Are you looking for the best ski resort in Japan? We’ve got you covered.
With its unique culture, rich history, delicious cuisine, and spectacular scenery, Japan is undeniably one of the most fascinating countries in the world — and it is also one of the greatest ski destinations for those in the know.
The abundant powder on Japanese mountains is considered some of the driest and most reliable on the planet, the resorts are top quality, and there is excellent terrain for all levels from total beginner to accomplished expert, with slopes staying open until 9pm at night.
Ready to take on the Japanese slopes?
Here’s our ultimate guide to the best ski resorts in Japan…
- 1 Niseko
- 2 Hakuba
- 3 Yuzawa
- 4 Appi Kogen
- 5 Rusutsu
- 6 Furano
- 7 Nozawa Onsen
The most famous and glamorous ski resort in Japan, Niseko on Hakkaido island in the north is comprised of 4 linked resorts — Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri, and it’s possible to ski the 3310 foot vertical over 1000 meters from the summit of Mount Niseko Annupuri down to its base.
Niseko experiences an incredible 590 to 670 inches of fluffy snowfall each season, and a long ski season between November and May.
There are 78 runs in total, 30% of which are beginner level, 40% intermediate, and 30% advanced, making this an ideal ski destination for all levels of ability.
The award winning terrain is an exhilarating mix of wide, groomed trails, incredible off piste, moguls, big powder bowls, tree skiing, superb night skiing, pitched steeps, and excellent terrain parks. The lift infrastructure is extensive but it can sometimes be a little slow getting from place to place.
In addition to skiing it’s possible to try your hand at heli-skiing, snowmobiling, cat-skiing and snowshoeing, as well as taking a dip in the infamous Niseko hot spring onsen baths.
Take a look at this video for a sneak peek into the snowboarding opportunities:
Each of the 4 resort villages that make up Niseko have their own distinct feel. Hirafu is at the heart of Niseko après ski — and has probably the best nightlife of any ski resort in Japan. There is a huge choice of both traditional Japanese and international restaurants and bars, and a lively party atmosphere late into the night in the town’s various nightclubs.
Upmarket Niseko Village has more of a relaxed ski resort feel and a good range of après ski activities, shops, and spas and is popular with families. The villages of Annapuri and Hanazono are smaller and quieter, although Hanazono boasts the best restaurants at the resort — all with magnificent mountain views.
Where to Stay: Nest At The Trees
A 4 star boutique hotel with breathtaking views positioned between Hirafu and Niseko Village in a grove of tall pine trees, Nest At The Trees features traditional Japanese styling mixed with chic, modern touch touches.
The Blackwood Grill restaurant offers quality meats and the freshest local produce cooked to perfection on an open fire, and guests can relax and unwind in authentic Japanese style at the hotel’s very own mineral rich Japanese Hot Spring Baths, featuring indoor and outdoor baths overlooking the trees and stream.
Each accommodation has views of either the mountain or the forest, private en suite bathroom, 43 inch smart television, kitchenette, and personal safe.
Self catering lodges feature large living and dining areas, kitchens, fireplaces, multiple en suite bathrooms, and sleeping accommodation for up to 8 guests.
- Natural hot spring baths
The tree studded valley of Hakuba is home to 10 different ski resorts spread across many towns and villages, which overall offers a true taste of a traditional Japanese ski experience.
Together the resorts combine to create a vast ski area with exceptional terrain in a region that is rich with Japanese culture, including temples, castles, hot springs, plus spectacular Alpine scenery.
With a minimum of 430 inches of snowfall each season Hakuba is renowned for its fantastic powder, as well as for the extensive terrain available for all levels from beginner to expert.
Each resort has its own unique appeal, with Tsugaikeand Goryu having the best beginner terrain, Happo One and Iwatake having the most interesting trails for intermediates, and Hakuba 47 possessing the best pistes for experts.
Across the resorts the terrain includes long groomed runs, steeps, moguls, and phenomenal backcountry skiing and snowboarding.
Happo One is the most popular resort and the hub of the action at Hakuba Valley. It boasts a 3513 foot vertical, 23 lifts, and 13 runs, of which 30% are beginner level, 50% intermediate, and 20% advanced, as well as plenty of sweet backcountry with steep alpine faces and gullies leading down through dense trees.
Come evening there are a wide range of restaurants and bars at the resort, including Japanese, Mexican and international restaurants, plus traditional Japanaese Izakaya bars, live music venues, and western pubs.
Where to Stay: Hotel Hakuba
In a quiet and peaceful location in the heart of Hakuba Village along the banks of the Otaru River, 3 star Hotel Hakuba offers guests a luxurious ski getaway.
Western style guest rooms and apartments benefit from scenic Alpine views, sitting area, en suite bathroom and LCD television, with some accommodations also featuring kitchenettes.
