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Hakuba vs Niseko - A 37 year old Australian Snowboarders opinion

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Originally Posted By: grantj71

So we have read this type of thing 1000 times, but I am putting this review up based on my opinions.

I have been to Japan for the last 4 seasons straight (currently in the hotel in Hakuba)... Mar 2006 in Niseko, Feb 2007 in Niseko, Dec 2007/Jan 2008 in Niseko, and Feb/Mar 2009 in Hakuba. I have come here to Hakuba with my wife, and she came last year to Niseko as a virtual beginner..

So... Here is some comparisons.

Getting to resorts from Australia - The winner - Hakuba... Plane landed at 6am and in Hotel room by lunch time after taking train, then bullet train then bus.. Easy work..
Niseko - Land in at 6am, then transfer on bus to Haneda airport, wait for about 3 hours and get flight to Chitose, wait for about 2.5 hours and get bus to Niseko... Arrive by dinner time...

Accommodation - I have stayed at Pensions in Niseko (Full Note, and Ru Ru), and am staying at Hotel La Niege Honkan in Hakuuba.
From a cost perspective, Pensions win, but from a luxury perspective, La Niege wins... So it realy comes down to what you want at the time. Won't knock either!!!

Onsens - Niseko wins hands down. A variety of nice indoor/outdoor onsens within easy walking distance if staying in Hirafu... Hakuba has them, but they are far more expensive (2-3 times the price) and usually not as much character... We haven't visited many because so spread out.

Food - Both have great food... But Niseko has access to crab, and the food you can get on Hokkaido ROCKS... Fresh natural food... Plus food on the mountain during lunch is better as well... The big clincher... Cost... Niseko is about 10-20% cheaper when comparing yen to yen for food.

Getting Around - When I have stayed at Niseko, I have stayed in Hirafu village, and there is plenty around and easy to get to whether it be Seico Mart, a good restaurant, or the onsens... It is on a hill and that is a pain in the butt BUT Hakuba is SOOOOOO spread out, and with the night bus running at such long intervals, the winner here is Niseko... BTW the night bus stopped running on 8 March so have to take taxi's and they are about 50% more expensive than Niseko (used them to go from Kutchan to Niseko several times).

Lift passes - Niseko you pay for one pass for however long, and only when that pass runs out do you have to worry about taking it back for a refund... The pass was good for the 4 Niseko resorts (you can ski from resort to resort easily and if need be catch a bus home or ski home... Can go to all 4 in one day if you are fit enough.

In Hakuba, you have to take the pass back at the end of each day and get a refund, then the next day, you have to go to lift counter and get another... Plus they don't work at neighbouring resorts, which means if you started the morning at Happone and then went to Hakuba 47, you would need to buy two different tickets, even though they are about 2 km apart.
We had purchased 10 day passes (10 of 14 days) but HAVE to go to the ticket counter EVERY DAY and have to return the pass EVERYDAY.

The 'Aussie' Invasion - Look... We have been to both places and to be quite honest, the Aussies have infiltrated both places to such an extent that you can't really say that one is worse than the other. Niseko does have the advantage however that much of the signage is in English, and you can get more information out of people (say to do lessons, go back country, find out where the good onsen is or where one is because the writing is in Kanji). Aussies can be as good or bad in both places...

Now the big one...
The snow boarding - Please note that I am 37 and like big free riding... Enjoy trees and powder.... My wife is 28 and she is just getting comfortable on a board going over various terrain... We are not big on snowboard parks and leave that to the younger crowd.... Off Piste on fresh powder is our idea of perfect snow... Throw a few trees in the mix is great too..
Hakuba - Have been to Happone, Hakuuba 47, Iwatake, Tsuagike Kogen and Goryu... Hakuba 47 from a snowboarders perspective IMHO is the most well suited to us of these resorts. Nice runs on groomers with minimal moguls. A boarder cross park to give us something different, and a great snowboard park IF we wanted to give that a crack...
The rest are alright but really are catering for skiiers with HEAPS of moguls.... Especially when covered in ice as season is poor, they are the snowboarders worst FRIEND.
However, limited tree runs (I don't think I have found any 'legal' tree runs in Hakuba!!!) and as we noted with our friends and just on the lifts, the snow patrol is ready to pounce if you go under the ropes.. We saw on several occasions Snow patrol on snow mobiles sitting waiting at the bottom of runs ready to get people who enjoyed a bit of 'off-piste' action
Unfortunately, we have been here in the 'worst' season for 40 years, so can't comment on how good their powder COULD be, but if you can't try off piste or go thru the trees, then it is hard to pass judgement!!!
Goryu in our opinion is pretty poor... You have some very easy places which is great if learning BUT even on a weekday in a crap season, you are competing with 5000 other people. They have one black run, and that is full of moguls and then you have cat tracks. Their double black runs, were closed to the public so unsure if moguls or good fun for boarding!!!

Niseko - I have been there early season, mid season and late season and on two of the three occasions, they complained how CRAP the snow was!!! It still rocked compared to Hakuba... Nice fluffy stuff and on each occasion EVEN in their CRAP seasons, we got at least 1 or 2 days with waist deep pow!!!
Tree runs! Go for it! Off piste - No drama.... I think in Niseko I spent about 10% of my time on the groomers and the rest of the time off piste...

So... That is my opinion... I hope it can help some people... Please note that Hakuba is probably HEAPS better for skiiers and if the season had been better, then they could probably boast about better snow fall... But at this point in time, I will definitely be going back to Hokkaido in the future....

Would be good if people worked out what was best for them... as we didn't comment on bars... night life etc and of course what is good for us, might not be the case for others as they might LOVE moguls!!! Or ice!!

Like your review.
You'll have to try again in a season that is more 'normal' in terms of snow conditions.
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  • 2 weeks later...

I spent the whole season in Furano this year and rode out of bounds every chance I could get and never even had so much as a warning from patrol. I had previously heard about how strict the ski patrol have been in Furano and realize that this has given the resort a bit of a negative reputation because this.

I think the resort has finally started to realize that they are scaring away tourist with there no tolerance attitude to off piste riding.

I was riding with a small crew this season and we had fresh lines all day every powder day we had.

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Too right!! I will admit that I was talking about the previous season, and They appeared to be quite fierce about it.


The grooming would need to have been pulled back a tiny bit, too.

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  • 1 month later...

That made for an interesting read.

We are planning right now and we're thinking about something similar.

There just seems to be a lot of choice within Nagano itself which is really appealling.

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