When thinking of Japan, one tends to imagine cherry blossom festivals rather than skiing. However, what some people don’t know is that this Asian island nation is home to extensive ski areas and snowy glaciers. SnowTrex has 5 good reasons below as to why skiing in Japan is absolutely worthwhile.
1. Countless Ski Areas
Japan can definitely boast plenty of superlatives in the field of winter sports: the country has over 600 ski areas – more than any other country in the world! Of course, these are not always of impressive size – oftentimes, a collection of small ski lifts already constitutes a ski area. However, from Hokkaido Island in the north to Honshu and Kyushu in the south, there are numerous opportunities to find perfectly groomed pistes in modern ski areas. In contrast to ski areas in Austria or Italy, Japan’s slopes lack the vertical, steep slopes of the Alps. Therefore, thrill seekers and extreme skiers will not necessarily get their money’s worth. Instead, Japan offers slopes that appeal to families, beginners and experienced skiers alike. In addition, the hilly landscape, surrounded by volcanoes, is a unique sight that is certainly not to be found in the European Alps.
2. Endless Snow
Most ski areas in Japan are located at altitudes where winter sports fans do not have to worry about sufficient snowfall. Snow cannons are a no-go here – the natural snowfall is so abundant that it is easily sufficient enough to provide excellent fun on the slopes. This is also ensured by the Siberian cold fronts, which reach the country during the winter months. Ski areas without glaciers in Europe in particular could only dream of such high snow reliability and snow heights of up to 12 meters!
3. Excellent Infrastructure
As time goes on, Japan’s ski qualities also make their marks abroad – and rightly so, as the country offers an excellent infrastructure for winter sports fans: the pistes are thoroughly prepared, the lifts are excellent in terms of technology, safety and comfort, the capacities of the lifts are designed for the number of holidaymakers, the routes to the ski areas are perfectly developed and the hotels naturally offer shuttle services. Japan has also hosted the Winter Olympics twice, most recently in 1998 in Nagano. So the fact that international visitors come to Japan for winter sports is certainly nothing new for Japan. Australians, New Zealanders, Korean and Chinese visitors make up the majority of foreign guests, who especially enjoy the Japanese accommodations, which are often in no way inferior to the European ones offering spa facilities and great hospitality.
4. First-Class Ski Areas
One of the most popular ski areas in Japan is the Niseko ski area in Hokkaido. Here, you can perfect your turns in the shadow of a powder-snow-covered volcano. Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, is also one of the top locations. The snow doesn’t fall as abundantly as in Niseko, but you can reach your destination within a few hours from Tokyo. While many ski fans line up in the queues at the lifts on the weekends, Nagano lies virtually idle during the week – perfect conditions for more solitary explorations of the ski area. Another absolutely recommendable place is Niigata, near Nagano, which is just 90 minutes away from Tokyo. The globally-feared high prices of Japan are not reflected in the ski areas. The prices for food and drinks in the ski areas even compete with the European ones. Therefore, if you’re not afraid of the airfare price, you could soon be enjoying the pistes in the land of the rising sun.
5. Culture Included
Anyone who travels this far usually likes to discover other highlights of the country in addition to the ski areas. For this purpose, trips to Japan’s capital Tokyo or to the city of Nikko, which has been declared a world cultural heritage site, are particularly suitable. Another interesting sight for skiing fans is the Japanese Ski Museum in Nozawa Onsen, which can be reached directly on skis. The museum exhibits a large collection of historical skis from Austria, China and Mongolia, among others, and also shows very clearly how skiing came to Japan. Nozawa Onsen can be easily reached from Tokyo in about 2 hours by high-speed train.
In conclusion: if you would like to travel to an extraordinary place for skiing and have a moderate budget at your disposal, you definitely need to check out the slopes in Japan.