The Best 12 Ski Resorts in Japan 2021

The Best 12 Ski Resorts in Japan

Photo courtesy of Naeba Ski Resort

Are you looking for a ski resort in Japan?

Japan is famous for having light powder snow that is great for skiing and is known as one of the best places for skiers worldwide.

Places like Nagano and Hokkaido have been used for the winter Olympics in the past, and Japan continues to bring in skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.

These are not the only reasons why people come to Japan to ski; Japan’s ski resorts also attract tourists with the appeal of Japanese culture. At many ski resorts, you can have opportunities such as soaking in a hot spring. Combined with the unique experiences that you can have in the inner city of Tokyo, a trip to a ski resort can make a perfect trip to Japan.

In this article, we are going to be recommending some of the best ski resorts for international visitors to Japan.

Table of contents

  1. NISEKO UNITED (Hokkaido)
  2. ZAO Ski Resort (Yamagata)
  3. Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort (Nagano)
  4. HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE Ski Resort (Nagano)
  5. GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort (Niigata)
  6. Rusutsu Resort (Hokkaido)
  7. Naeba Ski Resort (Niigata)
  8. Ryuoo Ski Park (Nagano)
  9. Shiga Kogen (Nagano)
  10. Maiko Snow Resort (Niigata)
  11. Dynaland (Gifu)
  12. Furano Ski Resort (Hokkaido)

1. NISEKO UNITED (Hokkaido)

NISEKO UNITED
Photo courtesy of NISEKO UNITED

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Some of the highest quality powder snow in the world
  • Longest run: 5,300m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 45%, Intermediate – 28%, Advanced – 27%
  • English: Very English Friendly
  • Nightlife: Vibrant
  • Website: https://www.niseko.ne.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to enjoy high-quality powder snow
  • Are looking for easy-to-access backcountry and challenging slopes
  • Are looking for great nightlife

NISEKO UNITED is located in Hokkaido and is arguably the most popular ski resort for international skiers, snowboarders, and visitors to Japan. It is known for its high quality of powder snow and the expansive backcountry area.

One of the most notable aspects of NISEKO UNITED is the large amount of snowfall it gets each year. You can expect the slopes to be completely reset after one night, allowing for it to be in the best condition all the time.

Around the slopes, there are hotels that you can stay at that have hot springs. With an abundance of bars and restaurants in the surrounding areas, you can be sure to enjoy the nightlife of Niseko to the fullest.

Many international skiers visit NISEKO UNITED and as a result, the area can become very crowded. However, this also means you will be able to get around just fine without having to know much Japanese.

Places to stay

How to get to NISEKO UNITED from Tokyo

It is most common to travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido by plane. It will take you about an hour and a half to get from either Haneda or Narita Airport (Tokyo) to Shin Chitose Airport (Hokkaido). The flight will be around 15,000 to 20,000 JPY.

From Shin Chitose Airport to NISEKO UNITED, it is recommended that you take a 3-hour bus ride costing around 3,000 JPY.

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2. ZAO Onsen Ski Resort (Yamagata)

ZAO Onsen Ski Resort
Photo courtesy of ZAO Ropeway

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Some of the highest quality snow on mainland Japan
  • Longest run: 10,000m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 40%, Intermediate – 40%, Advanced – 20%
  • English: English not widely spoken
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: http://www.zao-spa.or.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to enjoy the quality of snow you can find in Hokkaido on mainland Japan
  • Want to see frost-covered trees known as “snow monsters”
  • Want to enjoy hot springs after spending the day skiing

ZAO Ski Resort which is located in Yamagata Prefecture is one of the largest comprehensive ski resorts that Japan has to offer.

The frost-covered trees, also known as “snow monsters” that grow around the area are famous around the world. Skiing while enjoying the view is something you do not want to miss out on. The trees are also lit up at night from December to March.

ZAO Ski Resort has the largest ski area in Japan, with 14 runs, 12 courses, and 36 ropeways and ski lifts. There is also one of the best hot springs in the Tohoku region that has been said to have been flowing for over 1,000 years.

