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

Dec. 19, 2022
8 min read
Niskeo Japan Ski
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Editor's Note

The writer updated this post with new information after returning to Niseko in December 2022 for another ski trip.

You might not think of skiing when planning a trip to Japan. But there are plenty of opportunities to ski in Japan each winter.

My first experience skiing in Japan was when I took a daytrip from Tokyo to ski at Gala Yuzawa. Since then, I've taken two more extended ski trips to a Japanese ski resort included on the Ikon ski pass and Mountain Collective ski pass: Niseko United.

I loved visiting Niseko United in January 2020 and, more recently, in December 2022. So today, I'll tell you how and why to plan a trip yourself, including tips for planning a trip to Niseko using points and miles.

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 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. 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. If you're looking to stay in a more populated area with nightlife, Hirafu will 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, you'll need to buy lift tickets. Prices are modest, though. For example, an adult regular season four-day all-mountain pass would cost 29,800 Japanese yen (about $217).

You may want to purchase a single-resort pass if you're a beginner or don't plan to ski at other resorts. For example, an adult regular season four-day Niseko Village pass would cost 23,900 Japanese yen (about $174). And if you're most interested in backcountry skiing or only plan to ski a few runs each day, Niseko's point-based lift option may be appealing.

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Finally, one of my favorite parts of visiting Japan is enjoying Japanese onsens. Onsens are hot spring baths ranging from a simple tub to many pools in a beautiful setting. 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 to plan your ski trip with points and miles

How to fly to Niseko with points and miles

A Japan Airlines regionally configured A350. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

I'll assume you won't only visit Niseko during your trip to Japan. So, I recommend using points and miles to fly into Tokyo.

Check out our guide on traveling to Japan with points and miles and these two sweet spots for ideas:

You can also often find reasonably priced economy-class awards through various programs. For example, you can still find one-way American AAdvantage awards from the U.S. to Japan this winter for 32,500 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees.


Once in Japan, you can use buses, trains and domestic flights to travel the country. Since Sapporo is in northern Japan, I recommend flying. After all, you can book intra-Japan economy flights for 5,500 United miles and $5.40 in taxes and fees each way.


Or, if you prefer redeeming American Airlines miles, you can redeem 7,500 miles plus $0 in taxes and fees to fly one-way in economy on Japan Airlines.


Best of all, you may be able to select a domestically or regionally configured wide-body aircraft for your flight.

Related: Tokyo Narita vs. Haneda: Which airport should I fly into?

Where to stay in Niseko using points and miles

First things first: Taxis are infrequent and expensive in the Niseko area. And it isn't fun to carry your ski or snowboard gear for a long distance. So, I highly recommend staying at a hotel in a Niseko base area. Your next best option is to stay at a hotel that offers a ski shuttle to at least one Niseko base area.

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 Honors.33,000 to 377,000 points.$146 to $829.Only premium room rewards are available for most of the ski season.

Located slope-side at Niseko Village (a one-minute walk to Niseko Gondola and Community Chair) with indoor and outdoor onsen baths.

Higashiyama Niseko Village, a Ritz-Carlton ReserveMarriott Bonvoy.80,000 to 120,000 points.$499 to $1,943.Offers direct ski access to the Niseko Village base area (a 10-minute walk to Bonzai Chair) and a spa with private onsen baths.

Minimum stay requirements apply on select dates.

Park Hyatt Niseko HanazonoWorld of Hyatt.Category 8.$635 to $1,389.Ski-in, ski-out access to Niseko's Hanazono resort.

Pool, onsen baths and spa with private onsen baths.

Minimum stay requirements apply on select dates.

Mr & Mrs Smith ZaborinIHG One Rewards.No award availability found.$1,124 to $1,413.Each villa has two private onsen baths, one inside and one outside.

Niseko's Hanazono resort is five minutes away by car.

Minimum stay requirements apply on select dates.

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

There are also many other accommodation options outside the major hotel loyalty programs. For example, when I visited in early 2020, I booked the Niseko Grand Hotel through and earned 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: 15 of our favorite ski-friendly resort hotels you can book on points

Bottom line

If you love skiing, hot springs and Japan, consider planning a Niseko ski trip. After staying at the well-located Hilton Niseko Village earlier this month and enjoying its complimentary ski valet for guests, I'm already planning to return next year.

You don't need to rent a vehicle or reserve a private transfer from Sapporo. Instead, check whether a tourist bus from downtown Sapporo or New Chitose Airport drops off near your lodging. For example, both Hokkaido Resort Liner and White Liner buses serve most Niseko Village accommodations during winter.

Additionally, you don't need to bring ski equipment. Most base areas offer the ability to rent just about anything you'd need, including clothing. Some rental companies will also drop off (and pick up) equipment from your lodging. Check online before your visit, as some companies offer discounts if you pre-order.

Related: Let Elsewhere experts plan your trip to Japan. (Elsewhere is owned by TPG's sister brand, Lonely Planet.)

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.