the option of taking the Ace Pair Lift or King Hooded Lift depending on where you finish.
Dropping directly underneath the Hooded Chair will put you onto Rinkan, an ungroomed red trail in the gulley. By far one of Hirafu's popular run, and for good reason, it's the perfect place to practice ungroomed trail riding without the pitch of a black run. The top part of this run is definitely the steepest, as it drops away from the cat-track and runs either side of the gulley. However the pitch starts to mellow out after 100-150m as you get funneled between the chairlift and ridges. There's plenty of room here to traverse skiers right into the tree line to find some fresh snow and then drop back down into the valley where you see fit.
Skiers left across the upper cat-track will lead you past the King #4 Chair and lead you towards Jumbo. This is a wide-open red, groomed trail that is perfect for big carves and carrying a lot of speed before it flattens out in the middle past the top of the Swinging Monkey Chair. You'll have excellent views of Mt. Yotei here on a sunny day as you ski back down towards the King Chair. After the trail flattens out for a short moment, it steepens again into a short but sweet black gradient before the base. The last part of this trail is one of the steeper runs in Hirafu, but is extremely wide so offers plenty of room to keep your speed in check. Stay skiers right as the gradient flattens out to be lead back to the King Hooded Chair, or skiers right will lead you to the Swinging Monkey. Be careful of other riders as towards the bottom as gradient flattens out, as the run crosses over the beginner trail that leads to Holiday Run.
King #4 Chair & Ace Pair Chair #4
The upper-most lifts in Hirafu sit above the mountain tree line, offering access to wide-open areas unlike anything else in Hirafu. At far skiers left, you'll find Dynamic which is the only groomed black run at this altitude. It has a steep pitch, yet is relatively short, so is a great practice trail to get some turns done on a steeper gradient. It feeds back to the bottom of the King #4 Lift (pizza box), or you can continue down Jumbo or Yotei Sunset which are excellent red trails.
In the centre of this upper most section you'll find Snorkel and Large, two ungroomed black trails either side of the Ace Pair Lift #4. They are essentially the same terrain, a wide-open pitch which collects plenty of snow during peak season. On a fresh powder day this is an excellent place to come if you can get here early, as the gradient is perfect for big overnight dumps. Just be aware that Snorkel does feed into the upper section of Niseko Village, so you'll want to follow the bottom of the Ace Pair #4 Lift if you want to stay in Hirafu (this can be difficult on a day with low visibility).
Hanazono Hooded #1 Chair
The lower chairlift in Hanazono gives access to plenty of nice groomed trails that can't be accessed from the Gondola, making it the perfect progression from the green runs. At the top of the chair head skiers left gives access to Silver Dream, the longest individual trail in all of Hanazono. It winds it's way around the back of Strawberry Fields and has a varying gradient which makes it perfect for building up some serious speed.
Skiers right will take you down Setsuzoku, a short but reasonably steep trail before splitting off to either Legend of Shinya or Stairway to Heaven. The former is an ungroomed black run, the steepest in all of Hanazono. During peak season this can be a great on-piste area to play in some powder, however later in the season ends up with large moguls. Either way, this is the most advanced run in Hanazono. Stairway to Heaven is a groomed trail with varying gradients and some nice rollers, great for some big carves on your way back to the base of the mountain.
Hanazono Hooded #3 Chair
The top chairlift in Hanazono gives access to Youtei Sunset, a wide-open groomed trail with a varying pitch, perfect for throwing some big carves on the way down. Stay skiers left after exiting the chair and follow the trail down the mountain, which takes you back to the chairlift. The run starts off with an average red trail gradient, before veering left and increasing in steepness. For the avid carver, this steeper section is perfect for some serious speed before it flattens out at the bottom before the chair. This run is groomed regularly, however is a reasonably high-traffic area during peak season so tends to get chopped up quite quickly. Be careful of moguls forming towards the afternoon which can be dangerous at high speeds.
Ride back to the Hanazono #3 Chairlift for another run, or keep your speed up and ride through the flats of Hanazono #2 Chair to carry on to the lower groomers.
The Niseko Gondola travels almost all the way up the Niseko Village, giving access to basically every intermediate run the resort has to offer. All of these runs can be accessed by the other chairs, however they are relatively short and not often used. The top of the gondola also gives access to Hirafu resort with a short hike.
