How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in Japan this Winter

From delicate and dry powder snow to excellent service, delicious cuisine, relaxing hot springs, and a beautiful landscape, a ski trip to Japan is a dream. But, if you want to make this dream come true, it will take some work. To properly prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter, you’ll have to do a lot of research. We hope this guide will help you get started with that research. Spending the winter in Japan is a truly unique experience, so you should do what you can to get the most out of it.

The best places to go skiing in Japan

As it’s a predominantly mountainous country, you can find ski resorts all over Japan. Most are in Hokkaido, Nagano, Niigata, and Tohoku (the North-East region). As a foreign visitor, there are a few factors to consider before choosing where you’ll be going. Some of the essential things would be:

  1. The convenience of travel;
  2. The popularity of English in the region;
  3. The facilities offered;
  4. The scale of the resort area.

Aside from being on every hiker’s bucket list, during winter, Mount Fuji is one of the most popular choices for a ski trip in Japan. However, the fun isn’t limited to just this one mountain. Let’s go through a few equally (if not more) popular options for skiing in Japan.

Nagano

Nagano offers plenty of ski resorts suitable for all levels. The most popular ones would be Hakuba, Nozawa, and Shiga Kogen. Hakuba is an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate-level skiers. Nozawa is better suited for advanced skiers. Snowboarders can also enjoy Nagano. However, Shiga Kogen is better for skiing rather than snowboarding.

Hokkaido

Being one of the most popular choices for skiers, Hokkaido offers a lot of ski resorts. No matter what level of skier or snowboarder you are, there is a place for you in Hokkaido. The three most popular options are:

  1. Niseko – This is the largest ski resort area in Hokkaido. It’s easy to access. English is widely spoken here. There are great nightlife opportunities in neighboring Hirafu;
  2. Rusutsu – The second largest after Niseko, offers many hotels and facilities. It’s a very family-friendly area but with limited nightlife;
  3. Furano – A smaller resort. The nearby town of Furano is a great family-friendly location with lots to do off-piste.

The snow quality in Hokkaido is one of the best in Japan. And since the entire island is so well connected, it’s an attractive option for people who want to venture outside their resorts and explore the full range of what Japan offers. If you’re planning to move overseas to Japan with your family, this trip is a great chance to introduce the other members of it to the culture and beauty of Japan. It’s sure to help you get everyone on board for moving there.

Niigata

The two most popular resorts in this area are Naeba and Gala Yuzawa. Naeba is excellent for all levels. Gala Yuzawa might be boring for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Though it can not compare to Hokkaido, the snow quality is still amazing. While this place should be on your list if you want to prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter properly, it’s better suited for travelers who wish to spend a few days skiing and the rest exploring Japanese culture.

When does ski season start in Japan?

The ski season in Japan typically lasts from early December to late April. However, it extends to early May in Hokkaido. However, if you prefer skiing during peak season when the snow is perfect and all facilities are active, you should plan to be here between mid-January and late February. To avoid large crowds and slopes full of skiers, you should take advantage of the shoulder season.

Choosing suitable accommodation is crucial

If your goal is to prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter properly, you must choose a suitable accommodation for your needs. Here are a few things to consider while making this choice:

  1. Choose a hotel with beds if it’s your first time – Most homes and hotels in Japan have futons rather than beds. Remember that you’ll probably be exhausted after a day of skiing, and if you’re not used to futons, a mattress will probably be a lot more comfortable;
  2. Ski-in ski-out is the best choice, but not the only one – While there are a lot of options for ski-in ski-out resorts, they can be pretty expensive. Many hotels offer shuttle bus services, so don’t be exclusive.
  3. Choose a hotel with loads of facilities – The weather during ski season can get nasty from time to time. Having something to do without leaving the hotel can mean a lot during those days.

What equipment should you bring and what should you rent

Most resorts will have all the clothing and equipment you need for rent. You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any of your own. However, some resorts will only have the essentials like boards and skis. So, if you have your helmets and glasses, it’s better not to risk them. The most brilliant move is to call and check in advance.

Eating out in Japan

Japanese food is famous worldwide, and for a good reason. It’s fantastic, and if you plan well, dining out usually doesn’t have to be expensive. The cheapest meal option is to visit a ramen shop. Here you can get a warm bowl of delicious noodles for as low as ¥1000 ($9). Many restaurants offer meal sets at lunchtime. These usually go from ¥1000 to ¥2500 ($9-$20) per person. Tip culture isn’t widespread in Japan, so you shouldn’t leave one unless you see a sign saying the restaurant welcomes tips. There are so many foods to try in Japan that you should not skip. Information is your best tool, so make sure you’re smart about your choices.

