New Hanazono charilift (photo Niseko Hanazono Resort)
(Photo/Niseko Hanazono Resort)

‘Ferrari of Chairlifts’ Opens in Japan Ski Resort

Heated leather seats, individual suspension, panoramic views, and French hoods? Whatever the ski-bum aesthetic is, Hanazono Ski Resort is the opposite.

On Dec. 4, Hanazono Ski Resort in Niseko, Japan, opened for the 2021-2022 season. Hanazono’s inimitable location and accommodations have drawn powder crowds from around the world for years.

But after almost 30 seasons, ever-growing patronage, and god knows how many butts, the world-class ski resort needed some new lifts — and more of them.

Resort operators landed on two solutions: revamp Lift 1 — the resort’s main artery — and build a brand-new luxury gondola system.

“There is no higher-spec chair or gondola in the world,” Hanazono President Colin Hackworth said at the unveiling last month. “We optioned up as much as we could.”

Here’s what max options look like in the niche world of chairlifts.

‘Ferrari of Chairlifts’

The rebuilt Lift 1 uses ultra-quiet tech from engineering firm POMA and luxury aspects designed by legendary automaker Pininfarina, out of Italy.

The six-seated lift features a detachable French hood system, heated leather seats with detailed embroidery, and personal suspension gurneys.

And it’s fast, capable of taxiing 3,085 people every hour.

Symphony Gondola

Gondola cabin (photo Niseko Hanazono Resort)
(Photo/Niseko Hanazono Resort)

The Symphony Gondola system incorporates the same core engineering and design aspects but expands on the chairlift with its 10-seat cabins and panoramic windows. Performance-wise, the luxury gondola travels at a rate of 5 meters per second.

The gondola system is also central to the resort’s new eastern slope expansion and night-skiing program. The expanded ski terrain includes a 550m, 20-degree red course and an 800m, 7-degree green course.

To make night skiing possible, Hanazono had the gondola structure fitted with custom, programmable LEDs, which will display various exhibits by rotating light artists. The lighting system is built into the gondola structure.

gondola_seat (photo Niseko Hanazono Resort)
(Photo/Niseko Hanazono Resort)

“These two magnificent, bright and shiny new ski lifts you see outside are yet another grand step forward,” said Hackworth. “Today you are seeing not the end of a plan, but the continuing evolution of a plan.”

For more information, including passes and reservations, go to

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Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.