Where to Ski in Japan
Japan is known for having some of the best and most plentiful snow in the world. Powder hounds travel from far and wide to experience ski conditions in Japan. However, not to many people know where to ski in Japan.
Options for skiiers are generally not that well known, and details have thus far been difficult to find, especially for none Japanese speakers. But here we will give you a quick run down of areas where you can ski, and the most notable resorts within these areas. If a particular area takes your fancy, then do a little research as finding a smaller resort could make for a much better experience. The smaller, less notable resorts are often quieter and you could have fresh tracks and Japanese powder all to yourself.
There are two main Islands in Japan where you can ski, Honsu, the central main Island, and Hokkaido the northern Island. Both have lots of ski resorts and snow covered mountains. Hokkaido, being more northerly, tends to have a longer season, colder climates, and larger annual snowfall. Resorts in Honsu may have more sunny days, and some have steeper mountains.
The Saparro is the main city in Hokkaido, and has a few nearby ski resports. Due to their proximity to the city, they are among the most accesable resorts in Japan if you are flying in from another country. Sapporo is not touristy, and so the resorts are more frequented by locals, and busier during the weekends and Japanese holiday periods.
The largest of these, and thus probably the most accessable Hokkaido resort is Sapporo Tiene. It has lots of lifts and runs, also some brilliant tree runs and off-piste terrain. They build some nice kickers as well if you are into park jumps? There are some pretty epic views over the Hokkaido countryside and the resort is recommended for a mid-week trip.
Other major resorts in Hokkaido include Furano and Rusutsu. Both are easily accessable by bus from Sapporo. They have good lift access and volume of runs. Neihter are majorly touristy and have more locals skiing their than visitors. However this could change in the coming years. They are currently hidden gems to the international contingent, but could soon become internationally known. They come with harsh winter temperatures and great dry snow.
The most famous area in Hokkaido, the busiest and highly populated by foreigners, is Niseko. It has incredible amounts of snow and is the place to come if you want guaranteed powder. There are some smaller resorts in Niseko where you will find peace and quiet, and avoid the crowds. However the major resorts that sit on Mt Annupuri are Grand Hirafu, Hanozono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. These have some very accessible off-piste and some brilliant tree runs, all covered by the amazing Niseko powder. The experience in these resorts will not be very 'Japanese' and they can get very busy during peak times. However the night-life is fun, amenities plentiful, and the snow is unrivaled.
Honsu is larger and much more populated than Hokkaido. It is easier to separate into areas, and the most notable ones for foreign visitors are Chubu and Kanto. Chubu is easiluy accessible to non-Japnese speaking skiiers and snowboarders, where as Kanto is most pertinent as it contains Tokyo.
Chubu is where you will find the area of Nagano, famed for hosting the winter olympics. This area contains plenty of resorts that cater for non-japaense speakers, and some full-sized resorts with excellent lift access. The Hakuba resorts are the most popular of these, and the Hakuba village is bustling with life and tourism. For a more quaint place to visit and ski, Nozawa Onsen has to be number one on the list.
Kanto region contains Tokyo, but ski resorts and more common well outside of the city limits. Ski resorts in Kanto are worth visting for a day or two's break from the city, or if you fancy a ski holiday where you can easily visit Tokyo.