The Ultimate Guide To Skiing In Japan

skiing japan drone

Some people aren’t even aware that skiing in Japan is a thing, but for those in the know it’s pretty high up on the old bucket list. In fact, most British skiers I’ve spoken to have always dreamed of skiing in Japan, but for some reason or another, they haven’t done so yet.

I found the most common reasons for putting off a ski trip to Japan were:

The perceived high cost

The long distance from the UK

The time difference

But I found all of these factors to be pretty negligible when it came to actually going to Japan and experience its unbelievable skiing and snowboarding conditions.

In fact, the flight time from the UK to Tokyo is around 14 hours (ok more than 2.5 to France, but totally doable especially if you catch a night flight) and you could be travelling 14 hours on a coach to get to somewhere like France, so if you look at it like that… we’re on even playing field right now!

So here are the reasons why you SHOULD go to Japan for your next ski trip:

ski view japan

 

INCREDIBLE snow.

Like, the most ridiculously good snow I’ve ever skied on. Japan has a reputation for having the best powder in the world and I can confirm that this is true. The snow stays fluffy and powdery all day long, unlike European resorts where it kind of crusts over by the afternoon and becomes icy. (Even the moguls are powdery – it’s just so good!)

 

snow and forest japan nozawa onsen

 

Perfect Conditions.

For the best snow, you need to have the best conditions and Japanese ski resorts are blessed with these. It’s very cold, crisp and snows in abundance through the night and on most days too. That doesn’t mean you won’t have blue sky days, as you absolutely will – however you can expect fresh powder pretty much all the time.

 

foot onset nozawa onsen

 

The Onsens.

Thanks to its volcanic landscape, Japanese ski resorts are also home to natural hot springs. These have been utilised by the local villages and turned into Onsens, which are traditional style Japanese bath houses with steaming hot pools of spring water. Soaking in an Onsen after a long day’s skiing is exactly what your tired legs need – trust me!

 

snowboarders japan

 

The Japanese.

I have never met a more gracious people than the Japanese. Their standards are extremely high and you’ll find that everything from train travel to gondola service is absolutely impeccable. They are also very polite and there’s never any pushing or shoving when waiting for a ski lift. The lift porters even brush down your seat and lift your skis for you. They’re so courteous!

japan snow awesome

Awesome ski areas.

Although the ski areas aren’t as extensive or high as Europe in some of the resorts, the skiing is still pretty vast and there’s a good choice of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs to choose from. You can also nip off piste in some areas for the best powder ever.

The Food.

Ok, so who doesn’t resent being charged £20 for a spag bol in an expensive European resort? It’s meant I’ve always had to make do with home-made soggy sandwiches with ingredients I’ve nabbed at breakfast, so I don’t completely break the bank on a ski trip. However in Japan, the food is way cheaper and also much better. Ramen noodles and chicken katsu curry are on the menu and only around £5 per portion. Perfecto.

ski rental japan

 

Ok, I’m sold – now what?

First things first, you want to choose your ski resort. There are two main areas where you can ski in Japan. The first is Hokkaido, which is the north island and home to popular resorts such as Niseko. I haven’t skied here but it’s apparently very good and there’s even a winter snow festival that takes place here every year where ice sculptors create incredible carvings out of snow and ice.

The easiest way to reach Hokkaido is by plane from Tokyo.

The second is in the Nagano prefecture. Nagano was where the 1998 winter olympics were held and the area has many resorts all within bus distance of each other including Hakuba and little known, but AWESOME Nozawa Onsen.

I went to Nozawa Onsen and it’s just the most amazing little Japanese village with some pretty epic skiing and great après. There are also snow monkeys that bathe in an onsen very near by that you can visit if you don’t fancy skiing one afternoon (it’s well worth a visit!).

You can catch a train to Nozawa Onsen from Tokyo and be there within 2 hours… all hail the Shinkansen!

monkey mascot onsen snow monkeys having onset

 

How much does skiing in Japan cost?

Now here’s something that may surprise you, but when I was looking at booking to go skiing Japan compared to skiing in France/Switzerland, I found that for some resorts it was actually CHEAPER to travel the Japan and ski for a week than it was to go in Europe. What the heck, right?!

Here’s the breakdown of my costs for skiing in Japan:

What How Much
Flights

£450

Train From Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen

£50

Accommodation 5 days (per person)

£150

Lift Pass (5 days)

£150

Ski Hire (5 days)

£150

Breakfast x5

£35

Lunch x5

£30

Dinner x5

£75

Drinks 

£50

Snow Monkey Tour

£35

TOTAL

£1175

 

So that’s including my spending money – but as a raw holiday the total was £950.

Of course, you might feel the same way as I did and not want to come all the way to Japan without seeing some of the rest of the country so it could end up being more than this – however for a purely skiing break as a price comparison I think Japan fares kinda well!

As you can see the food and drinks are pretty cheap compared to western resorts and the lift pass is on par with most European resorts too. Yes the flights are slightly more expensive, but it’s well worth forking out an extra £200 for the best snow in the world and a really cool, new experience to boot.

Just in case you need a little more inspiration to go skiing in Japan, take a look at my skiing vlog which features some pretty epic drone and GoPro footage from our trip.

 

Do you have any questions regarding skiing in Japan? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll help you out as much as I can! It’s definitely not an experience to be missed, so I would absolutely go for it if it’s been on your bucket list for a while.

pinterest skiing japan guide