6 of the best…Ski Resorts in Japan

The 8 Best Ski Resorts in Japan for an Epic Winter Adventure

With plentiful snowfall, stunning mountain scenery, and a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional culture, Japan entices winter adventurers from across the globe. From the northern island of Hokkaido to the Japan Alps, the country boasts an array of world-class ski resorts to suit all abilities and interests.

Whether you seek champagne powder runs, vibrant après-ski, relaxing onsens, or a taste of authentic Japanese village life, these resorts deliver unforgettable snow holiday experiences. Here are the top spots to add to your Japan ski trip itinerary.

Key Takeaways: Best Ski Resorts in Japan

Resort Location Highlights
Niseko United Hokkaido Legendary light powder, lively village, onsen baths
Rusutsu Hokkaido Great for families and beginners, theme park, varied lodging
Furano Hokkaido Charming town, dry powder, backcountry access
Nozawa Onsen Honshu Traditional onsen town, tree skiing, cultural immersion
Hakuba Valley Honshu Interconnected resorts, vibrant nightlife, Olympic history
Myoko Kogen Honshu Deep powder base, backcountry access, uncrowded
Shiga Kogen Honshu Massive interconnected ski area with scenic views
Kiroro Hokkaido Upscale lodging, cruisers’ paradise, minimal crowds

Legendary Powder at Niseko United, Hokkaido

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) double-h

Arguably Japan’s premier ski destination, Niseko United combines four interconnected resorts renowned for their incredible light powder snow. Over 30 lifts provide access to diverse terrain for all skill levels, from gentle groomed runs to challenging off-piste areas like Hanazono’s Strawberry Fields. While skiing takes center stage, there’s also a lively mix of restaurants, bars, and hotels in Niseko Village. Don’t miss soaking in the rejuvenating volcanic hot springs after an epic day hitting powder stashes.

Enjoying some of the lightest and driest snow on Earth thanks to its geographical position, humble Furano offers a friendly alternative to Niseko’s glitz and crowds. Staying in Furano town allows easy access to the predominantly intermediate and advanced ski runs that descend from the area’s rolling, forested peaks. For variety, ski passes include the option to visit other nearby resorts like Asahidake and Kamui Links. Don’t miss out on Furano’s legendary backcountry terrain if you have the skills to safely venture off-piste.

For a luxurious experience while skiing in Japan, Niseko is unparalleled. One of Hokkaido’s lesser-known ski resorts, Niseko has beautiful, deep powder – plus, if you ever want to relax at the end of a long day, the resort has open-air hot springs that you can literally sink into and bathe your worries away. Perfect. Slowly, word is getting out – in March 2008, Niseko was voted one of the world’s top 10 ski resorts.

It was the highest new entry at number 6. There are four main ski areas which are interconnected (Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, and Hanazono) and can be accessed using a single ski pass. For off-piste lovers, Niseko has plenty of backcountry areas with high-quality skiing but make sure you check the current conditions as some areas are prone to avalanches.

Niseko has also begun to offer a range of summer activities including golf, tennis, fishing, horseriding, sea kayaking, white water rafting, trekking and biking.

Family Fun at Rusutsu Resort, Hokkaido

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Janne Moren

Hokkaido’s third biggest resort, Rusutsu, has beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes and caters to all skiers. With restaurants, cafes, and an entertainment complex, Rusutsu is a hub for all travellers who want to ski and explore and is Hokkaido’s top ski resort and is just 90 minutes from New Chitose Airport. The resort offers 37 different runs for beginners to experts.

For different ways of enjoying the wonderful landscape try dog sledding or riding a snowmobile.

With groomed cruising runs perfect for beginners and intermediates, attractions like the huge Fujiyama onsen and the Rusutsu Resort theme park with roller coasters open in summer, Rusutsu entices families and groups. The resort area contains everything from budget apartments to luxury hotels like The Tower Rusutsu. Experts can still get their fix in Rusutsu’s tree zones and off-piste terrain. The nearby town provides an authentic Japanese experience when you want a change of pace from the slopes.

Charming Furano Ski Resort, Hokkaido

 

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Edz’sta

With world-class ski slopes located a short while away, Furano is the ideal place to stay if you want to test your winter sports abilities. The resort is situated in the ‘powder belt’ area in the centre of Hokkaido and enjoys an impressive annual snowfall of nine metres with some of the driest powder snow anywhere in the world. There are 10 lifts – one of which is the fastest cable car in Japan – and more than 20 trails.

The town offers an authentic traditional Japanese experience – thankfully, the locals are used to visitors so the resort is incredibly tourist-friendly. Furano has a small-town appeal too and all staff, guides, and instructors are residents of the town and can share their local knowledge as well as their skiing expertise. It’s a good choice for families and has an English-speaking ski and snowboard school as well as daycare facilities for guests.

Furano is also an excellent base from which to explore other resorts in the central Hokkaido area; Kamui, Tomamu and Asahidake are all easy day trips and multi-resort ski lift tickets are available. Furano itself is just an hour on the bus from Asahikawa airport and all accommodation is close to the lifts and the town centre is an easy walk from the ski resort.

Nozawa Onsen’s Hot Springs and Skiing

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) mookE

Another charming and traditional experience, Nozawa Onsen is a snow resort with slopes to be envied. As you’re skiing or snowboarding down, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of a beautiful white expanse and like Niseko, Nozawa Onsen also offers hot springs so you can reward your muscles after a hard day’s skiing.

The town is traditional and beautifully quaint – in addition to the skiing there is plenty of cultural and historical interest. But most come for the white stuff – there is a huge area to explore and something for everyone: family-friendly wide open ‘motorways’, knee-rattling mogul fields and excellent powder runs.

