Renowned for its powder skiing and less crowded than European and North American ski resorts, the shorter flights aren’t the only reason to Ski Japan this season.
Beyond the fresh powder, you will find impeccably polite people, fabulous food, fascinating finds in supermarket aisles, vending machines that have everything from beer to hot coffee and the cultural delights - a snow holiday that offers so much more than skiing. It is this diversity that entices snow lovers back to the slopes of Japan. Not to mention lift tickets that are about half the price of Australian resorts.
The ski season runs from December to March and we have picked a couple of the hot spots you may want to visit.
Located on Japan’s North Island of Hokkaido, Niseko is known as the “Powder Capital of the World”. Skier and snowboarder excitement is not just about snow quality, but quantity too.
The mountain resort is blanketed in more than twelve metres on average each year of the deepest, driest, lightest powdered white nirvana on the planet. There are five separate resorts offering accommodation, eating, drinking and entertainment options from budget backpacker to the lap of luxury.
Top 5 reasons to go:
1. Snow: On average Niseko receives over 14 metres each season of some of the driest and lightest snow in the world.
2. Dining & Nightlife: The main village of Hirafu has the best choice of restaurants and nightlife of all Japanese resorts.
3. Variety: Niseko is the largest ski area in Hokkaido and with the resorts of Grand Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono all on the same lift pass there is plenty or terrain for everyone. To add to this during the middle of winter Niseko offers night skiing with some lifts open until 8:30pm.
4. Accommodation: Niseko has several accommodation options from apartments, hotels and pensions of various standards and sizes.
5. Backcountry/Off Piste: Niseko offers plenty of backcountry and off piste skiing or riding with open fields, natural halfpipes, tree runs, bowls and chutes.
The Hakuba Valley is a huge expanse of resorts offering an incredible variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders alike. Situated in the heart of the Japan Alps, the alpine scenery is truly spectacular with huge rugged peaks towering above the town below.
The combination of world class skiing, state of the art lifts and gondolas, excellent grooming facilities and hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics makes Hakuba a place that has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Top 5 reasons to go:
1. Snow: Considered to have some of Japan’s steepest terrain, Hakuba receives an average of over 11 metres of powder each season which make the long runs and exceptional fall line even more appealing.
2. The Culture: The Japanese culture is amazing and in Hakuba you can experience the people, the hospitality and the food which combined with skiing makes for an unforgettable travel experience.
3. Variety: The Hakuba area is made up of the separate resorts of Happo One, Goryu, Hakuba 47, Kashimayari, Iwatake, Sanosaka, Minekata, Tsugaike, Norikura and Cortina, which total over 200 runs combined all on the one lift pass.
4. Onsens: Try any number of Hakuba’s onsen’s (hot springs) after an enjoyable day on the slopes.
5. Scenery: Hakuba has some breathtaking scenery being surrounded by towering mountain peaks along with most accommodations being nestled in forested areas close to the slopes.
Nozawa Onsen is one of those truly special destinations to visit. With captivating tradition and culture surrounded by snow covered mountains and rich in hot springs it is easy to love but hard to leave. You’ll soon see why so many people come to ski Japan.
This is one of the top Japanese ski resorts with an amazing lift system, endless powder snow and small crowds, it is perfect for all levels of skiers and boarders.
Top 5 reasons to go:
1. Snow: With over 12 metres of snow every year Nosawa is a powder paradise
2. Hot Springs: At Nozawa Onsen, “hot” waters are a part of life. With over 13 public hot springs Become a local villager yourself and make the rounds of the Sotoyu.
3. Families: Nozawa Onsen is proudly family friendly Ski Resort has an incredible 36 trails, about 40% of which are for beginners. This resort’s greatest appeal lies in the gentle trails running through the mountain top area.
4. Traditional Japan: This is the true Japan and the resort architecture sticks to a code you’ll also find a fantastic array of traditional restaurant service local cuisine a true step back in time.
5. Nozawa Onsen: Dosojin Festival – an important folk and cultural one of the three greatest fire festivals in Japan.
With all that powder comes some chilly weather and you want to make sure you are prepared for it!
So, what to wear? You need a balance. While skiing you need to avoid sweating if it is at all possible as this will fog your goggles no matter how good they are and it will also wet your inner layers making you cold when you stop sweating. Also, once you're on the lift you need to be able to sit still for up to 20 minutes without getting cold (wet inner layers not good here!).
A pair of big, warm, waterproof gloves is a must. Temperatures are low and you’re extremities feel the cold first. A pair of mitts will often keep your hands warmer than gloves with individual fingers. Bring at least one pair of extras as well that way you have a fresh, dry pair every day.
It might be cold, but when you’re charging through loose snow, and sitting on the lifts between hot laps water will be looking to find it’s way into your jacket. Get a good jacket and pants that you know will keep you dry, theres nothing worse than being wet on the slopes.
Having the right goggle lens can make or break your ski experience. Low light lenses will give you the best visibility in the average Japan snow conditions. Both thick snowfall and flat light is common in Japan and you’ll want to be prepared. There is nothing like being prepared!
Chat to your friendly Rays staff to find out what gear is right for your Japan skiing adventure.
Content courtesy of www.bluepowdertours.com.au – visit to book your ski adventures. Images courtesy of Ski Japan.