The 10 Best Places to Ski in Japan
Beneath Japan’s majestic landscapes lie some of the world’s most thrilling and picturesque skiing destinations. From the renowned powder havens of Hokkaido to the storied slopes of Nagano, Japan boasts a tapestry of skiing wonders that beckon enthusiasts and adventurers alike. In this guide, we go over the snow-kissed terrain to uncover the ten absolute best places to ski in Japan, each offering its unique blend of breathtaking vistas, impeccable snow conditions, and unforgettable alpine experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an eager novice, these top ski spots promise a winter wonderland adventure like no other in the Land of the Rising Sun.
When is the ski season in Japan?
Ski season in Japan is generally from December through February. This period marks the peak snowfall across the country, offering enthusiasts the chance to revel in deep powder snow throughout various regions.
Before planning a trip, it’s important to note that the Chinese New Year season, particularly in early February, draws a large number of Chinese skiers and snowboarders to Japan. This results in heightened travel demands and accommodation prices, making it a busier time than usual.
For those seeking a more serene skiing experience, consider spring skiing, especially in Hokkaido. During this season, prices drop compared to winter, and the slopes welcome fewer visitors. Embrace the milder temperatures and bask in the spring sun while enjoying the slopes.
Here are the 10 best places to ski in Japan!
Ski Resorts in Hokkaido
If you’re looking for the ultimate ski experience in Japan, Hokkaido is the prime location. Japan’s northernmost and largest prefecture has some of the finest snow in the world and also some of the best ski resorts for all types of winter sport enthusiasts.
Niseko Ski Resort
Niseko Ski Resort stands as Japan’s premier snow destination. Comprising four interconnected ski resorts—Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and An’nupuri—Niseko holds the coveted title of Japan’s #1 snow resort.
Renowned for its unparalleled consistency and high-quality powder snow, averaging over 15 meters per season, Niseko captivates with its expansive powder bowls, enchanting tree runs, and breathtaking vistas of Mt Yotei.
Available Niseko Ski Experiences:
- Niseko Grand Hirafu Ski Resort Lift Ticket (6 hours) + Round Trip Bus Ticket [Departure/Arrival from Sapporo]
- Niseko/Tomamu Group Ski Experience
- Hokkaido 2D1N / 3D2N Niseko Ski and Hot Spring Tour from Sapporo
Address: 5-31, 1Chome, 2Jo, Niseko Hirafu, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0089, Japan
F VILLAGE Snow Park
Nestled within Hokkaido Ballpark, F Village Snow Park offers a unique winter experience, unlike traditional remote mountain destinations. What makes it stand out is its proximity to New Chitose Airport and major transportation networks, allowing visitors to blend winter sports with urban sightseeing seamlessly.
With a 50-meter snow escalator and cutting-edge snow-making technology, this facility opens its doors as early as November 1st, welcoming both seasoned snow enthusiasts and newcomers alike. The park’s staff are on hand to guide and assist first-time snow adventurers, providing ski lessons and multilingual support, ensuring an enjoyable and stress-free experience in the snow.
Address: F Village, Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido 061-1116, Japan
Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort
Nestled on the outskirts of Sapporo, Sapporo Kokusai stands out among neighboring resorts for its abundant snowfall. While it might not boast the largest expanse, with only five lifts and seven courses, this resort is a haven for snow enthusiasts seeking pristine powder. Its substantial snowfall rivals even renowned spots like Niseko.
Geared toward beginners and intermediate riders, with most of its courses rated green or blue, Sapporo Kokusai might not cater as much to advanced skiers seeking steep descents. However, its intriguing off-piste and tree areas within the bounds promise ample opportunities to revel in deep powder snow, adding an adventurous touch to the skiing experience.
Address: Jozankei937 Minami-ku Sapporo city, Hokkaido
Set within a captivating mountain valley, Kiroro Ski Resort beckons just a two-hour drive away from Chitose Airport. This winter wonderland stands out for its staggering snowfall, averaging an impressive 5 meters at its top gondola station and receiving over 17 meters of snow annually.
Boasting 21 diverse courses and a 4-kilometer-long run, Kiroro offers ample terrain for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. The addition of backcountry gates has opened up thrilling off-piste areas, inviting adventurers to immerse themselves in untouched powder, promising an unparalleled snow experience.
Address: Tokiwa, Akaigawa, Yoichi District, Hokkaido
Ski Resorts in Nagano
Nagano is the perfect ski destination close to Tokyo. Only a short 2-hour shinkansen train ride away, the area boasts stunning scenery and beautiful mountain ranges.
