Although many travelers picture Japan as primarily a spring and autumn travel destination, winter in Japan is incredible as well. In particular, winter in Japan offers a wide array of winter activities for both sports and nature lovers. With ski resorts in almost every prefecture, you are never more than a few hours away from the slopes. Enjoy this premier winter sports destination, which will surely satisfy even the most avid of skiers and snowboarders.
For travelers hoping for a small taste of winter sports during your trip, you are in luck. Within 90 minutes of Tokyo, you can experience some of Japan’s most famous ski resorts such as Hakuba, GALA, or Naeba. The hotels around these resorts are also famous for their hot springs, allowing you a chance to relax amidst Japan’s world-famous hospitality if you have a night to spare.
For those thinking about a trip centered more around winter sports or even just winter in general, we highly recommend traveling to Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido offers a wide array of ski resorts from the Rusutsu Resort, offering more of the traditional Japanese ski affair spread over a span of 3 different mountains, to Niseko, which receives its snow more from Siberian currents allowing you to enjoy the snowfall of two different currents. In addition, if you visit during Hokkaido during the beginning of February, you can view Sapporo’s world-famous snow festival, renowned for its elaborate snow statutes and ice sculptures unlike that of anything you have ever seen.
Most ski resorts in Japan offer English signs and services for international visitors, making the areas friendly to non-Japanese. However, as a basic rule, it is easier and cheaper to buy a ski packages as they offer rentals, train tickets, and even accommodations in a bundled package for bargain prices.
Below we have created a list of some of Japan’s most famous ski resorts for your reading pleasure:
Situated in the northern Japan Alps, Hakuba Valley in Nagano Prefecture offers premier skiing in close enough proximity of Tokyo for a day trip. This former event venue of the 1998 Winter Olympics offers diverse terrain with over 200 different runs – enough to make even the most seasoned of skiers drool.
Located at just a one-hour Shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Tokyo, GALA Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is convenience at its peak for visitors with limited time in Japan. Offering a variety of different runs, this ski resort caters to skiers of all levels particularly focusing on those for beginning to intermediate skiers.
Known as the St. Mortiz of the East, one of Japan’s largest ski resorts in Niigata Prefecture offers a diverse array of runs with large quantities of snow. Although Naeba may be best appreciated by intermediate skiers, the resort offers a bit of something for those of all levels. The ski resort is also home to a large number of ski lifts and the world’s longest ski gondola.
Positioned next to Mt. Yotei, which is known by locals as the “Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido,” Niseko encompasses massive amounts of powder snow in its ski resorts. Voted the 2nd snowiest ski resort in the world with its average annual snowfall of 596 inches a year, Niseko’s snowy runs will please even the most passionate of skiers.
Hokkaido’s largest ski resort, Rusutsu, offers substantial runs covering 3 mountains just a mere 90-minute bus ride from Sapporo International Airport. The resort also provides family friendly snow activities for its guests including dog sledding, tubing, and snowmobiling.