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Top 5 resorts for on and off-piste skiing in Japan

The end of the northern winter may be fast approaching, but it’s never too soon to start planning your next snow holiday in Japan. Here are five resorts you should be aiming for, writes LEILA DORARI.


Thanks to an impressive amount of snowfall, a wide range of resorts and facilities, quality powder snow, and rich cultural tradition, Japan has become one of the hottest skiing destinations in the world. 


Whether you’re a beginner skier or an experienced skiing maverick, Japan’s ski resorts are not to be missed. If you don’t know where to go for your next skiing holiday, check out the following top five on- and off-piste ski resorts in Japan. 


1. Hakuba

One of the most popular destinations among tourists looking for adventure-filled Japan holiday packages, the world-famous Hakuba village and its eponymous ski resort are known for being the hosts of several 1998 Winter Olympics competitions, including Alpine and Nordic skiing. 


Today, Hakuba ski resort is the number one choice for skiing aficionados from all over the world - and its popularity is only growing. In January 2018, Hakuba ski resort reported a 45% increase in the number of international visitors. It’s especially popular among skiers from the West, including Australia.  


Here, skiers can choose between the gentle slopes of the beginner-friendly Tsugaike Kogen at Hakuba Cortina resort (hailed as one of the best places for off-piste skiing in the world), and Iwatake ski area, which boasts spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and consistent snow throughout the season. 


Accommodation in Hakuba ranges from affordable ski lodges to luxury 5-star hotels. You can also visit the Olympic Village Memorial Hall and see interesting photos and memorabilia from the ’98 Olympics.



2. Niseko

Located in the south-western part of the island of Hokkaido, Niseko is a small town known for its ski resort, supreme powder snow, and top-of-the-line facilities built for the ultimate skiing experience.


The town of Niseko is home to six ski areas of different sizes, ranging from the Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu (that stretches over 325 hectares) to Niseko Weiss, located at an altitude of 530 metres. The best time to go skiing in Niseko is during peak powder season between late November and early May. If you visit Niseko in February, you’ll also be able to witness some spectacular winter festivals like the Sapporo Snow Festival, Otaru Snow Light Path, and Yukitopia Snow Festival.


Niseko also offers a wide range of eating spots, like the natural yeast Guzu Guzu Bakery that specializes in delicious comfort food, Boyoso log cabin which offers fresh sushi, Ryougoku restaurant that offers a variety of traditional Japanese dishes, and Okonomiyaki, an eating venue that serves famous Japanese savoury pancakes. 


3. Appi Kogen

Appi Kogen, one of the largest ski resorts in Japan, is known for its perfectly maintained ski runs, magnificent views, and first-class facilities. 


The longest run at Appi Kogen is the 5.5km long green Yamabato run that’s perfect for everyone who wants to escape the crowds. The groomed Shirakaba run is the best choice for beginners and families with children, while Shimokura Ski Field is popular with fans of powder snow. 


When you want to take a break from skiing, you can try out some of the many fun activities that the area around Appi Kogen has to offer. These include going on a guided backcountry tour, visiting Matsukawa hot springs, spending some quality time at the Appi Family Park, enjoying a relaxing spa treatment at the Hotel Appi Grand, or taking a day trip to Morioka, the capital city of Iwate Prefecture known for its cherry blossoms and historical temple district. 



4. Rusutsu

The village of Rusutsu is yet another Japanese destination known for its high-quality powder snow. Owing to an incredible 14-metre annual snowfall and unique terrain, Rusutus is particularly interesting for fans of off-piste tree skiing


Ski season in Rusutsu starts in late November and lasts until the beginning of April. Here, you can stay in one of the Western-style hotels or opt for a more traditional experience in one of the cosy pensions or ski lodges. 


Rusutsu also offers chalets for rent, which are an ideal choice for families and groups of friends. Keep in mind that Rustusu is a small place with an accommodation capacity of just 5000 beds, so it’s important to book your trip ahead of time. 


5. Furano

Furano might not be as internationally famous as the other four resorts on the list, but it has just as much (if not more) to offer true snow lovers.


With a 950-metre vertical drop, incredibly varied terrain, high-speed chairlifts, and runs suitable for skiers of all levels, Furano is equally popular with professional skiers, snowboarders or families looking for a quiet ski holiday away from the hustle and bustle of large ski resorts. 


Tell us about your snow experiences in Japan


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Written by: Leila Dorari
Published: 15 April 2019

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