FAQ

GENERAL INFORMATION

GETTING HERE

SNOW SPORTS

Can I get around Niseko easily even if I cannot speak Japanese?

Yes, of course! Most people in Niseko have a basic knowledge of English and a lot of the signs are written in English too. However, it would be beneficial to learn a few basic phrases or have a phrasebook to hand as situations may arise where English is not understood at all.

Where can I go shopping?

For basic necessities, there are 2 convenience stores located in Hirafu. You can also head to Kutchan town (8km away from here), where there are 3 supermarkets, and you can find almost anything you need. There are buses running to and from Kutchan, or you can go by taxi, which costs about 2000yen from Hirafu.

What kind of restaurants are located in Hirafu?

From traditional Japanese to Western style food and from fine dining to fast food, there are no shortage of options in Hirafu. Spanning across 40 restaurants in Hirafu and 200 places to eat in the Niseko resort area, we are sure there is something to suit every taste. The average price for dining is between 2000-3000 yen per person. The Niseko Promotion Board publish a free wine and dine guide each winter for the Niseko Resort Area.

Do the restaurants offer vegetarian meals?

Most restaurants offer vegetarian options however, it is not common in Japan therefore the ‘vegetarian’ dishes may still contain meat or fish stock. It is always best to check with the service staff before ordering. Often the chef can leave out the meat or fish from some dishes if requested.

Should I leave a tip?

No, tipping is not customary in Japan and you should not leave a tip on the table as the waiting staff will probably think you forgot your change and chase after you to return it.

What is the best payment method in Japan?

Most ski rental companies and ski goods stores accept credit cards, as do the lift ticket company however most bars and restaurants in the Niseko ski resort are do NOT accept credit card therefore cash is the most common method of payment and is recommended. You can exchange your money in Hirafu, but you will get better rates at the airport. There is an international ATM that accepts VISA card and the main post office in Kutchan accepts most international cards.

Is there a daycare service in Niseko?

Yes, we recommend Niseko Babysitters who provide safe and fun childcare for newborn babies to fourteen years of age with experienced babysitters. They are English speaking and available at any time of the day in the comfort of your accommodation.

Can I use my mobile phone in Japan?

If you have a triband or quadband phone, it might work in Japan but, in all cases, it is best to check with your service provider prior to arrival to see if it will work here. If not, there are rental phone shops around Japan, including Niseko, where you can pick one up for about 300 yen per day. Public telephones are also readily availlable throughout Japan.

What happens if I have an accident or get injured in Niseko?

The health care system in Japan is comparable to that of Western standards. The nearest hospital is located in Kutchan (8km from Hirafu) and is well equipped with highly-trained staff. They may be able to speak English or there are also volunteer interpreters available too. Be aware that treatment costs in Japan are quite high therefore if you have an accident and require evacuation, you will be expected to cover the rescue costs as well. Be sure to have the appropriate insurance.

What is the etiquette and/or laws in Japan?

We recommend you familiarise yourself with the etiquette and laws in Japan before arrival. The following are important rules but it is not an extensive list:

  • Skiing on the streets is forbidden at all times
  • When entering someones home, do not forget to take off your shoes
  • It is considered impolite to consume food or drink in convenience stores
  • Drug offences are severely punishable in Japan

Did you know, we can help book your airport transfers?

Which International airlines fly directly to Sapporo Chitose (CTS)?

  • All Nippon Airways (excluding Australia and New Zealand)
  • Continental Micronesia
  • EVA Air (Taiwan)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Air China
  • Air Asia

How do I get to Sapporo Chitose airport from other airports in Japan?

The two major Japanese airlines ANA and JAL have a limited number of daily flights to Sapporo from Tokyo Narita (NRT), as well as from Osaka Kansai (KIX). The route from Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Sapporo Chitose is the busiest domestic air route in Japan. Both ANA and JAL operate this route, as well as budget carriers Skymark and AirDO.

What are the best travel options for late flight arrivals/early departures?

If your plane arrives after 8:40 pm, Skybus operates a late bus departing at 22:30. Other choices are private transfer (Skybus has a private transfer option to the airport), car rental or to stay in Sapporo city or Chitose city for the night.

