Attempting to navigate to and around Niseko for the first time can be a little confusing, but there are several options that will get you where you need to go and save you having to carry your gear up on trains and through busy Niseko streets.
GETTING TO NISEKO: SKI BUSES
Aside from a private transfer, getting the ski bus from New Chitose Airport, Sapporo City or Hakodate is the most convenient and comfortable way to get to Niseko. Put your luggage in the under carriage, sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery as the bus makes its way to the Hirafu Welcome Center - the hub for all transport in Niseko.
Our front desk and concierge teams provide complimentary transfers between the Hirafu Welcome Center and your accommodation, so there's no need to worry about walking through snow when catching the ski bus to Niseko.
Bus Information by Area:
Goodsports Whiteliner and Hokkaido Access Network Resort Liner offer buses between CTS and Niseko, both of which can be booked by the Vacation Niseko guest services team. Between both companies, services are offered roughly an hour apart between 9:30am and 9:30pm, meaning most flights can line up with an appropriate departure time to Niseko. For flights landing earlier than 8am and later than 8:30pm, we recommend catching a private transfer or staying in an airport hotel for a prompt departure the next morning.
For most bus routes, the meeting point for departure is at the Whiteliner and Resort Liner counters between gates 4 and 5 in the Domestic Arrivals area of CTS. Later routes also have meeting points in the International terminal - ask our guest services team after booking to get the exact location of your meeting point in this terminal.
There are also buses to the airport from Niseko, operating between 7:30am and 4:40pm - these leave from the Hirafu Welcome Center and will drop you off at the terminal of your choice.
Resort Liner offers a bus between major hotels in Sapporo and Niseko on a limited schedule, which can be booked by the Vacation Niseko guest services team. For getting to Niseko from Sapporo, there is 1 bus each day departing between 7:30am and 8:35am, the exact time will depend on which hotel you are staying in/close to:
This bus arrives at the Hirafu Welcome Center at 11am. For getting to Sapporo from Niseko, 3 routes are on offer, departing at 10am, 3pm and 5pm and arriving at Sapporo hotels approximately 2.5 hours later, depending on which hotel you are staying in/close to.
Please note that if you are staying in a hotel not mentioned in the list above, our team can help you find the closest one to your hotel - Sapporo is relatively small so walking from one of the listed hotels to your accommodation is most likely not very far!
A seasonal bus to Niseko from the Hakodate area is great for those wanting to catch the Shinkansen from Honshu or fly into Hakodate airport. With 3 stops at Hakodate Airport, JR Hakodate Station and Shin-Hakodate Hokuto (Shinkansen) station, it's the easiest and most comfortable way to get from Hokkaido's southernmost city to Niseko. There is only 1 bus in and out a day, and this bus is a Winter seasonal service only at this stage. For the 19/20 season, the timetable is below:
|Hakodate Stop||Hakodate Airport||JR Hakodate Station||Shin-Hakodate Hokuto|
|Arrival Time at Hirafu Welcome Center||16:30||16:30||16:30|
|Departure Time from Hirafu Welcome Center||17:30||N/A||17:30|
|Arrival in Hakodate||20:40||N/A||20:00|
For those wanting to experience the beauty and relaxation of Lake Toya and it's abundance of natural onsens (hot springs) before or after their Winter holiday in Niseko, there is a seasonal bus connecting the two areas for tourists' convenience. There are 3 stops in the Niseko area and two stops in Toya, including Toyako Onsen and Toya train station.
Seasonal Operation Schedule: 21st December, 2019 - 14th January, 2020
January 18th, 19th, 25th, 26th 2020 & February 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 11th 2020
Attempting to navigate the streets of Niseko for the first time can be a little confusing - there are so many different buses zooming around town, but which ones can you use? Where will they take you? How can you access different resorts? Fortunately, if you aren’t staying at a hotel that provides its own shuttle service, there are several options that will get you where you need to go and save you having to carry your gear up and down the streets. If you are staying in Grand Hirafu, there are two completely free shuttle buses that operate around the Hirafu village and Hanazono resort, plus the Niseko United and Kutchan Night buses that give you access to Niseko United’s other two ski resorts, Niseko Village and Annupuri, as well as Kutchan town.
Shuttle Bus Information by Area:
- Hanazono Shuttle
- Grand Hirafu Shuttle
- Niseko United Shuttle
- Kutchan Night Bus
- Moiwa Shuttle
- Rusutsu and Kiroro Buses
When getting on any of the buses, be polite and make sure to greet the bus driver. The drivers will be super impressed if you can show off your Japanese skills too - if it’s the morning, you can use “ohayou gozaimasu!” to say good morning, after that you can greet them with “konnichiwa”, and in the evening you can also use “konbanwa”; then let them know which bus stop you would like to get off at. Don’t worry, the drivers can speak some English and they carry route maps if you aren’t too sure which stop you need to get off at. Don’t forget to say thank you - “arigatou gozaimasu” - as you get off!
Take note that none of the shuttle buses have ski racks, so you’ll need to carry all of your gear inside the bus with you. The smaller shuttle buses also won’t allow you to bring large luggage items such as suitcases or ski bags either, as they are designed for skiers and boarders to get from their accommodation to the hill and back.
The complimentary Hanazono shuttle bus makes it easy and stress-free to travel between the Hanazono resort and Hirafu village. Running as early as 7:50am, the bus will even get you over to Hanazono in time for first chair at 8:30am if you’re keen to catch those first tracks, and as late as 5:10pm if you’re more inclined to hang around for a beer tower or two at Hanazono Edge after a day of riding before heading home.
