Every year frigid winds from Siberia come across the sea and hit Japan’s mountains, dumping 14 metres of snow on the 600 resorts across the nation. This makes for a paradise of many choices for skiers and snowboarders. Japan’s ski resorts are
becoming more and more popular as the sheer amount of snowfalls and the quality of powder snow prized by skiers are being discovered. European and Canadian skiers are looking for the perfect slope and a variety of courses through which to challenge their skills and experience new thrills.
Most resorts are within a 90 minute flight or bullet train trip from Tokyo. The closest is in Niigata, on the north-west coast. Niseko in Hokkaido used to be the most popular, but others in central areas of Hokkaido, along with Appi and Zao in Tohoku and in the Japanese Alps of Nagano, are being discovered. This extends to resorts in Nozawa, Hakuba and Shiga Kogen (the largest ski area) in the central west. Some are huge: “Happo One” in Nagano has 135 lifts, 144 courses and an unbelievably long 8km long slope. A charming aside to ski resorts are volcanic hot springs (“Onsen”) that are heavenly for sore bodies after a day on the slopes and a terrific way to relax. There are other local attractions such as snow monkeys in Nagano and the Ice Festival in Sapporo, as well as the local cuisine and souvenirs.
Getting to these resorts is quick and efficient; there are shuttle buses available to most resorts, and some (for example GALA) even have their own bullet train stations. There are also English-speaking guides, courses, signs and ski instructors available at the bigger and popular resorts, and depending on the location, there are a variety of apresz-ski venues to try. Kani-nabe (crab hot pot) is simply divine on a cold night, as is sake or shochu to warm you up. Costs for ski lifts and gear rental are cheaper than you’d expect: some only charge $30 a day and other prices are around half of those in Australia. With the strong dollar it’s great value for money, as well as an unforgettable experience.