Moiwa Ski Resort, access from Niseko Annupuri (separate lift ticket)
Moiwa Ski Resort, access from Niseko Annupuri (separate lift ticket)
Kiroro Resort - is a fabulous family resort with some hidden powder stashes
Kiroro Resort - is a fabulous family resort with some hidden powder stashes
Niskeo Hokkaido is the most popular ski resort in Japan for westerners
Niskeo Hokkaido is the most popular ski resort in Japan for westerners
Rusutsu is a great family ski resort & has some of the best tree skiing in Japan
Rusutsu is a great family ski resort & has some of the best tree skiing in Japan
Asakidake has a single ropeway and no on-piste skiing
Asakidake has a single ropeway and no on-piste skiing
Hakkoda is a backcountry adventure area in northern Honshu
Hakkoda is a backcountry adventure area in northern Honshu
Nozawa Onsen is a great ski area with a special cultural feel
Nozawa Onsen is a great ski area with a special cultural feel
Japan Snow Monsters at Zao Onsen
Japan Snow Monsters at Zao Onsen
Kokusai ski resort is one of Sapporo's local ski areas - great powder stashes
Kokusai ski resort is one of Sapporo's local ski areas - great powder stashes
Myoko Kogen in Honshu is made up of several ski areas - great for families
Myoko Kogen in Honshu is made up of several ski areas - great for families
Kurodake in Hokkaido is for experienced backcountry skiers
Kurodake in Hokkaido is for experienced backcountry skiers
Kagura in Honshu is a great ski area for intermediates
Kagura in Honshu is a great ski area for intermediates
Shiga Kogen is a massive ski area great for beginners & intermediates
Shiga Kogen is a massive ski area great for beginners & intermediates
Appi Kogen in Hokkaido is an excellent family resort
Appi Kogen in Hokkaido is an excellent family resort
Chisenupuri is a small ski area near Niseko operated by the army
Chisenupuri is a small ski area near Niseko operated by the army
Furano in Hokkaido has some of the steepest piste terrain in Japan
Furano in Hokkaido has some of the steepest piste terrain in Japan
Hakuba in Honshu is huge and very popular with westerners
Hakuba in Honshu is huge and very popular with westerners
Kamui Links - central Hokkaido is a small ski area with some great off-piste
Kamui Links - central Hokkaido is a small ski area with some great off-piste
Naeba is a very popular resort for Japanese families and is close to Tokyo
Naeba is a very popular resort for Japanese families and is close to Tokyo
Tiene is another local's ski resort near Sapporo and has some great steeps
Tiene is another local's ski resort near Sapporo and has some great steeps

Where to Ski in Japan

Where To Ski in Japan? Where To Go Snowboarding in Japan? Can’t decide where to ski in Japan or where to go snowboarding in Japan, and which ski resort to go to for your next Japan ski holiday? Everyone has different factors that are important when deciding on where to go skiing or snowboarding in Japan. To aid in your decision making:
  • Check out our Japan ski resort ratings which are broken down into many aspects such as: terrain for different abilities; the powder; lift infrastructure; family-friendliness; cost; nightlife; and the likelihood of finding “freshies”.
  • See our “best skiing in Japan” awards for ideas on which resort may suit your needs.
  • See our Japan ski resort statistics which includes the proportion of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, resort size and snowfall.
  • See the tables below regarding accommodation, culture, and family friendliness.
  • See the information below regarding Japan snow quantity and quality, resort size, and Japan ski resorts where off-piste skiing and snowboarding is possible.
Japan Ski Resorts: Accommodation, Culture and Village Vibe It’s difficult to find a ski resort in Japan that ticks all the boxes! For example, we often receive resort advice queries for a Japan ski resort with western traits such as self-contained accommodation (ie an apartment or house for a group) and where English is widely spoken, and where there’s also plenty of Japanese culture and it's not overrun with westerners. This is a tricky one and there only a couple of ski resorts that provide the westernised elements whilst still retaining the essence of Japan.

Self-contained accommodation at Japan ski resorts is rare; most resorts just have pensions and hotels. Finding a resort with a great village or town that’s rich in traditional Japanese culture can also be a little difficult. Many Japanese ski resorts were purpose built during the bubble era and just consist of huge resort hotels. The culture found at these ski resorts is more “modern Japanese” as opposed to what westerners perceive as traditional Japanese culture (as found at Nozawa Onsen or Zao Onsen).

