- Life in Japan
Skiing, Snowboarding & Winter Sports in Japan
If you like skiing, snowboarding and winter sports in general, Skiing in Japan is probably already near the top of your bucket list.
There are over 500 ski resorts in Japan. That’s more than any other country in the world! Which makes sense considering the country is 70% mountains.
When skiing in Japan, you’ll experience breathtaking views, deep powder and dreamy tree lines.
And, when you’re finished on the slopes, you can take a dive in the relaxing hot springs. After that, you’ll probably be hungry and ready to indulge in some of the incredible local food too.
If you’re considering working in Japan, you’ll find some great information in this post on the best places to ski or snowboard during the Japan ski season, as well as some other winter sports to try out whilst you’re there.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about skiing in Japan, snowboarding and more winter sports you can try.
Snow Conditions In Japan
You don’t need to worry about lack of snow when snowboarding or skiing in Japan. The country gets some of the most snow in the world.
Japan is famous for having some of the deepest, driest, lightest, loveliest powder snow on the planet.
With frequent downfalls of ideal powder during the Japan ski season, it’s the place to be if you love riding deep snowy lines.
The snow is so good in Japan because of its geographical location.
As cold winds travel across The Sea of Japan from Siberia to Japan, they collect an incredible amount of moisture, which is then deposited on the Japanese islands as magical white snow.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan aren’t just incredible for the backcountry lovers though, Japan is home to hundreds of incredible resorts, with meticulously maintained pistes and great facilities.
These are probably contributing factors towards the country’s notable achievements in winter sports events, including the Winter Olympics.
They have even hosted a couple of revolutions of the games. The Japan Winter Olympics took place in 1972 and 1998.
Best Time To Ski In Japan
The ski season in Japan runs from mid-December to early April. There are some resorts where it lasts longer than this, though.
If you are going exclusively for Japan’s powder or Japow, January is the best time to go.
Christmas and New Year are times to avoid. Just like in the west, these times are very popular in Japan for skiing and snowboarding. Especially with lots of Chinese tourists visiting the Japanese ski slopes for the Chinese New Year.
The prices of resorts are usually more expensive around these times, and the slopes will be busier too.
If you aren’t too fussed about the deep powder, and you want to spend a little less, the later season in early spring is a great time to visit too.
The late-season runs from the end of March to the end of April.
Accommodation is usually cheaper around this time, and you’ll experience more sun and warmer temperatures. But, the snow won’t be quite as good.
Where To Go Snowboarding & Skiing In Japan
Where is the best skiing in Japan? There are two majorly popular areas in the country to go skiing or Snowboarding.
Hakuba is on the southern main island of Japan, just a 4-hour drive away from Tokyo. Hakuba Happoone Winter Resort was actually a host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, and some of the facilities are still in use. This is worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Other popular resorts, including Niseko, Rusutsu, and Furano, are situated on the Northern island of Hokkaido.
Don’t forget about the smaller resorts. Although they may not be as shouted about, they’re great for avoiding crowds, and you may find a hidden gem of a run that you’ll love.
Best Ski Resorts In Japan
As you now know, Japan is famous for deep powder snow and amazing tree lines.
We’ve put together a list of the best ski resorts in Japan based on: Best Overall Experience, Best Powder Skiing, and Best Tree Lines.
Read these to find out about some of the best skiing in Japan.
Best Overall Japanese Ski Resorts
1.Niseko, Ski Resort
Location: Abuta District, Hokkaido
Niseko is one of the famous ski resorts in Japan due to its incredible abundance of deep powder, and large ski area that expands on and off the piste.
The resort caters very well to English speaking tourists too, making it ideal for family holidays.
You can drop your kids off with child care services and ski/snowboard instructors before you hit the slopes.
There are also a huge range of activities on offer at Niseko Ski resort. Including shopping, restaurants and exciting nightlife.
There are a couple of drawbacks though.
Due to its popularity, the resort can get very crowded at peak Japan ski season. And, even though it’s very famous, the lift infrastructure is only average.
2. Nozowa Onsen Ski Resort, Honshu
Location: Toyosato, Nozawaonsen, Shimotakai District, Honshu
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is often considered the birthplace of Skiing in Japan.
Skiing was first introduced to the area in 1912 by an Austrian man named Theador Edler Von Lerch. He was visiting the country to help and study the Japanese army.
Since then, it has become a thriving ski resort. It’s a beautiful place to visit, full of traditional Japanese architecture and culture. The nightlife is quite good too.
