Japan is a snow paradise for skiers. Its ski areas are much smaller than their European counterparts and at a lower altitude, but the conditions are unique. It’s a country full of hidden treasures, perfect for a family ski trip or seeking out new thrills. We’ve drawn up a small list of must-see ski resorts.
Japan’s hidden treasure is its snow-crested mountains which cover three-quarters of the country. Its picturesque mountain villages are perfect for families with young children learning to ski for the first time, as well as extreme thrill-seekers chasing that adrenaline rush.
There are many islands and regions to discover. There’s Hokkaido at the northern tip of Japan, as well as Kansai, Chūgoku, and Tōhoku
Skiing in Japan on the island of Hokkaido
The island of Hokkaido is located at the northernmost tip of Japan. It’s home to many fantastic ski areas and has unforgettable powder cover! It’s the second largest island in Japan and every year is blanketed by mountains of snow. There are five ski resorts there in total, including the famousNiseko ski resort. The choice is yours!
– Niseko:A ski resort which boasts breathtaking scenery with a view of Mount Yotei!
Niseko is home to three resorts: Annapuri, Higashiyama and Hirafu. They have alpine and cross-country skiing itineraries on offer. You’ll be able to explore 55 kms of ski runs on 31 ski lifts, with the altitude ranging from 300 metres to 1,200 metres.
To get there, you can board the JR Hakodate train line that runs from Sapporo to Niseko and takes roughly one hour. If you’re coming from Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen line, and change to the JR Hokuto line to join the Hakodate line. You can get to the slopes in no time and all and start carving down the powdery mountain. For more transport and logistics details, click here.
– Furano: a family ski trip
This ski resort is very family-friendly and is located east of Sapporo, with an altitude of between 245 m to 1,202 m. It has 950 m of altitude variation, 10 ski lifts and 30 kms ski runs. You can enjoy a wide range of activities as a family, including skiing, dogsledding excursions and snow rafting. You’ll have a blast!
– Rusutsu: in between Niseko and Lake Tōya
Rusutsu is a stone’s throw from Niseko and Lake Tōya. It stretches across three mountains and has various levels of ski runs to choose from. This ski area is famous for its powder and perfect slopes. Enjoy the ski runs that stretch over 42 kms at an altitude ranging from 400 m to 994 maccessible via around 20 ski lifts.
– Tomamu and the ice village
The Tomamu ski resort is in the centre of Hokkaido and has an altitude ranging from 520 m to 1,239 m. This resort has a variety of accommodation options and includes blue, red and black ski runs. Don’t miss out on a visit to the ice village where the temperature can reach -20°! You can sleep on an ice bed, drink from ice cups and admire the ice sculptures in this ephemeral village. Children will love the natural ice skating rink and ice slide. This is a must see!
– Asahidake – on the crest of a volcano
A unique ski lift takes you up to Mount Asahi, the highest active volcano in Hokkaido. The Asahidake resort is open from early December to early May. Its highest point is 1,600 metres. The volcano is famous for not only excellent ski conditions, but also the stunning scenery waiting to be discovered on various hiking trails.
Skiing in Japan – the Kansai region
The Kansai region has 17 ski areas, 83 ski lifts and 130 kilometres of ski runs.
- Hachi Kita Kogen
This is the region’s largest ski area, although it’s small compared to its European counterparts. Snowboard enthusiasts have 20 kms of ski runs to enjoy at this large ski resort with an altitude elevation of 661 metres.
Skiing in Japan – the Chūgoku region
The Chūgoku region has 11 small and intimate ski areas which offer 60 kms of runs and 36 ski lifts.
– Utopia Saioto
Utopia Saioto is the largest ski area in the region and can be found in the Hiroshima prefecture. Alpine skiers and snowboarders will have 12 kms of ski runs ranging from 735 m to 1,150 m altitude to explore.
Skiing in Japan – the Chūbu region
The Chūbu region is home to 77 ski areas which span 887 kms of ski runs, with its highest point reaching 2,300 metres altitude.
– Ishiuchi Maruyama, Gala and Yuzawa Kogen
These three resorts form one ski area. If you’re a fan of immersive experiences, stay in a minshuku. These are typical Japanese guesthouses where you eat and sleep on the floor. You are also given a comfortable kimono to wear during your stay.
– Gala Yuzawa ski resort
The Joetsu shinkansen, which is included in the JR rail pass, takes you from Tokyo directly to the Gala Yuzawa ski resort in the Niigata prefecture in just two hours. It’s ideal for a day trip for enthusiastic skiers set on being the first in line to secure their ski passes! The mountain features 17 ski runs and 11 ski lifts.Its ski area is known for being beginner friendly thanks to its gentle slopes.
Naeba has already hosted stages in the World Cup several times.This ski resort is situated on the east slope of Mount Takenoko and is one of the most popular resorts in Japan due to its proximity to Tokyo and good snow cover. Skiers can choose from a plethora of accommodation options or stay in ryokans, which often come with thermal baths which are ideal for a relaxing après ski moment. You can also access the Tashiro, Mitsumata and Kagura ski areas from Naeba.
Skiing in Japan – the Tōhoku region
Tōhoku is situated in the northern part of the main island of Honshu and has 29 ski areas.
This ski resort has been operating since 1920 and has kept its charm from a bygone era. It’s one of the most famous destinations in Japan for mountain tourism. It boasts untouched nature and striking landscapes. In winter you’ll have the opportunity to spot “snow monsters”, or snow-covered trees which have a startling appearance. You can also enjoy the revigorating thermal baths – there’s nothing better after a sublime day of skiing.
Shizukuishi ski resort
Shizukuishi is found in the northern region of Iwate. This resort hosted the 1993 Alpine Ski World Championships. Just like in Naeba, there are ski runs for expert skiers. Children will also be delighted with its snow playground featuring snow slides, toboggan runs and much more.
To help you best organise your trip, we’ll give you some tips in our article “How to organise your ski trip to JAPAN“.