 
Luxury
accom
Budget
accom
Self
contained
accom
Japanese
culture
Village/
town
English
widely
spoken
 Onsens
Asahidake
 
           
Furano
 




 
Kiroro
~


~


~ 
Niseko



~


 
Rusutsu



~

~
 ~
Sahoro
~

~



 ~
Tomamu ~     ~      ~
Appi Kogen
      ~
     ~
Hakuba       ~
     
Madarao  ~   ~    ~  ~  
Myoko Kogen
  ~          
Naeba ~ ~
  ~
~
   ~
Nozawa Onsen
     ~     ~
 
Shiga Kogen
         ~    
Zao Onsen
             
~ = partially or somewhat
NB Budget accommodation refers to backpacker style accommodation. Some ski resorts also have pensions that offer low cost accommodation.

Family Friendliness, Kids' Ski School
Finding a Japanese ski resort that caters well to English speaking children is somewhat difficult, and if you also want a Japanese cultural experience, your choices will be very limited.

 
Kids
activities
Child care Child
care in
English
Kids group
lessons in
English
Private
lessons in
English
Asahidake
         
Furano
Kiroro

Niseko





Rusutsu





Sahoro





Tomamu

~


Appi Kogen


?


Hakuba




Myoko Kogen
~




Naeba




Nozawa Onsen





Shiga Kogen


~


Zao Onsen





~ = partially or somewhat

Japan Snow Volumes Only some of the Japanese ski resorts report the average snowfall per season, so it’s not possible to compare the volume of snow across all the resorts.

Of those that report the statistic, Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido receives the most snowfall and is well known for the deep powder. The cold weather systems that move across the Sea of Japan from Siberia are responsible for the deep dry powder. Nearby Rusutsu also receives abundant snowfall (14 metres), as does Asahidake (14 metres).

Sapporo Kokusai probably gets more snow than Niseko but it’s not well recorded. Ditto for Hakkoda where there are no buffering mountains between Hakkoda and the Sea of Japan, so Hakkoda cops the weather and snow in full force. .

A fraction further south is Appi Kogen. The statistic for the average snowfall per season is cited as 8 metres, but the true amount is much more than that because Appi records the amount of snowfall each day after they’ve squashed it down with the grooming machine. Only in Japan!

Japanese Ski Resorts Size In general the Japan ski resorts are very small compared to Canada, USA or Europe, and are more akin to the size of New Zealand ski resorts. Of course it’s difficult to make accurate comparisons because of the methods used to measure the statistic. For most of the ski resorts in Japan, the size only includes the piste and not the off-piste areas.

According to the Japan ski resort statistics, Niseko is the largest Japanese ski resort at 870 hectares (although the off-piste terrain is probably included in this stat). Compare this to the USA where the average size of a ski resort is 800 hectares and Canada where the average is about 1,000 hectares.

Shiga Kogen has the statistic of 607 hectares yet it’s probably larger than Niseko and has 21 different ski areas. When it comes to Japan, in essence just use the statistics as a very rough guide to the size of the resorts.

So considering that most of the Japanese ski resorts are small or medium sized at most, a lot of the resorts don't provide adequate variety to hold the attention of advanced and expert riders for more than a few days. And some of the small Japan ski resorts are just good for one day. As a consequence, lots of powder hounds like to sample multiple ski areas, either via a DIY train or car safari, or via a hosted and guided multi-resort tour (see the bottom of this page for an overview of Japan tours).

Which Japan Ski Resorts Can you Ski Off-Piste?
Is Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan Allowed?

As a very general rule, the Hokkaido ski areas have a much more relaxed approach to off-piste riding than the Honshu ski resorts. There are lots of Honshu ski areas that are very old school where off-piste riding is frowned upon, whilst riding under a chair lift is sacrilege! The implications of skiing off-piste at a resort where it's not allowed include being disrespectful, losing your lift pass, and potential insurance consequences, but the positive implication is that you'll score more freshies than you'll know what to do with.

The information below is provided as a guide only. Skiing off-piste and out-of-bounds has inherent risks. Do so at your own risk and take appropriate avalanche equipment and exercise avalanche precautions. At all Japan ski resorts, backcountry riding is something you absolutely do at your own risk, and any rescue required will be at your cost. Remember if you don’t have the backcountry know-how, you are putting others at risk as well as yourself.

