Japan Powder Skiing Regions

Japan Powder Skiing Regions

Road Tripping to Score Japow

People interested in Japan powder skiing often ask our opinion on the best ski resort for chasing the highly renowned Japow. It’s a tricky answer because whilst we can identify many Japanese ski areas or resorts that are rave worthy as hidden powder gems, we find that they only keep us entertained for a day or two before we want to move on. So true powder hounds should be thinking more in terms of Japow regions, rather than the best individual Japan ski resorts. Road tripping is the best way to score Japan powder.

You can get a rental car with an easy to use English GPS and drive around Japan, so if you have a good nose for sniffing out powder and other route-finding skills, some snow safety nous, and don’t mind moving hotels frequently, then a DIY road trip opens up fantastic Japan powder skiing opportunities. Or an ideal way to explore the best Japan ski regions is on a multi-resort Japan ski tour where a guide drives you around and takes you to the finest Japan powder skiing spots.

Best Japan Ski Areas / Regions for Powder Skiing

Central Hokkaido Powder Skiing
The region of Central Hokkaido is a pretty obvious one for powder skiing and riding. Any Japow is generally fantastic, but Central Hokkaido is top of the pops when it comes to the ultimate snow quality. This region is pretty well known these days, so getting in-bounds freshies at some of the high profile ski resorts is becoming more difficult, but it’s still easy enough at some of the lesser known ski areas. Or combine lift-accessed riding with a bit of ski touring/split-boarding or full backcountry, and the world is your oyster.

Two areas that you could use as a base are Furano (Furano Accommodation) and Asahikawa (Asahikawa hotels). See the Central Hokkaido skiing page for info on road distances to the ski areas from Furano and Asahikawa. You could also use Tomamu or Sahoro as a base for a few days, or book hotels at the last minute (through us hopefully!) at Asahidake or Kurodake if the weather looks like it will be kind.

You can DIY road trip these areas, but having a guide is ideal especially at areas like Asahidake (there are lots of flat spots) and Kurodake (it could be easy to get cliffed out), and guides are knowledgeable about where to go depending on storm patterns or when the winds are raging (when ropeways can close) or when Kurodake may be open generally. And backcountry touring is so much easier with a guide.

Central Hokkaido Ski Tours

Otaru Hokkaido
Otaru is a seaside town so the nearby ski resorts have coastal snow, but cold temperatures tend to keep the powder very dry. What sets the Otaru region apart as a Japan powder skiing destination is the massive volumes of snowfall. For example, Kiroro Ski Resort cites a statistic of 21 metres of snow per season! In addition to the high profile Kiroro, the Otaru area includes some lesser known ski areas and small lower elevation ski resorts. One stand-out feature of the town is the good value Otaru accommodation. Or you could stay in a Sapporo hotel if you wanted more nightlife.

Otaru Ski/Snowboard Tours

Otaru Ski Areas Map

Northern Tohoku – Aomori and Iwate
The northern Tohoku area is on the cusp of being fully discovered so get there ASAP. This region incorporates the Iwate ski resorts along with nearby Tazawako and Ani in the Akita Prefecture, and the Aomori ski areas. Depending on how many ski areas you want to hit up, you may need to pick multiple lodgings to base yourself. In Iwate, bases could include Morioka City, Shizukuishi, Amihari or Appi. See the Iwate skiing page for more information on resort locations and road distances and accommodation options.

In Aomori Prefecture you could base yourself at the Aomori Spring hotel for a few days, although Hakkoda is 66km away so you might also want a couple of nights stay at Hakkoda. You’ll absolutely want to have a guide at Hakkoda.

Northern Tohoku Tours

Northern Tohoku Ski Areas Map

Nagano is potentially the most popular district for skiing in Japan with lots of big names such as Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba, so it seems an unlikely choice as one of the best Japan powder skiing zones. And just over the prefectural border is the popular Myoko Kogen in Niigata.

However in Nagano Prefecture and the Niigata area west of Nagano City, there are small relatively unknown ski resorts along with some that are moderately trafficked, and a huge plus for this ski region is the very high concentration of resorts.

There are various Nagano snow tours or you could do your own road trip. Good areas to base yourself could include Madarao, Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen, and Myoko Kogen. On your road trip you could also include a few days of guiding of the famed Hakuba backcountry.

Map of Nagano & Niigata Ski Areas

Niseko Region
Niseko seems a very questionable spot to make the list for the best Japan powder skiing regions, considering that it’s the most popular Japanese ski resort where the in-bounds and sidecountry powder is chewed up rather quickly. Even the once highly coveted nearby ski resorts of Rusutsu and Kiroro (and those near Otaru) have gained somewhat in popularity. Nevertheless, the Niseko area has so much going for it for powder hounds. Combine a bit of resort skiing at Rusutsu and Kiroro, some riding off the back of Niseko, other Niseko backcountry touring, and some Niseko cat skiing, and your Japow appetite should be adequately satiated.

Ideally you’d get together your own group for a customised multi-day tour of the area (send us an email if you want some advice on this) and there are also guided day tours and group resort-based multi-day trips.

Niseko Tours

Map of Niseko Ski Areas 

Minakami Gunma
Minakami in the Gunma Prefecture is relatively undiscovered by international skiers and snowboarders. For backcountry enthusiasts, your main goal is Tenjindaira, which we rate for the best skiing in Japan for powder hounds, but you need weather on your side for Tenjin. For backup days there are a few other good powder chasing destinations within driving distance that can be explored as part of a Tenjindaira Backcountry Tour.

Map of Minakami/Tenjin Area