Top 5 Ski Resorts In Japan
As the winter season is approaching Japan, we think it’s time for us to give you some tips to prepare for your 2020 holiday plans. Home to the best powder in the world, Japan has a variety of ski resorts from the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern island of Kyushu. On top of that, Japan is full of cultural experiences such as relaxing outdoor onsens, visiting shrines, taiko drumming performaces, that you simply cannot find anywhere else. To make things easy for you, we have broken down the 5 best ski resorts to visit in Japan from our own experience.
– Best overall resort for international visitors
The most famous of them all (and for good reason), Niseko has gained international fame over the years due to its consistent snowfall every winter, making it a powder paradise for anyone looking to enjoy a magical winter in Japan. As the resort has gotten increasingly popular over the years, Niseko has attracted many foreigners to the resort, making it one of best resorts for tourists who would prefer the comfort of communicating in English around the resort.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Niseko
Average snowfall per season: 15-18 meters
Niseko ranks as one of the largest resorts in Japan. The mountain is home to 4 different ski areas: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri. All 4 ski areas are accessible through connected ski lifts and can be accessed if you get the All Mountain Pass. A 5th area is accessible as well, Moiwa, but requires a ski lift pass that is separate from the other 4.
All ski areas in Niseko has its own unique appeal depending on the level and type of rider you are. Luckily, Niseko has a healthy balance of groomed runs suitable for beginners to intermediate riders, and tons of off-piste action in between the trees. In addition, there are decent sized parks to cater to those wanting to hit jumps, rails and boxes.
- Excellent quality snow
- Relatively easy to ski from resort to resort
- Off-piste and backcountry riding allowed on mountain
- Caters to all levels and types of riders
- Extremely crowded at peak periods
- Long waits for ski lifts at peak periods
- Few ski-in and ski-out accommodation options
- Few bluebird (sunshine) days
Niseko resort can be the perfect holiday destination for solo, group, or family riders but it is important to know where to stay depending on your holiday preference. Hirafu Village is the main village in Niseko and has some of the best restaurants and bars in the area, including activities like yoga, and great shopping options. However, as it attracts younger crowds, it may not be the best for families looking for a relaxing time after skiing. For accommodation away from the noise and crowds, Annupuri, Hanazono and Grand Hirafu, all have amazing accommodations that are cozy and luxurious.
– Best for visitors travelling around Japan
As one of the more accessible resorts from Tokyo, Hakuba is a top choice for many tourists travelling around Japan. The resort gained worldwide recognition when the 1998 Winter Olympics was held there. Quite similar to Niseko in regards to the amount of tourists and mix of cultures, Hakuba is one of the best resorts for foreigners – boasting a great resort life and abundance of ski resorts in Japan to choose from.
Skiing and Snowboarding at Hakuba
Average snowfall per season: 11-13 meters
Hakuba is located in the Japanese Alps near Nagano and is home to whopping 11 ski resorts! Each resort may not offer much individually but if you do not mind travelling to sample each one, they offer something that is unique that adds to your overall experience in this popular ski area of Japan.
To get around each of the resorts, there are scheduled buses that go around throughout the day. Great thing is that you can just get 1 pass that will bring you access to all 11 resorts which includes: Cortina, Norikura, Tsugaike Kogen, Iwatake, Happo-One, Hakuba 47, Goryu, Sanosaka, Kashimayari, Jigatake, and Minekata.
- The scenic view of the mountain landscapes are amazing
- Accommodating to beginners and advanced riders with large groomed runs and multiple options to choose from
- Unlike Niseko, Hakuba has more bluebird days
- Healthy amount of snowfall
- Backcountry options are plentiful
- Attracts both Japanese and foreign tourists, making it very busy during peak periods
- Not many off-piste areas permitted
- Ski areas are not connected via ski lifts unlike Niseko
Similar to Niseko, Hakuba has been influenced by western and international culture over the years, making it easy to get around by speaking English, which is ideal depending on what kind of experience you are looking for. There are a good amount of options for shopping, restaurants, and bars, making Hakuba a great resort for those looking for a more vibrant resort life. In addition, there is an active nightlife scene for those looking for later nights. Overall, Hakuba is an amazing resort in Japan and it’s location relatively close to Tokyo, makes it a great pit stop for travellers going around Japan.
