The Best Ski Resorts to Book in Japan

Escape the tourist crowds in Appi Kogen and opt for a stay at the Hotel Appi Grand
Escape the tourist crowds in Appi Kogen and opt for a stay at the Hotel Appi Grand | Courtesy of Hotel Appi Grand / Expedia
Laura Hampson

Japan is home to some of the best skiing destinations in the world, including much-loved resorts Niseko and Hakuba. Combine this with fresh sushi, steaming hot springs and unparalleled views of Mount Fuji, and you have the ultimate ski and snowboarding holiday.

If chest-deep snow and bubbling natural onsens (hot springs) make up your idea of a top winter holiday, then Japan should be on the cards. With about 600 ski resorts, including acres of backcountry terrain to explore, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is where to stay. Luckily, there are plenty of luxury hotels to make that decision easier and you can book some of the best right here on Culture Trip.

Appi Kogen

Appi Kogen’s carefully groomed runs cater to an upmarket crowd. The resort encompasses 43km (27mi) of pistes; most are on Mount Maemori, along with two nearby on Mount Nishimori. The resort is known for its wide, long runs, with more than half stretching for longer than 2km (1mi). Although there’s no village or town around Appi, a trip here offers the chance to visit an authentically Japanese resort with few international tourists. It also has a family park with mini-courses, sledging and snow tubes for children. The resort is in the Iwate Prefecture in the Appi Highlands, about 50km (31mi) north of Morioka and 580km (360mi) north of Tokyo.

1. Hotel Appi Grand

Hotel

Hotel Appi Grand. Traditional-style room with a sofa facing a flat-screen TV and a coffee table in between. Sliding paper doors lead to covered outside balcony.
Courtesy of Hotel Appi Grand / Expedia

With powdery snow as good as Hokkaido, just without the crowds, Appi Kogen is a perfect alternative. While there, it’s best to check into the Hotel Appi Grand. Behind its lemon-hued façade, there’s a variety of restaurants (the Japanese option is our pick) that use local ingredients, and the Shirakaba-no-Yu onsen offers a maze of natural hot springs to sink into as well.

Asahidake

Asahidake is an excellent spot for advanced skiers and snowboarders, offering a variety of alpine terrain and glade skiing. Explore the backcountry in Daisetsuzan National Park on Mount Asahi in central Hokkaido, about one hour east of Asahikawa. You’ll have access to 500m (1,640ft) of vertical terrain and four groomed trails. Asahidake is officially a national park rather than a resort, so facilities are quite limited, which is part of the area’s appeal for skiers looking to escape the crowds. There are also a handful of cross-country ski trails, and a number of the hotels have onsens.

2. Hotel Bearmonte

Hotel

Hotel Bearmonte. Hotel exterior looking out onto snow-covered landscape, with trees and hills in the background.
Courtesy of Hotel Bearmonte / Expedia

Nestled at the foot of Mount Asahi, the highest summit in Hokkaido, Hotel Bearmonte is ideal for those who intend to spend maximum time on the slopes. When you’re not lounging in the hotel’s natural hot springs or cosying up with a book in the traditional loft-style rooms, be sure to sample the local ales and sake available with dinner each night.

Furano

Furano is a popular ski resort in Hokkaido, with 25km (16mi) of groomed ski runs. It’s ideal for families, with varied beginner trails and an attraction called Family Snowland, offering other winter activities such as snowmobiling and dog sledging. On top of this, there are many runs to challenge advanced skiers. With a vertical drop of around 950m (3,117ft), Furano is one of the steepest mountains in Hokkaido. The ski area comprises two zones: the Kitanomine zone (open mid-December to late March) and the Furano zone (open late November to early May). They’re both accessible from the town of Furano by shuttle.

3. Hotel Hitohana

Hotel

Hotel Hitohana. Hotel room with sofa on the left, circular table and chairs off-centre, and kitchenette at the back.
Courtesy of Hotel Hitohana – Furano / Expedia

A wine lover’s haven, Hotel Hitohana prides itself on being a “winery hotel”. Regular tours of the nearby Domaine Raison vineyard are available, where you can sample Japanese wine and goods made from local goat’s milk. The Prince Snow Resort in Furano is just down the road, and its hotel has a dedicated locker room to store all of your ski equipment, too.

