With over 500 ski and snowboarding resorts in Japan, it can be challenging to know where to start. But we’ve got a list of some of the best ski destinations in Japan, including the underrated ones. At the end of this article, there will be a table summarising the ski resorts that will be mentioned, along with a few others that we recommend. After all is considered one of the snowiest countries in the world, known for its beautiful scenery and hot springs.

hokkaido ski resort japan

Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the largest and northernmost Japanese prefecture. The most popular ski resorts in Hokkaido include Niseko, Furano and Rusutsu and many are suitable for day trips. There is also great food and many other facilities you can enjoy.

Read more: 11 Things to Do in Hokkaido

Niseko

Consisting of four connected resorts on one mountain, Niseko is one of the largest ski areas in Japan. There are over 47 kilometers of groomed slopes, including 9 gates for backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Each of the areas has dedicated areas for beginners. All resorts have their own ski schools with some offering lessons in English.

1. Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu Ski resort

is Located on the southeastern side of the mountain, it is the largest ski resort in Niseko with over 22 trails and 13 lifts (1 gondola, 3 quad lifts). This makes it great for tree runs. The steepest course, Onsenzawa hits 40 degrees. It is also home to the most dining, and nightlife and has the widest variety of accommodations. On top of that, there are seven runs available for night skiing.

2. Niseko Hanazono Resort

Hanazono is the most northeastern resort. It has a total of 11 trails, with the steepest course, Legend of Shinya, hitting 30 degrees. There have been a lot of recent developments made including the addition of the Symphony Gondola, stadium lights that makes night skiin possible, and the new Park Hyatt Hotel, which opened in 2020.

3. Annupuri

Annupuri is said to offer the best lift-accessed off-piste skiing. There are a total of 13 trails, with access to popular gates such as G1 and G7.

4. Niseko Village

 Located between Grand Hirafu and Annupuri, has a total of 28 trails. Niseko Village is also home to Mizuno no Sawa, Niseko’s only avalanche-controlled area with some of the most exciting terrain anywhere on the mountain. The Hilton Niseko Village is also located in this area and offers all the comforts of a small snow town.

You can gain access to all lifts across all resorts by purchasing a single mountain pass. Niseko is also known for its nightlight, with all manner of restaurants and bars and activities such as night skiing.

Opening Dates and Times

Ski season is generally from early December to early May (depending on snow conditions). Lifts generally close at 16:30, unless there is night skiing.

How to get there

Buses operate from Chitose Airport and Sapporo city.

rusutsu japan ski destination

Rusutsu

Rusutsu is the largest ski resort in Hokkaido that covers three mountains: West Mountain, East Mountain, and Mt. Isola. Each of them has its own unique terrain. There is a good mix of groomed trails and tree runs. West Mountain has trails for skiers of all abilities and is located towards the right-hand side of the resort, whereas East Mountain has some longer trails and has Rusutsu’s steepest slope (Super East). On Mt. Isola, you’ll discover Rusutsu’s longest trail, Isola Grand, which runs for 3,500 meters. Along with this are two terrain parks: Side Country and Freedom.

Off-piste skiing is permitted at Rusutsu, which is great for more advanced skiers looking for a challenge. Some of the best areas of off-piste skiing on Rusutsu are between the lifts on Mt. Isola. Heavenly Canyon and Heavenly Spirit are two ungroomed trails on Mt. Isola.

There are 3 different accommodations that are offered at Rusutsu Resort, but not much nightlife. If that’s what you’re looking for, head for Hirafu Village in Niseko which is about 30-40 minutes away.

Opening Dates and Times

A typical season for Rusutsu is from late November to Early April. 

How to get there

The easiest way is to fly into New Chitose Airport and from there you can either take the direct bus “BIGRUNS”, which is for guests staying at the official hotels (but this requires a reservation seven days in advance). Another option from the airport is the “Resort Liner” which takes you through to Rusutsu and Niseko. You can also take the “Resort Liner” from Sapporo city, or take the free shuttle bus “Rusutsu Go”.

