A Quick Guide To Skiing and Snowboarding In Japan

Caitlin Perry | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Niseko skiing Image: Niseko Grand Hirafu

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Japan is affordable, an experience like no other and the cultural experiences to be had there are incredible. There are over a dozen peaks in Japan that top out at 10,000+ feet above sea level.  Japan is otherwise known as ‘Japow’ thanks to the combination of high altitude and the Siberian conveyor belt of extremely cold dry wind which helps bring the high quality of snow and high snowfall amounts each season.

“Japan is an amazing place to discover,” says Fostvedt. “I’ve never met a person that regretted going there, and everyone I know who’s been is already making plans to head back.”

Depending on where in Japan you are, the best time of year is generally January which averages about 15-24 days of snowfall in the month. The word is out about January so it is also the busiest time of year to go. The cold Siderian conveyor belt ensures that resorts across Japan average about 5-10 feet of snow accumulation in January alone.  That being said you are pretty safe to go to Japan at any point throughout the season.

January in Hakuba Image: Hakuba

The main hotspots include the northern island of Hokkaido and the Nagano Region. Niseko in Hokkaido is a great destination for Internationals and offers some of the best skiing and snowboarding on the island. There is truly something for everyone here from beginners to off-piste skiers and boarders. The Nagano region sits in the heart of the Japanese Alps and is 150 miles north-west of Tokyo. Hakuba Valley in Nagano is great for those after a bit more of a challenge and it offers guests a European style string of resorts. If going off-piste here it is highly recommended that you take a guide, grab your beacon and do some avalanche training beforehand. 

“Hakuba is a lot of ‘gnar.’ It’s mostly gnar, actually, when you look at it,” says Wachs. “There’s a lot of stuff there that never gets ridden, unless you’re trying to ride out of five avalanches in one run.”

amazing japan
Groomers to off-piste in Hakuba Image: Hakuba

Japan has excellent transport options available for easy access to resorts including a quick in-country flight or the high-speed train. The most important signs are in English and the staff are very helpful. Rather than lugging your gear around with you, send your gear to the resort with a courier such as TA-Q-BIN.  Some great transport options include: the Japan Rail Pass or you can rent a car and be sure to stop off at a MICHI-NO-EKI (roadside rest area offering great amenities).

There are so many great aspects to Japan from its beautiful scenery, great people and its affordability. Do your research beforehand, book your accommodation early and keep an eye out for the cheap airfare sales to Japan. While you’re there be sure to experience the culture on offer. Immerse yourself in the local food, go to temples & shrines and check out the onsens. Japan truly is an amazing place and has something for literally everyone from the very beginner to the expert skier and snowboarder.

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