 
Off-piste
riding
permitted
Off-piste
riding
tolerated
Decent
off-piste
Backcountry
riding
tolerated

Asahidake
       
Furano
~
~
Kamui Links
       
Kiroro



 
Kurodake        
Niseko



 
Moiwa        
Rusutsu



 
Sahoro



 
Sapporo Kokusai
       
Sapporo Teine
       
Tomamu


 
Appi Kogen



 
Hakuba*

~
 
Hakkoda        
Kagura
       
Myoko Kogen



 
Naeba
~

 
Nozawa Onsen



 
Shiga Kogen

~
~
 ~
Zao Onsen



 
~ = partially or somewhat
Off-piste riding tolerated = do ski patrol turn a blind eye to going off-piste
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding tolerated = do ski patrol turn a blind eye to going off-piste
* all the Hakuba ski areas vary somewhat

HOKKAIDO OFF-PISTE SKIING AND THE BACKCOUNTRY

Asahidake
Asahidake officially recommends that you remain on the cat tracks due to potential avalanche risk. Of course, assess the risk for yourself but we can’t imagine anyone would ski at Asahidake and actually stay on the trails. Backcountry skiing is also at your own discretion. There’s no ski patrol out and about to stop you, but this also means that patrollers are not out there monitoring conditions or doing any control work.

Furano
It is strictly forbidden to ski off-piste or in the trees at Furano which is a major detractor for this ski resort. It is heavily policed and patrollers will chase you if you needs be. That being said, if you can appear invisible, there is some amazing slack-country terrain to revel in at Furano.

Kamui Links
A very relaxed approach to off-piste and tree (and bamboo) skiing is a major plus for Kamui Links. Skiing out-of-bounds is not heavily policed, although there are plenty of warning signs to indicate that “you may die if you ski here”.

Kiroro
At Kiroro there are lots of ropes in some areas but the patrollers don’t seem to police going backcountry or off-piste.

Moiwa
No need to stay on the piste (gelande) at Moiwa. You can go for it!

Niseko
At Niseko, skiing and boarding off-piste and in the trees is permitted. Slackcountry and backcountry access is allowed so long as you enter through one of the gates, so rope ducking is not kosher. When the backcountry gates are closed it’s because avalanche danger is high. Unfortunately there’s a culture at Niseko amongst some riders that it’s OK to go into these areas when the gates are closed and without a beacon, shovel and probe. It’s not OK!

Rusutsu
With regards to in-bounds tree skiing at Rusutsu, go for it! You probably don’t even need to consider going out-of-bounds as there’s plenty of entertaining action in-bounds.

Sapporo Kokusai
Most off-piste areas at Sapporo Kokusai and the resort boundaries are roped off and there are the associated skull and cross-bones signs to signify the risk. These signs also seem to indicate the best place to duck the rope and there seems to be a very relaxed approach to this.

Sapporo Teine
At Sapporo Teine the resort boundaries are roped off and there are the associated skull and cross-bones signs, but the patrollers will let you go out-of-bounds at your own risk.

Tomamu
Off-piste skiing is permitted at Tomamu so long as you register your intentions, wear a helmet and wear a very unattractive bib. Skiing outside the resort boundaries is not permitted, but is possible if you are very discrete.

HONSHU OFF-PISTE SKIING AND THE BACKCOUNTRY

Appi Kogen
Appi Kogen is still old school Japan. Tree skiing is taboo, as is accessing the side-country, and the patrollers may enforce this unfortunate policy. That being said, getting off the gelande (piste) is possible with lots of discretion and care.

Hakkoda
The whole point of going to Hakkoda is for the backcountry and off-piste skiing and riding, so there are no restrictions here.

Hakuba
Frustratingly, in-bounds off-piste riding is strictly prohibited at Happo-One, and is heavily policed including the use of video surveillance. The trees are generally deciduous so it’s difficult to get away with any bending of the rules. Out-of-bounds is completely prohibited and avalanche risk may be high. If you’re keen to explore the back-country, do a tour with Evergreen.

Tree skiing or any off-piste fun is banned at Hakuba 47. They might even make an announcement over the loud speaker to let you know that you shouldn’t have gone off-piste. Big brother is watching! Cortina is the exception at Hakuba - you're allowed to ski off-piste there.

Kagura
At Kagura there are various warning signs about the risks of riding off-piste, but the patrollers don’t seem to stop anyone from doing it.

