[Hokkaido] Travel Guide to Niseko for Skiing
Where to Stay:
For our first time in Niseko, we wanted to stay in Hirafu where there are more restaurant options. We also wanted an accommodation near the ski lifts so we chose to stay at Ki Niseko - a boutique ski-in ski-out hotel located next to the Hirafu Gondola.
Pros and Cons of Ki Niseko:
- Good Location for Skiing - while it is technically not a true ski-out as you have to walk up a small hill to access the main ski lift in Hirafu, it is only a short walk away.
- Ski Valet - you can store your equipment and boots at the Ski Valet instead of your room where they will be kept warm and toasty. The staff there are also very helpful in recommending trails or answering any questions about the mountain.
- Service - the service here is great. We had a few problems with our room and they were quick to respond. The staff were also helpful with restaurant recommendations - many were not open during this time and they helped us check which ones were still operating and available.
- Complimentary Shuttle - the hotel picked us up from the Resort Liner bus stop upon arrival and dropped us off upon departure. They also have a complimentary car service around Hirafu which is useful if you want to go out to dinner in town and don't want to walk in snow. The service ends at 8:30pm though.
- Onsen - the hotel has separate male and female onsen with both indoor and outdoor baths. There are also two private onsen rooms which are complimentary for hotel guests and you can reserve it for 40 minutes each time. There's really nothing better than a soothing soak in the onsen after a long day of skiing!
- Expensive - accommodations are known to be pricey in Niseko compared to other ski resorts in Japan and Ki Niseko is no exception.
- Small Rooms - for the price, the rooms are rather small with little space for luggage. We stayed in a standard room with a long and narrow hallway; at first we placed our luggage in the hallway but we kept tripping over it so we had to put it next to the window which left no other place to sit aside from the bed.
- Noisy - I'm a light sleeper and there was an obscene amount of noise emitting from the heating system in the room. Even after we turned off the heater, there were still random loud creaking noises coming from the vents throughout the night, so I had to wear ear plugs to sleep. I've stayed in a lot of hotels around the world and this is the first time I had come across this problem. We also had issues with a next door neighbor that pumped loud bass music, but at least the staff allowed us to move to another room.
- Mediocre Breakfast - our room included breakfast in the hotel's restaurant with both Japanese and Western options. Unfortunately the food tasted like they have been left sitting outside for a long time so most of the items tasted stale and oily. On the first day, the breakfast was served to us while afterwards, it was served buffet style. The food choices basically remained the same everyday and food quality did not get better with buffet style.
Where to Eat & Drink:
We were in Niseko for 4 nights and managed to try a few restaurants at night. My favorite place to grab a drink before dinner was the famous Bar Gyu+ with a refrigerator door as the entrance! Not only were the cocktails great, the ambiance was fantastic as you get a magical view of the snow outside while sitting at the counter. The bartender was very friendly and could speak English as well.