If your plane departs before 11:45 am, it is possible to catch a train to the airport. The earliest train departs Kutchan station at 5:22 am and arrives at the airport around 8:30 a.m. (You will have to take a taxi from the Niseko Resort Area to Kutchan Station). Staying a night in Sapporo city or Chitose city and taking the train to the airport in the morning is also an option. The fastest and cheapest way to get from downtown Sapporo city to Chitose airport is by train. The cost is 1,040yen for adults. The earliest train departing Sapporo station to Chitose airport is at 6:00 am, arriving at the airport by 6:50 am. This will leave you enough time to check in comfortably for domestic flights departing as early as 7:30 am.

What are my car rental options?

If you have a recognized valid international driver’s license then there are a large number of car rental firms at the airport to choose from. Toyota rent-a-car and Nippon rent-a-car have online booking services, available in English. More information about driving in Japan can be found here. However, you won’t need a car to reach any of the lifts once you’re in Niseko, all the lifts are very close and connect at the top of the mountain.

How do I get to Niseko by train?

There are a number of train routes to Hokkaido from all over Japan. Visit The Hyperdia Website and enter your departure point, but make sure you specify Kutchan as your destination. The system will give you a price and the time it takes to get to Kutchan. This service can also be used for air travel around Japan. To get to Kutchan from Sapporo, take a train on the JR Hakodate Line to Kutchan station. From New Chitose Airport, the fare is about 2,500 yen and takes 2 hours 20 minutes. From Sapporo City, it is about 1,800 yen and takes 1 hour 45 minutes. You’ll probably need to change trains at Otaru. Full timetable details can be found on the websites below: JR Hokkaido websiteJR Timetable.

The Niseko Ski Express train service running from Chitose airport to Niseko, allows you to reach Kutchan / Niseko without having to change trains. This is very convenient and runs twice a day during the winter months from late December until late March.

How do I get to Niseko by bus?

During the months of December to early April, direct buses from Sapporo and New Chitose airport run several times per day to ski resorts in the Niseko area. For bus tickets, please go to the domestic travel agent counter on the 1st floor Of New Chitose Airport.

Nearest Bus Stop in Hirafu : at #1 parking lot. To book this bus, please contact us or call the following number. Tel. 011-200-5528. Booking required 7 days prior to your arrival date.

Nearest Bus Stop in Hirafu: at #1 parking lot. To book this bus, please contact us or call the following number. You can also visit their website and reserve seats online. Tel. 011-219-4411. Booking required 7 days prior to your arrival date.

Nearest Bus Stop in Hirafu: at #1 parking lot. To book this bus, please go to the domestic flight tour desk on 1st floor of airport. Donan bus Sapporo office Tel. 011-865-5515. Fax 011-865-5515. Booking required.

Nearest Bus Stop in Hirafu: at #1 parking lot. To book this bus, please go to the domestic flight tour desk on 1st floor of airport. Donan bus Sapporo office Tel. 011-865-5515. Fax 011-865-5515. Booking required.

Nearest Bus Stop in Hirafu: Directly in front of our lodge! To book this bus, please call 080-3266-5685 or send an email to info@skybus-jp.com. Booking required.

What do I need to bring to Niseko?

You can arrange to rent equipment such as skis, boots, poles/snowboards and boots here in Niseko. Most people opt to bring their own clothing however you can also rent everything you need here so don’t worry if you forget to pack something! Items such as weatherproof jackets, pants, gloves and goggles, beanies/helmet are available to hire.

Socks are also available to hire here in Niseko however it will be cheaper to purchase these before you arrive. Socks should run approximately 2/3rd of the way up to your knee. Some people prefer to wear two sets of thin socks  which is better than one pair of thick socks as some boots may fit snugly and you can always remove a pair if necessary. If your socks are too thick they may restrict circulation, resulting in colder or numb feet. If you suffer from cold feet you can also purchase inexpensive, disposable boot warmer pads in Niseko.

Layers of clothing is important as are thermals, or inners. We do not recommend cotton inner layers as they do not allow for perspiration to pass through as you excersize which could then freeze as you take the chairlift up the mountain. A good alternative is woolen or breathable synthetic thermals which will keep you warmer and are available for purchase around Niseko.

Is it OK to start my lesson at 9:30 instead of 9:00?