Naeba
There is still a bit of angst with off-piste riding at Naeba, but the approach seems to be slowly relaxing. Naeba’s still got a long way to go to be like next-door neighbour Kagura.

Nozawa Onsen
Things have changed significantly at Nozawa Onsen in recent years. Skiing off-piste and tree skiing is now acceptable, and even riding the lift line won’t get you chased by a patroller with a whistle. Slackcountry skiing is another matter, so you’ll need to limbo and be very subtle.

Myoko Kogen
The patrollers at Myoko Kogen are fine with off-piste and backcountry riding at Myoko Akakura, Suginohara, or Seki Onsen. However they don’t like you blatantly skiing under the lifts (but many do it at Akakan anyway!).

Shiga Kogen
Whilst there are signs in many places to indicate that you shouldn’t go off-piste and going under the lifts is completely taboo, the approach to tree skiing at Shiga Kogen is relaxing. The main limitation of Shiga Kogen is that there just aren’t that many places where off-piste riding is possible due to the spacing of the trees.

Zao

There aren’t too many areas at Zao Onsen where you’d want to go off-piste, but in places where the trees are adequately spaced they often have fencing. I didn’t see any patrollers whilst at Zao and hopefully you won’t too!


Japan Hosted & Guided Multi-Resort Ski Safaris  If you are a powder junkie, a multi-resort hosted and guided ski safari could be the best way for you to get your powder fix. Once you have done one of these tours you will find it hard to ever go back to staying at one resort!

The larger resorts like Niseko get inundated with people all chasing that elusive powder. Meanwhile there are hundreds of smaller ski areas in Japan which most people don't visit as they are too little to visit for more than a day or two before getting bored; however they have some amazing powder skiing with little or no competition to get to the powder. A guide can get you to the good stuff fast and safely and another bonus is that they can drive you from one location to another. 

Various tours are designed to cater to different abilities of skiers and snowboarders. 

For an indication of dates and availability, check out the Japan Tours Schedule page.

Japan Ski Safaris Hokkaido Hosted & Guided Ski Safaris 
Hokkaido is famous for what is probably the best powder on earth. Central Hokkaido in particular gets some of the deepest and driest snow. Jump on a tour with a guide to see the best of Hokkaido....
Japan Ski Safari Honshu Honshu Hosted & Guided Ski Safaris 
Honshu is said to have over 500 ski areas. The problem is, trying to find those that have great off-piste skiing on your own is near impossible. Go with an expert who has spent years finding the best Honshu has to offer...
Hokkaido & Honshu Combo Ski Safaris Honshu + Hokkaido Combo Guided Ski Safaris 
If you can't decide which island in Japan to hit & you have a bit of time, why not do both! There are several tours available to choose from between 8 - 18 days in duration for varying abilities....

Progression Tours If you would like to experience different ski areas and at the same time progress your skills to master the deep Japan powder, one of these packages could be ideal for you. These are not instructor courses, they are more about learning skills whilst on the slopes; not in a classroom.

Japan Ski & Snowboard Progression Tors Japan Ski & Snowboard Progression Tours 
Most of these tours are based in a single location with day trips to nearby ski areas and/or runs in the sidecountry & backcountry. Great for solo travelers wanting to hang out with like-minded people...

Ski Tours
Ski Vacation Quotes

Compare Resorts Japan Ski Resort Statistics
Japan Ski Resorts Ratings

Hokkaido Ski Resorts
SW Hokkaido
Niseko
Moiwa
Rusutsu

Sapporo Ski Resorts
Asari
Kiroro
Sapporo Kokusai
Sapporo Teine

Central Hokkaido
Asahidake
Furano
Kamui Ski Links
Kurodake
Sahoro
Tomamu

Honshu Ski ResortsNagano Ski Resorts
Hakuba Ski Resorts
Madarao Kogen
Myoko Kogen Resorts
Nozawa Onsen
Shiga Kogen
Tangram Ski Circus
Togakushi

Bandai Ski Resorts
Alts Bandai
Inawashiro
Nekoma

Yuzawa Resorts
Kagura
Naeba

Yamagata Prefecture
Zao Onsen

Iwate Prefecture
Appi Kogen
Geto Kogen
Hachimantai
Shizukuishi

Aomori Prefecture
Hakkoda

Transport Providers
JR Rail Passes
Train Timetables