Which ski resort is better in Japan: Hakuba or Niseko?

Hakuba Happo-one” and “Niseko Grand Hirafu” are popular ski resorts that Japan boasts as being the best in the world. There is no doubt that you will be satisfied with either of these winter resorts, but I will introduce the differences between them, so you could pick a destination after reading this post.

Highlights of Hakuba Happo-One Ski Resort

  • Venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano
  • The view from the top at 1,831m (6,007 ft.) is breathtaking!
  • The longest ski run has a distance of 8,000m (4.97 miles)

Highlights of Niseko Grand Hirafu

  • You can experience the finest powder snow called “Silky Snow”
  • Beautiful view of Mt. Yotei
  • Big rental shops with more than 4,000 pieces of equipment and clothes

First, I will compare the overview of each ski resort in terms of size, elevation, number of courses, etc.


Side-by-side Stats

Niseko Grand Hirafu
SeasonDecember to AprilDecember to May
Maximum slope37°40°
Longest course8,000m5,300m
Number of courses1622
Number of liftsGondola:1
Skiers:60%, Boarders:40%Skiers:60%, Boarders:40%

Hakuba Happo-One is wider and higher in elevation, but Niseko Grand Hirafu is also spacious. Although both have excellent snow quality, but there are some minor differences. Next, let’s look at the difference in snow quality.

Snow quality

Both Hakuba and Niseko are famous not only in Japan but also overseas as places where you can enjoy “JAPOW (Japanese powder snow)”. Both snows are dry and smooth, and it is understandable that fans from all over the world visit.

However, if you are particular about snow quality, I recommend Niseko Grand Hirafu.

Niseko has a lot of snowfall and you can enjoy fresh powder snow during the season. Although the temperature is low and the snow tends to be dry, the snow in Niseko has slight moisture, and is called “silky snow” because of its fine texture.
There is no hard snow under the powder.

Both have great snow quality, but if you want to experience silky powder snow, Niseko Grand Hirafu is recommended.

Snowfall in Hakuba and Niseko

Snowfall in cmDecJanFebMarApr
Niseko Grand Hirafu
(at 1,000m)

Niseko has a lot of snowfall. The mountains are covered with fluffy powder snow, and the snow is good not only on the surface but also deep underneath, so when you try to ski, you won’t find it sticky.

Scenery from the courses

Comparing the scenery of the ski resorts, I recommend Hakuba.
The scenery of Hakuba Happo-one at 1,831m is a magnificent view of the mountains.
Also, every year from the end of December to the end of March, a terrace called “Corona Escape Terrace” is open where you can grab a Corona beer and chill out.
This terrace is located at an elevation of 1,400m (right next to the exit of Adam Gondola), and is a place where you can enjoy a superb view of the townscape of Hakuba and the mountain range of the Japanese Alps. If you want to enjoy the best scenery, I recommend Hakuba.

On the other hand, the scenery of Niseko has a different charm. Niseko Grand Hirafu is not surrounded by mountains, but in an open landscape where you can ski while viewing Mt. Yotei. Mt. Yotei is also known as Ezo Fuji because it resembles Mt. Fuji. During lunch or breaks, the view of Mt. Yotei from the restaurant is spectacular.
In Niseko, you can enjoy a different view compared to the ski resorts in the mountains like Hakuba.

The Japanese Alps, which can be seen from the elevation of 1,800m at Hakuba Happo-one Ski Resort, is truly a superb view.

Restaurants and cafes

In Hakuba, there are not only restaurants, but also bars where you can enjoy beer and great views. Also, at the foot of the mountain, snacks are sold by the food trucks. There are many options for meals, and there are multiple restaurants along the course, which is convenient.

Niseko Grand Hirafu has fewer restaurants than Hakuba, with only one in the middle of the course. However, there are multiple restaurants at the foot of the mountain. My favorite dessert at Niseko Grand Hirafu is the ice cream which is made in-store using milk from Hokkaido.
Even though it’s cold in the snowy mountains in winter, for some reason I want to eat ice cream. I think my tired body is craving sugar.

Hakuba Happo-one has more restaurant options, but both offer good food.

Rental shops and schools

If you don’t have ski/snowboarding equipment or wear, both Hakuba Happo-one and Niseko Grand Hirafu have rental shops.
In Hakuba, there are many small rental shops.
The rental shop named “Woody” has several locations including one which is in a prime location, just a 30-second walk from the gondola lift. The store is small, but it’s enough for people who want to casually enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
There is also a ski and snowboard school, so even beginners can easily participate.

Niseko Grand Hirafu has 2 rental shops (both run by the same company). First of all, the Annex store next to the Hirafu Gondola has 4,000 items, so I think you can rent equipment that suits you from beginners to advanced users. The building is large and clean.
Niseko also has a ski/snowboard school. If you want to take a lesson, you can check in at the Base store near the platform for Ace Quad 2, one of the main lifts. If you want to rent tools for your lessons, you can find them at the Base store.

Niseko Grand Hirafu’s rental shop is large and has 4,000 items. From beginners to advanced users, you can rent the items that suit you.

Recommended accommodations

Hotels close to Happo-one ski resort

Resort Hotel
Hakuba Tokyu Hotel

A luxury resort hotel. For meals, you can choose from a buffet or a French course. Alkaline hot springs will relieve fatigue from skiing. There are various types of rooms and meals, and there are various plans, from family trips to couples’ anniversaries, I think you can make wonderful memories. In addition, there is a convenient shuttle bus to Happo-One Ski Resort.

Small luxury hotel
La Neige Higashikan

A small luxury hotel, a 5-minute walk from Happo-One Ski Resort. Free shuttle service available from JR Hakuba Sta. The guest rooms have a classic atmosphere with imported furniture. Dinner is a French course with locally sourced ingredients prepared by a former 3-star restaurant chef. You can also choose a drink from their large wine selection!

Luxury condominium

A luxury condominium which opened in 2019 and is recommended for those who want to spend their time freely. A 30-second walk to the Hakuba Happo-one Ski Resort gondola lift. The rooms are more than 70 square meters, so you can have a luxurious stay. The ski resort, restaurants, and shops are all within walking distance, and while it is convenient, it is quiet at night and you can see the stars if the weather is good. There are pet-friendly rooms and rooms that can accommodate up to 6 people, so it is recommended for couples, groups, and families.

Hotel map nearby Happo-one ski resort


Hotels close to Niseko Grand Hirafu ski resort

One min from Grand Hirafu
Ki Niseko

1-minute walk to Grand Hirafu. This hotel has solo traveler rooms up to a penthouse which can accommodate 12 people. Some rooms have a kitchen, but you can enjoy a buffet for breakfast and Japanese cuisine using Hokkaido ingredients for dinner. The breakfast buffet is substantial and highly recommended. Hot springs, saunas, and a free circulation bus around the Niseko Hirafu area are also available.

Large condominium
Sky Niseko

Large condominium, 2 minutes walk to Grand Hirafu. The hotel has a restaurant, a large natural hot spring bath, and a private bath. A full kitchen, a microwave oven, and a laundry machine/dryer are available in the room, so it’s good for long stay.

Tasty breakfast!
Chalet Ivy Hirafu

3 minutes walk to Grand Hirafu. The windows of the guest rooms are large, so you can clearly see Mt. Yotei. Despite the relatively reasonable price, the hotel is clean, the staff is friendly, and the breakfast is delicious, making it a popular hotel. The 100% natural hot spring is not only a large public bath, but also a private bath, so it’s good for families and couples.

Hotel map nearby Niseko Grand Hirafu

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