Given the short flight time from Hong Kong, skiing in Japan is a fun and accessible experience. There are plenty of spots to get good powder, whether you are an enthusiastic amateur or a serious ski bunny! With the help of the experts at Jebsen Holidays, we run our eye over some of the snowy hotspots for the coming ski season.
Perennially blessed with pristine powder, Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is heaven for skiers and boarders. The slopes are located on the western side of the island, with winds blowing directly in from Siberia, making the snowfall dry and deep.
With magnificent Mount Yotei as backdrop (“the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido”), Niseko is the ultimate playground for powder chasers and one of Asia’s most popular ski destinations. Apart from Hokkaido’s celebrated snowfall and exciting outdoor pursuits, you can venture out from Niseko to see Japan’s famous hot spring bathing snow monkeys at Hakodate or be awed by the annual ice sculpture festivals at Sapporo and Otaru.
Various ski resorts in Hokkaido are available to book via Jebsen Holidays, including the following.
• Situated at Niseko Village, the full-service Hilton Resort accesses 2,000 acres of skiable terrain that connects with neighbourhood ski slopes via the Niseko All Mountain Pass. Adjacent Mount Annupuri offers a variety of slopes, suitable for all abilities and ages. Hilton also serves up a wide range of winter activities, including snow rafting, snowmobiling and even reindeer sledding, ideal for an unforgettable family holiday.
• A vibrant après-ski scene is nearby at Hirafu. Just a doorstep away from the slopes, Ki Niseko is a ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel. With outdoor onsens, on-site ski rentals and concierge, it’s perfect for ski fanatics.
• One of the newest editions to Hirafu, AYA Niseko offers fully-furnished luxury service apartments, residence and penthouses. AYA also features a Kids Club, with a childcare service for the little ones allowing you to make the most of that deep and blissful powder. After an exhausting, snow-filled day, in-house world class amenities like a private onsen, spa and more are available for recharging the batteries.
• For a one-stop shop ski experience in Hokkaido, visit Club Med’s ski resorts at Sahoro and Tomamu. Club Med offers an all-inclusive package including lift tickets, ski lessons and meals – perfect for travellers who are interested in a hassle-free holiday. The main difference between the two Club Med resorts here lies in their design and atmosphere. For a more intimate Japanese style experience, opt for the 177-room Club Med Sahoro. If you want a more contemporary and lively experience with traditional Japanese nabe (hot-pot) dining options, opt for the new 341-room Club Med Tomamu.
About the different resorts
Niseko-Hirafu, Annupuri, Niseko Village and Niseko-Hanazono are the four connected ski resorts that make up the main resort area. Collectively, the area is referred to as Niseko United, and it offers the most infrastructure and foreign-language support for tourists in the region. Niseko-Hirafu is the largest of the four, with about 60 percent of the ski runs and the most accommodation options, restaurant choices and number of lifts. A handful of other popular resorts aren’t too far away; these include Rusutsu, Moiwa and Kiroro.
Jebsen Holiday’s ski specialists can arrange bookings at all of these, and in other popular regions including Furano, in Central Hokkaido.
It’s not only Hokkaido that’s blessed with great snow in Japan. Naeba Ski Resort on the slopes of Mount Takenoko in Honshu’s Niigata Prefecture not only boasts great runs and a relatively long skiing season, but it’s also very conveniently located to Tokyo (approximately 2.5 hours by car or train).
The resort is connected with neighbouring Kagura Ski Resort by Dragondola, Japan’s longest gondola, and the entire area (known as “Mt Naeba”) has a total of four ski areas. The Naeba Prince Hotel at the bottom of the ski area boasts 1,224 rooms and offers various fun experiences along with gourmet dining, shopping and hot springs.
Did you know?
There’s a reason why Niseko is renowned for its powder skiing: on average, it receives a whopping 14 metres of snow during the season, which typically runs from around mid December through to March.
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This article first appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.