Offering perfect powder and a unique culture, it is no surprise that Japan has become so popular with skiers.
Although it is around the same size as the British Isles, Japan has hundreds of ski resorts where powder is plentiful. Deep, light powdery slow falls regularly all winter so you can be sure of excellent snow conditions during your trip. Japan has 13 main ski areas, spread between the Hokkaido (North Island) and Honshu (Main Island).
On Hokkaido, Niseko is one of the most popular ski areas. Comprised of four interlinked resorts - Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko VIllage and An’nupuri - Niseko is famed for its wide open powder bowls and tree runs. It is also known for having some of the best restaurants of any ski town in Japan. Other popular resorts on Hokkaido include family-friendly Furano, powder central Rusutsu and adventure playground Tomamu.
One of the largest ski areas in Japan is on the main island of Honshu: Shiga Kogen is made up of 21 ski resorts incorporating 19 interlinked ski areas, beginner slopes, long cruisers, tricky moguls and powder bowls. The area is also close to some of Japan’s cultural sites, giving you the opportunity to experience some of the country’s famous traditions. Hakuba, host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, is another expansive region consisting of 11 ski resorts and an incredible variety of terrain.
To soak up some Japanese charm head to Nozawa Onsen, a resort full of character that is popular both for its apres-ski, traditional architecture and hot springs. Myoko Kogen is one of Japan’s oldest ski areas and is renowned for some of the best vertical and longest runs in the country. Up and coming resorts include Madaroa and Lotte Arai Resort.
Japan doesn’t have the après scene that many European resorts have, but what it does have is plenty of Japanese restaurants and onsens (hot springs) to soak in after a day in the powder. Night skiing is available most evenings and there is an array of other activities on offer from snowmobiling, dog sledding and snow rafting to reindeer rides and banana boating.
The most popular time to visit Japan is in January when the powder is at its best. To reach Hokkaido, take a flight to Tokyo and another 1.5 hour flight to Chitose airport. From here, the ski resorts are anywhere between 30 minutes and three hours away by bus, shuttle or car. For skiing on Honshu, take the bullet train from Tokyo to the Japanese Alps.