A Quick Guide To The Top 5 Ski Resorts In Japan

Caitlin Perry | BackcountryBackcountry | Industry NewsIndustry News
Japan winter
The Land of the Rising Sun Photo: Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort

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Japan boasts over 500 ski resorts and has some of the best powder in the world. It offers guests great backcountry skiing and snowboarding, amazing food, unique villages, and a good nightlife scene.

Powder tree runs Photo: Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort

Hakuba – Honshu

Hakuba in the Nagano Prefecture is a valley with a large number of ski resorts that hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998. Hakuba is home to 11 ski resorts and offers an expanse of terrain for varying abilities. The accommodation here ranges from luxury options to self-contained lodging which can be quite rare at Japan resorts. Hakuba averages an annual snowfall amount of 11 meters and is home to some of the best shops, bars, and restaurants. Hakuba is a great option for those who want a resort that caters well to English speaking guests and Happo One Resort is a great choice for families.

Japan snow
Hakuba Ski Resort Photo: Ski Hakuba

Niseko – Hokkaido

The town of Niseko on the island of Hokkaido offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Japan. It won Japan’s Best Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards in 2015 and it surrounds the iconic Mount Yotei. It is made up of Grand Hirafu, HanazonoNiseko Village, and An’nupuri. The best part is that all of these ski areas can be skied on the one pass and it offers some of the best night skiing in the world. The terrain here has something to offer everyone from beginners to advanced skiers and boarders. Strawberry Fields is one backcountry area that is a must-do whilst in Niseko. It has an average annual snowfall total of 15 meters and is known as one of Japan’s snowiest resorts.

Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort Photo: Sapporo

Sapporo – Teine, Hokkaido

Sapporo Teine offers great views over downtown Sapporo and hosted the Winter Olympics in 1978.  Mount Teine has a great reputation and is approximately a 40-minute car drive from Sapporo. It is great for all types of winter sports enthusiasts and receives approximately 10 meters of snow throughout the season. Sapporo Teine is made up of two connected zones; the Highland Zone and the Olympic Zone. The Highland Zones is suitable for all levels while the Olympic Zone is better suited for intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders as it has some of the steepest terrain in Japan.

A trail at Zao Onsen Photo: Zao Onsen Mountain & Ski Resort

Zao Onsen Ski Resort – Honshu

Zao Onsen is one of the most famous ski resorts in Japan and is one of the most traditional experiences. Zao Onsen is located in the Yamagata Prefecture on the island of Honshu and is approximately 30-40 minutes from Yamagata City. Zao Onsen is more suited towards beginner and intermediate skiers and boarders. Thanks to heavy snowfall and freezing winds, this resort is one of the few places in Japan where you can see and ski between Juhyo (aka ice trees/ snow monsters). It offers some of the country’s best hot spring baths and world-class skiing and snowboarding,

Amazing view Photo: Villa Alpen, Shiga-Kogen

Shiga-Kogen – Honshu

Shiga-Kogen is the highest and largest ski area in Japan with one of the longest ski seasons (mid to late November to early May). It is situated in the Shiga Highlands of the Nagano Prefecture and is made up of approximately 21 smaller resorts that are interconnected and can be skied on just the one pass. Shiga-Kogen is a great choice as it offers ski-in ski-out accommodation. The resort offers guests more than 800 kilometers of terrain, making it a favorite for all ability levels. It offers guests a great aprés-ski scene with a good choice of bars, restaurants and other off-piste activities. Shiga-Kogen is a great choice for those who are after a memorable traditional Japanese Ski Resort experience.

With so much to offer its guests including snow monkeys, onsens, skiing and snowboarding, hot springs and much more, it is no surprise that Japan is a world-class winter destination.

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