The snow season in northern Japan starts in early November and goes upto May. This long snow season plus the mountainous terrain has made popular winter destinations some of the best skiing slopes in Asia. Japan boasts of over 500 ski resorts that vary drastically in size and facilities. Here is a list of 5 popular snow destinations you need to explore in Japan, if you are a powder hound!
Furano is one of the most popular ski resorts in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. This ski resort is blessed with delightfully light and fluffy powder, which is often waist-deep high. As it not over-run with Westerners as yet, it still gives international tourists a flavour of authentic Japanese culture.
With multiple ski trails for all levels of expertise, Furano is ideal for families and groups. The well groomed trails here can keep beginners and intermediate level skiers and snowboarders occupied all day. Serious skiers can test their skills against the off-piste powder areas and steep slopes around Furano. They also have a World Cup sized half pipe, exceptionally fast lifts, and which only makes it that much more fun for advanced skiers.
Furano also acts as a base for exploring other nearby ski resorts and back country areas like Tokachidake and other destinations.
Name: Furano Ski Resort
Address: Nakagoryo, Furano-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
Website : http://www.snowfurano.com
Hakuba, in the Japanese Alps near Nagano, is a very popular destination among international tourists. It became very popular after hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Today, the region has more than 10 ski resorts, with accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels to backpacker lodgings.
Hakuba is famous for great powdery snow, with an average of 11 mtrs of snowfall each year. The deep snow is perfect for fat skis, where skiers can make the most of the 200+ ski courses and 135 lifts that the region has to offer. The skiing experience varies depending on the resorts you are at, but on average, it caters well to beginners and intermediate level skiers and snowboarders. Hakuba also has enough steep groomers, bumps and moghuls to keep the more advanced skiers satisfied. Most skiers have their favourite resorts in the region, but as a general rule, you can expect great ski-runs at Cortina, Happo-One and Hakuba-47.
Another main attraction for snow-lovers is the number of great izakayas and restaurants in the main town of Happo, which promises to keep skiers occupied when the slopes have shut down.
Address: Kitaazumi District, Nagano, Japan
The charming Nozawa Onsen, in Nagano prefecture, is one of Japan’s oldest and most popular ski and hot springs resorts. The town has more than 30 hot springs as well as 13 public baths.
Nozawa Onsen is ideal for families with kids, as they have a ski school, with instructors that can teach kids the basics of skiing and snowboarding in English. It has over 50 kms of ski terrain, including half-moguls and half-pipes, that is ideal for skiers and boarders of all levels. The town also offers other snow activities such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. One of the main attractions of the ski resort is the iconic sight of monkeys taking a bath in the hot springs of the region.
Name: Nozawa Onsen
Address: Shimotakai District, Nagano, Japan
Website : http://www.nozawaski.com/en
Zao is nestled high in the northeastern Tohoku region of the Yamagata District. It is known as a “snowboarding heaven” because its wide runs allow novices to pick up new tricks with ease. The name is derived from the snow covered fir trees, known as Juhyo or snow ghosts.
Zao Onsen has an impressive vertical drop of 881 metres, as well as almost 50 lifts including a few ropeways. It has 14 different slopes and 12 courses that offers skiers a wide range of slopes to ski on. Zao is a perfect destination on weekdays, when the crowds have gone away and the resort is empty. The region also has a lot of options for accommodation ranging from low-end to upscale, ensuring that everybody can ski or snowboard at Zao, and not only the super-rich, like some of the other ski resorts around Japan.
Name: Zao Onsen
Address: Yamagata, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
Website : http://www.zao-spa.or.jp
Adventure skiers find Asahidake an ideal destination as it is located near an active volcano that spews out steam. It offers a wide variety of alpine terrain as well as tree skiing. A back country ski area, it lacks a lot of modern facilities that are available in many other ski resorts. However, this lack of facilities is exactly what draws experienced boarders and skiers to Asahidake, as they are looking to escape the crowds and ski in peace in pristine conditions.
This is most definitely not a mountain for beginners or intermediates (although many of the runs are classified as intermediate).
As a result of its high altitude and abundant snowfall, the ski season here lasts from mid-December to early May. However, the Asahidake Ropeway shuts down for a week or so in April for maintenance.
Address: Higashikawa, Kamikawa-gun, Hokkaido
Website : http://asahidake.hokkaido.jp/en
The snow destinations in Japan are awesome if you love to ski. Many of them offer a variety of other winter activities. With so much to do and explore in Japan, make sure you add Japan on your list, the next time you are planning a ski-vacation. I’m sure you’ll love it!
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