Ski

Where to ski and snowboard in Japan

Reading time: 3 minutes

 

They don’t call it ‘Japow’ for nothing! Japan’s top ski areas are blanketed in deep powder snow between December and April every year, creating awesome conditions for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Easy on the joints – and on your body when you take a tumble – pillowy-soft powder snow is just one of the reasons skiers head to Japan. There are hundreds of ski resorts to choose from, but we’ve made it easy for you by picking three standout all-rounders (and a few others we couldn’t resist including).

Niseko

This popular ski resort caters to skiers of all budgets, ages and abilities, and entices skiers from across the world for its wide-open powder bowls, tree runs and views of Mt Yotei – along with its

dependable snow falls, more than 15 metres of it each winter! Located in Hokkaido, 2.5 hours from Sapporo (yep, like the beer), Niseko has four interlinked ski resorts – Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and An’nupuri. The area has an abundance of hotels, apartments, houses and backpacker accommodation, and English-speaking instructors are available to hone your skiing or snowboarding skills – not always a given at Japanese ski resorts. It’s not all about skiing, of course. Niseko’s apres-ski dining and nightlife is hard to beat, and there are shuttle buses to take you to and from the happening Hirafu Village, where much of the action’s at. Groomed runs abound for beginners and intermediates, along with plenty of green and black runs for powder hounds day and night.

Nozawa

Known as much for its sensational skiing as its traditional hot springs, the culture-rich Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is located in the Nagano Prefecture, about 90 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo. Historic Nozawa has retained its traditional onsen-town charm despite its popularity as a ski resort, with 13 onsen (hot springs) open to the public at no charge (BYO towel and soap). If you’ve never experienced an onsen, doing so after skiing yourself silly on a freezing winter’s day is an ideal time to do it – shedding your clothes and sinking into the steamy water is utterly blissful. Nozawa has 18 lifts and three gondolas, with an equal number of runs for beginner, intermediate and expert skiers. Stay in a traditional inn, ski lodge or hotel, and be sure to take a day trip to visit the snow monkeys, who enjoy a bit of hot spring soaking themselves.

Hakuba

With 138 lifts and five gondolas to choose from, there’s no chance you’ll run out of …well, runs. Hakuba Valley, located three hours from Tokyo, has nine ski resorts spread over varied terrain catering to everyone from children to pro skiers and boarders. The sheer size of the place makes it easy to find uncrowded runs, especially during the week, along with snowmobiling and backcountry skiing in pristine alpine surrounds. As you’d expect, dining options vary from traditional Japanese to international (seek out the local specialty known as Oyaki, a delicious dumpling bun) and there’s plenty to do off the slopes – be sure to visit Matsumoto Castle, built in the 1500s.

Other standout ski areas in Japan

Families will love Tomamu, Rusutsu or Furano; skiers looking to get off the beaten track should head to Aomori Spring (just don’t expect an English-speaking instructor); snow lovers looking for ski-in-ski-out accommodation will be spoilt for choice at Shiga Kogen; while skiers on a budget will love Madarao, a hidden treasure about to lose its ‘hidden treasure’ status due to its growing popularity.

Travel Insurance

Arrived in Japan and ready to hit the slopes but there’s no snow? While we can’t guarantee the weather, amount of snow, or your skiing ability, our optional Snow sports cover is designed to help cover:

  • Our 24/7 Emergency Assistance team is available to take your call and help from broken bones to sudden illness.
  • Overseas medical expenses cover can help with with medical assistance, hospital care and evacuation and, in the worst case scenario, repatriation back home.
  • Ski lift passes: The costs of pre-paid ski lift passes or ski equipment hire or tuition fees when you’re injured or become ill during your trip and can’t ski. 
  • Hire equipment when yours is lost, damaged or delayed: If your own equipment is lost or delayed in transit or damaged, our optional Snow sports cover may help cover the reasonable costs of hiring replacement equipment so you don’t miss out on all the fun.
  • Compensation if the weather closes the slopes: Yep, if the weather is so bad they close the slopes for more than 24 hours we’ll pay for your inability to go skiing, although daily and maximum benefit limits apply.
  • Baggage: If your equipment is permanently lost, or irreparably damaged, you may also be able make a claim under the luggage and personal effects section.
  • Cancellation due to illness: If you have to cancel or defer your ski tour holiday because you or a family member is medically certified unfit to travel, your non-refundable pre-paid travel costs for ski tours may also be covered.

This is a brief summary of cover only and does not include the full terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions. Read the PDS before purchasing.


Author

I grew up in the US, Germany and Australia, so it feels more foreign for me to stay in one place than to move around. Since then, I’ve called Boston, London, Seattle, Brisbane, Madison and Sydney home for study and work as a journalist, travel writer and photographer. I specialize in adventure travel, social issues and interiors/architecture. Home is now an 1890s cottage in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I traveled to my seventh continent last year – an action-packed expedition to Antarctica – and have memories galore of my travels. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, galloping with gauchos in Chilean Patagonia, trekking through Japan, and camel riding in Jordan are among the most memorable. My least favourite travel hiccup was being stranded in Cameroon when I should have been winging my way to Paris for a little me-time. You win some, you lose some.

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