Day 2 in Niseko and we took a trip over to neighbouring ‘Grand Hirafu’.
Grand Hirafu is the biggest ski area in Niseko United. The region hosts 12 lifts and 30 marked trails. The ski pass for this region also covers Niseko Hanazono and cost around 5,500 yen (£40) for a day pass. More expensive than Annupuri but actually cheaper than Niseko Village. Being the biggest area, it was also much busier on the mountain with skiers and snowboarders in comparison to neighbouring Annupuri and Niseko Village. The area does contain steeper pitches, huge amounts of tree lines. We found some great off piste lines from the top of the one man chair lift.
If you prefer the piste, Grand Hirafu has lots of fun steep pitches to tackle and some ungroomed mogul runs. For beginner skiers or kids, Hanazono is the place to be. Very quiet runs, which are flat with magic carpets and shorter runs to find those ski legs. For the adventurous, Hanazono also has some exciting tree lines from the top of the Hanazono quad no. 2 chair lift running all the way to the main village. Take care to follow the correct tracks however, as it would be easy to take the wrong route and miss the village. I’ve marked this route with the black line (below) and it’s a lot of fun on powder days.
In summary, Hirafu offers some great tree lines and powder skiing, if you are prepared to take first lifts. Given the higher volume of skiers it does get tracked out faster than the other resorts across Niseko. Hanazono offer some great piste skiing if you want to get away from the crowds and take some long cruisey runs, perfect after lunch for an easier afternoon. Definitely the place to be if you enjoy piste skiing and want some amenities nearby.
Eating & Drinking
On the mountain there are two main canteens to choose from in Hirafu, Ace Hill and King Bell (feat in video above). Both were similar serving ramen and catsu curry. Nothing special but reasonable prices and will fuel your ski legs. Hanazono offer more variety at there base building ‘Hanazono 380‘. Its a nice, modern building overlooking the slopes, playing live music/DJs and offering a host of different foods including pizza, burgers, ramen and steaks. Warning, choose your timing wisely as this is the main building in Hanazono, whilst a lot of new hotels are being built in the village, it can get very busy over lunch and and although there is lots of seating, it can be a bum fight to get a table.
Hirafu has lots going on in the evenings and plenty of dinner/apres ski options. We ate at The Alpinist and Musu. The Alpinist offers traditional cheese fondue (if you wanted a taste of the Alps in Japan). Nice food, great decor and good service although expensive compared to the European equivalent. Musu is a nice bar to head to in the evening or in the ski boots for the classy apres skiers, they offer nice tapas options to eat and a great range of cocktails.
If you are looking for a more typical apres ski bar, Wild Bills is the place to head to. A classic alpine pub offering beers and spirits. Friendly bar staff will keep you entertained and well watered!
Thinking of heading to Niseko? Check out our other Niseko blogs on skiing in Niseko Village and night skiing in Niseko Annupuri.