With lots of snow and a range of incredible terrain, Nozawa Onsen is another one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan.
It’s quite a big resort for Japan too.
There are 50km of slopes to keep you entertained, and it’s close to a few other good resorts, including Togari Onsen and Madarao Tangram, which you can check out whilst you’re in the area.
3.Furano Ski Resort
Location: Nakagoryo, Furano, Hokkaido
The Furano ski resort is a lovely, authentic Japanese ski resort in Hokkaido.
With lots of on-piste riding, the ski resort is ideal for beginners all the way through to advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Whilst many ski resorts in Japan struggle to keep the interest of advanced skiers and snowboarders, Furano has enough exciting runs and features to keep you occupied for a good couple of weeks.
As well as great skiing, there are lots of superb Japanese restaurants to eat at.
Although the resort doesn’t get quite as much snow as some of the others, it’s commonly waist deep, and you’re more likely to experience better weather.
Best Japanese Ski Resorts For Powder Snow
1. Tanigawadake Tenjindaira Ski Resort, Honshu
Location: Mt Tanigawa
Referred to as Tenjin by the locals, this ski resort is famous because of the incredible amount of snowfall it receives.
With a mixture of steep and mellow terrain, uncrowded slopes and incredible powder, Tenjin is an ideal location for advanced riders.
There isn’t much in the way of culture at this resort though. It’s a perfect spot for skiing and snowboarding, then maybe visiting an onsen and having a chilled beer at your accommodation.
The conditions can be very harsh in the winter, which is something to watch out for.
2. Kurodake Ski Resort, Hokkaido
Location: Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido
Located in the Daisetsuzan National Park, Kuradokake is another incredible spot for big mountains and fluffy powder snow.
In fact, Daisetsuzan roughly translates to “big snowy mountains”.
If you love technical powder slopes, Kurodake may just be your ideal destination.
With challenging slopes and often harsh weather conditions, Kurodake is one for advanced skiers only.
Just like other advanced resorts, there isn’t much to do apart from skiing and snowboarding.
3. Minowa Ski Resort, Honshu
Location: Mt Bandai Area, Tohoku Region, Honshu
Minowa is incredible for tree skiing, and it’s not very crowded either. Meaning there are lots of opportunities to be the first to ride the fresh powder.
Located at a high altitude, there’s usually lots of great snow, and to make it even better, there’s a ski-in-out hotel that makes life comfortable.
There are lots of other resorts in the area too, so you can explore them as well if you have access to a vehicle or good transportation.
Again, this ski resort is more suited to advanced skiers than beginners and intermediates. You won’t find much in the way of English speaking staff or ski instructors for kids.
Best Japanese Ski Resorts For Tree Skiing
1. Rusutsu Ski Resort
Location: Rusutsu, Abuta District, Hokkaido
Rusutsu ski resort is home to incredible powder snow and some of the best tree skiing in the world.
Off-piste and tree skiing is actually allowed too, which is great.
The lift infrastructure is ideal, and you can access many of the tree lines straight off of the lifts without much effort.
As well as great powder and tree skiing, the Rusutsu resort is great for skiers of all abilities.
There are plenty of on-piste runs and activities at the resort to keep you entertained.
2. Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort
Location: Otari, Kitaazumi District
The relaxed off-piste policy at Cortina is ideal for tree skiing. Home to steep runs with deep powder, you’ll experience some of the best tree riding in the world at this resort.
There’s a ski-in-ski-out hotel here too, which makes getting in and out more enjoyable.
It’s reasonably priced too, which is great if you’re looking to spend a few days up the mountain.
The actual size of the resort is fairly small. Meaning, you might not enjoy spending more than a few days here though.
The nightlife isn’t amazing either. You’re better off visiting the larger resorts to experience more Japanese culture.
Although, there is an amazing onsen with an outdoor section that gives a beautiful view of the ski resort.
3. Aomori Spring Ski Resort
Location: Aomori, Nishitsugaru District
If you’re looking for amazing fresh powder runs in between the trees, not many resorts can compare to Aomori Spring.
The snow is deep, and the runs are pretty steep. There are lots of tree lines to be had straight off the lifts or with short and long hikes.
The resort isn’t very crowded either. Meaning, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find and ride fresh lines.
The area is beautiful, and you can book accommodation at the Ski-in-ski-out rockwood hotel if you’re staying in the area for a few nights.
On a nice day, you can even see the ocean from the resort, which is nice.
