Where To Ski In Japan


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 go snowboarding in Japan? In deciding which ski resort to go to for your next Japan snowboarding or ski holiday, everyone has different factors that are important. 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. If you're looking to go Japan snowboarding or skiing somewhere off the beaten path, see the hidden gem Japanese ski resorts.
  • A list of ski resorts in Japan by island, region and prefecture/sub-prefecture and whether each ski area is a destination resort or just suited to a day trip.
  • The best Japan powder skiing regions are more about Japow zones rather than individual ski resorts.
  • See our Japan ski resort statistics which includes the proportion of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, resort size and snowfall.
  • See our ski Japan family page for information on family friendly Japanese ski resorts.
  • See the tables below regarding accommodation and culture.
  • See the information below regarding Japan snow quantity and quality, resort size, and Japan ski resorts where off-piste skiing and snowboarding is possible.
  • If you can't find the answer to where to ski in Japan on Powderhounds.com you can also ask the brains trust on our Japan Powder Hounds Forum on Facebook.

Japan Ski Resorts: Accommodation, Culture and Village Vibe

It’s difficult to find a Japan snowboard or ski destination 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 an impossibly tricky one and there only a couple of ski resorts that provide the westernised elements whilst still retaining some of the essence of Japan.

Self-contained accommodation at Japan ski resorts is somewhat 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).

 ~  yes no  yes no  no  yes 
yes  yes yes yes yes  yes ~
yes no yes ~ no yes yes
 yes yes yes no yes yes  yes
yes yes yes ~ no yes  ~
yes no  no no  no yes  ~
Tomamu yes no   ~  no  ~
 yes ~  no  ~ ~  ~  ~
Arai  yes  no  no  yes no   yes yes
Hakuba yes   yes  yes  no yes   yes yes 
Madarao no yes   ~  ~  ~  yes yes 
Myoko Kogen
yes   yes  ~  ~ yes  yes  yes
Naeba  ~  ~ no   yes  ~ no   ~
Nozawa Onsen
yes yes   yes  ~ yes   yes yes
Shiga Kogen
 no no no yes  no ~ yes
Zao Onsen
no no no   yes yes   no yes
~ = partially or somewhat, no = no or negligible 
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 are incredibly limited. For information on the ski resorts that provide ski and snowboard lessons in English (group and private) and child care, and other tips on a family oriented snow holiday, see the family friendly Japan ski resorts page.

Using Your Epic Pass in Japan

If you want to make the most of your Epic Pass or Epic Pass Australia, you have a couple of options.

You can use your Epic Pass at Hakuba Valley to ski at any of the Hakuba ski resorts for 5 consecutive days. See the Hakuba skiing page for more information.

Rusutsu Japan is also accessible off the Epic Pass (and Epic Australia Pass and Epic Local Pass) for a total of 5 consecutive days, with no blackout dates.

Using Your Ikon Pass in Japan

If you want to get more out of your Ikon Pass in Japan, there are a couple of options.

IKON passholders can use their passes at Niseko to get an Niseko All Mountain 5 or 7 days pass, or up to 4 days on Ikon Session Pass, which will be valid through this season, with only the days you actually use are counted until it reaches your maximum. IKON Passholders can also purchase All Mountain pass at 25% off for family and friends, maximum for 8 or 10 days (total per resorts) depending on your IKON Pass.

You can also use your Ikon Pass at Lotte Arai with the same conditions (5 or 7 days) with no black out dates.

Using Your Indy Pass in Japan

There are four resorts in the Tohoku region of Japan that you can use your Indy Pass: Okunakayama; Geto Kogen; Tazawako; Hachimantai Shimokura; Hachimantai Panorama; and Aomori Spring.

There are Indy Pass packages available to make the most of your pass.

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, Kiroro and Niseko ski resort in Hokkaido receive the most snowfall and are 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. 

The Akita ski resorts of Ani and Tazawako are also buffeted by raging storms that bring huge amounts of snow along with howling winds.

Tenjindaira is also renowned for huge snowfalls, although no one really measures it.

Conversely there are some ski areas with little natural snowfall that rely on artificial snow such as Karuizawa, which is better known for its proximity to Tokyo.

Japanese Ski Resorts Size

The quintessential Japanese ski resort is 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 western USA where the average size of a ski resort is 800 hectares and western 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 18 different ski areas. In essence, just use the statistics as a very rough guide to the size of the resorts.

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 road trip, or via a hosted and guided multi-resort Japan ski tour.