Skiing and snowboarding in Japan? For some reason, it never crossed my mind to consider Japan as a winter sport destination, but today’s guest writer changed my mind about that. Lorraine Lam shares everything you need to know to have the best ski and snowboard vacation in Japan!
You’ll definitely want to add Japan to your bucket list of travel destinations after reading Lorraine’s article detailing her favorite top three ski resorts.
Author Bio: Lorraine Lam is the founder of a snowboard blog called SnowboardHow.com. She is a passionate snowboarding/skiing instructor based in Hong Kong who spends most of her winters teaching in Japan, Europe, Northern America, and China.
A Guide to the Best Ski and Snowboard Resorts in Japan
Traveling to Japan for snowboarding and skiing is an amazing experience where you’ll find powder snow, A+++ service quality, tasty food, incredible details, fascinating Japanese culture, all in one incredible bucket list destination.
As a snowboarder and skier who has spent over eight winters in Japan, I am very pretty sure that I am addicted to Japan skiing and snowboarding slopes. In this article, you will find the top three choices of Japan ski resorts.
Also known as Niseko, this resort is located about 2 hours away from the Sapporo Airport of Hokkaido. This is a ski resort famous for dry, fine and deep powder snow. I would consider Niseko as the best choice for your first ski trip to Japan, the reasons are as follows:
- It’s one of the biggest ski resorts in Japan, a combination of 4 mountains: Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village, Annupuri
- 100% English-speaking friendly
- You can find the best ski accommodation here: loads of luxury apartments and houses here, some of them even have private onsens (hot spring) in the hotel rooms
- Comes with a little town in the Hirafu area with many restaurants, bars, shops, rentals
- Shuttle buses run from early morning till late evening
- Great quality snow and it snows almost every day during a normal winter! (i.e. you get to ride on fresh snow every single day!)
For a more in-depth review, you can check out this article for the detailed Niseko guide.
The only downside to Niseko is that you’re less likely to find authentic Japanese items there because it’s a really internationalized ski resort.
Hakuba Valley, the second most popular ski resort in Japan for foreigners (just right after Niseko and is getting more and more popular though), is a combination of several ski resorts located in Nagano (Jiigatake, Kashimayari, Goryu, 47, Happo-One, Iwatake, Tsugaike Kogen, Norikura and Cortina).
I would consider Hakuba as the best choice for you to spend your whole season in Japan, the reasons are as follows:
- English is very popular there
- With the shuttle bus, you have access to all the necessities: supermarket, pharmacy, shopping malls, restaurants, etc.
- There are many ski resorts so skiers and snowboarders at all ability levels should be able to find suitable terrains, for example:
- For advanced level skiers/ snowboarders, there are many challenging slopes in Happo One (the 1998 Winter Olympic competition venue!)
- Tsugaike Kogen, Norikura and Goryu are very suitable for beginners
- Intermediate riders would find Iwatake very suitable for them to practice
- Cortina: Powder heaven!! Just like Niseko when it snows!!!
- 47 for park lovers
- And there are some other small ski resorts in the area!
Hakuba Valley is a place all skiers and snowboarders would love, and visitors can find quite a bit of traditional accommodation if you are looking for something really Japanese.
The downside of this ski resort is:
- The resorts are not linked to each other, for example, if you are in Happo One and you want to go to Cortina, you have to either drive or take a shuttle bus or taxi
- The powder snow season is shorter than those resorts in Hokkaido
Shiga Kogen, also located in the Nagano prefecture of Japan Honshu is probably the largest ski area in Japan, with 19 out of 21 ski areas linked to each other with over 50+ ski lifts, gondolas, and ropeways. This is a ski resort suitable for all different level of riders.
I love this ski resort because:
- There are many accommodation options available in Shiga Kogen, and it’s very easy for you to find a ski-in, ski-out resorts because there are 19 ski areas, which are open even during Christmas!
- It’s not that busy compared to other ski resorts in Japan
- The ski resorts are linked to each other and you can ride from one end to another end
- It’s very close to the Nagano Snow Monkey Park
The downside of this ski resort:
- The lift system connecting to each other is not the most practical; sometimes you have to walk upslope for around 20 meters to get to the other lift
- There are fewer dining options in Shiga Kogen
I would consider Shiga Kogen as the best choice for last-minute ski holiday considering the price and ease of finding a hotel.
I hope you will find these 3 recommendations useful for your Japan ski trip planning. Happy skiing and snowboarding!
Thank you, Lorraine, for sharing your top three resorts for skiing and snowboarding in Japan. I know this article makes me want to put a winter vacation in Japan right at the top of my travel bucket list!
Have you been skiing in Japan or some other amazing location? Let Lorraine and I know in a comment below. We would love to hear about your adventures.