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From November to May, skiers and snowboarders enjoy 61 courses covering 47 km (30 mi) of powder in the Niseko area. There are five ski resorts, but the big three are Grand Hirafu, Higashiyama, and Annupuri. You can ski them all with a Niseko All-Mountain Pass costing ¥4,800 for one day or ¥8,800 for two days. Only the very top is above the tree line, and reaching Hirafu's big, off-trail bowl entails a 30-minute trek above the top chairlift. Nondrivers coming from Sapporo can buy package ski tours, including lunch and transportation by bus, for about ¥4,500. You can book tours at almost any city hotel. If you're driving to Niseko, check Sapporo convenience stores for discount lift tickets.
Annupuri Resort. This resort has wide, gently sloping runs that are kind to beginners and shaky intermediates. Aza Niseko 485, Niseko, 048-1151. 0136/58-2080. www.niseko-northern.com/en.
Grand Hirafu. The largest of the Niseko ski resorts, a quarter of Grand Hirafu's 34 courses are classed expert. The longest run is more than 5 km (3 miles) long. 204 Aza Yamada, Abuta-gun, Niseko, 044-0081. 0136/22-0109. www.grand-hirafu.jp.
Higashiyama Resort. Around the Hilton Niseko Village, this resort has a superfast cable car that takes you to beautifully designed courses through the forested slopes. Higashiyama Onsen, Abuta-gun, Niseko-cho, Niseko, 048-1592. 0136/44-2211. www.niseko-village.com.
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