Japan is famous for its powder snow. It claims to have the lightest, deepest and most consistent powder snow conditions in the world. The ski resorts in Japan also offer the lowest prices of any other ski resort. Their traditional culture ensures warm hospitality so each visitor feels welcome and comfortable.
Each resort offers vibrant or relaxing après ski and the food is fantastic. English food is available including burgers and pizza, but the noodles, tempura, sushi and stir-fry are worth trying.
Hokkaido the Northernmost Island
Niseko, a town on Hokkaido, is a popular ski holiday destination. There are six ski areas, and the main four are Higashiyama, Annupuri, Hanazono and Hirafu. They are interconnected and only one ski pass is needed for all of them. There are 61 ski runs connected by 38 gondolas and lifts. There is also cross country skiing in a forest route near the lower parts of Hanazono in a forest called Strawberry Fields. There is also back country skiing after climbing Mount Yotei.
In 2006, Niseko was voted into the top ten ski resorts in the world. The queues are short or non-existent and the slops are not crowded. With 11 metres of snow every year and the lifts open until 8:30 at night, it is a very popular ski holiday destination.
Rusutsu is at the foot of Mt. Yotei and is a self-contained resort that offers skiing on three mountains. It has the same great snow conditions on all Hokkaido’s resorts. The beginners green runs are close to the resort with lots of room to learn. There are also English speaking instructors available.
For intermediates, there is tree skiing and other excellent runs. Advanced skiers may ski powder all day because not all of the pistes are groomed. There is excellent piste skiing and the opportunity to leave the piste and ski down in untouched powder.
The lifts are open from nine in the morning to nine at night, and there is plenty to do for non-skiers. Snow mobiling, dog sledding, snow tubing are a few things to do, and visitors who come in early February can see the famous Sapporo Ice Festival.
Furano is also on Hokkaido and situated in the Daisetsu-zan National Park. It is one of the biggest ski resorts in Japan with over 950 vertical metres of skiing. The views of the highest peaks in Hokkaido are spectacular.
The lifts are open from 8:30 in the morning to nine at night. There are also skiing and snowboarding lessons available. Furano is never crowded and there is always untracked powder because of its eight metres of light, dry snow every year.
The lifts include two gondolas and 15 lifts for every level of expertise. There is a large variety of terrain for snowboarders as well as skiers. It has become a popular place for snowboarders after hosting the International FIS-level snowboarding event. The alpine alternate activities are dog sledding, snow mobiling, 4WD motor bikes, tours of the backcountry and mountains as well as parasailing behind a snowmobile and a visit to the huge Buddha at Ashibetsu.
Furano has an artistic atmosphere with the Gotosumio Museum of Art, arts and crafts centres, wineries and a cheese factory.
Hakuba is a small village in the Japan Alps that was the venue for the main event of the 1998 Winter Olympics including ski jump, alpine and cross country skiing. It has seven primary ski areas including Hakuba 47, the Olympic ski resort of Happo-One and Grou at the southern end of the Hakuba Valley and Lwatake, Norikura, Cortina and Tsugaite resorts in the north.
The ski season is from early December to early May. The longest run is eight kilometres and there are 22 lifts including one gondola. Throughout the nine resorts there are 47 runs for beginners, excellent runs for intermediate level skiers and very challenging pistes and mogul runs for experts. They can also ski the 1998 Olympic men’s downhill run.
There are wide runs for beginners and some of the steepest pitches in Japan. Hakuba is also near some famous sightseeing places including the snow monkeys of Jigokudani and the black passages of the Zenkoji Buddhist Temple. There are hot-springs nearby to soak away any strain form the day of skiing.