The Niseko area lies across two small towns, Kutchan Town and Niseko Town. There are four main ski areas: Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri, located around the dormant volcano Mt. Annupuri. These four areas comprise the Niseko United and the majority of the skiing area in Niseko.
There are two smaller ski areas in Niseko: Niseko Moiwa and Niseko Weiss, lying to the south west and north of the Niseko United respectively. There are several other ski resorts a short drive away including Rusutsu and Kiroro.
Niseko first became popular with domestic visitors in the 1980s and at this time, lodge-style accommodation and small second homes were common throughout the resorts as bases for summer holidays and winter ski trips. As Japan struggled through recession in the 1990s Niseko lost popularity with domestic visitors and lay largely undiscovered by international visitors until the early 2000s. The generous and consistently deep powder snow lay the foundations for a second round of development, this time driven by international companies. Recent development has been swift, starting in the mid 2000s and, despite a slowdown following the financial crisis of 2008, development in Niseko has continued apace.
Niseko’s phenomenal snow and temperate summer climate have attracted some serious investors to the Niseko market and some heavyweight multinational companies to the ongoing development. With the influx of visitors and investments, the local council continued work on the Hirafu-zaka landscape master plan in 2013, further assisting Niseko in becoming a truly world-class destination.