From sushi, cherry blossoms, temples to winter sports, Japan offers all kinds of experiences for travelers. Come winter season, the country transforms into a coveted ski and snowboard destination. Over 500 ski resorts are located up north in Hokkaido as well as the southern island of Kyushu, assuring you adventure wherever you go. If you’re up for the challenge or in need of that adrenaline rush, here are some of the best skiing locations to consider on your next trip.
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Located three hours away from Tokyo, Hakuba has around 11 ski resorts with 200 runs in terms of difficulty levels. The options here are plenty so you won’t have to worry about standing in line to get to your chosen run. Hakuba’s village was also host to the Cross-Country events in 1998, thanks to its annual snowfall of 11.1 meters. The village also hosts many other activities in its different shops, bars, and restaurants.
Niseko is the top skiing destination in Hokkaido, having earned the title as “Japan’s Best Ski Resort” back in the 2015 World Ski Awards. It is one of the biggest ski resort clusters in the northernmost island, all of which are connected and surround Mount Yotei. This mountain is also called the “Mount Fuji of Hokkaido,” so be sure to catch a glimpse before skiing off that slope. Niseko also boasts the most amount of snow among Japanese ski resorts, with an average annual snowfall of more than 15 meters. Strawberry Fields continues to be one of the most coveted ski points in the area, located along a legendary forest route in the lower half of Niseko’s Hanazono area.
Don’t miss the city of Sapporo, which hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1972 and is just a 40-minute drive away from Mount Teine. At the Sapporo Teine ski resort, you can try your luck at the Olympic Zone or the Highland Zone. We recommend the Highland Zone for beginners or pros that are skiing with first-timers. As its name indicates, the Olympic Zone is where you’ll find more intermediate to advanced skiers, practicing their skills out on the slopes.
At 4.25 square kilometers, the Shiga Kogen Ski Area is both the largest in the world and has the biggest combined ski area in the country. Around 21 smaller resorts are found inside and are interconnected through 71 ski lifts. Shiga Kogen also hosts one of the longest ski seasons, beginning from mid-November up until the first week of May. Tourists are also spoiled for choice, as the area hosts over 100 hotels offering all kinds of accommodations.
The Zao Onsen Ski Resort
If you want a unique skiing experience, the Zao Onsen Ski Resort in Honshu is home to the juhyo or “ice trees” that appear like “snow monsters.” Imagine the thrill of skiing through these odd shapes before taking a warm dip in one of Zao Onsen’s hot spring baths. At the same time, the resort is one of the oldest in the country and offers runs for skiers of different skill levels. You can find your way around through the 30 available lifts, gondolas, and ropeways.