With its amazing powder, breathtaking scenery and friendly locals, Japan is fast becoming one of the most popular ski destinations on the planet. Here are five Japanese ski destinations you should include in your shortlist.
Consisting of four main ski resorts, Niseko is Japan’s best known and most highly regarded ski destination. Renowned for regular snowfall and consistently top-class powder, Niseko offers a standard of skiing that is hard to beat. As a tourist hotspot, the town also offers a vibrant nightlife with countless bars and restaurants.
Just an hour from Niseko is Rusutsu, the perfect ski destination for those wanting to escape the crowds. The quality of skiing on offer here is on par with Niseko, but you won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to find untracked powder. Rusutsu’s backcountry is also fantastic, with steep chutes and great tree runs accessible with a 20-minute hike.
One of Japanese skiing’s true pioneer towns is Nozawa Onsen, the first town in the country to install ski lifts. Part of its name comes from the town’s abundance of natural hot springs, or ‘Onsen’. These are perfecting for relaxing the muscles after a big day of skiing or snowboarding. What makes this town even more special is the delightful traditional village, with narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture.
The largest ski resort in Japan is Shiga Kogen in Yamanouchi, Nagano. The resort spans some 4.25 square kilometres and consists of about 20 smaller sub-resorts, all of which are accessible with just one lift pass. Shiga Kogen is paradise for intermediate skiers, with heaps of great runs for cruising and schussing. Experts, however, may not find anything steep enough for their liking here. If you want to stay right in the heart of the action, the Ichinose village is where you’ll find the most pubs, bars and restaurants.
Those skiing in the Sapporo are fortunate enough to be in close proximity to the biggest snowmobile tour company outside North America – Snowmobile Land. Leave the skis behind for a day and enjoy a speed thrill of a new kind, on a 60-minute or 90-minute snowmobile tour. You’ll be given all the gear you need before taking off to explore the breathtaking scenery of Sapporo’s backcountry. The views of the sea of Japan and the city of Sapporo are really something special.
About half way up Japan’s main island of Honshu is the picturesque Hakuba Valley. Skiing options in this area are many, with nine resorts spread across the valley, altogether comprising more than 200 different trails. The most popular resort in the valley is Happo, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics downhill skiing event. Here you’ll find 700 hectares of skiable terrain, 26 lifts, and plenty of great restaurants and bars to keep you busy in the evenings. If you’ve been wanting to ski Japan for a while, don’t waste any more time – the whole world is about to catch on.
While a two-day snowshoeing tour of Kamikochi may not be ideal for the weary skier or snowboarder hoping to give their legs a rest, it’s still a great way to mix things up and try a new adventurous activity while in Japan. For those who don’t know, snowshoeing is just the term given to trekking through snow wearing snowshoes. The best thing about snowshoeing is that it allows you to explore the little nooks and crannies you would otherwise miss on skis or a snowmobile, while also giving you plenty of time to soak up the amazing scenery around you.
Author: Simon Byrne+ is a sucker for all things outdoors, especially when this passion takes him to new exotic locations far from home. When he’s not travelling the globe, Simon is writing about his travels and sharing his knowledge with those hoping to embark on similar adventures.