A Beginner's Guide to skiing in Niseko
Niseko is one of the best places to learn to ski, from the soft powder snow to the beginner-friendly slopes. This article has everything you need to know about skiing in Niseko, from what to wear on the mountain to beginner ski lessons.
What do you need for your first ski lesson?
Skis or a snowboard + boots
A ski lesson
A lift pass: maybe.
Let's look at this in more detail.
What to wear when skiing?
Winter clothing made for skiing is breathable so when you sweat you don't get cold, usually made from wool or synthetic materials, and is layered for maximum comfort and warmth.
Some important items include:
Base Layer: A warm thermal pair of long pants, and a thermal long sleeve shirt. Merino wool is a more expensive option, and synthetic blends can be cheaper.
Mid Layer: A fleece jacket or merino wool jacket (this is a thicker layer than the base layer).
Top Layer: A ski jacket and ski pants, these are either waterproof (hard shell) or at the minimum water-resistant (soft shell) which keeps you dry when it snows or when you fall or rest on the snow. These layers also provide wind protection and can have insulation in the material for extra warmth, or be a simple thin shell layer. Most beginner clothing has insulation for warmth.
Socks: Warm synthetic or wool socks are required, and they need to be longer than your ski boots (aim for a sock that almost reaches the bottom of your knee). If your socks are cotton you might get cold wet feet, and if your socks are short you might get discomfort, bruising or a blister when the socks rub against the ski or snowboard boots.
Gloves or Mittens: Your hands will touch a lot of cold things, including the snow on the ground especially if you're snowboarding. Gloves should be warm and waterproof so it doesn't matter how much snow you touch, you'll keep warm fingers during the day. Mittens can be nice if you know you have cold hands and would prefer to have all of your fingers inside one space to help with warmth.
Goggles: Preventing snow from flying into your eyes is important so you can see where you're going, it also prevents the wind from affecting your eyes while skiing.
Neck/face protection: A 'buff' (brand name) is a tube of fabric that protects both your neck, chin, lips and even the tip of your nose in cold weather. It's a great deal colder without one, so we suggest picking one up and although it might seem smart to use a scarf, they can actually become dangerous by catching on chairlifts, and often fall off when learning to ski.
Helmet: Safety first, especially when learning. No matter if you're learning to ski or snowboard, it's important to protect yourself. Helmets can be easily rented so you are protected if you have an unexpected fall.
Beanie: If you're not wearing a helmet you will want something to keep your head warm, a beanie will also help keep your google strap from sliding down the back of your head. If you're trying to choose between a helmet and a beanie, choose a helmet... beanies are for warmth, not safety.
Rent or Buy?: Base layers and mid-layers, buffs (neck/face protection) and socks cannot be rented and must be purchased. In general, you need to buy gloves and goggles as well.
However, it is possible to rent packages that include beanies, goggles, gloves, ski pants and snowboard pants with one of the local rental companies.
Skis or a snowboard + boots
Skiing: You'll need: 1. Skis. 2. Ski Boots. 3. Poles
When you rent skis your feet will be measured and fitted to a pair of ski boots, and the skis will come with bindings (the part your boot clips into). Then you will be given ski poles too, and your instructor will show you how to use them all.
Snowboarding: You'll need: 1. a Snowboard. 2. Snowboard Boots
When you rent a snowboard your feet will be measured and fitted to a pair of snowboard boots, and the snowboard will be set up for a beginner. Rental shops will help you get a softer board that is ideal for learning on and make sure you're ready to get on the mountain.
How to rent: Our team can help you arrange your ski rental items so you can pick them up on the way to the ski resort, or have them brought to your accommodation and fitted when you check-in. We can arrange just the skis, boots and poles, or snowboard and boots for those who have their own clothing. Or we can book an entire package including a ski jacket and pants, gloves, goggles and helmets. You can contact our team at email@example.com to help book these.
A Ski Lesson
The most important thing you will learn in your first lesson is how to stop, and how to stay safe when skiing or snowboarding. Taking at least one lesson is a really good step to having fun on the slopes.
You get your own instructor (you can book an instructor to teach up to 4 friends and learn together).
Transfer to the ski resort (sometimes a car transfer from your chalet to the ski resort is included).
Private Lessons can run all day, with 3 hours skiing in the morning, 1-hour lunch break, and another 3 hours of skiing in the afternoon. Or can be booked for half of the day, just 3 hours skiing.
Private lessons are perfect for families and friends who want to ski together, especially if they are all at the same level (or all trying it for the first time).
Booking a group lesson means you are booking one space in a group that might have up to 6 guests depending on which company you book with.
Group lessons can run all day, with 3 hours skiing in the morning, 1-hour lunch break, and another 3 hours of skiing in the afternoon. Or can be booked for half of the day, just 3 hours skiing.
When you are part of a group lesson there are times when you will stand around and wait while other people are learning, it can take a little more time to learn certain things. The start time is not flexible, they are preset by the companies offering them, and you will need to go to the meeting point at the ski resort for the lesson.
Do you need a lift pass?
No, most beginners won't need a lift pass to start their first lesson.
When you learn to ski or snowboard for the first time, you do not get straight on the chairlift. You will spend time getting to know how to move on the snow, and most importantly how to stop. Once your instructor feels like you have learnt enough to start using the chairlift they will teach you how to get on and off the chairlift and that is when you will need a lift pass.
If you've booked a private lesson, you can get a lift pass during your lesson if it's needed, and your instructor can help you find the best option for you. Others might only start using the chairlift on their second lesson and if you're just beginning you won't need a lift pass for the entire mountain for the whole day. You might just need a lift pass that allows you to use the chairlift a few times a day.
If you're in an official group lesson please take note of the skis schools advice on your lift pass, as some will recommend having one before you arrive.
Best ski resort in Niseko for beginners
As a beginner, the best terrain is wide open allowing you space to move and a gentle slope so you find it easy to control your speed. Niseko Annupuri Ski Resort is a favourite for both of these reasons, it's a great place to progress with each chairlift adding a small change in difficulty.
Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort has a selection of great beginner slopes perfect for learning on, it also can be busier than Annupuri so it can feel like you have less space to move. We love both of these resorts for learning to ski and progressing through the resort as you improve. Once you have more confidence you can visit all four Niseko United resorts, but don't feel like you have to rush it.
We hope this has helped you get a better idea of what you'll need to ski in Niseko as a beginner, our team are available to help you prebook these items and suggest the best options for your trip. Once you've booked your accommodation just reach out and we can help arrange the rest.
See you in Niseko.