Just back from 3 days in Niseko. The nicest snow I have been on in twenty years - silky, bottomless and dry. The pistes were great too, with very forgiving snow. No ice. Temperatures were around -5 to -15 C.
The town (Hirafu) is not doing a roaring trade (because of the Japanese economy) - it is more obviously struggling than, say, Banff or Zermatt. But there are plenty of local establishments for solid Japanese food and beer: local quality ingredients - sushi, crab, potato, salmon, ramen, butter.
We stayed at Niseko Kogen Hotel - good quality facilities, great breakfasts, okay communal bath - but no elevators for the four floors - tough on exhausted legs. We ate and drunk out each night at a different place.
The mountain has three ski areas: 1. Grand Hirafu - very varied, ungroomed areas higher up, where lifts are more primitive, and the air is colder. The gondola stops half way up the hill and needs an uphill walk to get to the piste or other lifts. 2. Higashiyama, owned by the Prince Hotel chain - little bit middle of the road, not memorable, and we did not get to ski it much. 3. Annupuri - a very long gondola with good if easy groomed pistes all the way down - more of a family area. You can get a union lift pass for all three areas - connected over the top, or via buses at the bottom which run about every hour. We were stranded for longer when one was full. The Grand Hirafu night skiing is from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and covers several pistes - not just beginner slopes. By about 6 p.m. only the serious people are left, and you get to be able to go at top speed, with nice empty runs. The lights are very good.
Note that only Hirafu has a village with any kind of after-ski life (that is: bars, cafes and restaurants). The other two areas are dominated by their purpose built hotels. If you are into onsens (hot springs) there are shuttle buses to a few in the area.
Up at the top of the hill in the biting wind is the deep powder. (At present 2 - 3 meters). There are a couple of huts at the foot of these higher areas where you can get curry rice and beer while you get feeling back in your hands. The lifts here are singles and doubles, and you get some really nice places to play around. Some of the steep or rocky areas are roped off, however. We heard complaints (from foreigners) about the restrictive views of the patrols. You can see quite a few brave boarders hurtling down through the powder. The skiers seemed to be generally sticking to the pistes. Saw some good carvers flying down the lower pistes.
Although I heard Niseko was full of Australians, it seemed that 80+ per cent were Japanese, the rest being very varied: English, Australians, Chinese, a few Americans.
This is a great place, with plenty of runs and variety, but not as extensive as, say Lake Louise, or the big Salt Lake City places. You would ski everything in less that a week, I should think. We went as a family - my nine year old daughter, a tough character, found the top of the mountain too cold and too hard, but we had a fun time otherwise.