The Ikon Pass added Japan's Niseko Ski Resort to the growing list of places you can ski or ride this year using your pass. Coincidently, the Japanese Yen recently fell to a 30+ year low conversion rate against the US Dollar. Additionally, Japan just opened up for tourism from foreign countries for the first time in more than 2 years after their COVID travel shutdowns. All these things come together to make this the perfect time to book a ski or snowboard trip to Japan. Niseko is known for having the best powder in the world and since it is included on the Ikon Pass, this will likely be the best place to shred internationally in 2023.
It can be intimidating to try to book a trip to Japan on your own, but we will show you an easy way to get it done. It can be tempting to just book an Evotrip from the popular online retailer Evo, but that can be pricey. They will charge you around $3000 per person not including flights for a Japan shred trip. It is a great option for those who want convenience and Evotrip includes local guides and itineraries planned out for you. However, we found that you can get a trip for 2 to Niseko staying in a ski-in/ski-out hotel for around $4,000 including flights (that's $2,000 per person). Below is a step by step guide on how to make your bucket list winter trip to Japan happen.
Step 1: Look up flights to Sapporo Japan (New Chitose Airport) on google, kayak, expedia, or your favorite travel site. Right now you can get a round trip flight for just over $1,000 from LAX. You will likely arrive late in the evening, so the easiest thing to do is book a hotel at the airport for one night. Recommended hotels at the Sapporo Airport are The Air Terminal Hotel or the Portom International Hokkaido.
Step 2: Book your Hotel in Niseko Village or Hirafu. Niseko Village isn't much of a Village from what I understand, but the hotels are right on the slopes. A nice option is the Hilton Niseko Village, the Gondola for the Niseko Village Ski Resort comes right up to the hotel. If you are looking for a more lively place to stay, you can stay in Hirfu which is a few miles from Niseko Village and has access to a different base area. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and bars to choose from in Hirafu which is considered the "Downtown" area. You may have to walk or take a shuttle to the slopes if you choose to stay in Hirafu. Hotels in Niseko or Hirafu run from $200-$300 a night (or more if you book a luxury stay) with the favorable exchange rate we have right now.
Step 3: Book your transfer from the airport to your hotel. The most popular way to get to Niseko is on the Hokkaido Resort Liner. The website can be a little tricky to navigate, but with some patience you can book your transportation from Sapporo to Niseko in no time. Tickets on their shuttle bus currently are running around $30-$35 one way depending on the exchange rate when you book. You can also book a private care for around $250.
One of the things that is a little confusing about Niseko Ski Resort is that they have 4 different base areas that appear to be 4 different ski resorts with different names. The Ikon Pass is good at all 4 ski areas in Niseko and they are all connected towards the top of the mountain. The 4 ski areas are called Annupuri, Niseko Village Resort, Grand Hirafu, and Hanazono. I am not sure why they all have different names, but they are all connected and are all part of Niseko. I hope this article will help you with you plans to visit Japan for a shred trip. Good luck and we'll see you on the hill.