Snowboarder off piste

Title

Where to go for the snow in Japan

Published October 24th, 2019

Japan’s ski resorts are world-famous for their epic powder and stunning mountain scenery. There are loads of resorts (over 500) across the country to choose from. Some are virtually unknown to international tourists, while others cater almost solely to them.

So your brain hurts less when you’re trying to figure out where to go for the snow in Japan, we’ve put together a list of the best regions and resorts. Get ready to shred, Nippon style!

Niseko

Let’s start with the largest ski resort in Japan—Niseko is home to 47km of prime terrain and it’s often boasted that the slopes receive more snowfall than any other ski resort in the world. A mega-resort of sorts, Niseko is made up of 4 major hubs: Hanazono, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri. Hirafu Town is ‘where the party’s at’ for après-ski, with popular bars, restaurants, and karaoke spots.

Best for: Skiers & boarders of all levels
Region: Hokkaido
Distance from Tokyo: 1000km
How to get there: Fly direct into Sapporo, or get a domestic flight from Tokyo (approx 2 hours). Niseko is approx 1 hour drive from Sapporo, & many resorts have shuttle buses from New-Chitose International Airport
Major drawcard: Powder!


 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Niseko United (@nisekounited) on

 

Asahidake

Technically a National Park not a resort - facilities on Asahidake are somewhat limited, which only adds to the appeal for skiers and boarders who like the slopes to themselves. The park features a handful of cross country ski trails, and many of the hotels have onsite onsens. Mount Asahi (no connection to the beer) is the highest mountain in Hokkaido so the snow is kept super cold, and super powdery! While there’s little nightlife to speak of, this area is perfect for skiing aficionados who just need a nice hot soak and a couple of cold beers from the vending machine after a big day off-piste action.

Best for: Advanced skiers & boarders
Region: Hokkaido
Distance from Tokyo: 1300km
How to get there: Fly direct into Sapporo, or get a domestic flight from Tokyo (approx 2 hours). Asahidake is approx 2.5 hours drive from Sapporo
Major drawcard: Less crowds

Nozawa

Nozawa Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest, largest, and most charming ski resorts. Exuding traditional Japanese vibes so much so it’s often referred to as the ‘Kyoto’ of Japanese ski towns. Picture narrow cobbled streets, traditional ryokans, and over 30 natural hot springs. The Dosojin Fire Festival is held every January 15 and involves lots of fireworks and plenty of kanpai!

Best for: Skiers & boarders of all levels - with gentler slopes for beginners
Region: Nagano
Distance from Tokyo: 250km
How to get there: Get a shuttle bus from Tokyo Narita Airport, or, a bullet train from Tokyo to Iiyama & a bus to resort
Major drawcard: Rich cultural history

Hakuba

Also in Nagano is Hakuba Valley, a popular area with varied terrain for every type of skier. Here you’ll find some of the best alpine scenery with towering peaks over 3000m. Head to Happo One ski resort to ‘izakaya hop’ at sundown. Want a day off from the slopes? Hakuba Valley is an ideal home base for visiting the famous Snow Monkey Park in Nagano.

Best for: Beginner to advanced skiers & boarders
Region: Nagano
Distance from Tokyo: 270km
How to get there: Get a shuttle bus from Tokyo Narita Airport, or, a bullet train from Tokyo to Nagano & a bus to the resort
Major drawcard: Close to snow monkeys!

 


 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Oz Snow (@ozsnow_) on

 

Madarao

Never heard of it? Shhh! Those in the know tend not to talk of the ‘madapow’ for fear it will become the next big destination. Not far from Nozawa, yet often overlooked, Madarao has some really great powder (aka ‘madapow’), and has become a bit of an unofficial outpost for Japan-ski loving Aussies. You can even get a great Allpress coffee at the sweet ski-in ski-out Aki’s Pub and Cafe.

Best for: Beginner—intermediate skiers & boarders
Region: Nagano
Distance from Tokyo: 300km 
How to get there: Get a shuttle bus from Tokyo Narita Airport, or, a bullet train from Tokyo to Iiyama & a bus to resort
Major drawcard: Best value for those on a budget

Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.