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ski resorts in japan

Tohoku region

1. Aomori Spring Ski Resort

Located on the northern side of Mt. Iwake in Aomori prefecture, Aomori Spring Ski Resort is not as crowded as the other major ski resorts. The 14 courses are mainly for beginners to intermediate levels. There are small areas of trees that allow advanced and expert riders to experience off-piste skiing. These all can be accessed from lifts, with short to long hikes. There is the option to book guided backcountry tours if you’re looking to challenge yourself. These will take you above Mt. Iwaki’s tree line. Night skiing can also be enjoyed on several trails. For snowboarders, it is home to the largest half-pipe in Japan and has a great terrain park. This ski resort was chosen by several Olympic teams as their pre-Olympic camp location. This includes the Finish and German snowboard teams, and the US Freeski and Halfpipe team.

Opening Dates and Times

The resort’s general season is from early December to early April, with opening times of 8:30 – 17:00.

How to get there

The resort is a 40-minute car or taxi ride from Hirosaki station, or alternatively, it is 20 minutes from Ajigasawa station. There’s also a resort shuttle for Aomori station and Shin-Aomori station. But if you’re looking to explore other areas in the Tohoku region, it would be ideal to have a car.

2. Zao Onsen Ski Resort

Zao Onsen is located in Yamagata prefecture and is famous for the juhyo (snow monsters) formations. These can be accessed via a ropeway and a gondola. The Zao Juhyo Festival takes place annually from December to March, featuring the illumination of snow monsters, a fireworks show, ice sculptures and more. Zao Onsen is also home to one of the longest runs in Japan, the Juhyogen Course, which starts from Jizo Sancho station and goes down to Zao Onsen Village. This resort is great for beginner and intermediate skiers, with only 20% of the runs classified as advanced. For more advanced skiers, there is the option of backcountry skiing. This can be done through a backcountry tour with the ski school.

Opening Dates and Times

The ski season typically starts in early December and ends in early May.

How to get there

Zao is easily accessible by shinkansen. There are buses from Yamagata station and the journey takes about 40 minutes.

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Chubu region

Located in the middle of Japan’s main island, Chubu consists of nine prefectures including Niigata, Nagano, Gifu and Ishikawa. It is home to many famous ski resorts including Yuzawa, Shiga Kogen, Hakuba and Naeba.

A northern region in Honshu, Tohoku consists of six prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Miaygi, Yamagata and Fukushima. Many of the ski resorts in the Tohoku region are not regularly visited by foreign tourists, and many of them are quite smaller. Some popular ski resorts in Tohoku include:

ski destinations japan

Yuzawa

A town located in the Niigata prefecture, Yuzawa is known for its hot springs and ski resorts. There are over 20 ski areas in Yuzawa town and the neighboring city of Minamiuonouma. It has some of the most easily accessible ski resorts from Tokyo. The most visited ski areas are Naeba, Kagura and GALA Yuzawa. Some other resorts in the area include Yuzawa Nakazato, Yuzawa Kogen, Ishiuchi Maruyama, and Joetsu Kokusai. Yuzawa Kogen is connected to Gala Yuawa by ropeway and Ishiuchi Maruyama by chairlift. You can get access to all three resorts by purchasing the Yuzawa snow link pass, which provides you with a wider variety of terrains.

Gala Yuzawa is great for those looking for a day trip from Tokyo. But due to the close proximity to Tokyo, it can get extremely crowded. The resort has 16 courses and can be divided into three areas: The Northern area contains many easy runs, the Central area contains a mix of beginner and intermediate trails, and the Southern area has intermediate and advanced trails.

Kagura Ski Resort comprises of three areas: the Mitsumata Area, the Tashiro Area and the Kagura Area. Ski season in Kagura is generally from late November through to late May.

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Naeba Ski Resort

Naeba is located on the eastern slope of Mount Takenoko in Niigata prefecture. It is a popular resort due to its accessible location from Tokyo. There is a good mix of terrain for all levels. However, for intermediate and advanced skiers, it would be good to note that side and backcountry skiing are restricted.