You will not find much nightlife at ZAO Ski Resort. The area is also not as English-friendly as other locations, but you should be able to get around without much difficulty.

Places to stay

How to get to ZAO from Tokyo

By airplane, you will have to fly from Narita Airport to Yamagata Airport and then take a 2 to 2 and a half hour bus ride. It should cost you around 11,000 to 12,000 JPY.

If you are taking the bullet train, it will take you about 3 and a half hours and cost around 12,000 JPY.

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3. Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort (Nagano Prefecture)

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort
Photo courtesy of Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Highest quality of powder snow on mainland Japan
  • Longest run:10,000m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 40%, Intermediate – 30%, Advanced – 30%
  • English: Very English friendly
  • Nightlife: Average
  • Website: https://en.nozawaski.com/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to experience Hokkaido-level powder snow without having to leave mainland Japan
  • Want to soak in the hot springs after going skiing
  • Are interested in looking at a view of blue skies and seas of clouds from the highest point of the mountain

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is one of Japan’s largest ski resorts, with an area of 297ha. Not only boasting an expansive area for skiing, Nozawa Onsen Resort also is home to hot springs. You can find 13 public baths filled with 100% natural hot spring water.

In the main area of the resort, you can find a total of 36 courses and a terrain park. 40% of the courses are made for beginners, making it a good choice for those just learning how to ski or snowboard, or those skiing with young children.

If you’re looking for a bit of a quieter pastime, you can find a ski museum with items on display from all over the world that pertain to the history of skiing.

Because Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort is popular among travelers, it is often crowded and you may not be able to feel as if you are in Japan in a traditional sense, but this also means that the staff at the resort will be able to speak English.

Places to stay

How to get to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort from Tokyo

If you are starting from Tokyo and going through Nagano Prefecture to get to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort, you are going to need about 5,000 JPY to ride a series of buses and trains. It will take you around 4 to 4.5 hours.

There is also the option to go through a station called Iiyama to get to Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort. It will only take you about 2.5 hours, but because you will take the bullet train partway, the travel expenses are higher, totaling around 10,000 JPY.

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4. HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE Ski Resort (Nagano)

HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE Ski Resort
Photo courtesy of HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow Quality: Powder snow, highest quality on mainland Japan
  • Longest run: 8,000m
  • Course Difficulty: – Beginner – 30%, Intermediate – 50%, Advanced – 20%
  • English: Very English friendly
  • Nightlife: Vibrant
  • Website: https://www.happo-one.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to enjoy the quality of snow you can find in Hokkaido on mainland Japan
  • Want to take a family trip
  • Want to experience the view of the Japanese Alps

HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE Ski Resort was used as the venue of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and is one of the best mountain resorts in the world.

The Northern Alps of Japan, a mountain range over 3,000 meters in altitude, make for great scenery as you ski down from 1,070 meters of elevation.

HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE offers 13 courses and 23 lifts, which should keep you occupied all day. The longest run is 8 kilometers, allowing a full 24 minutes of ski time.

The nightlife is also lively and you will be able to use English with no problem.

Places to stay

How to get to HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE from Tokyo

By using the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train), you can get from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station. From there, you will need to ride an expressway bus. The whole trip takes about 3 hours and costs about 10,000 JPY.

There is also an option to take an expressway bus from Tokyo directly to HAKUBA HAPPO-ONE. It will be a 5-hour bus ride that costs around 4,000 to 6,000 JPY.

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5. GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort (Niigata Prefecture)

GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort
Picture courtesy of GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Average
  • Longest run: 2,500m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 35%, Intermediate – 45%, Advanced – 20%
  • English: Very English friendly
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: https://gala.co.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Are looking to take a day trip from Tokyo
  • Want to enjoy beginner and intermediate runs in particular

A ski resort located near a bullet train station sharing the same name, GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is a convenient 75 minute trip from Tokyo without any transfers to buses or local trains.