Hakuba

A favourite with international tourists, Hakuba Valley comprises 10 different ski resorts. Bordered by 3,000m (9,843ft) peaks, Hakuba lies in Japan’s Northern Alps, 44km (27mi) west of Nagano. The area gained international attention in 1998 when it hosted several events during the Winter Olympic Games. With 137km (85mi) of pistes and more than 200 courses, Hakuba’s resorts offer an incredible variety with runs suited to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The main village, Happo, is home to some excellent izakayas and restaurants. There are also quieter villages in the area for those who want to stay away from the crowds.

4. Courtyard by Marriott Hakuba

Hotel

Courtyard by Marriott Hakuba. Large modern fireplace in centre of lobby surrounded by tables and chairs. Large floor-to-ceiling windows in the back.
Courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott Hakuba / Expedia

With the Japanese Alps on your doorstep, Courtyard by Marriott Hakuba is the ideal base for exploring the treasures of Nagano. Rooms are slick, with dark wood details and views of snow-covered trees. Opt for a room with a black-tiled hot-spring tub if you can. When peckish, head to the on-site restaurant for Japanese surf and turf and excellent snowy panoramas.

Niseko

Approximately 100km (62mi) southwest of Sapporo, Niseko is one of Japan’s most famous ski resorts, featuring 47km (29mi) of groomed terrain and often receiving more snowfall than any other ski resort in the world. Its trails are ideal for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, with plenty of pistes geared towards families and beginners. It also offers extensive off-trail skiing, accessible through special gates or by participating in a guided tour. Niseko actually comprises four different resorts, the largest of which is the Grand Hirafu. Hirafu Village is known for its excellent après-ski scene, with many lively bars, restaurants and karaoke spots.

5. Aya Niseko

Hotel

Aya Niseko. Large sofa facing a wall-mounted flat-screen TV, while floor-to-ceiling windows in the back show a mountain view.
Courtesy of Aya Niseko / Expedia

Forget climbing the nearly 400 steps up to the Chureito Pagoda for prime views of Mt Fuji; stay at Aya Niseko instead. For the best view of the famed peak, book one of the sprawling penthouses, with its wrap-around balcony, floor-to-ceiling windows and private rooftop onsen. There are in-house yoga classes, too, to give you a good stretch after a long day of skiing in Niseko.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen lies in northern Nagano Prefecture, 46km (28mi) northeast of the city of Nagano. Opened in 1924, it’s one of Japan’s oldest, largest and most popular ski resorts, featuring more than 50km (31mi) of pistes, including a half-pipe, moguls, a 39-degree incline and gentler slopes for beginners. The resort is also ideal for families, with English-speaking instructors available for children’s ski lessons. The village itself is particularly charming and traditional, with narrow cobbled streets and more than 13 public onsens.

6. Kawaichiya Ryokan

Hotel

Kawaichiya Ryokan. Traditional Japanese-style room with two beds, a seating area to the left and opaque paper windows in the background.
© Kawaichiya Ryokan

Deep in the mountains, Kawaichiya Ryokan offers plenty of omotenashi hospitality. Expect tatami floors and 12 different types of rooms to choose from – most with low beds and private, open-air onsen-style baths. Kimono-style yukata robes are also provided, and there’s a Japanese tea set in the room to truly help you feel a sense of place.

Rusutsu

Offering 42km (29mi) of groomed slopes, Rusutsu is one of Hokkaido’s top ski resorts. The ski area is spread across three mountains, offering a variety of groomed trails for beginners. The highlight for advanced skiers is the resort’s convenient tree runs and lift-accessed backcountry. The hotels in the area offer a great selection of restaurants, and there are a few smaller dining establishments found near the base of the mountain. Kids can enjoy dog sledging, tubing and snowmobiling, while the resort is also home to pool facilities and an onsen. Rusutsu is 90 minutes southwest of Sapporo.