Karuizawa Snow Park
In the western reaches of Gunma Prefecture lies Karuizawa Snow Park, a charming ski area nestled in Naganohara Town. Ideal for families, this park features three pair lifts and caters to a family-friendly atmosphere. Specifically designed for younger visitors, it offers expansive snow-tubing areas and a winter dog run, providing snowy adventures for both kids and pets.
The creatively named runs like Cabbage, Egg, and Berry add a whimsical touch to the slopes. President Resort Karuizawa, encompassing the ski area, a resort hotel, and a summer golf course, ensures year-round entertainment. Opening its doors in 1999, Karuizawa Snow Park resides in Kitakaruizawa, north of Karuizawa Town in Nagano Prefecture, easily accessible for winter outings.
Address: 2032-16 Kitakaruizawa Town, Naganohara, Agatsuma District, Gunma
Nagano Togari Onsen Ski Resort
Located amidst the Sekita mountain range, Nagano Togari Onsen Ski Resort straddles the borders of Nagano and Niigata Prefectures. With three diverse slopes, it caters to riders of varying abilities, offering expansive terrain to explore.
As you navigate the extensive runs, soak in panoramic vistas of Nozawa Onsen Village and the scenic Shinano river basin. The resort boasts Japan’s pioneering Snowbike Park and professional rider-led lessons at the Pro Snowboard School, enriching the array of activities available.
Accessible within 30 minutes via the Shinkansen to Iiyama Station, by car from the Toyoda-Iiyama IC exit, or through the local train to Togarinozawa-onsen station, it provides convenient access.
Post-adventure, unwind in natural hot springs and relish authentic local cuisine at the resort’s diverse specialty restaurants, culminating a fulfilling day on the mountainside.
Address: 6356-二 Toyoda, Iiyama, Nagano 389-2411, Japan
Ski Resorts in Niigata
Another great option closer to Tokyo is Niigata. This region has some of the highest snowfall in all of Japan. You can reach Niigata and its over 50 ski resorts easily by public transportation and shinkansen in about 2 hours from Tokyo.
GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort
GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort, often referred to as GALA, is situated conveniently close to the heart of Yuzawa Town in Niigata Prefecture, standing out as the sole ski area in Japan with its dedicated Shinkansen bullet train station.
This unique setup, housing the station and gondola lift under one roof, makes it a sought-after spot for day trips from Tokyo and has gained popularity among international skiers and snowboarders in recent years. Divided into four main areas – Central, Southern, Northern, and the Falcon downhill course – GALA Yuzawa benefits from a higher altitude, ensuring an extended season and excellent snow conditions. Notably, the Southern Area remains largely ungroomed, offering a quieter retreat for enthusiasts.
The resort’s connectivity to Yuzawa Kogen and Ishiuchi Maruyama, along with joint lift tickets under the Yuzawa Snow Link, further enhances the skiing experience.
Having welcomed visitors since 1990, GALA Yuzawa stands amidst a cluster of over 20 ski areas in Yuzawa Town and neighboring Minamiuonuma City, solidifying its position as a cherished ski destination in Japan, celebrated not only for its snowy landscapes but also its famed onsen hot springs and the inspiring setting of the renowned novel “Snow Country.”
Address: 1039-2 Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata 949-6101, Japan
Maiko Snow Resort
Located in Minamiuonuma City near the Yuzawa Town border in Niigata Prefecture, Maiko Snow Resort boasts two primary base areas: Maiko and Nagamine.
The Maiko Area, adjacent to the Shiozawa Ishiuchi IC exit of the Kanetsu Expressway, offers gentle slopes, snow parks, and the Maiko Kogen Hotel. Meanwhile, the Nagamine Area houses the main Day Centre and a 2,800-meter gondola lift. At the pinnacle lies the Okusoechi Area, renowned for its superior snow conditions and captivating mountain vistas, accessed by the gondola or the Nagamine Number 2 quad lift. Visitors can relish official tree-run courses and numerous ungroomed runs.
Originally established in 1959 as Ishiuchi Korakuen and evolving through various names before becoming Maiko Snow Resort in 2012, this resort is an integral part of Minamiuonuma City and Yuzawa Town’s collective of over 20 ski areas.
Address: 2056-108 Maiko, Minamiuonuma, Niigata 949-6423, Japan
Ski Resorts in Gifu
If you are staying in the Kansai area near Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya, the ski resorts in Gifu are easily accessible for you! The slopes here are quieter than in the previously mentioned ski resorts but just as beautiful.
