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. Firstly, are you looking to go to a destination resort where you can have an extended stay? Or are you a powder hound that's happy to have multiple bases and move around to get to the smaller ski areas that are ideal for riding fresh lines?

Destination Resort - Which is Best Place to Go Skiing in Japan?

If you want to go to just one resort where there is on-mountain accommodation, lots of amenities including restaurants and potentially some nightlife, want lessons and/or take the kids, then it sounds like you want a destination resort. To aid in your decision making:
  • See our “best skiing in Japan” awards, particularly the top 10 list of overall best ski resorts in Japan as these are all destination resorts.
  • Check out our Japan ski resort ratings which are broken down into many aspects such as: cultural experience; the amount of English spoken; terrain for different abilities; the powder; lift infrastructure; family-friendliness; nightlife; and restaurants. 
  • If you want to take the family, see our ski Japan family page for information on our best rated family friendly Japanese ski resorts.
  • If you're looking for self-contained or luxury accommodation, or for a decent village, see below.
  • Where you can ski in Japan and use your Epic Pass, Ikon Pass or Indy Pass
  • If you can't find the answer regarding where to ski in Japan on Powderhounds.com you can also ask the brains trust on our Japan Powder Hounds Forum on Facebook.

Powder Hounds - Where to Go for Powder Skiing in Japan?

The best way to go powder hunting is to think more in terms of the best Japan powder skiing regions, not individual ski areas, because many are too small to capture the attention of a powder hound for long. On a multi-resort guided Japan ski tour or a DIY skiing in Japan road trip you can head to multiple ski areas in one zone. As a starting point, you may want to pick a few ski areas using these resources:

Finding the Unicorn Japanese Ski Area: Accommodation, Culture and Village

It’s difficult to find a Japan snowboard or ski destination that ticks all the boxes! This is an example of a query we often receive. “Where should I go skiing in Japan? We want to stay in self-contained accommodation (ie an apartment or house) and where English is widely spoken including group lessons for the kids, and where there’s also plenty of Japanese culture and it's not overrun with westerners. A cute village where we can stroll around and choose from lots of restaurants would be good too”. This is an impossibly tricky one and what we call the unicorn Japanese ski resort.

If you want a great cultural experience at a Japanese ski area that’s not full of westerners, you’ll have to make a compromise and forego some or all of these elements: self-contained accommodation (this is rare at unwesternised ski resorts that typically just have pensions and hotels); luxury accommodation with soft comfortable beds; western food; nightlife; group ski and snowboard lessons in English; and child care in English.

Even some of the “Japanese” ski resorts seem a bit devoid of culture because they 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.

There are only a couple of ski resorts that provide some westernised elements whilst still retaining some of the essence of traditional Japan. Nozawa Onsen is one such resort, so it’s not surprising that prime Nozawa lodging books out for Xmas and January one year prior. Zao Onsen also has a small village that ticks a few boxes, whilst Hakuba Tsugaike is also close to finding a nice western/Japanese balance.

Another option to get some nice Japanese culture is to stay in a cute Japanese town (e.g. Shibu Onsen, Yudanaka, Yuzawa, Kuroishi, Katashina, Minakami) or a city (e.g. Otaru, Asahikawa, Sapporo, Nagano, Aomori, Morioka) and drive to different ski areas each day. Or stay in a little onsen village at or near a ski area for a couple of nights at a time.

Our Japan ski resort ratings include categories of ski-in ski-out accommodation (quality and quantity of the slopeside lodging at ski resorts), cultural experience, amount of English spoken, evening restaurants, and nightlife.

To set your expectations, it's also worth being aware of the typical accommodation at Japan ski resorts

Destination Ski Resorts in Hokkaido - Popular with Westerners
 Ski Resort  Self-Contained
or Town?
 Furano  lots  deluxe  small amount  village & town  a few
 Kiroro  yes  yes  no  no  one
 Niseko  lots  lots  lots  yes  yes
 Rusutsu  yes  yes  nearby  no  one
 Sahoro  no  deluxe  no  no  one
 Tomamu  no  deluxe  no  no  one

Destination Ski Resorts in Honshu - Popular with Westerners
 Ski Resort  Self-Contained
Village or Town?   Onsen
 Appi  no  deluxe  no  small village  one
 Hakuba Cortina  few  no  one  no  one
 Hakuba Norikura  few  no  no  small  two
 Hakuba Echoland  lots  no  yes  yes  a few
 Hakuba Goryu  yes  no  a few  small village  one
 Hakuba Happo  yes  limited  negligible  Happo village  various
 Hakuba Tsugaike  negligible  no  one  village  a few
 Lotte Arai  no  yes  no  no  one
 Madarao  various  no  no  village  a few
 Moiwa  negligible  no  a few  not really  various
 Myoko: Akakura  a few  yes  a few  village  lots
 Myoko: Ikenotaira  negligible   deluxe  one  no  one
 Myoko: Suginohara  one  no  a few  small village  one
 Nozawa Onsen  yes  deluxe  no  town  lots
 Shiga Kogen  no  no  no  not really  various
 Zao Onsen  no  deluxe  no  village  lots
As the unicorn Japanese ski resort doesn't really exist, it's not surprising that the lesser known destination ski areas in Japan don't have self-contained accommodation, luxury accommodation, and the only sort of villages are mostly just a collection of pensions and hotels rather than bars, restaurants and shops that you find at the popular westernised ski resorts.

Less Known Destination Ski Areas in Hokkaido
 Ski Area  Self-Contained
or Town?
 Asahidake  no  deluxe  one  no  various
 Kurodake  no  no  no  village  lots
 Mt Racey  no  no  no  quiet town  two
 Nukabira  no  no  no  no  one

Lesser Known Destination Ski Resorts in Honshu 
 Ski Resort  Self-Contained
or Town?
 Alts Bandai  no  deluxe  no  no  one
 Aomori Spring  no  deluxe  no  no  one
 Gran Deco  no  no  no  no  one
 Hachi Panorama  no  deluxe  no  no  one
 Hakkoda  no  no  one  no  a few
 Ishiuchi  neg  no  one  not really  unknown
 Joetsu Kokusai  no  no  no  no  one
 Kagura  unknown  no  unknown  not really  one
 Karuizawa  no  no  no  shopping  one
 Kusatsu Onsen  no  no  no  village  lots
 Manza Onsen  no  no  no  small village  various
 Minowa  no  no  no  no  onsen
 Naeba  no  no  unknown  small village  one
 Oze Iwakura  no  no  no  not really  one
 Ryuoo  no  no  no  not really  various
 Palcall Tsumagoi  no  no  no  no  one
 Shizukuishi  no  no  no  no  one
 Sugadaira  no  no  no  not really  unknown
 Yuzawa Kogen   negligible   deluxe   negligible  town  lots
Or you can look at the Japan ski resort list for other ski areas that are ideal to visit as a day trip.

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 6 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.

Other Japan Indy Pass resorts including Kiroro, Pippu and Yubari but none are geographically close to enable an easy itinerary.

At least Madarao and Togakushi are both within the Nagano Prefecture and just a 45 minute drive from each other.