Japan is easily one of the best skiing destinations on the planet, famous for its quantity and quality powder snow falling across the countries’ vast number of ski resorts. International riders return year after year making the most of the deep powder snow, stunning culture and traditional food. We’ll help you to discover the best ski resorts in Japan.
In general, Japan’s ski resorts are not nearly as cold as other northern hemisphere ski resorts with temperatures only reaching around -10c to -15c at most ski resorts, which is quite mild when compared to temperatures overseas. Most ski resorts are also at quite low altitudes, so there is no chance of altitude sickness or acclimatization. On top of that, Japan’s ski resorts receive some of the biggest snowfalls in the world, giving riders access to world-class powder found nowhere else on earth.
Best Ski Resorts in Japan
What are the best ski resorts in Japan?
- Nozawa Onsen
- Myoko Kogen
- Shiga Kogen
- Appi Kogen
The undisputed “powder capital of Japan”, Niseko United, receives some of the most consistent snowfalls in all of Japan. The snow that falls here is said to be the best quality powder snow in the world, famed for its light and dry qualities. Niseko is composed of 4 ski resorts, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, and An’nupuri, all linked together and accessible by one lift pass, creating a large and diverse ski area.
Off-piste, tree skiing and backcountry skiing here is some of the best and most easily accessible in Japan, with a well-established gate-entry system offering riders freedom to explore the area.
Niseko is also famous for its lively village atmosphere, great restaurants and bars with most located in Hirafu Village at the base of Grand Hirafu ski resort. Most Niseko accommodation, shops and services are located here as well, including NBS rental and ski school. The other three resorts also have a growing number of accommodation, facilities and shops. This ski resort is consistantly rated as one of best ski resorts in Japan.
- Niseko is 2.5 hours from New Chitose Airport
- Consistent, reliable, good quality snow
- Lively village atmosphere & nightlife
- Range of Niseko accommodation options
- Excellent off-piste skiing on top of a sizeable on-piste area
With 10 different ski resorts all accessible via one lift pass, Hakuba is one of the largest combined ski areas in Japan. Each ski resort is accessible by shuttle which is free for holders of the All Mountain lift pass. The biggest ski resorts within Hakuba are Happo-One, Hakuba Goryu47, Tsugaike Kogen and Cortina.
Hakuba is known for its variety of terrain which caters for both beginners and experts. Riders can access backcountry terrain from the top of Happo-One, offering expert skiers world-class backcountry riding on some of the biggest mountains in Japan.
There is a range of accommodation styles including the affordable Hakuba Gateway Hotel, and the chic, newly developed Grand Phenix Hakuba, as well as many restaurants and shops. There are several villages which are spread out around the bases of the ski resorts with the most prominent village area, “Happo”, at the base of the Happo-One ski resort.
- Hakuba is 5 hours from Narita intl. airport and 3 hours from Tokyo station
- Big ski area
- 11 Ski Resorts
- Long runs with steep sections for advanced riders
- World-class backcountry terrain (expert only)
- Close to cultural experiences
- Lively village and nightlife
- Watch: How to get to Hakuba
Rusutsu Resort is one of Japan’s best ‘all-in-one’ ski resorts, winning “Japan’s Best Ski Resort” in 2017 and 2018 at the World Ski Awards. The resort has high-quality ski runs and tree skiing, excellent restaurants, two hotels and a brand new onsen facility.
The ski area is divided into two sides, West Mountain and East Mountain which are linked by a gondola. West Mountain has a handful of runs but includes the world-renowned “Side Country Park”, which has jumps, drops and log-rides all made from natural materials built into the forest. The East Mountain is much larger with lots of tree runs and long groomed runs. Rusutsu is an absolute favourite for powder hounds with snowfall almost rivalling that of Niseko which is just 45 minutes away.
There are two central hotels – the “Rusutsu Resort Hotel“, located at the base of the West Mountain ski area, and the “Westin Rusutsu Resort“, located on the East Mountain side. A short monorail ride links both hotels so guests can easily access either side without really having to leave the hotel. Rusutsu Resort Hotel has several restaurants including “Octoberfest” which has a great buffet breakfast and dinner (highly recommended), as well as an arcade, merry-go-round, swimming pool, and many shops. Westin Rusutsu Resort Hotel has two restaurants, an onsen and a fitness studio. There are affordable villas and houses available close to the resort as well.