Dynaland Ski Area
Nestled on the eastern slopes of Dainichigatake in Gifu Prefecture’s northern region, Dynaland stands as a well-connected ski area alongside Takasu Snow Park. Together, they offer 30 courses, over 40 kilometers of trails, and diverse tree runs. With an array of snow-making machines ensuring optimal conditions, this ski haven has operated since 1972, previously known as Dainichidake Kokusai before adopting the dynamic name.
Part of the Takasu Mountains network, including Takasu Snow Park, Hirugano Kogen, White Pia Takasu, and Washigatake, Dynaland contributes to the vibrant ski culture in the region, drawing enthusiasts from Nagoya, Gifu, Shiga, Kyoto, and Osaka regions, primarily accessed by car or bus due to limited train links.
Address: 3035-2 Takasucho Nishibora, Gujo, Gifu 501-5305, Japan
Tucked away in a remote mountain expanse, Shirakawa-go Village is a captivating historical settlement showcasing the iconic Gassho-style farmhouses. Despite not being a ski resort, it ranks among Japan’s top winter destinations, casting a spell with its scenic allure.
This UNESCO World Heritage site transforms into a winter wonderland when blanketed in snow, offering a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural legacy.
For those skiing in the area, a visit to this serene village is a must. Its distinctive architecture and tranquil winter scenery make it a captivating stop on any winter adventure in the region.
Ski Resorts in Yamagata
Another prime location for skiing in Japan is Yamagata. This region has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the great connection via the Yamagata Shinkansen trains. Great snowfall, beautiful mountain ranges and over 20 ski resorts for all levels are waiting for you here.
Zao Onsen Zao Shiki No
Zao Onsen stands as one of Tohoku’s expansive snow resort areas, renowned for its diverse slopes and courses. A highlight includes the renowned Yokokura no Kabe, offering pristine powder snow for uninterrupted snow sports amid breathtaking surroundings.
Visitors can relish the exceptional quality of powder snow while taking in the mesmerizing “juhyo,” stunning ice formations adorning trees, and the awe-inspiring panoramic vistas.
Address: 1272 Zaoonsen, Yamagata, 990-2301, Japan
The ultimate Japanese winter getaway is waiting for you in Ginzan Onsen. Nestled in Obanazawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, Ginzan Onsen is a picturesque hot spring area known for its serene ambiance. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Japan in winter. Translating to “silver mine hot spring,” this charming locale captivates visitors with its tranquil atmosphere and rich history.
Ski Resorts in Iwate
If you are looking to escape the crowds of winter tourists, consider some of the smaller ski resorts in Iwate. The area is not as busy as other ski hotspots in Japan, which means you will be able to enjoy skiing on untouched fresh snow! Plus, the area is also famous for its traditional onsen culture – pure relaxation!
Shizukuishi Ski Resort
Shizukuishi Ski Resort in the stunning Iwate Prefecture remains a hidden treasure amid Japan’s ski landscape. Once the stage for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, this resort boasts the impressive 4.5km-long Men’s downhill course and a transformed women’s Super-G trail into an affordable Cat Skiing zone.
While operations are confined to Saturdays, lucky visitors might revel in over 700 meters of open, powder-filled vertical terrain.
For the adventurous at heart, the resort offers sunrise cat tours, a rare opportunity for a 9km round trip to the summit of Kotakakurayama, providing an unforgettable skiing experience back down.
With its remarkable offerings and breathtaking scenery, Shizukuishi Ski Resort stands as an off-the-beaten-path delight for avid skiers seeking memorable adventures.
Address: Takakura Onsen, Shizukuishi, Iwate District, Iwate 020-0584, Japan
Your Japan Travel Checklist – Don’t forget this before you go!
- Travel Insurance: Get comprehensive travel insurance to ensure peace of mind during your trip. I always get World Nomads travel insurance.
- JR Japan Railway Pass: Opt for the JR Japan Railway Pass for convenient and cost-effective travel across the country.
- Travel Sim Card: Arrange for a reliable travel SIM card or data plan to stay connected throughout your journey.
- Best Japan Hotel Deals: Explore and book the best hotel deals in Japan suitable for your preferences and budget.
- Local Language Basics: Familiarize yourself with basic Japanese phrases for easy communication.
- Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Pack weather-appropriate clothing, especially if you’re visiting during different seasons.
- Itinerary and Maps: Plan your itinerary and download offline maps to navigate smoothly, even without an internet connection.
- Local Cuisine Exploration: Research and list down must-try local cuisines and dining spots in the areas you’ll visit.
- Emergency Contact Details: Save emergency contact numbers and addresses, including your country’s embassy or consulate in Japan.
- Travel Adapters and Chargers: Ensure you have the right adapters and chargers to keep your devices powered up during your stay. Recommended adapter for Japan here.
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