The hotel is equipped with its own indoor hot spring baths with panoramic views of the surrounding scenery.
All you can eat Japanese and Western buffet meals are served in the cosy restaurant, complete with open fireplace.
- Hot spring baths
- Some self catering accommodation
The most convenient ski region to get to from Tokyo, Yuzawa has its own Shinkansen bullet train station which transports eager skiers and snowboarders right to the center of the ski area. The downside to this is that the pistes can get crowded at weekends.
12 resorts make up the Yuzawa ski area, all of which are within easy reach of one another. This opens up a wide choice of superb ski terrain, all with an outstanding mountainous backdrop.
Yuzawa resorts are particularly well suited to beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, who get to enjoy plenty of wide, groomed runs.
Off piste skiing is banned at many of the resorts, but the resorts of Kagura, Hakkaisan, and Kandatsu Kogen offer up some great advanced terrain for powderhounds.
Yuzawa is also known for its onsen hot spring baths, which can be found easily in all the resorts — it’s a popular and traditional Japanese way to unwind after a day on the slopes.
Each resort has a selection of bars — both western style and cozy Japanese izakaya style — late night karaoke bars, and great little restaurants.
Where to Stay: Yuzawa Hotel
This quaint, 3 star ryokan offers guests a real taste of Japanese culture.
Traditional minimalist accommodations feature tatami mats, futons, shared bathrooms, refrigerators, and large flat screen televisions.
An authentic Japanese Onsen with both indoor baths and outdoor hot tubs are the perfect way to soothe away your aches and pains after a hard days skiing.
- Good location
- Authentic Japanese accommodation
- Hot spring baths
- Breakfast on offer
One of the largest ski resorts in Japan, Appi Kogen ski resort tumbles 282 hectares across the magnificent mountains of Mount Maemori and Mount Nishimori on the borders of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park on the northern Japanese island of Honshu.
The most glamorous ski resort in Japan, the resort has more than enough on offer to ensure that skiers and snowboarders will be ‘happy in Appi’ both on and off the slopes.
As a purpose built ski resort Appi Kogen has top notch services and facilities which include a hi-tech lift system to serve the 21 runs.
The ski terrain has a 2716 foot vertical and an average of 315 inches minimum snowfall each season. The terrain is nicely varied with a good split of piste into 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 30% advanced runs.
The long, perfectly groomed trails are a particular pleasure at Appi Kogen ski resort, along with excellent, nicely pitched terrain for beginners. Intermediate to advanced skiers can get plenty of kicks out of the mogul terrain and tree skiing, and there is some great backcountry, and steep black runs.
Appi Kogen is a popular resort — particularly among westerners — and English is widely spoken which makes things a lot easier when trying to order in restaurants, of which there are many mouth watering options including Asian and international.
Après is relatively calm at Appi, but there is still fun to be had in the resort’s small selection of friendly bars, and it’s always possible to belt out karaoke tunes until closing time.
Where to Stay: Hotel Appi Grand
Hotel Appi Grand is the 4 star flagship hotel of Appi Kogen ski resort.
The sleek modern tower boasts 5 different restaurants which serve delicious Korean, Japanese, western, and Chinese cuisine made from local, seasonal ingredients.
There’s a state of the art fitness center, squash courts, and indoor swimming pool for guests who wish to work out during their stay.
The rooms and suites which are available in a choice of western or Japanese styles are classy and comfortable, and are equipped with en suite bathrooms, lounge areas, flat screen televisions, and kitchenettes.
Certain accommodations feature private hot spring baths, and the hotel spa and wellness center offers a range of treatments including massage.
Two bars each offer a different ambiance for a relaxing drink, and there’s a mini market on site for added convenience.
- Ski in / ski out accommodation
- Choice of 5 dining options
- Heated swimming pool
- Fitness center
- Spa and wellness center
There are very few ski resorts that can lay claim to having some of the best powder in the world, but Rusutsu in Hokkaido has a right to claim the crown with 512 inches of the lightest, driest powder falling on its slopes each year.
The resort also boasts a 1948 foot vertical drop and 1500 acres of awesome terrain spread over 3 different mountains.
Rusutsu Hokkaido is particularly famous for its incredible tree skiing and off piste, and of the 37 runs 30% is suitable for beginners, 30% for intermediates, and 40% is for those of an advanced to expert level.
Runs are well serviced by a high quality lift infrastructure.
This is a popular resort with families and beginners thanks to some excellent dedicated learning areas with good progression slopes, as well as the range of children’s activities at the resort. Intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders have a ball on Rusutsu’s long, perfectly groomed runs, and can cut their teeth on blue runs with deep powder.
There are some demanding black and double black runs for the experts, as well as all that gnarly off piste.
