For the best skiing in Hokkaido, head for Niseko's Grand Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village, and Hanazono runs. Popular with Japanese skiiers in the 1970s, Niseko had another major boom at three decades later when Australian tourists made this a favorite winter destination. Asia's economic downturn and the high exchange rate cut the number of foreigh travelers, but now the Chinese have rediscovered the place.
Between the skiier paradise of Mt. Annupuri and gorgeous Mt. Yotei is a gentle landscape of hot springs, dairy and vegetable farms, and hiking trails. For most Western visitors the many adventure sports are the reason to visit. Australian and Canadian expats offer year-round thrills, including white-water rafting (best from April to May), backcountry skiing (December to March), mountain biking, and bungee jumping.
Thanks to the influence of young Western tourists (less likely to spend their day indoors eating), Niseko was also a major self-catering vacation destination,
meaning visitors provide their own food in exchange for access to a full kitchen. With some companies staffed by English-speaking expats, this offers an unusual-in-Japan stay opportunity. The Niseko area is hands-down the best place to discover the Hokkaido countryside, and it's still relatively easy to find an English-speaking guide.