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How (and why) to plan a ski trip to Niseko, Japan, with points and miles

Oct. 24, 2021
7 min read
Niseko United's Annupuri base area
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A few years back, I took a daytrip from Tokyo to ski at Nozawa Onsen. I enjoyed the experience so much that when I bought a 2019 Ikon ski pass, I planned a more extended trip to a Japanese ski resort included on my Ikon pass: Niseko United. My resulting trip to Niseko was wonderful, so today I'll tell you how and why to plan a trip yourself.

Admittedly, it's unclear whether Japan will reopen to American tourists in time for this winter's December-to-April ski season at Niseko. So, if you book a trip for this winter, I recommend booking fully refundable travel. But it may be more prudent to plan a trip for the 2022-2023 winter season. However, regardless of when you plan to travel, here are some tips for planning a trip to Niseko using points and miles.

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Why take a ski trip to Niseko

Niseko is outside the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, but it's relatively easy to reach from Sapporo's New Chitose Airport (CTS). And Niseko is home to Japan's largest ski resort: Niseko United.

Niseko United comprises four interconnected resorts: Annupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono. This area is well known for its champagne powder and availability of backcountry skiing, but there are also beginner and intermediate runs at each resort.

The four resorts are connected high up on the mountain, but the base areas aren't particularly close. Sure, a bus connects the base areas -- and some lodging options offer a shuttle to each area -- but it's best to stay close to where you want to ski the most. However, if you're looking for restaurants and nightlife, Hirafu may be the most appealing.

If you have an Ikon or Mountain Collective pass, you can use your pass to get free ski days at Niseko United. Otherwise, check here to get an idea of how much your lift tickets will cost. For example, an adult regular season four-day pass would cost 28,200 Japanese yen (about $249).

Finally, one of my favorite parts of visiting Japan is visiting a Japanese onsen. Onsens are hot spring baths ranging from a simple tub to many pools in a beautiful setting. And after a long day of skiing, soaking in an onsen with views of the snow-covered mountains is amazing. Some accommodations have on-site onsens, but you'll also find many onsens around Niseko that you can visit for a modest fee.

Related: How I helped a points and miles beginner book a trip to Japan

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How to fly to Niseko with points and miles

I'll assume you won't only visit Niseko during your trip to Japan. So, I recommend that you use points and miles to fly into Tokyo. Then you can travel to other cities using Japan's rail system or domestic flights.

Check out our complete guide for all the details on traveling to Japan with points and miles. For example, you can book round-trip business class to Japan for 75,000 ANA miles on off-peak dates. And you can often find reasonably priced economy-class awards through various programs, including ANA Mileage Club, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, American AAdvantage and Alaska Mileage Plan.

Example pricing for American Airlines awards to Tokyo. (Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Once you're in Japan, you can use buses, trains and domestic flights to travel the country. But, especially since Sapporo is in northern Japan, I recommend booking intra-Japan airfare for just 5,500 United miles or 7,500 American Airlines miles.

Related: Cleared for Takeoff: Using points and miles for a birthday trip to Japan

Where to stay in Niseko using points and miles

Luckily, plenty of hotels are bookable with points near Ikon ski pass resorts, including Niseko United. If you want to earn or redeem with the major hotel loyalty programs, you'll have the following options:

HotelLoyalty programAward category or nightly award rates during ski seasonTypical nightly cash rates during ski seasonNotes
Hilton Niseko VillageHilton Honors60,000 to 368,000$124 to $715Only premium room rewards are available during ski season

Located slope-side at Niseko Village with a hot spring and ski-in, ski-out access

Park Hyatt Niseko HanazonoWorld of HyattCategory 7$355 to $675Ski-in, ski-out access to Niseko United

Pool, onsen baths and spa with private onsen baths

Minimum stay requirements apply on select dates

Mr & Mrs Smith ZaborinIHG RewardsNo award availability found$1,303 to $1,749Each villa has two private onsen baths, one inside and one outside

Niseko United is 20 minutes away by car

Minimum stay requirements apply on select dates

There's also the Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, that's bookable through Marriott. However, since Ritz-Carlton Reserve doesn't participate in Marriott Bonvoy, you wouldn't be able to earn or redeem Marriott Bonvoy points.

Additionally, Category 6 Hinode Hills Niseko Village and Category 8 Kasara Niseko Village participate in the World of Hyatt program as Small Luxury Hotels of the World. However, I didn't find any availability using points or cash at either hotel for this ski season.

There are also plenty of other accommodation options outside of the major hotel loyalty programs. For example, when I visited in early 2020, I booked the Niseko Grand Hotel through Hotels.com. By doing so, I got a great rate and earned Hotels.com Rewards. If you're looking for a budget-friendly option or want to stay in traditional Japanese lodging, earning or redeeming rewards through an online travel agency might be your best option.

Related: 13 of our favorite ski-friendly resort hotels you can book on points

Bottom line

If you love skiing, hot springs and Japan, consider adding a Niseko ski trip to your travel schedule once Japan reopens to American tourists.

There's no need to rent a vehicle or reserve an expensive transfer from Sapporo. Instead, ask your accommodation or search online to see if a tourist bus from downtown Sapporo or New Chitose Airport drops off nearby. When I visited in early 2020, buses were frequent and multiple companies dropped off near my hotel.

Additionally, you don't need to bring ski equipment. Most hotels offer the ability to rent just about anything you'd need, including clothing. Some companies will also drop off (and pick up) equipment from your lodging. Search online or ask your accommodation about your options for equipment if you don't plan to bring your own.

Featured image by Niseko United's Annupuri base area (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023