Naeba is linked with Kagura via the Dragondola (Japan’s longest gondola) and takes 20 minutes each way. Naeba and Kagura are collectively known as Mt. Naeba and there is a joint lift ticket available. Naeba has hosted many events, including the FIS Alpen Ski World Cup, and national ski and snowboard competitions. It is also the venue of the popular Fuji Rock Festival in summer. If you’re also in the area at the correct time, you may see people running down the mountain. They’re taking part in an event called the “Naeba Snow Vertical Down”, which involves running down a 5km course.

Opening Dates and Times

Ski season at Naeba runs from mid-December to early April. However, there isn’t adequate snow coverage until January and many facilities do not open until peak season. Naeba is typically open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, and night skiing is available until 8:30 pm.

How to get there

The resort is 40 minutes from Echigo-Yuzawa station. From here, there are complimentary buses run by the Naeba Prince Hotel that will take you to the hotel in 40 minutes. If you’re not staying at the hotel, there are also local buses that run between the resort and the station.

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is located in Nagano prefecture and is one of Japan’s largest ski resorts. It has a good mix of terrain for all levels, on-piste and off-piste trails, and tree skiing. One of the attractions of Nozawa is the Yamabiko Area, located just below the top. It contains five courses, offering a variety of slopes with ungroomed areas and tree runs. Skiing outside the resort area is prohibited unless you have submitted a backcountry ski trip plan to the resort. The steepest run at Nozawa is Challenge 39. It’s not a long run but can make for a great ski on a good day. The Dosojin Fire Festival which is held every year in January is also another reason to visit this ski resort.

Opening Dates and Times

Areas at Nozawa typically open from late November to early May. Lifts operate from 08:00 to 16:30 or 17:00 and night skiing is available from 17:00 – 20:00.

How to get there

Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo and get off at Iiyama station. From there you can the Nozawa Onsen Liner Bus. The journey takes about 20 minutes. If you’re traveling from Nagano station, you can take the Nagaden bus bound for Nozawa Onsen.

Après-ski

Après-ski is a french term that translates to “after ski” and it is used to describe activities that happen after the ski lifts close. In Japan, this includes time spent at a hot spring, izakayas (Japanese pubs), and bars specializing in sake or whisky. Larger areas such as Niseko and Hakuba have many facilities to cater to foreigners, and this is where you’re more likely to find Après-ski similar to western countries. If you’re looking for a more traditional Japanese experience, you’d be better off looking at smaller resorts. One quintessential experience would definitely be the hot spring. Many of the areas mentioned above are famous onsen towns, but there are also other popular areas worth mentioning here such as Gunma, Gifu, and Fukushima.

List of Ski Resorts in Japan

PrefectureSki resortNumber of trailsLongest run (m)Steepest slopeNumber of lifts
HokkaidoNiseko Hirafu2253004013
HokkaidoNiseko Hanazono114500304
HokkaidoNiseko Village285500358
HokkaidoNiseko Annupuri Kokusai ski resort134000346
HokkaidoRusutsu Resort3735004018
AomoriAomori Spring Ski Resort143400305
AkitaTazawako ski resort133000386
YamagataZao onsen ski resort25100003836
NiigataGala Yuzawa Ski Resort1625003311
NiigataYuzawa Nakazato Snow Resort162000325
NiigataYuzawa Kogen Ski Resort76000305
NiigataIwappara Ski Resort204000359
NiigataNaeba Ski Resort2440003212
NiigataJoetsu Kokusai Ski Resort2260003825
NiigataKagura3260003219
NiigataMyoko Suginohara168500385
NaganoNozawa36100003920
NaganoHakuba Happo-One16800003722
NaganoOntake104000353
NaganoShiga Kogen102200306

Conclusion

Japan offers some of the best skiing in the world. There are too many resorts in Japan to name but hope that this article can give you some ideas or tips for your next ski adventure in Japan!

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