The village itself is situated at the foot of the ski resort, which spans three main areas.

The traditional onsen hot spring village of Nozawa Onsen provides a cultural experience alongside excellent skiing and snowboarding. Tree-lined slopes get piled high with powder and attract skiers seeking thigh-burning mogul runs and scenic views. Cap off the day soothing sore muscles at one of Nozawa’s public onsen baths. The village atmosphere also includes historic shrines, craft shops, and restaurants serving delicious soba noodles and sake.

Hakuba Valley’s Interlinked Resorts

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Warren Miller Entertainment

Hakuba is a valley located near Nagano which contains ten ski resorts catering primarily to on-piste skiers and snowboarders of all levels – off-piste skiing is not permitted in Hakuba and this ban is strictly enforced.

You can also find plenty of nightlife options and English-speaking are well catered for. Hakuba is very popular with international visitors; there is a wide range of accommodations including self-catering apartments which are rare in Japanese ski resorts. Child care and children’s ski lessons are offered by English-speaking staff but the resort retains its Japanese culture and has a nice village feel.

Only two of the ski areas are interconnected but shuttle buses transport skiers between them and a single ski pass is used. Hakuba hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998 and the resort of Happo-One was the venue for the downhill, slalom and ski jumping and is a favourite for speed freaks. 

Hakuba is easily reached from Tokyo or the Tokyo International Airport (Narita) on the bullet train and bus.

Hakuba is a valley located near Nagano which contains ten ski resorts catering primarily to on-piste skiers and snowboarders of all levels – off-piste skiing is not permitted in Hakuba and this ban is strictly enforced.

Hakuba Valley’s collection of diverse, interconnected ski resorts offers terrain for all abilities across over 200 runs

You can also find plenty of nightlife options and English-speaking are well catered for. Hakuba is very popular with international visitors; there is a wide range of accommodations including self-catering apartments which are rare in Japanese ski resorts, as well as a lively mix of international restaurants, bars and accommodations catering to overseas visitors.

Child care and children’s ski lessons are offered by English-speaking staff but the resort retains its Japanese culture and has a nice village feel.

Only two of the ski areas are interconnected but shuttle buses transport skiers between them and a single ski pass is used. Hakuba hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998 and the resort of Happo-One was the venue for the downhill, slalom and ski jumping and is a favourite for speed freaks.

Hakuba 47 and Goryu provide the most vertical and challenging lines for the most experienced – or daring.

Hakuba is easily reached from Tokyo or the Tokyo International Airport (Narita) on the bullet train and bus.

Myoko Kogen’s Deep Powder and Backcountry Access

Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) debudayo

Ever the family-friendly ski resort, Myoko Kogen has nine different mountains to cater for any skill set. If you’re bringing the little ones along, there’s even a kids park to keep them entertained. Myoko Kogen is also privileged enough to be situated near historical monuments and museums, so you can get a cultural experience as well as a winter snow experience.

Myoko is not the place to come for wild nightlife – here it’s all about the skiing. The resort is renowned for some of the best conditions in all of Asia with an average snow base of four metres and yet Myoko is just a train ride from Tokyo.

To relax in the evening try one of the traditional bars and restaurants and make sure you make use of the wonderful hot springs.

Ever the family-friendly ski resort, Myoko Kogen has nine different mountains to cater for any skill set. If you’re bringing the little ones along, there’s even a kids park to keep them entertained. Myoko Kogen is also privileged enough to be situated near historical monuments and museums, so you can get a cultural experience as well as a winter snow experience.

Myoko is not the place to come for wild nightlife – here it’s all about the skiing. The resort is renowned for some of the best conditions in all of Asia with an average snow base of four metres and yet Myoko is just a train ride from Tokyo.

To relax in the evening try one of the traditional bars and restaurants and make sure you make use of the wonderful hot springs.

Nine resorts across the area include family-focused Akakura Onsen and challenging Mt. Myoko. Stay in traditional ryokan lodging and unwind after skiing in the area’s steaming onsen baths. Watch for aerial acrobatics from skilled local skiers and snowboarders hitting the terrain park features.

Scenic Shiga Kogen Ski Resort

Boasting the largest ski area in Japan, the interconnected zones of Shiga Kogen provide incredible views from Mt. Yakebitai’s summit out over the mighty Japanese Alps. Groomed runs for all abilities access off-piste powder fields for those willing to hike a bit for fresh tracks. With 21 different areas in total, the skiing seems endless. Stay right on the slopes or relax at the nearby Yudanaka mountain village onsen town.

Upscale Accommodations at Kiroro Resort

Catering to international visitors, northern Hokkaido’s Kiroro Resort combines top-notch ski-in, ski-out hotels like The Kiroro with excellent groomed cruising terrain perfect for beginners and intermediates. The slopes get less crowded than other major Hokkaido resorts, allowing you to lap powder turns in peace. Enjoy watching the sun set over untouched snow slopes while soaking in the ski-hill top onsen.

Whether you’re a powder hound in search of deep dry snow or want a taste of quintessential Japan, these resorts deliver epic ski trips with inspiring mountain scenery, modern facilities, and immersive cultural experiences. Get ready to take your ski vacation to new heights by visiting the best resorts in Japan.

You may be familiar with Japan as a cultural hub with stunning temples, delicious food, and a rich history, but the land of the rising sun has so much more to offer. When the days get shorter and the air gets cooler, Japan’s northern region is the perfect place to escape for a winter holiday.

With an eclectic range of ski resorts to suit any traveller, Japan offers one of the best winter wonderlands in the world. If you’re looking to liven up your winter travel itinerary, add these resorts to your list and beat the winter blues, Japanese-style.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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