Cover image by Josh Laskin | All other photo by Unofficial Netwroks
I’ve been to Japan on five different ski trips, and each time I come back with a new appreciation for what an amazing ski destination the archipelago is.
Japan has long been a destination for culture, food, and stunning natural landscapes. But in recent years, it’s also gained a reputation as a world-class destination for skiing and snowboarding.
A bing reason for this is the fact that Japan is renowned for its huge dumps of dry powder snow, which is perfect for skiing and snowboarding. This is thanks to its unique geography and weather patterns. (Read More Here) Northern Japan is located on the edge of the Siberian High, a high-pressure system that brings cold air from Siberia, making it a prime target for winter storms. As the cold air moves over the Sea of Japan, it picks up moisture, which then falls as snow over the mountainous regions of Japan. The combination of cold air and moisture results in copious amounts of dry, light powder that’s a dream to ski or snowboard on/in.
But it’s not just the quantity and quality of the snow that’s driving the popularity of skiing in Japan. The country also has a wide variety of ski resorts, some of which offer state-of-the-art facilities, modern infrastructure, and high-quality accommodation. Some of the most popular regions include Niseko, Hakuba, and Nozawa Onsen. These regions have invested heavily in attracting overseas visitors, with many offering English-speaking instructors, international menus, and other amenities that cater to the needs of international travelers.
However, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path ski areas that ooze authenticity. These ski areas are simple with fixed grip doubles and four-person gondolas, but they offer up plenty of snow and empty slopes.
A great place to experience these ski hills is in the Norther Tohoku region. Here you will find dozens of ski areas that are undiscovered by western skis and hardly visited by even Japanese outside the region.
Another factor that’s driving the popularity of skiing in Japan is the cultural experience that comes with it. Japan is a fascinating country with a rich history, unique customs, and incredible food. Skiing in Japan allows visitors to experience all of this, while also indulging in their favorite winter sport. Many resorts are located close to hot springs or “onsen,” which are a traditional part of Japanese culture. Soaking in a hot spring after a day on the slopes is a great way to relax and unwind while also experiencing an important part of Japanese culture.
Food is another big draw for visitors to Japan. Japanese cuisine is renowned for its fresh, healthy ingredients and unique flavor profiles. Ski resorts in Japan have embraced this by offering a wide variety of international and Japanese cuisine. From sushi to ramen and everything in between, visitors to Japan’s ski resorts are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options. Even the food at the ski area cafeterias is amazingly delicious.
But perhaps one of the biggest draws of skiing in Japan is the sense of adventure that comes with it. What visitors to Japan’s ski resorts are finding is an experience that is truly unique and off the beaten path. From exploring the backcountry to skiing in the shadow of an active volcano to soaking in a 1000-year-old onsen, a ski trip to Japan offers something that can’t be found anywhere else.