First time at the the snow and never skiied before. we did a lot of research before our trip but a few more things we had to learn the hard way.
Lift passes: tempting to buy full day passes for the length of stay, but as first timers these are not good value. we spent the first few days falling over and finding our feet on the family run and lower slopes, much better value to buy either 12 point passes (1 point for most beginnners lifts and can use over multiple day only downside of these is if you run out of points and have to go back to the ticket counter during the day, but there are lots of handy ticket counters near to the lifts) or 30 hour passes - probably good value if you are novice skiier or use less than 4 hours per day, over 8 or more days. no need to buy in advance.
Lessons - as beginners we needed lessons, and discovered there is a big difference between proper ski instructors, and lessons given by ski bums who are just working there for the season. i highly recommend Pro-Powder http://pro-powder.com/ for private lessons (which are good value for 3 or more people), and NBS (Niseko Base Sports http://www.nisekobase.com/) for kids group lessons. all first timer lessons should be done at the Ace Family Pair lift (can also access this from base of quad lift), there are no other areas suitable for first timers. plenty of beginner runs once you have found your feet though, although these were all too challenging for me and i enjoyed the Ace Family Lift run for our whole stay! avoid the 10.30 timeslot as it is very congested at this time (15 min wait for lift). must book in advance as the lessons fill up fast during peak season.
Area Info - there is no tourist information centre at Niseko, but there are a lot of activities other than skiing to take part in. the best place in town is Explore Niseko www.explore-niseko.com owned and run by australians, i cannot recommend these people more highly they are incredibly helpful and as they live in the area, they know all sorts of stuff you wont find out anywhere else. we organised a few trips with Ben, Aaron and Shiori at Explore Niseko and they go above and beyond to help out, even recommending and booking a local restaurant one night in Kutchan (nearby town). they make their money by selling services, but you wont get cheaper by booking direct, so may as well use their expertise. can also just ask them general info about the area, but make it worth their while by booking as much as possible thru them when you are ready to spend some $$. we did a photography 1/2 day tour, extreme snowmobile trip, massage, and had a calligraphy lesson just to name a few. the cafe/ creperie attached to the office is amazing too! make this your first stop
Transport - caught a skybus (private minibus, very expensive) on the way there, and Resort Liner Bus (there are about 5 different bus lines, much cheaper option) on the way home. would probably book bus next time as service and comfort were comparable to the more expensive minibus.
Ski-Runs - lots of choice from beginner to advanced. be careful though as runs are not well marked and very easy to take a wrong turn and end up on an advanced run without warning. if you are not confident, go up with a lesson or a guide first to make sure you know which way to go!
Shuttle Buses - run regularly around the resort (no timetable though) all day, make use of these as carrying skis gets very tedious after a while. the staff on board are very helpful and will assist you getting on and off if you are struggling with all of your gear!
restaurants - many will be fully booked, most have 2 sittings at 6 and 8pm, so even if your favourite is booked its worth stopping in at say 7pm, they may be able to give you a table as long as you can be out by 8.30 (also try at 2pm, you may be able to get a same day cancellation for that evening). our favourite was Bang Bang or Bang2 (same owner, and menu, next to each other) great choice of yakitori skewers and sashimi etc
we were amazed at the amount of potato and corn on the menu (Hokkaido produce), and the coffee and fresh pastries found in the resort is first class.
we will be back