Ski Asia readers reveal where they plan to ski next
Japan is currently closed to international travel, but many are still planning their next escape when the border walls fall. A recent survey of nearly a thousand Ski Asia readers asked the question, “Where in Japan are you most likely to ski next?” And the results say a lot about what people look for in a resort.
Despite all the talk that Niseko is getting too crowded or overdeveloped, he remains the overwhelming first choice of our readers, with nearly a third of the votes cast. An indication that large terrain and reliable snowfall will always prevail. In a distant second comes Hakuba, with 13% of the vote, while in third place (punch well above his weight) is Madarao with 12.2%.
Want to know a little more about each of the resorts they chose and why you might consider adding one to your own travel list? Scroll down for a brief overview of each.
Niseko (or Niseko United) does not need to be introduced. It has become synonymous with skiing in Japan and is the largest and most popular resort in Hokkaido (technically, four resorts in one). It has some of the best ski runs within the country’s borders, but for those looking for Niseko’s famous powder snow, the Gates of Niseko is your ticket to paradise.
Accommodation in Niseko ranges from ultra-luxurious 5-star hotels to backpacker lodges (and everything in between), and its afternoon scene is as good as it is in Japan. In short: it’s a truly international resort these days, with the services (and price) to match.
There is an endless debate between the people of Niseko and Hakuba as to which ski resort is better, but the truth is that both are amazing in their day. Like Niseko, Hakuba is internationally renowned and has the terrain, snow, and amenities to attract skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.
Technically, the Hakuba Valley is Japan’s largest ski resort, although it’s actually a partnership of ten resorts accessible with a single pass (you’ll need to take a bus to travel between resorts).
Located in the Japanese Alps, Hakuba has some of the best touring skis and steep slopes in Japan, which in recent years have helped earn its place as a stage of the Freeride World Tour, welcoming riders like Travis Rice and Gigi. Ruf.
Madarao is a mid-sized resort by Japanese standards, but anyone who has been lucky enough to visit knows that it hits well above its weight. The resort comes alive on a powder day, as we found out on our first visit in 2019, with skiing in the trees as good as anywhere. It is important to note that skiing off marked trails is encouraged by resort operators (not so common in Japan), and there are even specially marked “powder areas”.
There isn’t a thriving party scene in town, and most visitors to the quaint resort town wouldn’t really want it that way. But with some fantastic local restaurants and bars (Shaggy Yak was our favorite) and a few public onsen, you have everything you need to relax and recover from a day of powder snow.
In some ways, Nozawa Onsen has the best of everything. It’s a great resort with sensational skiing, but it handled its rise in popularity well and managed to retain the local vibe that made it popular in the first place. A walk through the beautiful city at the end of the day is a must, as is a trip to one of Nozawa’s many public onsen.
The recent completion of a new gondola is an added bonus; it halved the time it takes to get from Nagasaka base to Yamabiko top station – now just an 8-minute journey. More time to ride in the powder!
The Myoko region of Japan has become increasingly popular over the past decade and for good reason. The region is a magnet for powder snow and its resorts can receive more than 15 meters of snow per season.
There isn’t a single Myoko Ski Resort, although Myoko Akakura – which combines Akakura Kanko Ski Resort and Akakura Onsen Ski Resort – is widely regarded as the main spot. But it really is the land of snow, and to get an idea of how many resorts are within easy reach, check out this map, which just might contain the secrets of the ultimate powder ski road trip in Japan.
Rusutsu is one of the largest ski areas in Hokkaido, often making comparisons to neighboring Niseko, located about 20 km to the west. Far from being a poor cousin, Rusutsu is perhaps best known for its 1,000 acres of off-piste terrain accessible by lift, with skiing in powder and trees that easily rank among the best in the world.
Rusutsu is owned by one company, so there is more of a “resort” vibe and no real village to speak of. Accommodation options, which include The Westin and The Vale Rusutsu, are first-class and will suit those looking for an upscale experience with quality skiing to boot.
Furano is a large ski resort in central Hokkaido, a part of Japan known for its light, dry powder, although in slightly less quantity than its coastal counterparts (Niseko, Kiroro, etc.). It’s a fantastic all-rounder and offers ample terrain for all skill levels. Beginners and intermediates alike will appreciate the resort’s snow groomers, which have a reputation for being the best in the country, while advanced and expert riders will be able to take to the powder.
The city is another highlight and offers dining and accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. It also manages to retain its Japanese identity, but with the convenience of English services and staff.
In 2019, one of our editors wrote an article titled “Is Shiga Kogen Japan’s Forgotten Station?” Which largely reflects our thoughts on skiing in this part of Japan. Shiga Kogen is Japan’s second largest “resort” – a network of 18 individual resorts spread over approximately 25 km, encompassing over 607 hectares of ski area served by 52 ski lifts.
It ticks a lot of the boxes: great snow, vast and varied terrain, shovel cultivation (it’s also a short distance from the famous Jigokudani snow monkeys), but for reasons we don’t quite understand, seems to have been pushed back the most list of people to visit in recent years. Certainly, some ski lift infrastructure at resorts is aging and the off-piste skiing policy tends to be more conservative than many of the resorts listed above. It is still a wonderful corner of Japan with superb skiing. Our advice: go there before it’s “rediscovered”!
Kiroro has recorded up to 21 meters of snow in past seasons, which is almost a reason in itself to visit this little powder magnet from a resort. The ski area spans two mountain peaks, Asari and Nagamine, which together encompass 22 runs and are served by 10 modern high-speed ski lifts – not huge, by any means, but enough to keep most skiers satisfied for at least one hour. at least a few days.
Kiroro is to the north of Rusutsu and Niseko, so for anyone setting up their base in one of these larger resorts, Kiroro makes a very manageable day trip. In our own experiences, it also tends to suffer less from temperature swings and is a great stop early or late in the season when snow elsewhere is not as reliable. In fact, it is often the first resort in the region to open for the season.
Like Rusutsu, this is a purpose built resort (no real city), which will suit some people more than others. Party goers should look elsewhere.
Tomamu is often considered a family resort, but the truth is, there is something for everyone. There is naturally a lot to suit the beginner and intermediate contingent of any group, but what is less discussed is the availability of excellent skis in the trees and off-piste for advanced skiers to the top. search for the “Japow” experience.
There is also plenty to keep visitors entertained off the slopes, including an indoor beach (heated to 30 ° C even in winter!) As well as a beautiful Ice Village that includes an ice rink, chapel and several shops.
It’s a unique offer, and you won’t find anything like it in Japan. If the above description has sparked your interest, we suggest you read this in-depth review of the resort.
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