There are 17 courses available, so visitors of all levels can enjoy the slopes. However, the runs are relatively short, possibly making the higher-level courses feel inadequate to advanced skiers.

Aside from the slopes, the amenities are high-quality at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort. You can find rental equipment, locker rooms, fitness pools, hot spring areas, and more, making it a perfect place to visit for those who do not have their own equipment or want to enjoy other activities after skiing.

There are a variety of restaurants in the area, so you can have fun trying many different types of food. GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is also very traveler-friendly, so you do not have to know much Japanese to get around.

Places to stay

How to get to Gala Yuzawa from Tokyo

It is most common to visit GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort by bullet train. A one-way trip is 1 and a half hours and should cost you around 7,000 JPY.

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6. RUSUTSU RESORT (Hokkaido)

RUSUTSU RESORT
Picture courtesy of RUSUTSU RESORT

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Overview

  • Snow quality: Some of the highest quality powder snow in the world
  • Longest run: 3,500m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 30%, Intermediate – 40%, Advanced – 30%
  • English: Very English friendly
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: https://rusutsu.com/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to enjoy powder skiing and tree skiing
  • Want to visit an area that is not especially crowded but still has a high quality of snow
  • Want to enjoy activities as a family including young children

At RUSUTSU RESORT, you can experience high-level powder snow unlike anywhere else. Spanning over 3 mountains, RUSUTSU Resort offers a total of 37 courses with its longest run distance spanning 3,500 meters.

The resort is known for having a good balance of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level courses. You can also experience dog sledding, snowmobiling, and other winter activities.

There are many family-friendly facilities and forms of entertainment, so RUSUTSU RESORT may be a good choice when traveling with small children or as a large family. Many employees can speak English as well.

RUSUTSU Resort does not get as crowded as other popular ski resorts which makes for a relaxing vacation, but this also means that the nightlife is not as lively.

Places to stay

How to get to RUSUTSU from Tokyo

The trip from Tokyo to Shin Chitose Airport will take you about 1 and a half hours and cost you around 10,000 to 15,000 JPY. From Shin Chitose Airport to RUSUTSU RESORT, you should take a shuttle bus that will take about 2 hours and cost around 3,500 JPY.

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7. Naeba Ski Resort (Niigata Prefecture)

Naeba Ski Resort
Picture Courtesy of Prince Hotel Naeba

Overview

  • Snow quality: Above average, among the best in Niigata Prefecture
  • Longest run: 6,000m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 35%, Intermediate – 45%, Advanced – 25%
  • English: English not widely spoken
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: http://www.naeba.gr.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to experience Japanese culture
  • Want to ski in a large-area ski resort
  • Are traveling with children

Naeba is easy to get to from Tokyo and is quite popular with tourists and those who are looking to take a day trip. Naeba Ski Resort boasts an expansive ski area, reaching 135ha with a total of 22 courses, 3 kid’s parks, and 3 gondolas.

Although close in proximity, compared to GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort which was mentioned earlier in this article, the altitude is higher and the snow is higher quality. However, you will not be able to find much powder snow.

For those traveling with children, there are areas especially for children to ski and a daycare. You will also be able to find lots of hotels and restaurants in the area. You may have some difficulty finding staff that speaks English, but there are plenty of pamphlets with information translated into English to help you find your way around.

The Naeba Prince Hotel, which includes approximately 1,200 guest rooms, is located very close to the ski area, making it a convenient place to stay.

Places to stay

How to get to Naeba from Tokyo

It is easiest to get to Niigata from Tokyo by using the bullet train. Including bus and train transfers, it will take you about 2 and a half hours. You can expect to pay around 8,000 to 10,000 JPY for the trip.

You can also take the overnight bus that departs from Tokyo, which will cost you around 4,000 JPY.