– Ideal for powder hunters
To get straight to the point, Myoko is perfect for riders looking to shred some deep powder in Japan. As a ski area that has attracted fewer tourists over the years, the ski areas in Myoko do not get tracked up as fast as Niseko or Hakuba. If you are a traveller looking to explore Japan in a more traditional sense and is craving for some insane off-piste action, Myoko is the place for you.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Myoko
Average snowfall per season: 13 meters (note: 2014-15 Myoko collected over 16 meters of snowfall)
Myoko is not exactly a ski resort; it is a location in Japan that mutiple ski resorts are situated in. All accessible by bus, skiers and snowboarders can select from the following resorts: Myoko Akakura, which is a combination of Akakura Kanko ski resort and Akakura Onsen, Suginohara ski resort, Seki Onsen, Ikenotaira Onsen, and Kyukamura and Myoko Ski Park, which is catered towards family friendly slopes.
As with most resorts, there is something for all levels of skiers and snowboarders here but the main attraction of Myoko is its off-piste riding in between trees and long vertical runs with endless powder lines.
- Abundance of snowfall making it mind-blowing for powder seekers
- There are numerous areas and resorts with many off-piste options
- Less crowds compared to Niseko or Hakuba
- Not many groomed runs
As a famed resort for powder, there isn’t much else to do besides shredding pow in Myoko. The lack of after-ski activities may not be ideal for large families but if you are travelling as a group of passionate skiers and snowboarders, Myoko is an experience like nothing else.
Although Myoko has not been westernized as much as other resorts, it has seen it’s fair share of foreign tourists over the years due to its main attraction of powder. Myoko does accommodate English to some extent in restaurants and bars but it is still very minimal. In addition, late night activities in the resorts are very tame and are mostly in local Japanese bars.
– Best resort for families and beginners
Our latest addition to the ski trips, Tomamu is a hidden treasure that has not been over popularized and offers great ski options to all levels of riders. With a decent amount of snowfall, great resort life, and less crowds, Tomamu is ideal for an all-rounded balanced holiday.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Tomamu
Average snowfall per season: 8-10 meters
Tomamu resort offers a great variety of groomed runs that are catered more towards beginners, making it ideal for first-time skiers or snowboarders practicing the basics. The resort also offers areas for intermediate to expect riders with different courses around the mountain, and with less crowds, it gives riders more space to play with without worry too much about crashing into someone else.
- Less crowds making the resort very spacious to ride
- Powder days make some of the best in-bound riding
- More bluebird days compared to Niseko
- Not as much snow as other resorts
The great thing about Tomamu is that if you are travelling with others who do not ski or snowboard, there are other activities and seasonal events around the resort for them. However, as it is common in most resorts in Japan, there is no nightlife in Tomamu. For more information on Tomamu, check out our article via the link here.
-Best resort for families and beginners
At last but definitely not the least, Rusutsu is on our list as one of our favorite resorts of all time. A gem close to Niseko, that has gotten increasingly popular over the years due to its large terrain, efficient ski lifts, off-piste and tree skiing, and healthy powder dumps. Rusutsu is a must for any intermediate and above level rider who is looking for some fun and surprising powder runs.
Skiing and snowboarding in Rusutsu
Average snowfall per season: 13 meters
Rusutsu can be imagined as Niseko without the crowds (to some degree). As a resort that offers great groomed runs for beginners and intermediates, Rusutsu is similar to Niseko in that capacity but with fewer crowds, your experience will definitely be more enjoyable. In addition, this amazing resort offers great off-piste runs and tree skiing – which is allowed in the resort.
- Equally amazing powder snow to Niseko
- Lesser crowds that some resorts
- Huge terrain
- Efficient and warm ski lifts
- Great off-piste and tree skiing
- Ski-in and ski-out hotel option is convenient
- Heliskiing option available at the mountain adjacent to Rusutsu
- Does not cater to riders looking for cliffs
Rusutsu is cratered towards those who are looking for a pure ski and snowboarding experience with no resort life outside of the hotels. The luxurious hotels at the ski resort are great for families or and groups on holidays as the hotel staff can accommodate English-speaking travellers. There is no nightlife in Rutsusu besides the hotel restaurants or bars which do not open to very later, which means any partying would have to be inside your hotel room.