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