The Different Flavours of Skiing in Japan
There are two basic options for skiing in Japan, and you simply have to ask yourself; are you a powderhound? If so, the best areas are Rusutsu, Hakkoda, and Niseko. For an all-round skiing experience, try out Nozawa Onsen and Kiroro. For such a small continent, this land has some of the best snow on the planet; it’s definitely a must go for competent skiers.
Rusutsu Ski Resort
Rusutsu Ski Resort is one of the best places to ski if you fancy a bit of off the beaten track skiing. Of course, this means you might want to be a bit more of a competent skier. There’s an average annual snowfall of 14 meters that lands as powder which you can blast right through. The resorts are relatively un-crowded, so when the real powder hits, it’s not as hard to be the first on the fresh lines, which are minimal walking distance from the top of the lifts. There are 19 lifts here, with four gondolas and seven quad lifts with hoods to protect from winds. Remember, Niseko is under an hour away from Rusutsu so if you think you’re missing any of that action, you can take a quick trip to check it out.
Hakkoda Ski Resort
Hakkoda Ski Resort is described as a truly hidden gem of Japan’s ski fields. From what I’ve heard, it does somewhat live up to this reputation, but not entirely. While it has fantastic ski fields and a lot of untouched powder, it has a tendency to gather similar crowds to Niseko and Rusutsu in its prime powder season. It’s mainly off-piste here with 654 meters of vertical drop; this mountain is not suited for inexperienced skiers. But on the other hand, experienced skiers and riders will have a ball as there’s little or no red tape stopping you from going where you want off-piste, just watch out as ski patrol does not cover these areas.
Niseko Ski Resort
Niseko Ski Resort is easily the most famous area of Japan’s skiing for Australians. It’s known for what Australians like to call ‘slackcountry’ which is easily accessed backcountry. Tree skiing is abundant here which separates the four faces of the mountain, and the opposite, off-piste side of the mountain offers great views of the ocean and fantastic powder skiing, with just a quick hike to the very top of the mountain.
Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
As the name ‘Onsen’ implies, this area is famous for its natural hot springs. But with 300 hectares of skiing on one resort and 1,085 metres of vertical drop, you can’t go wrong in this ‘lesser known’ area. Powder at Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is fantastic when it falls, but the catch is that it’s quite hard to time this snow. It’s a bit less planned here with no large hotels and plazas, but sometimes that’s a good thing when in Japan skiing, after all it’s quite a crowded country.
Kiroro Ski Resort
Kiroro Ski Resort is a bit of a smaller resort, with only 21 runs ranging from green to double black. It’s got some great powder but is better known for its all-rounded ski season and selection between alpine and tree skiing. A great tip is that unless you’re out at night here, temperatures are a bit warmer and thermals might not be necessary. Kiroro, like Rusutsu, is only an hour drive to Hokkaido, so if you want to take a day trip and try something new in Hokkaido, feel free to do so. Or if you want a break from Niseko crowding, head here to Kiroro; a little less known but a little more unique.