English is fairly widely spoken at the modern Japanese style resort village, and there are a good selection of dining options — from international fare in the big hotels, to traditional Japanese delicacies in the cozy eating establishments at the base of the mountain.
Après ski is friendly but fairly sedate, with a smattering of small bars in the village as well as a few classy cocktail bars.
Where to Stay: The Westin Rusutsu Resort
This ski in / ski out 5 star hotel offers chic and spacious accommodations, each with cozy living areas, majestic views of Mount Yotei, kitchenette with breakfast bar, flat screen television, and private en suite bathroom.
The 24 hour WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio is a sleek, modern space equipped with the latest cardio and strength-training equipment.
The Rusutsu Resort Public Bath is the ideal place to enjoy a restful and relaxing experience with beautiful seasonal scenery, and there’s also an indoor wave pool and heated outdoor pool.
Aromatherapy treatments are available at the hotel spa and wellness center.
Dining options at the Westin include Japanese cuisine made from high quality local seasonal ingredients at Kazahana, and all day dining with panoramic views at the Atrium restaurant. The Lobby lounge serves masterfully crafted cocktails to finish your evening in style.
- Ski in / ski out access to slopes
- Spa and wellness center
- Swimming pool
- Fitness center
- Choice of dining options
Furano is one of Japan’s largest ski resorts, and has some of the best skiing in Hokkaido due to over 315 inches of quality, fluffy snow falling each season, a vertical drop of 3140 feet, central island location, and some sensational scenery.
There are 24 marked runs served by 9 lifts at the resort. Many of the trails are well pitched and left ungroomed to provide maximum fun for advanced skiers, and off piste there is enough to keep expert skiers and snowboarders happy for days on end.
With 40% of runs, beginners are well catered for too. There are 3 main areas for novices, which feature wide groomed trails. Intermediates are in their element at Furano ski resort, with plenty of challenging piste including long, thigh burning cruisers.
There is also the possibility of night skiing on small areas on both sides of the mountain.
When the action on the slopes starts to wind down, the traditional town of Furano provides a pleasant Japanese cultural experience, with authentic Japanese restaurants aplenty.
Furano nightlife is fairly low key with only a handful of bars for après drinks, and a karaoke bar with an ‘all you can drink’ plan if you’re after some boozy fun.
Where to Stay: Winery Hotel and Condominium HITOHANA
Both hotel and self catering accommodation are available at the 3 star Winery Hotel and Condominium Hitohana, which is located just a couple of kilometers distant to the ski slopes.
Each of the 33 comfy, western style rooms features a flat screen television, mini bar, en suite bathroom and kitchen area, and lovely mountain views.
A gourmet buffet breakfast using fresh and tasty local ingredients is provided for guests each morning. The hotel restaurant and lounge serves French and European cuisine, and drinks are available 24 hours at the hotel bar.
Guests are invited to take advantage of the free shuttle service provided by the hotel to get to and from the ski slopes in comfort.
- Mountain views
- Free shuttle service
- Excellent breakfast
Experience 100% natural snow skiing at Nozawa Onsen, Japan’s original ski resort which has been welcoming skiers to the slopes of Mount Kenashi in Nagano since 1912.
This popular resort is made up of a whopping 298 hectares and is blessed with 390 inches of guaranteed high grade snow each season. It’s possible to ski the entire height of the mountain to experience the 3559 foot vertical.
There are 50 km of slopes in total, on which are 36 runs serviced by 20 lifts including 2 gondolas, but these can have long queues at peak times.
The terrain includes something for every level of ability. There are 3 dedicated beginner areas at the base of the mountain, and 40% of runs are beginner level, and include a pretty tree lined 5 km trail to help novices improve to the next level. Advanced to expert skiers and snowboarders have plenty to tackle too, with some seriously steep on piste and demanding moguls, and tree skiing, chites, cliffs and more off piste.
Picturesque Nozawa Onsen Village is all cobbled streets and Japanese old world charm, and it’s famous for its abundant onsen hot spring baths.
The village is filled with traditional guesthouses, restaurants, and bars, and the cuisine here is exceptional – particularly of the Japanese variety.
Après is fun and lively, with options from authentic izakayas, to karaoke clubs and bars with dancing and daily happy hours.
Where to Stay: Hatoguruma Kawabata
Hatoguruma Kawabata is a charming and affordable 2 star guesthouse located in Nozawa Onsen near to restaurants, shops and onsens.
Warm and comfortable rooms are spacious and feature a Japanese style and furnishings, flat screen televisions, sitting / dining areas, and tea and coffee making facilities.
Flavoursome vegan Japanese meals are served in the delightful guesthouse dining room.
- Convenient location close to amenities
- Close to ski slopes
Which do you think are the best ski resorts in Japan?