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8. Ryuoo Ski Park (Nagano)

Ryuoo Ski Park
Photo courtesy of Ryuoo Ski Park

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Some of the highest quality powder snow in Nagano
  • Longest run: 4,000m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 30%, Intermediate – 40%, Advanced – 30%
  • English: English not widely spoken
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: https://www.ryuoo.com/

Recommended for those who

  • Are looking for fantastic views of the clouds and sunsets
  • Want to ski in a large-area ski resort
  • Are traveling with children

Ryuoo Ski Park is a ski resort that is famous for its area of powder snow where you can gaze out onto a sea of clouds and beautiful sunsets.

It has one of the biggest ropeways in the world with a maximum capacity of 166 people. Using the ropeway, you can get up to the peak of 1,770 meters.

Because the altitude is very high, the snow quality is also very good. At Ryuoo Ski Park, you can experience high-quality powder snow that is guaranteed to be a fun time to ski on.

In addition to the ski runs themselves, at the top of the mountain is a cafe called SORA terrace cafe where you can grab a bite to eat while looking out on a sea of clouds.

At the ski runs, there is an area called “Adventure Park” where you can also enjoy snow tubing and sledding. Adventure Park is popular among children in particular.

Ryuoo Ski Park is a popular ski resort for locals but is also not the most English-friendly; it is recommended for those who want a genuine Japanese ski resort experience.

Places to stay

How to get to Ryuoo Ski Park from Tokyo

By riding a combination of trains and buses, you will be able to get to Ryuoo Ski Park in around 3 to 5 hours. The price will depend on which of the many routes you choose to take.

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9. Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort (Nagano)

Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort
Photo courtesy of Shiga Kogen

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Overview

  • Snow quality: Powder snow, highest quality on mainland Japan
  • Longest run: 2,500m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 45%, Intermediate – 35%, Advanced – 20%
  • English: English not widely spoken
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: https://www.shigakogen-ski.com/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to enjoy the highest-quality powder snow on mainland Japan
  • Want to visit a ski resort in Nagano with fewer tourists
  • Want to ski on runs of a variety of difficulties

Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort is a collection of 18 different ski resorts in the Shiga Kogen region of Nagano Prefecture.

It has the second-highest location of a ski resort in Japan, which means there is also lots of powder snow to enjoy.

There are many courses both big and small, which makes it enjoyable for skiers of all levels.

While you might think that 18 ski resorts are too many to handle, you can in fact visit all 18 ski resorts using a shuttle bus. You can also buy a ski lift ticket that can be used at all of the resorts.

One of the most notable points about Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort is that lodging is abundant in the area so you can stay for multiple nights and enjoy winter sports to your heart’s content.

However, there are not very many restaurants and bars. Due to the lack of tourists that visit Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort, You may also have difficulties finding employees that speak English.

Places to stay

How to get to Shiga Kogen from Tokyo

By using a combination of the bullet train and local trains from Tokyo Station, you will be able to reach Shiga Kogen Mountain Resort in about 4 hours. The trip will cost around 10,000 JPY. There is also the option to take an overnight bus that costs around 5,000 JPY.

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10. Maiko Snow Resort (Niigata Prefecture)

Maiko Snow Resort

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Overview

Recommended for those who

  • Are looking to take a day trip from Tokyo
  • Want to ski at a ski resort with many runs geared toward beginners
  • Are traveling with children

Because of its easy access from Tokyo, Maiko Snow Resort is a popular spot for day trips from Tokyo. It is recommended that you take the bullet train from Tokyo, which will get you there in about 70 minutes.

You can rent almost anything you can think of at the resort, so it is easy for those without equipment or any preparation to visit. This, and the abundance of easier courses makes Maiko Snow Resort popular among beginners.

The slopes are expansive and the longest run is 6,000 meters, so you can enjoy yourself to the fullest.

A daycare, a kid’s park, and courses specifically for children are all available, so families can enjoy the facilities without any problem.

There are not many tourists and there is not much nightlife to be seen. This means that you can enjoy less crowded slopes and focus more on skiing than other activities. On weekends, however, you can see the popularity of the resort with the locals.