Again, the resort is pretty small, and there isn’t much in the way of nightlife, restaurants or shops.
This resort is more for those looking for great tree lines and not much else. The area isn’t very big either, so it’s great for a short visit, but maybe not a long stay.
More Tips For Snowboarding & Skiing In Japan
Here are a few more tips for snowboarding and skiing in Japan to help you have a great time whilst you’re on the slopes.
Hire A Guide For A Day
If you want to make the most of your time skiing or snowboarding in Japan, it’s a great idea to hire a guide to give you an overview of the area.
They’ll be able to show you the best spots and runs as well as advice to keep you safe.
This way, you’ll make sure you don’t waste any time on boring runs when you could be riding the best powder line of your life on a different part of the mountain.
Book Your Japanese Ski Trip In Advance
Ski package deals are not as prevalent in the UK as those to closer locations in Europe.
You’re unlikely to find a great, cheap last-minute deal for skiing in Japan.
Your best bet is to plan in advance to make the most of your trip. Take advantage of the early-bird discounts to get the best prices on accommodation, transport, lift passes and ski hire.
Be Prepared For Onsens
Onsens are natural hot spring baths that are plentiful in Japan due to the natural volcanic activity.
You may also hear them referred to as Rotenburo, which means an outdoor onsen.
One of the most shocking things about onsens that you need to know is that clothes are not allowed. Yes, that means birthday suits only.
But don’t worry, once you see how normal it is treated in Japan, your worries will soon melt away.
Also, you probably won’t be in one for too long. The water is usually piping hot, so you won’t be able to stay in for more than half an hour comfortably.
There is a little bit of onsen etiquette you should take note of before you enter one too.
Firstly, remember to wash before you use the onsen. This helps keep the water as clean as possible for everyone.
Also, it’s considered unhygienic to put your hair in the water, so tie it up if you have long hair.
Another thing you should be aware of is the Japanese stigma around tattoos and water. You may not be allowed in a public body of water with tattoos. This is because they carry associations with Yakuza.
Also, try not to be too loud. Onsens are meant to be relaxing places. The atmosphere is like that of a spa. Whilst having a chat is acceptable, it’s a good idea to be considerate and let everyone relax.
Other Japanese Winter Sports You Can Try
There are lots of winter sports in Japan aside from skiing and snowboarding. Here are a few great ones you might want to check out on your travels.
Snowshoeing is essentially hiking, but you wear special shoes with large surface areas that stop you from sinking into the snow.
Snowshoeing can be a great day out, and you’ll see some beautiful views of the Japanese mountain ranges. It’s definitely worth a go if you like hiking.
Ice Flow Walking
In the winter, in Hokkaido, a natural phenomenon occurs where drift ice (platforms of floating ice) cover the Sea of Okhotsk.
You can book days out to walk across the floating ice. This is a completely unique experience, and you may even see cool marine animals like sea angels.
This one is definitely worth a try if you’re in the area.
And don’t worry, the tour guides usually provide special rubber dry suits to keep you safe, and they try to avoid dangerous areas.
If you like engines, you’ll probably like snowmobiling too! There are lots of places in Japan where you can hire snowmobiles and go on adventures around the beautiful mountain ranges.
You don’t need a licence either as long as you stay within certain areas, so this is one that anyone can enjoy.
When it gets cold in the Japanese winter, and the water starts to freeze, the ice skates come out.
Ice skating is a popular and fun winter sport in Japan.
There are many ice rinks in Japan. One of the biggest ones in the country is in Tokyo, where you can night skate against the stunning backdrop of the bustling city.
Some Japanese Ski Movies To Inspire you
If you’re not already inspired to go to take a trip over and enjoy the Japanese ski season, watch some of these great ski movies!
You’ll get a real feel for the type of snow and resort conditions you can expect when you visit.
There’s also a video of the country’s talented ski jumpers during the Japan Winter Olympics 1998 if ski jumping is something you like.
Powder Skiing In Hokkaido
Skiing In Hakuba
Skiing In Japan Movie – The Best Version Of Ourselves
Japanisation – A Ski Movie Across Japan
Japan Winter Olympics Ski Jump 1998
Looking For A Skiing Job In Japan?
Now you know a bit about snowboarding in Japan, skiing in Japan and other winter Sports in Japan, as well as some of the best resorts to go to, do you think you’ll visit?
If you’re looking for a job skiing in Japan, you’re in the right place. We exist to help you find a job in Japan that’s right for you. Visit our job listings page to see current openings.