Japan is an extraordinary destination all year round and, in winter, its ski resorts will surprise you.
After my last trip to Japan in June 2018 in which I was able to discover some of its best kept secrets (Travel Story here), I was eager to come back. And what would be best than visiting the country in a completely different time of the year?
I went back to the sushi and sake paradise with an idea on my mind: to know some of its ski resorts. My aim was to discover if I could include Japan among my favourite ski destinations, as I love to ski when winter comes.
I consider myself a lucky person for having skied in many places around the world: Switzerland, Canada, US, France, Alaska, Italy, New Zealand… I have been in many ski resorts and I always believed the best powder snow was located in Canada.
After spending some days in Tokyo, where we could enjoy again some of the best things this big city can offer (good food, sightseeing and shopping tours, cultural visits…) we drove ourselves to Niseko, in the Hokkaidō region and island, north of the country.
We got to the Skye Niseko Hotel, an amazing resort located at the foot of the slopes that is highly appreciated by ski lovers, both domestic and international. And what first drove our attention was the quantity of snow around. In the morning we discover that even our living room windows were partially covered by it!
The morning after, I had my initial contact with the ski slopes at the Hanazono Ski Resort, only at a ten-minute drive from the Hotel, where I found an exquisite powder snow. Probably, the best powder snow I have never seen.
Although all resorts are full of skiers from all over the world, Japanese culture is still present: you will find respect, order and tranquility all the time. Not even because of the Japanese “savoir faire”, but also mostly because of the wideness of the facilities where you can ski without crowds and full of comfort.
A couple of days after, we went to the Iwanai Ski Resort, to enjoy a great experience of cat skiing. Together with our guide, an adventurer young Japanese guy, we had a great day full of adrenaline.
During our trip, we had the opportunity to ski also at Kiroro and Rusutsu, another two resorts that also surprised us with the quality of their powder snow. Both of them confirmed what we also experienced in Hanazono: the Hokkaido region is an excellent ski destination.
Furthermore, the resorts allow you to do ski-in and ski-out, as well as night skiing. Only if you're brave enough to put up with the cold! Because the quality of the powder snow is as it is mainly because of the Siberian cold breeze that the region receives. That causes the snow to be light and dry, and makes it easier to ski, whatever your expertise is.
In addition, its variety of guides is extraordinary. Mountain guides (only for expert skiers) who will let you on your own sliding down the best and most advanced tracks. Experienced instructors who will help beginners to move comfortably around, and “friend-guides” who will take you to the most interesting places so you can enjoy après-ski in the purest Japanese style.
Before coming back home, we decided to take a rest in a comfortable ryokan near Niseko where we could regain strength after the intense days of skiing. Enjoying hot water onsen in the cold Japanese weather is a unique experience, which comforts both mind and body.
Whether you are an advanced skier or a beginner, the ski resorts we visited in Japan offer total comfort and quality. Despite not having large slopes, they do have extensive ski areas and a lot of virgin snow without even leaving the resort.
But I'm sure that next time I go to Japan, I will take a photographer with me to take pictures, because landscapes are amazing but... dare yourself to take off your gloves in the cold to take pictures!
My experience confirmed that Japan is an excellent family or group destination, particularly in the months of February and March, in which the snow quality is better and days are longer. A destination where everyone can feel comfortable and enjoy skiing at their own pace.
In my opinion, Japan will meet your expectations, no matter the kind of skier you are.