Skiing in Japan

January 2, 2013 by

Sightseeing, Things To Do, Tours & Activities

Fresh powder at Hakkoda Ski Resort

Fresh powder at Hakkoda Ski Resort. Photo courtesy of Mihai Japan via Flickr.

With reliable snowfall and some of the best powder conditions in the world, skiing in Japan has earned a spot on the list of top destinations. When you’re not carving your way down a mountain, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local Japanese culture, an experience unlike any you’d get at a ski resort in your home country. Plus, you’ll pay a fraction of what you would in the USA or Europe, even at Japan’s biggest resorts.

Hundreds of ski resorts, most located on the north island of Hokkaido, average well over 33 feet (10 meters) of snow each year. Consistent weather systems dump low-moisture snow, which creates heavenly conditions for powder-hounds. For arguably the best snow on earth, you’ll have to fly to Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido and bus to one of the country’s most popular and foreigner-friendly resorts, Niseko. Here you’ll find the best powder conditions, best backcountry terrain, best après-ski and some truly memorable tree runs, like Strawberry Fields. The resort is quite popular with Australians, so English is widely spoken.

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For powder to rival that of Niseko but without the crowds of Australian snowboarders, try Hakkoda Resort in the Aomori region on Japan’s main island of Honshu. Spread across eight mountains with a 2,146-foot (654-meter) vertical drop, the resort offers a few groomed runs but caters mostly to advanced skiers looking to go off-piste.

Whether you ski at one of these resorts or another of the hundreds available, you’re almost guaranteed fresh, fluffy powder. Nearly all the resorts offer equipment rentals, and almost all the equipment is fairly new. If you have a large shoe size, you might consider bringing your own boots, as Japanese feet tend to be smaller.

Aside from the spectacular powder, Japan’s ski scene offers another benefit: onsens. These hot thermal baths exist at every resort, so after a long day out in the cold, you can strip down to your birthday suit and warm up in these volcanic hot springs. Check your modesty at the door; these baths are almost exclusively enjoyed in the nude.

- Lydia Schrandt

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