There are six buses operating along two routes throughout Hirafu - Upper Village and Lower Village. Look out for the buses with HANAZONO written along the side, and a sign in the front window telling you which route it will be taking so you can easily hop on the right bus. The Upper Village shuttle stops at several of the hotels and main ski areas around upper Hirafu, as well as some stops in the east Izumikyo village and Midtown Niseko before taking you on to Hanazono. You can catch the Lower Village shuttle from the corner of Momiji-zaka, outside several apartments in lower Hirafu and from the Ace Family Quad Lift to get to Hanazono. When you arrive in Hanazono, the bus will drop you directly outside the main building Hanazono 308, which is right in front of the ski slopes - so feel free to head inside to book a lesson or activity and rent gear or chill out with a coffee at the nearby Hanazono Edge building, or just head straight out onto the snow and get some turns in!
These shuttle buses depart approximately every 20 minutes, leaving from Hanazono 308 on the hour, 20 past the hour and 40 past the hour. Over lunch time (between 11am - 1pm) the shuttle times drop down to every half an hour, leaving on the hour and half past from Hanazono. If you’ve ever caught public transport in Japan you know that they are all about efficiency and leaving on time, and the drivers do their best to get you to where you need to go in a timely manner. However, in heavy snow conditions and bad visibility days, you can expect the wait times to be longer than usual as the buses will have to drive slower on the icy roads or can often get stuck behind road accidents. During busy holiday times such as Christmas and Chinese New Year the buses can also fill up during the peak morning and afternoon periods and will not be able to pick anyone else up once they are full - so be aware if you have a lesson or activity booked in Hanazono, make sure you plan ahead and take the conditions into account! If you need to organize any rental equipment before your lesson, we recommend arriving at Hanazono at least an hour before your lesson starts, especially if you have multiple people that need to be fitted out for gear. It takes an average of 20 minutes per person to fit out and equip rental gear, so make sure you are leaving enough time to make it to your lesson.
1 Dec 2019 to 31 Mar 2020: 7:50am to 5:10pm
Every 20 minutes, and every 30 minutes between 11am - 1pm.
This free shuttle bus will get you directly from your hotel to the Grand Hirafu ski slopes via Gondola and Ace Quad Lift #2 Center 4 lifts. Again, there are two routes that these buses can take - Main Village and East Village, which can be distinguished by the sign in the window. The Main Village shuttle will get you between the upper and lower Hirafu areas, and will pick you up from the corner of Momiji-zaka as well as various lower Hirafu accommodations and take you to the Gondola and Welcome Center. These stops overlap with the Hanazono shuttle bus stops, so make sure you are getting on the correct bus. The East Village shuttle will ferry you between the ski slopes and the east Izumikyo area, making it a breeze to travel to and from the accommodations slightly further out, especially for those staying in the new Midtown Niseko hotel (use the Niseko International Clinic stop).
The buses leave the Welcome Center at 8:30am and are on a round-trip schedule departing approximately every 15 - 20 minutes until lifts close. During peak morning/evening times, the buses are reserved for skiers and boarders only, and will only stop at hotel and ski areas.
7 Dec 2019 to 10 Dec 2018: 8:30am - 4:30pm
11 Dec 2019 to 22 Mar 2020 - 8:30am - 8:30pm
23 Mar 2020 to 5 Apr 2020 - 8:30am - 4:30pm
Every 15-20 minutes
This bus connects Hirafu village with the other resorts in the Niseko area. It’s free to catch if you hold a Niseko United All Mountain Pass, costs 1 point if you hold a 12-point pass, otherwise it does cost a small cash fee for a single trip. If you are looking to get over to Niseko Village or Annupuri Resorts from Hirafu without having to traverse over on the slopes, this is the bus for you. This bus will also be stopping at Hanazono in the 19/20 season, so all four resorts of the Niseko United family are covered on the one route. Unless you hold a Niseko United All Mountain Pass however, we recommend catching the Hanazono Shuttles from Hirafu Village as they are free. This bus is considerably larger than the Hanazono and Grand shuttles and will have 'Niseko United' along the side. As you get on the bus, make sure you take a numbered ticket from the dispenser beside the door. You don’t need to tell the driver your stop as the bus will stop at all stops, but make sure you’re paying attention so you don’t miss it. The fares for each stop will usually be displayed on a billboard at the front of the bus, so try to have your change ready to go before you reach your stop. When you are getting off the bus, take your ticket up to the bus driver and give them the fare (or show them your All Mountain pass) - if you don’t have smaller change on you, there is a change machine next to the driver that you can break your notes in.
Different routes will be available between December, 2019 and early May, 2020. Please check the coloured key in the image below to see the exact operation schedule for each route:
An evening bus service between Hirafu village and Kutchan town is available in Winter, which is perfect for those catching the train from Sapporo or Chitose Airport to Kutchan and are looking for a cheap way to their accommodation in Hirafu. It's also great if you want to do some grocery shopping, bar hopping or dining in Kutchan while staying in Hirafu village. Ski equipment is allowed on this bus, and fares range from 200 to 400 yen between the Hirafu Welcome Center and Kutchan Station (which is the best stop to get off at for grocery shopping and exploring Kutchan's downtown nightlife area).
December 11th, 2019 - March 22, 2020, every day
Service starts at 17:20 (Hirafu > Kutchan) and ends 23:10 (Kutchan > Hirafu)
While Moiwa Resort isn’t apart of Niseko United, you can still get out there on the free shuttle bus that leaves from Hirafu bus stop (next to Seicomart).
For more details, visit the website.
If you’re keen to explore beyond Niseko and head to one of the other nearby resorts, there are paid bus services available:
Rusutsu - CLICK HERE
Kiroro - CLICK HERE