The best snow slopes in Japan

As Japan heads into the depths of winter, one can almost hear the collective sound of aspiring skiers and snowboarders preparing themselves for the slopes that have become a staple of Japan’s snow season. Although the tried and true favorites of Niseko and Hakuba enough are highly recommended, rooms in the area do fill up faster than an ice cream can melt during summer in Australia. However, Niseko and Hakuba are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the range of other amazing ski and snowboarding slopes Japan has to offer. Let’s take a look!


1. Hakuba Area (Nagano Prefecture)

After being selected as the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics, Hakuba Happo-One in Nagano Prefecture gained international recognition for being a prime spot for snow sports in Japan. Nearby the slopes lies a hot spring, where wearied snow adventurers can ease their aching muscles and wash away their tiredness after a long day of snow activity. The 8th of every month is “Happo Onsen Day” and entrance is half price.


2. Niseko (Hokkaido Prefecture)


The slopes and powder snow at Niseko have become so famous they no longer need any introduction. Rooms in the area are often booked out well in advance, but as Japan’s largest travel agency, JAPANiCAN may be able to find you a room even in Sold Out hotels!


3. Rusutsu Resort (Hokkaido Prefecture)


If you’re bent on spending your snow adventures in Hokkaido but want to skip the crowds in Niseko, why not try Rusutsu Resort? Located only 40 minutes by car from Niseko, convenient direct buses also operate from New Chitose Airport and Sapporo. There are many activities on offer, including snow mobile & rafting, horseback riding, showshoeing and cross country skiing.

  • Search for rooms in Rusutsu
  • Access: 90 minutes drive from New Chitose Airport, Sapporo.
    • A free shuttle service departing from near JR Sapporo Station (Rusutsu Resort Sapporo Sales Office) is provided for those staying at the resort. A reservation to use the shuttle is required at least one day in advance by 5:00 p.m. There is also a bus that operates for a fee from New Chitose Airport. Reservations are required at least one week in advance.
  • Official website


4. Furano Ski Resort (Hokkaido Prefecture)


For those that want to venture out even further, you can’t go past Furano Ski Resort, said to be a heaven for powder snow due to its inland climate, and an all-round rich cultural experience. You can even try your hand at snowmobiling or backcountry skiing in the surrounding area.


5. Zao Onsen Ski Area (Yamagata Prefecture)


Famous for its breathtaking scenery of frost-covered trees, the Zao Onsen Ski Area is one of Japan’s preeminent major ski slopes. Popular courses include ones with vistas of the frost-covered trees known as “Snow Monsters”, and the Long Downhill Course with a maximum length of 9km. You can even challenge yourself to the famous Yokokura Wall, a slope at the top with a slant of 38 degrees.

As a bonus, the close-by Zao Fox Village, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, presents prime opportunities for seeing foxes scampering about within a world of silky white.

  • Search for rooms in the Zao Onsen area
  • There are also many tours available around the Zao area
    • In particular, the Snow Monster Illumination is an incredible night display that is a feast for the eyes.
  • Access: there are a number of ways to get to Zao Onsen.
    • From Tokyo Station, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station (1 hour 40 mins), then transfer to an Expressway Bus bound for Zao Onsen (1 hour 30 mins).
    • From Tokyo Station, take the Yamagata Shinkansen to Yamagata Station (2 hours 30 mins), then transfer to a bus bound for Zao Onsen (40 mins).
    • There are also many tours available around the Zao area. In particular, the Snow Monster Illumination is an incredible night display that is a feast for the eyes.
    • Take a flight from Haneda Airport to Yamagata Airport (60 mins), then take a bus to Zao Onsen (60 mins).
  • Official website


6. Akakura Onsen Ski Area (Niigata Prefecture)


The Akakura area is one of the oldest in the nation, and its slopes are reputed for being optimal for snowboarding. With a wide variety of facilities, even serious snow enthusiasts can challenge themselves to a range of courses here.

  • Search for rooms in the Myogo Kogen area
  • Access: From Tokyo Station, take the Nagano Shinkansen to Nagano (1 hour 40 mins), change to the JR Shinetsu Line and ride till Myoko Kogen Station (40 mins). From Myoko Kogen Station, it is a 10 minute (5 km) bus or car ride to Akakura Onsen.
  • Official website


7. Nozawa Onsen (Nagano Prefecture)


With close proximity to Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen provides the dual pleasures of a ski slope and an onsen (hot spring) town. Boasting an altitude differential of 1,085 meters, it promises to be a satisfying on-snow experience for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and ages alike.


Snow Activities in West Japan


For those interested in skiing or snowboarding in West Japan, check out SKIJAM Katsuyama in Fukui Prefecture. This hotel is located next to one of the largest ski resort locations in western Japan, and offers magnificent panoramic views from the natural hot spring open-air bath. With 7 free shuttle buses per day running from Fukui Station to the hotel during the winter season, this is one convenient and easily accessible snow slope!