7. Rusutsu Resort Hotel and Convention

Hotel

Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention. View of the snow-covered slopes with a couple of snowboarders and a ski lift overhead.
Courtesy of Rusutsu Resort Hotel and Convention / Expedia

The fact that Rusutsu Resort has an amusement park, complete with a rollercoaster, may give you an indication of the size of this hotel. While the park is best enjoyed in the summer, as the weather cools, check into the on-site log house or the traditional-styled Japanese room. Make a beeline to the outdoor onsen overlooking the snow-clad mountains.

Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort

Around four-and-a-half hours’ journey west of Tokyo, this is a massive ski area – one of Japan’s largest – linking 18 or so individual resorts via more than 50 gondolas and chairlifts. There’s more than enough variety to keep any skier happy – from beginners’ slopes to long cruising runs, gnarly moguls to knee-deep powder. The standard of accommodation is excellent – a mix of ryokans and high-end hotels – and non-skiers have lots of options, such as hot springs and shopping opps. Nearby cultural sites include the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can spot snow monkeys.

8. Okushiga Kogen Hotel

Hotel

Okushiga Kogen Hotel. View of hotel exterior (a large triangular-shaped roof over a glass building) and snowy foreground, with mountains in the back.
Courtesy of Okushiga Kogen Hotel / Expedia

The ski-chalet vibes are strong at Okushiga Kogen Hotel, where rooms come with natural wood paneling and epic views over the Shiga Kogen mountains. When you’re not cruising the nearby trails, soak in the Bath Room at the hotel, which uses mountain water from the local peaks. After, hit the mobile sauna – the first in Japan – before enjoying views from the warm igloo (an outside dome wrapped in a see-through cover). If you’re more interested in the slopes, there’s an on-site rental shop with Rossignol skis and Burton snowboards.

Tomamu

Tomamu is an upscale ski resort in central Hokkaido, 150km (94mi) east of Sapporo. This modern, swanky resort includes a large indoor wave pool, sophisticated restaurants and hot-spring facilities. It also has 21km (13mi) of slopes, with runs for beginner and intermediate-level skiers, expert courses and sanctioned off-piste skiing areas. Other activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snow rafting and heli-skiing. For kids, it has a snow playground and snow boat rides. In the evening, check out the resort’s Ice Village, with a restaurant, bar, shop and wedding chapel housed in domes made of snow and ice.

9. Tomamu the Tower

Resort

Tomamu The Tower. Large indoor swimming pool with children and families under a glass roof.
Courtesy of Tomamu the Tower / Expedia

A hotel you should definitely judge by its façade is Tomamu the Tower, comprising two multicoloured towers that offer magnificent views across the surrounding snowscape. They sit at the base of the Tomamu ski field – a great spot for both novices and the more seasoned skier. When you’re not exploring off-piste tracks, book a room on one of the higher floors to feel like you’re sleeping among the clouds.

Yuzawa

Yuzawa is one of the easiest ski areas to access from Tokyo, located 200km (125mi) away from the city and reachable within two hours by train. In the Niigata Prefecture, the area encompasses about 20 resorts, all of which are accessible by public transportation. A number of them offer combination lift tickets and connections that make it possible to ski or snowboard between them. You will generally find beginner slopes near the centre of town and more challenging runs around the Mount Naeba resorts. The area also features excellent onsens, with baths available at resorts, hotels and shinkansen stations.

10. Yuzawa Grand Hotel

Hotel

Yuzawa Grand Hotel. Honeycomb-shaped hotel exterior with view to underground car park towards the left.
Courtesy of Yuzawa Grand Hotel / Expedia

In the small, snowy town of Yuzawa – famed for its hot springs – the Yuzawa Grand Hotel is just a two-minute walk away from the Ipponsugi ski resort. To soothe your ski-tired muscles, take advantage of the hotel’s in-house hot springs when you can. Both indoor and outdoor options are available in a tranquil setting of birdsong, leafy trees and snow-covered grounds in winter.

This is an updated version of an article originally written by Jessica Dawdy. Additional reporting by Alex Allen.

To discover more, read our guide to the best ryokans to stay in during your trip to Japan – bookable through Culture Trip.

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