the definitive guide
You want deep, deep powder? It’s well documented that Niseko is one ofthe snowiest places on the planet. The average snowfall is 14 meters and most of that falls as pure powder, so with a moisture content of around 4%. At Hakuba the average snowfall is ten meters and snow quality is normally excellent though general consensus is it’s not as consistently light as you’ll find in Hokkaido.
WINNER: Niseko gets ten out of ten snorkels!
Soak Up The Culture
This is a hard question to answer because Japan’s culture is hugely diverse.
In terms of history, Hakuba is a clear winner. The resort is located on Japan’s main island of Honshu which has been populated for thousands of years. In some ways, a visit to Hakuba is like stepping back in time. You can visit the Zenko-ji Temple which was built in the 7th Century, stay in a traditional Ryokan (bed and breakfast) that is hosted by a Japanese family or bathe in one of many ancient onsens (hot spring).
Niseko offers a more modern take on Japanese culture. You won’t find as many historic buildings but you’ll certainly come across plenty of options for exploring Japanese cuisine. The area is also a ‘hot bed’ for hot springs! The island of Hokkaido is volcanic and naturally abundant with minerals, making it almost as famous for onsens as it is for skiing and snowboarding.
WINNER: Hakuba by a whisker! It’s hard to compete with temples from the beginning of time.
Over the last ten plus years, Niseko has grown into an international resort busting at the seams with options for dining and drinking. Hirafu Village, where you’ll find most of the accommodation and nightlife, is a vibrant hub for those who want to ski, stay and play. From the quirky to the highly sophisticated, you’ll find an array of bars and restaurants to suit your taste and budget.
Hakuba is also growing and changing rapidly. There are bars and restaurants a plenty and loads of options for accommodation, from more traditional pensions to large hotels or luxury apartments. The area is spread widely, however, which means it can sometimes be a long walk between drinks so you may find yourself occupying your ‘local’ for most of your stay.
WINNER: Niseko. You just can’t beat Hirafu’s eclectic and lively ‘village vibe.’
Riding both: Hakuba to Niseko
You’ll need more time and a bit of planning but it is possible to hit Niseko and Hakuba in the same trip. You’ll want to be mega-fit to make the most of it however you could also stopover in one of Japan’s incredible cities for a few days to give your legs a rest - we recommend Tokyo or, if you’re after some serious zen, Kyoto is your go.
Getting from Hakuba to Niseko (or vice versa) will require a flight but it’s quite a quick one at an hour and 40 minutes give or take.
Conclusion: Is Niseko or Hakuba better?
The upshot is it depends on what you’re looking for. Both resorts offer amazing snow and runs for all abilities, and aren’t shy of a technical slope to challenge the best of us.
However, if you think you may only have the chance to ski/ board in Japan once, we’d recommend Niseko as it’s so different to any other adventure and offers a powder experience like no other. Trust us though, you’ll have an incredible time whichever you choose!
Did you know there are multiple Rhythm Japan stores where you can rent the same great snowboards? Whilst we are run slightly differently to accommodate the Japanese snow season and demands, The team at Rhythm Japan offer great service and products just like here in Australia.