- Rusutsu is 2 hours from New Chitose Airport
- An all-inclusive, self-contained resort
- Great tree skiing and powder runs
- Mostly hotel accommodation
- Arcade, Merry-go-round
- New Onsen facilities
The ski resort of Furano is known for its stunning powder runs, ski-in ski-out hotels, and thriving town. The ski area has 24 runs, six backcountry access gates, two hotels at the resort and famously receives some of the lightest and driest snow in the world.
Furano is made up of two ski areas, “The Kitanomine Zone” and the “Furano Zone”, which are connected by a lift and ski run. The Furano Zone has a large ropeway style gondola which departs every 10 minutes as well as four other chairlifts and provides access to four out of the six backcountry gates. The Kitanomine Zone has a six-passenger gondola that runs right to the top of the resort as well as four-seater chairlift on the mid slopes.
There are many runs for beginners and intermediate riders on the middle slopes with some of the best powder skiing in Japan on the upper sections of the resort for advanced and expert riders. This mix of runs and terrain makes Furano one of the few resorts that cater for both experts and beginners. Both zones in Furano also offer night skiing on the middle and lower runs till 8 pm.
- Furano is around 2 hours from New Chitose Airport
- Large Town a few minutes from the ski resort
- Excellent groomed runs
- Great off-piste and powder runs
- Good resort for both experts and beginners
The ski resort of Nozawa Onsen is a beautiful mix of Japanese culture and world-class skiing. The town is lively with many accommodations, restaurants, onsens, bars and cafes. The onsens in the village are a major attraction with over 13 easily accessible facilities right in town.
The ski resort itself is quite large with a generous mix of terrain. The backcountry is world-class with easy access around the resort and mountains, and there is an active local community of backcountry enthusiasts. It’s easy to see why Nozawa Onsen is becoming increasingly popular, with great skiing in a truly traditional Japanese town.
- Nozawa Onsen is 4.5 hours from Narita Airport
- Many historical onsens
- Easy to soak in the Japanese culture
- Excellent backcountry terrain
- A traditional Japanese village atmosphere
- Many options for accommodation
The second self-contained resort on this list, Kiroro, is known for its quantity and quality of powder snow, receiving some of the most snowfall of any resort in Japan. The resort has two hotels, as well as large apartments. The long, groomed runs are immaculate and soft, perfect for beginners and intermediate riders. There is also a “powder zone” for progressing to full powder skiing.
Kiroro also has backcountry access gates, offering a wide variety of deep powder terrain. The backcountry powder runs are short, but since the area is so vast, it’s possible to get fresh tracks each run. To access the gates, guests must sign up at the mountain centre desk in the ticket office at the start of the day.
- Kiroro is 2 hours from New Chitose Airport
- Not close to the local town
- Self-contained resort
- Wide area
- Excellent powder snow
Tomamu ski resort is one of the best family-friendly resorts in Japan, located just 90 minutes from Sapporo New Chitose Airport. This self-contained resort has a mix of beginner and intermediate runs, with some advanced off-piste areas near the top of the resort. There is also a cat skiing operation accessing high-level terrain and fresh powder runs.
The resort has a large indoor, heated swimming area called “Mina-Mina Beach”, a cute ice village, snowmobiles, snow rafting and many more on and off-snow activities. Hoshino Resorts Tomamu is one of the best (and most comfortable) options for a family-friendly winter holiday in Japan.
- Tomamu is 90 minutes from New Chitose Airport
- Self-contained resort
- Primarily beginner and intermediate terrain with some advanced areas
- Excellent quality accommodation
- One of the best family resorts
- No local town
- Many restaurants at the resort
The historical ski resort of Myoko Kogen is one of the oldest ski resorts in all of Japan and is composed of three interlinked ski areas offering some of the longest ski runs in Japan as well as some of the steepest. Intermediate and beginners also have a wide variety of terrain for efficient progression. Despite the age of the ski resort, the 40 lifts and resort facilities are relatively modern.
Myoko Kogen is known for its relaxed village atmosphere, with most accommodations located in “Akakura Village”. There are many restaurants, including izakayas, burger shops, cafes, bars and more.
