Winter in Japan: Where to Go Skiing & Snowboarding

In the last decade, Japan's reputation for perfect powder snow has grown, and Japan really does offer some of the best ski resorts in the world. Amy Mckie shares her expert tips after working a Japan ski season.

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Skiing in Japan Photo © Amy McKie

Those who know a little about Japan skiing and snowboarding will immediately think of Hokkaido’s ski resorts; Niskeo ski resort, Furano ski resort and Rusutsu ski resort, which are all popular destinations for Japan holiday packages. 

There are countless other Japanese ski resorts too. If you head far south towards Kyushu, you will find Kokonoe ski resort and Gokase ski resort. In the north of Honshu, there’s Hachimantai ski resort and Zao. There’s even a resort at Fuji, where you can ski on the highest mountain in Japan!

Hakuba Ski Resort

Hakuba is situated in the heart of the Japanese Alps and has become a top snowboarding and skiing destination, thanks to its outstanding selection of resorts, stunning alpine peaks, 11m average snowfall per year and good access to the backcountry.

Whether you are a complete beginner, love to ride through the trees, or explore the backcountry (for something steep and deep), Hakuba ski area has it all, and is one of the best ski resorts Japan has to offer.

If you want to ski Japan’s infamous trees without venturing into the backcountry, you can explore a new ‘Tskugopow” tree skiing zone, after attending a safety briefing for just ¥500.

Hakuba’s ski industry has boomed in recent years, and the area is now well catered to foreign tourists, with a variety of restaurants, onsens, places to stay and good transport linking to neighbouring resorts.

Myoko Ski Resort

Myoko kogen lies on the west coast of Honshu, in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. As the cold weather sweeps in from Siberia, this area is often the first to be hit with snow when a storm rolls in.

Myoko’s terrain is mellower than Hakuba, making it an ideal spot for beginners, ski touring, split-boarding and those who are new to riding backcountry.

The largest resorts can be found at Akakura and Suginohara but don’t rule out smaller resorts, such as family-run Seki Onsen, where you can access an un-groomed mountain via a single (yes, single) person chairlift, becoming every powder-hound’s dream after a storm.

Myoko is much less developed than Hakuba and the locals seem happy to keep it that way. It’s perfect for those who are looking to escape the crowds but this also makes organising transport a little more difficult

With just a handful of buses and one taxi company in Myoko, you may wish to consider hiring a car. This will give you the chance to explore some of the neighbouring resorts (Yuzawa ski resort and Karuizawa ski resort), and the Gunma mountains. Some resorts in Gunma Prefecture include; Katashina ski resort, Tsumagoi ski resort, Numata ski resort and Minakami ski resort.

Safety

It goes without saying that you should never enter the backcountry without the correct equipment (avalanche beacon, probe, shovel etc.), appropriate training or a professional guide.  Always check that your travel insurance and Japan ski packages provide suitable cover whilst you shred the powder!

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