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Ski and snowboard resorts in Japan are known for their thick snow and cold winds from Siberia, natural mountain views, geothermal hot springs (‘onsen’) to stretch your leg muscles after skiing, affordable prices, slopes that tend to be quiet, and delicious Japanese cuisine. delicious. However, the resorts here are still not as well-known when compared to Whistler or Chamonix.
To help you discover a new world of skiing, here are five of the best ski resorts in Japan according to our global traveler.
Arguably the best ski resort in the world (especially in Japan), Niseko consists of four interconnected resorts that can be visited with a single pass. Located on the island of Hokkaido, Niseko is on the path of a cold front that travels from Siberia across the Sea of Japan to bring snow per season. That’s why it’s nicknamed ‘Japanuary’ by professional skiers who come here for the annual “Powder Party”. Niseko is also famous for its Japanese cuisine and international haute; miso ramen is a must-try local specialty, there’s a barn converted into a hearty glass-walled gourmet restaurant, and Steak Rosso Rosso which serves kobe beef hot so you can chop it like butter. One of the resort’s best-kept secrets is the opportunity to ski at night. You can play in the snow in the misty light under a starry sky, on slopes which are much calmer after dark. Tired of skiing, you can stay at Moiwa Lodge, a wooden chalet nestled right on the slopes of the mountains.
Having hosted several events at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba is now one of Japan’s premier ski and snowboard destinations. Consisting of 11 ski resorts in the Japanese Alps, it has nearly 150 km of well-maintained snow slopes and abundant snow. You can enjoy the natural beauty of the area while riding a gondola from Iwatake (one of 11 resorts) for stunning 360-degree alpine views. With a large area, skiers of various levels are guaranteed to still be able to play. Travelers can also do après-ski activities (socialize with fellow skiers) or enjoy a quieter place. For accommodation, you can stay at Hakuba Cottage Gram for peace of mind because of its location in the middle of the forest or Hakuba Highland Hotel, which is located in the city center and has direct access to hot springs.
Myoko is one of the oldest ski areas in Japan and has many slopes to complement your ski vacation. There are several interconnected ski areas dotted around Mount Myoko (a snowy active volcano that is 2,454 meters high), many of which are renowned for being the longest runs in Japan. Enjoy a journey through the abundant snow as you make your way through forests of oak, maple and beech. Enjoy the serenity of the area by avoiding long lines to visit the ski resorts. Mount Myoko is also located on the Siberian cold front, meaning that your skis will often be covered in snow. To unwind, you can head to the Kogakuro Hotel, which has indoor and outdoor hot springs and a wood-fired fireplace to warm you up after a day in the snow.
On the island of Hokkaido, just north of mainland Japan, Furano offers the best snow in the country. The snow here comes from the Siberian hurricane system that dumps hundreds of inches of snow each season. It also has ski and snowboard terrain for all levels, including off-piste (although off-piste skiing is prohibited in Japan, many visitors tend to ignore this rule). Furano is home to many ‘izakaya’ (Japanese pubs) and cafes, some located in mountain-side log cabins, where you can enjoy a bowl of hot ramen and delicious yakitori to recharge. For accommodation matters, you can check-in at Fresh Powder Apartments which is located opposite the ski gondola.
If you want to visit high-quality snow slopes and live in a typical Japanese mountain village, Nozawa Onsen is the right choice for you. This resort is one of Japan’s most famous spa towns, where hot springs were discovered dating back to the 8th century and today still emit steam through the narrow and cobbled streets. The resort is also considered a historic city and is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan. According to some, Nozawa Onsen is the cradle of skiing in Japan (the sport was introduced here by the Austrians in 1912). Many of the buildings date back to the Edo period (1603-1868), so you can stay in a traditional wood-paneled ryokan or inn with tatami mats and sliding paper doors, such as the Shirakaba. The accommodation comes with its own hot spring bath and soothing Japanese-style décor.
While you’re here, you shouldn’t miss the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, where you can watch wild snow monkeys bathe and play in the local hot springs.
Dubbed the ‘country of snow’, Yuzawa is a resort town just an hour’s bullet train (shinkansen) ride from Tokyo. Here, you don’t need to bring any equipment, as skis, boots, salopette and all the other equipment are provided. The snow is very heavy and consistent here, so the winters are long and the conditions are excellent for skiing. Its very high location gives you the rare opportunity to ski from 1,181 meters to 358 meters. Yuzawa is a very large city and has a ‘central’, ‘south’, ‘north’, and ‘downhill’ area that is interconnected with other popular ski resorts in Japan. One of the highlights here is that the city was built hundreds of years ago around natural hot springs. So you can unwind in the outdoor ‘onsen’ while enjoying the snow. While here, you can stay at Shosenkaku Kagetsu which has a Japanese garden and ten hot springs.