Where To Ski In Japan

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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.
  • The best Japan powder skiing regions is 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.

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 a 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).

 
Luxury
accom
Budget
accom
Self
contained
accom
Japanese
culture
Village/
town
English
widely
spoken
 Onsen
Asahidake
 ~  yes no  yes no  no  yes 
Furano
 ~  yes yes yes yes  yes ~
Kiroro
yes no yes ~ no yes yes
Niseko
 yes yes yes no yes yes  yes
Rusutsu
yes yes ~ ~ no yes  ~
Sahoro
yes no  no no  no yes  ~
Tomamu yes no   ~  no  ~
Appi Kogen
 yes ~  no  ~ ~  ~  ~
Arai Resort  yes  no  no  yes no   yes yes
Hakuba yes   yes  yes  no yes   yes yes 
Madarao no 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.

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. 

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!

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 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 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.

Where Can You Ski in Japan 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 a positive implication may be 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.

Here are some of the spots to ski in Japan off-piste.

 
Off-piste
riding
permitted
Off-piste
riding
tolerated
Backcountry
riding
tolerated
Asahidake
no  yes    yes 
Furano
yes yes yes
Kamui Links
 yes yes  yes 
Kiroro
yes yes yes 
Niseko
yes yes yes 
Moiwa  yes yes  yes 
Rusutsu
yes yes  yes
Sahoro
no yes yes 
Sapporo Kokusai
no   yes yes 
Sapporo Teine
no  yes  yes 
Tomamu yes yes yes 
Appi Kogen
yes yes  yes
Geto Kogen  yes  yes  yes
Hakuba* yes  yes  yes
Hakkoda  yes  yes yes 
Kagura
 yes yes   yes
Madarao yes yes yes
Akakura Myoko Kogen
no ~ yes 
Naeba no ~ yes 
Nozawa Onsen
~ yes yes 
Shiga Kogen
~ ~ ~
Shizukuishi no no yes 
Togakushi  no ~
Tangram  ~  ~  no
Zao Onsen
no yes  yes
~ = partially or somewhat
Off-piste riding tolerated = ski patrol turn a blind eye to going off-piste
Backcountry skiing and snowboarding tolerated = ski patrol turn a blind eye to going BC
* all the Hakuba ski areas vary somewhat