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Japan's 10 Best Skiing Resorts | Winter In The Far East

Japan's 10 Best Skiing Resorts | Winter In The Far East

Picture of Jessica Dawdy
Updated: 9 February 2017
Japan’s ski resorts are known for their excellent powder and gorgeous mountain scenery. There are more than 500 resorts of varying size found across the country, many of which are typically overlooked by international tourists. Aside from high snow quality, many ski resorts in Japan double as relaxing hot spring resorts, as well as offering a variety of other winter activities and festivities. Here are some of the best places to ski and snowboard in Japan.

Appi Kogen

Appi Kogen’s carefully-groomed runs cater to an upmarket crowd. The resort encompasses 45.1 km of pistes, most of which are found along the slopes of 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 2 km. Although there’s no village or town around Appi, it offers the chance to visit an authentically Japanese resort with few international tourists. There’s also a family park with mini-courses, sledding, and snow tubes for children. The resort is located in Iwate Prefecture in the Appi Highlands, 50 km north of Morioka and 580 km north of Tokyo.

Appi Kogen, Hachimantai, Iwate, Japan, + 81 195 73 5011

Asahidake

Asahidake is an excellent spot for advanced skiers and boarders, offering a variety of alpine terrain and tree skiing. The back-country slopes are set in Daisetsuzan National Park on Mount Asahi in central Hokkaido, about 1 hour east of Asahikawa. Visitors have access to 500 vertical meters of 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 and boarders looking to escape the crowds and take on a challenge. The area also features a handful of cross country ski trails, and a number of the hotels offer onsen.

Asahidake, Yukomanbetsu, Higashikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, Asahikawa, Japan, +81 166 68 9111

Furano

Furano is a popular ski resort in Hokkaido with 25 km of groomed ski runs. The resort is ideal for families, with varied beginner trails in addition to an attraction called Family Snowland which offers other winter activities like snowmobiling and dog sledding. There are also runs to challenge advanced skiers and boarders, including a World Cup sized half pipe, downhill courses, and terrain parks. Furano’s lifts are exceptionally fast, and the weather is generally sunnier compared to Hokkaido’s other resorts. Furano town, which is located 141 km northeast of Sapporo, can accommodate English-speakers yet it does not exist solely to accommodate skiers and thus remains authentically Japanese.

Furano Ski Resort, Nakagoryo, Furano-shi, Hokkaido, Japan, +81 167 22 1111

Hakuba

A favorite of international tourists, Hakuba comprises 11 different ski resorts. Bordered by 3,000-meter peaks, Hakuba is located the Northern Alps, 44km west of Nagano. The area gained international attention in 1998 when it hosted several competitions during the Winter Olympic Games. With 137 km of piste and more than 200 courses, Hakuba’s resorts offer incredible variety with runs suited to skiers and boarders of all levels. The main village, Happo, is home to some excellent izakayas and restaurants, or there are also quieter villages in the area for those who want to stay away from the crowds.

Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano, Japan, + 81 261 72 3066

Niseko

Located 100 km southwest of Sapporo, Niseko is one of Japan’s most famous ski resorts. Niseko features 47 km of groomed terrain and is thought to receive more snowfall than any other ski resort in the world. The resort’s trails are ideal for skiers and boarders of all levels, with plenty of pistes geared towards families and beginners. The resort also offers extensive off-trail skiing, which can be accessed through special gates or by participating in a guided tour. Niseko is actually composed of 5 different resorts, the largest of which is the Grand Hirafu. Hirafu Town is known for its excellent après-ski, with many lively bars, restaurants, and karaoke spots.

Niseko Village, Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan, +81 36 58 20801

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is located in northern Nagano Prefecture, 46 km northeast of the city of Nagano. Opened in 1924, Nozawa Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest, largest, and most popular ski resorts. The resort features over 50 km of pistes, ideal for skiers and boarders of all levels, including a half pipe, moguls, a 39 degree incline, as well as gentler slopes for beginners. The resort is also ideal for families, with English-speaking instructors available for children’s ski lessons. Nozawa Onsen town is particularly charming and traditional, with narrow cobbled streets and more than 13 public onsen.

Nozawa Onsen, Shimotakai District, Nagano, Japan, + 81 269 85 3166

Rusutsu

Offering 42 km of groomed slopes, Rusutsu is one of the top ski resorts in Hokkaido. 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 back country, which are accessible straight off the lifts. The hotels in the area offer a great selection of restaurants, plus there are a few smaller restaurants found near the base of the mountain. Kids can enjoy dog sledding, tubing, and snowmobiling, while the resort is also home to pool facilities and onsen. Rusutsu is located 90 minutes southwest of Sapporo.

Rusutsu, 13 Izumikawa, Rusutsu,, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan, +81 136 46 3111

Sapporo Teine

Sapporo Teine is ideal for day-trips from Sapporo, located 20 km northwest of the city center. The resort attracts novices with its Olympia Zone, which offers wide, gentle slopes for beginners and night skiing. For more advanced skiers, there’s the Highland Zone which includes medium to advanced courses, and off trail runs. Set 1,000 meters above sea level, this upper area provides visitors with fantastic views over Sapporo and the ocean. The resort also includes a snow park with boxes, jumps, and rails, as well as a family park with tubing and sledding.

Sapporo Teine, 593 Teinehoncho, Teine Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, +81 11 682 6000

Tomamu

Tomamu is an upscale ski resorted located in central Hokkaido, 150 km east of Sapporo. This modern, swanky resort includes a 50-meter wave pool, sophisticated restaurants, and sleek hot spring facilities. The resort offers 21 km of slopes, with a variety of runs for beginner and intermediate level skiers, along with ‘expert’ courses and sanctioned off-piste skiing areas. Other activities include cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow rafting, and heli skiing. For kids, there’s a snow playground, snow boat rides, and a special snow playground. In the evening, check out the resort’s Ice Village, which consists of a restaurant, bar, shop, and wedding chapel housed in domes made of snow and ice.

Tomamu, Nakatomamu, Shimukappu, Yufutsu District, Hokkaido, Japan, +81 167 58 1111

Yuzawa

Yuzawa is one the easiest ski areas to access from Tokyo, located 200 km away from the city and reachable in less two hours by train. Located in Niigata Prefecture, the area encompasses about 20 resorts, all of which are accessible by public transportation. A number of these resorts offer combination lift tickets, and connections that make it possible to ski or snowboard between them. Visitors will generally find beginner slopes near the center of town and more challenging runs around the Mount Naeba resorts. The area also features excellent onsen, with baths available at resorts, hotels, and shinkansen stations, including a few public bath houses.

Yuzawa, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata, Japan, +81 025 784 3451