- Myoko Kogen is 4.5 hours from Narita Airport (Tokyo)
- Historical ski area
- Many long and steep ski runs
- Relaxed, Japanese village atmosphere
- Many options for accommodation
One of the largest ski areas in Japan is Shiga Kogen, comprising of 19+ interlinked ski resorts which are all accessible with a single lift pass. There is varied terrain, with mostly intermediate and beginner runs with several advanced runs. The powder snow is good, and there are some excellent un-groomed runs across some of the ski areas. For travellers looking for varied terrain, this is one of the best ski resorts in Japan.
There are many hotels around the base of the various ski areas, but there is no single central village like at some other ski resorts. The hotels offer and bars, and it’s easy to hop from resort to resort even at night. Shiga Kogen is close to the famous Snow Monkeys, and it’s not difficult to access Matsumoto castle and Zenkoji temple.
- Shiga Kogen is 4.5 hours from Narita Airport (Tokyo)
- 19+ interlinked ski resorts
- One of the biggest ski areas in Japan
- No single central village
- Feels quiet due to the size
Naeba Ski Resort is one of the most accessible resorts in Japan to access from Tokyo with a travel time of just 2.5 hours. Neaba is a mostly all-inclusive resort with large hotels, lots of restaurants and modern services. The ski area is divided into two zones, both accessible via a single lift pass. The “Dragondola” is one of the longest gondolas in Japan at 5.8km long and links both sides of the resort. The main ski area, directly in front of the hotels, offers wide-open intermediate and beginner runs with some advanced runs at the top as well as two terrain parks and powder fields. The “Tashiro” ski area offers some more challenging routes with a focus on powder. The combination of these two ski areas makes Naeba one of the best ski resorts in Japan.
The hotels are very comfortable with a large number of restaurants and eateries on the lower floors. The nearby town of Echigo Yuzawa has many cultural experiences including a large sake tasting area, onsens and shopping district.
- Naeba is 2.5 hours from Tokyo station
- Easy to access
- Two interconnected ski areas
- Good all-round resort
- Wide choice of restaurants
- Night skiing
This self-contained ski resort is one of the more modern resorts in Japan due to the complete refurbishment in completed 2017. The Lotte Arai ski area has a very generous amount of off-piste skiing in large open bowls, as well as a mix of intermediate and beginner groomed runs. This mix means that advanced riders can get fresh powder all day while those with less experience can develop their skills quickly. The terrain is generally not steep but is the perfect pitch for the kind of powder snow that falls here.
There is one central hotel with luxuriously modern rooms and services without the premium price tag. Guests can access onsens, indoor swimming pools, an adventure centre, various restaurants and lots of on and off-snow activities making Lotte Arai one of the best ski resorts in Japan.
- Lotte Arai is just over two hours from Tokyo station
- A large off-piste powder skiing area
- Excellent services, rental & ski school
- Modern hotel
- Great for families
- Great for powder hounds looking for comfort
The up-and-coming resort of Madarao has so far been somewhat of a hidden gem with mostly return guests making the pilgrimage each year.
The ski resort of Madarao is composed of two interlinked resorts, and has a generous amount of off-piste tree runs across both areas for riders to enjoy. These tree runs are what brings people here as the powder snow is consistently light and dry, with excellent terrain easily accessible from the chairlifts. There are many beginner, and intermediate ski runs as well on the lower slopes for riders to progress on before taking on the powder.
- Madarao is 3.5 hours from Narita Airport (Tokyo)
- Excellent off-piste tree skiing
- Excellent powder snow
- Quiet resort
- Not much village atmosphere
- Freeride terrain park
One of northern Japan’s best ski resorts is Appi Kogen, a self-contained resort located 3.5 hours from Tokyo by bullet train. The ski area is enormous with 21 ski runs; the longest of which is 5.5km. Appi is a relatively quiet resort for its size and is an excellent option for those wanting to avoid the crowds and is one of the best ski resorts in Japan.
The terrain surrounding Appi Kogen is stunning, and the resort runs backcountry tours so that powder hounds can get the best snow in the world without competition and there are many activities run by the resort, including snowshoeing, sledding and snow tubing.
Appi Kogen offers the best of both worlds, with world-class terrain and excellent family-friendly facilities.
- Appi Kogen is 3.5 hours from Haneda Airport
- One of the biggest resorts in northern Honshu
- Excellent terrain
- Family-friendly facilities
- Self-contained resort