After exiting the gondola, head past the base of the Wonderland Chair and down into the start of the groomed trails in Niseko Village. Staying skiers right will keep you towards all of the groomed red trails, which can be bombed as one run if you've got the endurance. The first run you'll encounter is Hekko No Kabe, a short but sweet groomed trail which is the start of the decent down through the resort. You can cut the run short by stopping at the bottom of the Country Road Chair and continue to ride this trail if you prefer a shorter run. Otherwise heading further down to Junk Yard and Namara will lead you towards the bottom of the resort. You can link these two runs together for a long, groomed ride all the way back to the base of the Gondola. At the bottom of Namara you'll end up on the green run Banzai which you can follow back to the gondola for a ride back to the top.
At the top of Niseko Village, staying skiers left after the Wonderland Chair will lead you to various ungroomed black trails. Joppin, Zangi and Konbu are short and great for practicing on some more serious terrain. They'll spit you back onto the groomed red trails for a more relaxed ride back to the base. Superstition is a longer, ungroomedcourse that follows the boundary of Gate 11 and leads into further ungroomed territory. After a serious powder dump, this can be some of the best on-piste skiing in the whole resort as the area collects plenty of snow. However with minimal fresh snow, there'll be plenty of moguls to navigate through which is a great test of skill. At the bottom of Superstition, you can exit onto the green trails to head back to the base. Or follow the ungroomed path onto Jagaimo and Misoshiru for some further challenging terrain. All roads lead back to the base of Niseko Village where you can follow Banzai and the other various flat tracks to the gondola.
Winter Wonderland Chair
This chair gives access to the top of the mountain, making for easy riding to Annupuri or Hirafu. There are two groomed red trails, Wonderland and Ukairo which lead back down to the base of the chair or into Niseko Village. During the peak of winter, visibility often varies significantly up here with the regular snow storms seen in Niseko. The groomed trails are marked by orange poles on either side, making it easier to catch your bearings during heavy snowfall. These are short trails, but on bluebird days are great fun to carve down with great views of Mt. Yotei.
Skiers left at the top of this chair will feed onto Snorkel, which can also be accessed from the Ace #4 Chair in Hirafu. This is a short, ungroomed black trail that collects plenty of snow during peak season. It's a wide-open field with minimal hazards, so is a great place to practice on some more difficult terrain. The short run means you can do quick laps of it by riding the Winter Wonderland Chair over and over.
The bottom of Annupuri is mostly beginner terrain, so riding higher up on the mountain is what you'll want to do to access more difficult terrain. The top of the gondola will give you access to various red trails, such as Panorama, Utopia, "S" Ji, Shirikaba and Silver. These trails all have roughly the same gradient and space, winding their way down the mountain between various tree patches. For the longest and most challenging ride back down to the base of the gondola, you can stay skiers right and follow the resort boundary down Panorama and "S" Ji towards the middle of the mountain. If you like speed, there's plenty of room down here to do some big carves and test your endurance. Following the boundary will briefly put you onto Paradise (a groomed green run) and then onto Merchen which is an ungroomed black trail. This is one of the steeper trails at the base of Annupuri and feeds onto Junior which leads back to the base of the gondola.
Staying skiers left will keep you on the boundary of Gate 7, riding on Utopia and Shirakaba. These are great for a shorter ride, as at the bottom of Utopia you can catch the Jumbo Pair #3 Lift and continue lapping just this course. Shirakaba also leads to the base of the Jumbo Pair #2 Lift for easy access back to the start of the run. Or you can ride both Jumbo #2 and #3 lift to the top and ride both trails back to back.
Jumbo Pair #4 Lift
The top pair lift in Annupuri takes you to the very top of the mountain and allows for riding back towards Niseko Village or Hirafu. It also gives access to Champion, a groomed black run that is the only option to ride back down into Annupuri. There is often high winds and low visibility up here in the middle of winter, as there is little tree protection above the tree line. However this provides a great opportunity to ride in more serious conditions on advanced terrain. Keeping skiers left of the top of the gondola will lead you back to the base of the Jumbo Pair #4 Lift if you want to do quick laps of the run. Otherwise follow the red runs through the middle of Annupuri and head back down to one of the other chairlifts, or back to the gondola base for a trip back up to the top.
For the intermediate rider, there is plenty of terrain across the Niseko United Resort to explore. The four resorts all have various groomed and ungroomed red and black trails that offer great terrain for improving and explorin. From short and steep black terrain to long, wide-open red groomers to ride, there's an option for all types of riders.
If you're looking to explore some of the off-piste terrain in Niseko, we highly recommend reading our Advanced Mountain Guide below for some of the best in-resort tree runs the mountain has to offer.
A guide to Niseko's best in-resort powder runs, hidden spots you may not know about, local's favourite tree runsRead More
Blaize is a photographer and content creator from Australia, having worked for our team during the 22/23 winter season. He has an extensive knowledge of the Niseko area, frequently visiting to enjoy the world-famous powder snow.
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