You may know Japan as the home of sumo wrestling but did you know that this little country also boasts over 500 ski resorts? You may be asking yourself, “How do they pull this off?? There isn’t enough space!” But, the small country is about 70% mountainous, so there are plenty of ranges and slopes to pick from to set up a ski resort. Regardless of which part of the country you visit, there won’t be a piste course too far out of reach.
The winter Olympics have been hosted here twice—proving that Japan has what it takes to provide world-class runs and world-class snow to anyone and everyone who want to give it a go. When you visit ski resorts in Japan, you’ll be greeted by deep, light powder that is perfect for run after run down the slopes. Beyond the actual sport, the word has spread about the relaxed ambience of these ski areas and in general the culture and cuisine are enough to draw visitors.
Generally, the skiing season in Japan runs from late November to early April. This is when the snow is constantly, predictably amazing at almost every resort. Predictably, this is also when the crowds descend on resorts throughout the country, so plan ahead, and book your tickets well in advance. Resorts in Japan are smaller than the sprawling
Japanese ski resorts generally don’t report the average snowfall per season, so it’s hard to say where the most volume of snow falls in the country. However, the best resorts and snow conditions are found in Northern Japan (think Hokkaido and Tohoku for cities) and in the mountains along the coast of the Sea of Japan (think Niigata and Nagano for this part of the country).
It can be very difficult to find a ski resort in Japan that meets all of your standards. Say you’d like a place with self-contained housing (apartments and hotels for groups), where they speak English, that maintains the true Japanese culture and isn’t overrun with Westerners…you will not likely get all of those tick boxes checked—so learn to compromise. It’s up to you to pick and choose which aspects are the most important to you.
Shiga Kogen is located on the main island and is a special treat for avid skiers who like to mix up the scenery. Why? Because this is a collection of 21 ski resorts that offer ski in – ski out accommodation options. At these resorts, the snow is guaranteed and the power is so deep, you’ll hardly believe it. Beyond the perks we’ve already listed, there’s another non-ski-related perk to coming to this part of Japan. With the ultimate flexibility and perfect skiing conditions like this, true winter sports aficionados couldn’t miss a visit to Shiga Kogen.
If you visit the island of Hokkaido, you can find the ski resort Niseko, which is commonly called “Mt. Fuji of the North.” This is another spot where the snow is guaranteed and it’s also one of the biggest and most popular clusters of ski resorts in Hokkaido. There are seven ski areas in this cluster, but all may be skied on with just one ski pass. Niseko continually is in the top resorts for amount of snowfall received, with over 17 metres of average snowfall a year.
A great way to explore Niseko by using a Ski Doo, or a personal snowmobile. Get a first hand glimpse of what it is like riding a Ski Doo through the mountains of Niseko here:
The Hakuba ski resort is located in the Japanese Alps on the Honshu Island and is a quick and easy ride from Tokyo. This is a favourite haunt of younger skiers and snowboarders because of the lively après-ski scene in this area. In fact, Hakuba has been called the heart and soul of the winter sports movement in Japan. The resort receives a massive amount of snow annually therefore guaranteeing fresh powder and fun for all who are open to exploring the place. The recent attention and popularity means you’ll have more accommodation options, ranging from five-star hotels to traditional Japanese ryokans.
Even the most experienced skiers and snowboarders can have accidents while on holiday. With Cover-More ski travel insurance, you won’t let injury, lost gear or any other mishaps stand in the way of enjoying your winter holiday to its full potential. Before you head to the slopes, be sure to review your insurance policy documents so you know what is and is not covered under your policy.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Bradii