The top 5 ski resorts in Japan

Japan has become a must ski destination renowned for its deep powder, reasonable prices and unique atmosphere. Interestingly there are a lot of ski resorts coming into their own as the word spreads about the reliability of not only the snow, but of the ambient and relaxed atmosphere in these ski areas. The food speaks for itself, and is always of the freshest and highest quality and each of the resorts offers something particular to their region. The culture needless to say, is a massive draw card.

Japan

In no specific order, the following resorts of Japan are worth serious consideration.

Sapporo

Sapporo is located on the northern island of Hokkaido, and an easy flight from Tokyo. It first became internationally recognized when it was the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first place outside of Europe to be afforded this honour.

It is also renowned for the Sapporo Snow Festival, which attracts more than 2 million visitors each February from around the world. Here you will find many large and ornate snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park, and the main street in Susukino. This turns Sapporo into a magnificent ice sculpture spectacle and timing your visit to coincide with this will be worth it, but plan in advance.

There is magnificent skiing to be had here with access to quite a few areas in the nearby vicinity. There is guaranteed snow and of such a depth and consistency that powder hounds are in their element. There are all levels of runs available, no matter your ability. Also the après ski life is excellent.

Niseko

Staying on the island of Hokkaido, you will find the ski resort of Niseko, often called Mt Fuji of the north, and again the snow is guaranteed. Niseko is the biggest and most popular cluster of ski resorts in Hokkaido.

There are seven ski areas, which are connected and may be skied on one ski pass. Niseko receives one of the highest snowfalls in Japan each year, with the average snowfall of over 17 metres. Niseko has a very active après scene, and a vast choice of accommodation options.

Hakuba

Hakuba is located on the Honshu island and is in the Nagano prefecture, and an easy Shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Tokyo.

The Hakuba valley is located deep within the Japanese Alps and has a total of 10 ski resorts, with over 200 runs. This is a serious contender for young skiers and boarders and as such has an exceptionally lively après scene. Hakuba has been described as the heart and soul of snow sports in Japan. Recognized for its natural beauty and for its consistently brilliant snow, Hakuba was host to a number of major events in the 1998 Olympics.

The resort receives a huge amount of snow annually guaranteeing powder and vast opportunities for exploring at your own pace and level. Being as it is so popular, the amount of accommodation offerings ranges from 5 star opulent hotels, to boutique lodges and traditional Japanese ryokans. In fitting with its clientele, cuisine offerings range from traditional to pub grub.

Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogan is again located on the main island and is a collection of 21 ski resorts. Many offer ski in – ski out accommodation options. Again, snow is guaranteed and the powder so deep, you may find yourself having to dig out if you fall. But it won’t hurt, as the powder is so fine.

Close by Shiga Kogen are the snow monkeys so recognizable by the world. This is a seriously worthwhile trip as the walk through the forests to see the monkeys bathing in the hot onsens is awe inspiring. There are also a number of temples nearby that are worth a look at.

Snow monkey

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a traditional Japanese village in the Nagano prefecture, where the villagers run the ski fields. A hidden gem until recently, it is gaining in popularity quickly. Yet, it will never lose its identity as the villagers are in control.

Nozawa Onsen is renowned for its onsens (hot springs), of which there are 13 public ones, which the villagers allow visitors to use, as long as you follow onsen etiquette, and a number of private ones within the larger boutique ryokans or hotels. These onsens are said to have great health benefits because of the natural minerals within the waters. The food cooked in the large onsen, the Ogama is sensational with the onsen eggs being a favourite.

Nozawa Onsen is quaint with cobble lined streets, and with a population of just 5000 people, and more restaurants than can be imagined. Many are pop up ones in the ski season, and likely to be in someone’s lounge room. Not to be missed.

It was in 1930 that one of the founders of alpine skiing, Hannes Schneider from Austria, taught the techniques of Arlberg skiing in Nozawa Onsen. There are many runs to enjoy at Nozawa Onsen and a huge array of restaurants on the slopes to enjoy a lunch, and have a sleep after, as the locals do. From the top of one peak, the Sea of Japan is visible.

Nozawa Onsen has a lot to offer due to its authenticity and its constant snow. It has one of the three major fire festivals held in Japan, and this occurs on the 15th January each year and is replete in tradition. The Dosijin Fire Festival evolves around a large wooden shrine with 42 year olds sitting on the top while the 25 year olds (both considered unlucky ages in Japan) below attempt to engage in “battle” and light the shrine on fire. Fireworks, sake, and of course lots of fire also feature heavily. This is seriously worth attending.

Dojosin Fire Festival

The après scene is perhaps not as full on as others, like Hakuba and Niseko, but small hole in the wall bars where anyone can get up and play an instrument or ‘karaoke’ seem to just appear. And the hand made saki seems to flow very freely in the village. Remember, that not a lot of English is spoken here, so learning a few phrases is greatly appreciated. Otherwise, let your hands and face, do the talking.

Japan is a unique country with a distinctive culture that is furthered enhanced by its remarkable skiing. Put it on your list.

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Susan says:

    Nice article, although i think it is a little misleading to refer to Sapporo as a ski resort. It is a city, which has great shopping, nightlife and of course the snow festival which you mention. The ski resorts nearby are small but great for a day or two, such as Sapporo Teine.

  2. Chrystle says:

    I have a soft spot for Hakuba as it’s where I learnt to snowboard. However Japan really does have a lot to offer and it looks like Nozawa Onsen has so much to offer. I also think Rusutsu is my second favourite (to Niseko) up north. Really a beautiful place to spend some time.

  3. colin says:

    Its about the dry powder snow, just floating on it as you go down the hill is a feeling like been a angel. Niseko great skiing and great food and night life.

  4. It sounds great, We are searching for adventurous venue for next holidays. We are fond of ski vacation and want to visit this ski resort. Thanks for sharing this blog.

  5. Rosa says:

    Great to know more insight about snow skiing in Japan specially for beginners like us. Me and my partner will be going to Japan this december its nice to know best place to go.

  6. Miami Joshua says:

    its a helpful first article but what would be really nice to a bit more information regarding the resorts facilities their size terrain and rating of terrain ..I.E how steep ? variety level
    would like to go this coming winter and would help to have more info

  7. Vera says:

    I personally prefer Hokkaido resorts but all places offer something special here! Trying the onsens and seeing the snow monkeys are both unforgettable adventures for your life, while the skiing is also made perfect by the nice snow they have there.
    Thank you for your nice and thorough writing.

Leave a Reply



Your actual name, not your online persona, website name, company name or keywords, otherwise your comment won't be published





Please do not advertise and make sure your comment adds value, otherwise we regret that it won't be published. Links are not allowed here - if you would like to advertise, please contact us for details.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

Our readers also enjoyed these posts…