Japan is a great place for skiing, and there is no shortage of ski resorts to choose from. With a range of terrain from beginner slopes to expert-level runs, there is something for everyone. As the snow season draws to a close in spring, the ski resorts are arguably at their best, when there are fewer visitors. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort stay, a family-friendly destination, or a more off-the-beaten-path experience, Japan has it all. Here are some of the best ski resort destinations in Japan during winter and spring.
International Hakuba, Nagano
One of the two most popular destinations, along with Niseko, Hakuba is a great area to get to given its proximity to Tokyo. Flocked with Australian tourists on their long summer holidays, one wouldn’t think Hakuba is a Japanese town in winter. To provide services for tourists, who make up the majority of seasonal visitors, lots of restaurants and accommodations are foreign owned, with staff being fluent in English, making Hakuba a super English-friendly area for snow sports. With 10 different ski resorts in the area, visitors can enjoy a variety of courses and snow quality.
Hakuba also has a variety of cuisines to offer, as well as wonderful onsen to rejuvenate after a day of shredding. With a Facebook group to answer questions you’re unsure of, Hakuba offers a great community to be in on your winter holiday. Our partner at Hakuba Hotel Group, the largest hospitality company in the area, is also available to accommodate your stay and other requests.
Relaxing Nozawa Onsen, Nagano
Given its name, Nozawa will be ideal for snow enthusiasts who equally enjoy bathing in natural hot spring water. With thirteen public onsen, visitors are bound to explore many different water types and onsen facilities that are hard to come by outside of Japan. However, snow activities are just as abundant with multiple courses, a Snow Park to train tricks and a zip line on the snow. Accommodations are mostly Japanese guesthouses, allowing you to fully immerse in rich Japanese culture and hospitality.
Snowy Niseko, Hokkaido
Overshadowing the equally famous Hakuba, Niseko might take the crown as the best snow sport area of Japan. While accessibility can’t be compared to Hakuba, for Niseko is up north and not in the Honshu area, seasoned skiers can make the best of their trip here. Roughly two hours from Sapporo, Niseko has been well developed into an inclusive snow sport area that is covered in snow for half a year. The village offers great adventures for passionate winter sports fans, with options ranging from cat skiing, back country, to snowshoeing and rafting. The area is also active outside of snow sports, with nightlife and abundant gourmet experiences. Do your research in advance to book activities as they require reservations well in advance. For those who want an all inclusive recreational trip, check out our partner at Setsu Niseko for a beautiful and luxurious stay.
Luxurious Appi Kogen, Iwate
For a luxurious stay skiing in style, check out Tohoku’s best Appi Kogen. Surrounded by a series of three ANA hotels at different price points, Appi Kogen and ANA hotels won World Ski Awards and World Luxury Hotel Awards last year, so they’re offering incredible inclusive packages for visitors. Tohoku, while not as well known for accessibility as Hakuba, or amazing snow fall like Niseko, is located in one of the coldest areas in Japan. If you’re keen to learn about nature during your stay, there are multiple snowshoe tours offering knowledge and views of the ecosystem of nature, forests and animals in Appi Kogen besides the 21 ski courses. Other activities like glamping or tennis are also available for visits year round in Appi Kogen. If you’re not keen on the crowd, Appi Kogen is ideal for spacious snow sports.
Hip Naeba, Niigata
Kingdom of rice and sake, Niigata boasts equally wonderful snowfall and snow activities in the winter. Located in the southern region of Yuzawa Town in Niigata Prefecture, Naeba is a ski area with 12 ski lifts. Home to Fuji Rock Restival in the summer since 1999, Naeba hosts multiple other events and is known as one of the most popular ski areas in Japan. Connected to Kagura’s Tashiro Area of by Dragondola, the longest gondola lift in Japan at 5,481m, the share lift pass available allows visitors to access multiple courses and levels. A Snow Park is also available, allowing visitors to skill up while immersing in the rich cultural leader of Naeba.
Local Minakami, Gunma
Bordering both snowy Niigata and Nagano, Gunma is less known among foreign visitors due to more difficult accessibility. Without a car, Gunma ski resorts might be hard to reach. Located close to Yuzawa Onsen, home to aforementioned Naeba, Minakami offers its own flare with Pokemon-themed, children-based areas and activities, ideal for families to visit. Adventurous visitors can also try outdoor sports such as white-water rafting, Tanigawadake Ropeway and bungee jumping.
Photo credits: Hakuba Hotel Group, Nozawa Onsen, Niseko Vilage, Appi, Prince Hotels, Minakami Kogen Ski Resort
Van Anh Hoang