Yes! Our half day and full day lessons can have flexible start times as you request. Please phone our office or email us with special inquiries and we will try to accommodate requests where possible. Our only request is that you are not late, as your instructor may have another customer requiring a lesson afterwards and therefore will not be able to go beyond their scheduled finishing time.

How will I find my instructor?

Our instructors wear blue, white and yellow jackets and blue trousers. We will also contact you beforehand with your instructor’s name and mobile phone number, and to confirm the meeting location prior to your lesson.

You offer lessons in Hirafu and Annupuri. Where should I ski or board?

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced skier, both Hirafu and Annupuri are suitable and a popular choice. We recommend first timers, who may be a little nervous, to start in Annupuri as the terrain tends to be less busy.

Is it OK to mix skiers and snowboarders in a first-time class?

Unfortunately we do not mix skiers and snowboarders together in a lesson. This is to ensure you receive the highest quality lessons and more focused attention from the instructor to cater for your specialised needs. It is common however, to take skiers and snowboarders out together for tours and mountain guiding activities.

Do you teach lessons in Japanese language?

No, all of our instructors speak and teach in English. We can recommend the Niseko Annupuri Ski School which is based at Annupuri in the Nook and teaches in Japanese.

Why do you only have private lessons?

This way, the instructor can personalise each lesson to your exact ability and requirements which is the best and fastest way to maximise your potential. Our expert instructors will help you make the most of your limited time on the slopes through high-quality lessons which will have you confident enough to tackle the slopes alone. In larger groups, you are often put together with mixed abilities which proves hard for the instructor to offer the individual attention specific to your needs therefore improvement can take much longer. Our private lessons start from ¥18,000 whether it’s one person or a group of four friends!

Do my lessons include lift passes?

Our lessons do not include ski lift passes therefore these must be purchased separately. You can book the All Mountain Pass through our website.

How hard is skiing on powder snow?

Even the fittest skiers who can generally handle most mountains may find skiing on powder snow exhausting and it can also expose technique flaws. That being said, our expert instructors will teach you how to conquer the powder and leave you coming back for more! After all, it is the reason skiers from all over the world return to Niseko each year.

How do full-day lessons work?

Our aim is to provide flexibility hence our lessons can begin from a prearranged meeting point suitable for you in Hirafu or Annupuri. We do request that everyone is on time, or that you let us know via phone call or email if you are to be late, so that our instructors are not waiting in the snow. Generally, unless otherwise requested, our lessons begin at 9am and run for 6 hours therefore finishing at 3pm. The end time is scheduled regardless of how long you wish to spend on breaks for example, some people may have the energy to continue to ski all day with snacks on the lifts whereas some people would prefer to have a longer lunch. Our instructors may have other guests booked in after their lesson therefore we request that everyone sticks to their agreed finishing time unless a lesson extension has been arranged. This can be requested, subject to availability, at a special hourly rate of 8000 yen. Our experienced instructors are able to take care of lunch arrangements, seek suitable rest stops as required and can supervise children for the day if required however we do ask that your child has enough money for lift passes and lunch and that you advise us of any dietary requirements or allergies. Parents or families may wish to arrange a meeting location at various times throughout the day for lunch or to alternate between the family as to who receives the lesson – the choice is yours!

What happens if the lifts close?

Whether it’s mechanical issues or poor weather conditions, sometimes the lifts will close but this is beyond our control as they are run by an external company. We monitor lift conditions and will endeavour to make alternative arrangements as soon possible even if it results in a mutual agreement to reschedule lessons or offer you lessons in another resort. No cancellation fee will apply for rescheduled lessons.

What is the youngest age you will teach?

Snowboarding is not recommended for children under 5 years old as their legs are not physically strong enough to be strapped in and to safely manoeuvre a snowboard. We can teach skiing to children as young as 2 years old however we do not recommend this as energy levels and concentration can run out very quickly. Our minimum lesson length is 2 hours therefore we recommend allocating part of the lesson to a child and the remaining to a friend or family member. In all cases, children under 4 years old must have a parent or guardian nearby to assist with toiletry requirements and separation anxiety.

Do we need to use helmets?

We recommend that all ski and snowboarders wear helmets at all times, not only is it paramount for safety but it also helps keep your head warmer. Our instructors wear helmets both when teaching and riding in their free time. You can contact us for assistance with hiring helmets.