Ski buff Miles Walsh and SnowJapan.com
gets the lowdown on some of the best ski resorts in Japan for folks
who want to get a jump on the ski season.
Winter might not be everyones favorite
time of the year. After all, it can be trying at times
to cope without central heating, without thick carpets, battling
with your kerosene heater that always seems to run out of fuel at
the wrong time
.. But there is one aspect of winter in Japan
that makes it absolutely the best season of the year. Snow! And
great, big mountains of it!
You might not know it yet, but not too far away
from you wherever you are in Japan there is a mountain
that transforms into a winter paradise come December or earlier,
bringing with it all the fun and excitement of winter sports.
According to a survey conducted by the popular
winter sports website, SnowJapan.Com,
the majority of foreigners who arrive in Japan have never had the
chance to put on skis or a snowboard, and their first time skiing
or snowboarding was at one of the hundreds of resorts scattered
across the Japanese mountainsides.
It seems that apart from there being a
big market for ski and board lessons in English arriving
in Japan turns a large number
of foreigners into powderhounds by the time they leave.
The biggest problem faced by the would-be skier
and snowboarder in Japan is the huge amount of choice. With resorts
dotted all over the Japanese moun-tains, from the northern island
of Hokkaido right down to the main southern island of Kyushu, almost
all of Japans inhabitants live within a couple of hours of
a resort many much closer.
With over 600 resorts, Japan is actually home
to the largest number of ski and snowboard resorts in the world.
From the deep powder of Niseko (Hokkaido); the huge Shiga Kogen
resort areas of Nagano; the quaint traditional villages of Nozawa
Onsen in Nagano and Zao Onsen in Yamagata; the "Olympic village"
of Hakuba in Nagano with it's superb selection of resorts and facilities;
the popular Yuzawa Onsen resort region in southern Niigata Prefecture,
offering over twenty resorts within a short train ride of Tokyo...
the variety and depth of choice open to snow-lovers in Japan is
truly breathtaking and difficult to match anywhere else on earth.
Whilst the well-known large-scale world-class
ski resorts do exist, the majority are much smaller operations offering
just a few lifts and runs. Whilst they may not be as big, many times
these resorts can often be just as enjoyable as the
their larger counterparts.
The winter sports scene has changed considerably
over the last ten years or so. After the ski boom of the 80s,
the next big event was the emergence of snowboarding. During the
early 90's when snow-boarding first appeared in Japan, the few boarders
taking to the slopes were often looked on at with amusement by the
Back then, resorts where you could snowboard were
few and far between. Things have changed considerably since then
and there are presently only a minority of resorts remaining that
do not allow snowboarders on their slopes. Snowboarders can now
be found at all but a handful of resorts and increasingly
at many resorts they actually outnumber the skiers.
The resorts that still do not allow snowboarders
onto their slopes use their "skiers-only" policy to try
to attract families and those traditionalist skiers who may prefer
not to mix with snowboarders for whatever reason!
The fact is, however, that snowboarding is the
fashionable choice right now and it seems to have revived interest
in the winter sports scene over recent years. Youll find that
many resorts now prepare special Snowboard Parks complete with halfpipes,
quarter pipes and other fun facilities for snowboarders and this
trend will no doubt continue this coming season with bigger and
better facilities to keep the boarders happy great news for
anyone into the sport.
There are traditionally a number of regions of
Japan that are home to a cluster of resorts - the main ones being
Hokkaido, the Tohoku region, Nagano and Niigata. There are also
many resorts in Tohoku, Gifu and Toyama, and further south, in Hiroshima.
As would be expected, conditions tend to be better the more north
go and at resorts higher on the mountains, but for those living
in Kansai and further south, there are still opportunities to get
on nearby ski slopes, and the excellent transportation network makes
even the northern areas easy to get to.
For a complete rundown of resorts in the region,
and over 800 resort reviews written by readers, check out the Snow
Japan website. In the meantime, here are a few of the main regions
that you might want to explore in the region:
Many of the resorts are found in the areas around and to the north
of Mount Washigatake. This area is popular with young people from
Nagoya and Osaka.
big and popular resort with
a good selection of runs and good park.
decent resort with
good snow. Some steep runs to enjoy.
popular local resort.
Winghills Shirotori Resort.
Resorts are found in the areas around Mount Hyonosan.
it can get crowded
Nashiki Kogen: a fun place to avoid crowds.
Some resorts can be found in the areas around Biwako Lake.
(west of Biwako Lake):
just an hour on the train from Kyoto, can get crowded, need to pick
well for decent snow.
(east of Biwako Lake): a couple
of hours from Kyoto, but less busy than Biwako, and generally better
than Biwako Valley.
one of the most popular
resorts in the Hiroshima region, easy to get to.
If you have the time and the budget, a trip further north is highly
recommended. Many of the best winter sports regions of Japan can
be found to the north, and with generally more snowfall, better
quality snow and longer seasons its definitely worth the effort.
There are countless large-scale resorts in Nagano
try the Hakuba valley and Nozawa Onsen in Nagano, and the
Myoko region in Niigata. There are many more good resorts in Gunma,
Fukushima, Yamagata, and further north in the Tohoku region. Many
peoples favorite is the northern island of Hokkaido
some say that the best snow in Japan falls on the slopes
So this winter why not take advantage of the
natural white wonder-lands that are easily within reach. You cant
get escape the winter months, so just make the most of it!