Contrary to popular belief, the Annupuri mountain range does not disappear over the summer. It turns out, that under all that snow (now bear with me…) were a bunch of hiking trails and mountain-bike routes that had just been waiting to thaw!
This may surprise you, but all of those eerily tree-like objects you do your best to avoid while skiing and riding do not actually grow in the ice (drawing their moisture and nutrients from geothermal fonts deep below), nor are the ski-resorts opportunistically built atop nomadic glaciers that have lost their way, beaching themselves inland: In reality, there are many, many trees, and even more soil, rocks, and earth.
In the Green Season, Niseko is surrounded by a rolling expanse of trees and forests which are populated by a huge amount of wildlife—walking, winged and otherwise—as well as a veritable cornucopia of plant-life.
Many of the reasons that make Mt. Annupuri such an amazing success in the winter also contribute to it being a fantastic spring and summer destination— the convenient regionally-central location allows for incredible 360° views, which include such sights as the active volcano, Mt. Yotei; all of the neighbouring mountain ranges; and, of course, the towns of Hirafu, Niseko, and Kutchan.
“I don’t want to walk all the way from the base of the mountain…” —you say, “I just want to sit here and have a bath!”
Well, you really walked into that one:
From July the 16th, the Niseko Gondolas will be officially open; and when you purchase a gondola return ticket, (the round-trip is valid for both the Hirafu and Annupuri gondolas,) you will also be able to opt for the gondola & onsen package, receiving an onsen voucher you can use to soak your weary (and fulfilled) bones after your hike. If you’re in need of some company or want to have someone else do your walking for you, you can even bring your dog.*
* If your dog is under 55cm and is wearing a leash, they can join you in the Hirafu Gondola, not the onsen.
The height and huge variety of terrain and gradients make it perfect for some winding hike-strides or blinding bike-rides, but if you’re still not quite ready to climb from base to peak, have a strict schedule, or are just jonesing to experience ski-lifts in the summertime — with the Niseko Gondolas opening for the summer from the 28th of July, you won’t have any excuse to do anything other than make your way to the base of the mountain, hop on one of the lifts, and enjoy an inimitable Niseko nature fix—and a magnificent mountain view to boot.
Opening dates: July 16th ~ September 25th 2016
Opening times: 9:00 – 16:00 (August 10-15th 8:30 – 18:00)
Price: [Round trip] Adults: 1,100 yen Kids: 550 yen
[One-way] Adults: 700 yen Kids: 350 yen
(Pre-school kids ride free)
Locations: Hirafu Gondola loads at the base of the Center Four chairlift in Hirafu next to the Alpen Hotel
Annupuri Gondola loads at its normal location in the Annupuri base area down the hill from Nook
Watch this space for updated onsen package vouchers, or check out Tokyu’s Grand Hirafu summer site (Japanese) for more details.