Places to stay

How to get to Maiko from Tokyo

To get from Tokyo Station to Maiko Snow Resort, it is recommended that you use the bullet train. Take the train to Echigo Yuzawa Station. It will take about 80 minutes and cost about 3,500 JPY.

From the station, you can take a free shuttle bus that will take you to Maiko Snow Resort. The whole journey will take you anywhere from 2 to 2 and a half hours.

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11. Dynaland (Gifu Prefecture)

Dynaland
Photo courtesy of Minami Uonuma City

↑ Click to play YouTube video

Overview

  • Snow quality: Above average
  • Longest run: 3,200m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 40%, Intermediate – 32%, Advanced – 28%
  • English: English not widely spoken
  • Nightlife: Quiet
  • Website: https://www.dynaland.co.jp/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to go skiing or snowboarding around the Osaka/Kyoto area
  • Want to ski in the early morning or late at night

Dynaland is the largest ski resort in the Kansai region of Japan.

There are a total of 17 courses with the longest run being 3,200 meters. This makes the course layout very diverse and fun to ski on. The runs are all high quality, but you will not be able to expect powder snow.

The ski area is open from 5 in the morning to 11 at night, which means you can ski from any time within an 18 hour period.

If you buy a specific pass, you can also have access to the neighboring Takasu Snow Park.

While there are not many tourists that visit Dynaland, the area is popular with locals and so it gets considerably busy on the weekends.

If you are in the Osaka/Kyoto/Nagoya area, you will be able to get to Dynaland in about 4 hours by bus.

Places to stay

How to get to Dynaland from Tokyo

Because there are no stations or bus stations near Dynaland, you will need to go by car. You can expect about a 5 and a half-hour drive.

If you do not have access to a car and live in the Kansai region, there is a tour bus that leaves from Osaka that will get you to Dynaland in 4 hours for 5,000 JPY.

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12. Furano Ski Resort (Hokkaido)

Furano Ski Resort
Picture courtesy of Furano Tourism

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Overview

  • Snow quality: Some of the highest quality powder snow in the world. Known for its light and fluffy qualities.
  • Longest run: 4,000m
  • Course difficulty: Beginner – 40%, Intermediate – 40%, Advanced – 20%
  • English: English friendly
  • Nightlife: Average
  • Website: https://www.princehotels.com/en/ski/

Recommended for those who

  • Want to ski on some of the world’s most fluffy powder snow
  • Want to ski on a variety of courses

Located in Hokkaido, Furano Ski Resort has even higher quality powder snow than NISEKO UNITED, which was brought up earlier in this article.

Although there is in fact not that much snowfall at Furano Ski Resort compared to other locations, very dry and fluffy powder snow falls in this area.

The area of the slopes is 168ha. It could be said that Furano Ski Resort is the best large-scale ski resort in Hokkaido.

There are a variety of course difficulties, making it easy for beginners to visit.

Many employees speak English, so they can help if you are looking for daycare or ski lessons in English. Families of travelers can visit Furano Ski Resort without any problem.

Aside from the skiing, you can also experience hot springs, ice hole fishing, and even try on a kimono. There are many Japanese restaurants in the area, so you can get the full Japanese cultural experience while you are visiting.

Places to stay

How to get to Furano from Tokyo

To get to Furano, you will have to take an airplane to Shin Chitose Airport. A one-way trip should take about 1 and a half hours and cost about 10,000 to 15,000 JPY.

From Shin Chitose Airport, you will need to ride a bus that takes around 3 hours to then get to Furano. It will cost 4,500 JPY.

Conclusion

What did you think? While Japan is mostly known for its food and culture, skiing is not something that you should miss out on. Adding a ski trip to your itinerary may be the perfect addition for a fun trip.

These ski resorts are just the tip of the iceberg of what Japan has to offer in terms of skiing. However, we hope that this article gave you a good idea of what you should be expecting when going to ski during your trip to Japan.

Thank you for reading and have fun!

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