Money-saving tips

Japan is relatively inexpensive compared to other popular destinations for skiing. Most all-inclusive ski passes cost around ¥4200 ($40) per day. And you can expect to pay around ¥4500 – ¥6500 ($40 – $60) for ski rentals. Remember that you’re not the only one excited about the affordability of ski trips in Japan. If you plan on visiting more popular sites, always book in advance.

Let’s go through a few tips that are sure to help you enjoy Japan without going broke:

  1. Early bird tickets – Booking early in Japan makes a real difference. You can save over 30% by getting an early bird ticket.
  2. Japan skiing packages – You can, for example, ask your accommodation or resort shuttle bus for a package discount.
  3. Make good use of the JR Rail Pass – This is an excellent way to go on day trips outside your accommodation area.
  4. Japanese-style family rooms are usually enough for four to five people; you probably don’t need more.
  5. If you are traveling with a larger group, it’s cheaper to drive – Public transport is paid per person. When you count it all up, it may be cheaper to rent a car.

Final thoughts

While this is old news to some people, it’s still common for travelers to be surprised that Japan is one of the world’s premier ski destinations. While Japan’s cities, culture, and food, are lovely on their own, their popularity usually leads people to neglect its beautiful nature and outdoor activities. If you take your time and adequately prepare for a ski trip in Japan this winter, you will find out just how many sides there are to this beautiful country.

My Favourite Hotels Around the World

This Post Was Originally Published on the TuGo Travel Blog on November 25, 2019 by Mark Crone

The list of my favourite hotels around the world could go on and on—it’s almost unlimited. But I’ve put together a shortlist based on the hotel and the destination experience. There’s a mix of larger hotels and smaller properties. While it’s great to enjoy the hotel and its facilities, it’s also great to enjoy the area and destination. I’ve stayed at all 5 properties several times—they’re all comfortable and highly recommended. Here’s my shortlist of favourite hotels, in no particular order:

Flemings Mayfair, London

The Flemings Mayfair Hotel on Half Moon Street in London

In London, hotel choices are limitless and highly dependent on location. The Flemings is situated right in the heart of central London, in the prestigious Mayfair area. The first time I stayed there, I went for a walk through Green Park (down the street and minutes away) and literally came upon Buckingham Palace on the other side. The small hotel (129 rooms) is located on a quiet residential street which gives a homely feel to the hotel. Flemings Mayfair is an independent, family-owned property and the second oldest established hotel in London, dating back to 1731.
Room prices are available from £250 per night, which includes breakfast. It’s great value for central London and a well-equipped, recently renovated property!

Kristall Hotel, Austria

Winter view looking at the Hotel Kristall in Austria

The family-run Hotel Kristall in Perisau at Lake Achensee is a must-visit. In the winter, the area is a winter wonderland with skiing, skating, snowshoeing and more. In the summer you can go biking, hiking, golfing and trek mountains nearby. The small (50 room) hotel has a luxury feel and a comfortable ambience. There’s a renowned spa, gourmet dinners in the new vaulted cellar and weekly wine tastings in the wine repository. The hotel is a short walk from Lake Achensee, mountain attractions and nearby cable cars and mountain ranges. Staying at the Kristall is an escape holiday, where you simply lose track of days and time (the best kind of holidays)! The combination of the gorgeous landscape and the surrounding alpine world creates a lasting memory of Tyrol!
Suite prices start at 150 Euro per person with special inclusive packages available.

Royal York, Toronto

Inside a guest room at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada

The Fairmont Royal York, formerly and commonly known as the Royal York, is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. It’s a large historic luxury hotel located along Front Street West, directly across from Union Station in the southern end of the Financial District, in central Downtown Toronto.
The hotel opened in June 1929 and has 1,363 guest rooms and suites, including Signature or Luxury, along with eight types of suites. In addition to first-rate facilities, the Royal York is connected to the PATH system, a series of pedestrian tunnels that connect numerous buildings in Downtown Toronto. There’s also a tunnel directly connecting the hotel to Union Station and to Scotiabank Arena (home of the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA Toronto Raptors and major concerts).
You can’t beat the Royal York’s location in Toronto. Room rates start at $195.

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Caesar Palace Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

Caesars Palace opened in 1966 and is one of Las Vegas’s largest and best-known landmarks. The hotel is located right on the Las Vegas Strip between the Bellagio and The Mirage. Caesars is meant to give a Roman Empire feel with statues, columns and a 20-foot statue of Augustus Caesar near the entrance.
It’s a large deluxe resort property with 3,976 rooms and suites in six towers, a convention facility, a large range of restaurants and outdoor pools, among many other features. The hotel operates a large casino and “The Colosseum”, a venue for live music and sports entertainment, featuring major entertainers for one-night shows and residence stays. There’s also a sizable shopping mall attached to the resort called “The Forum Shops at Caesars”.
Despite its size, the hotel is very comfortable and has absolutely everything on site, making it a great choice for a Las Vegas stay. Rooms can be as low as $99 per night!

Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Aerial view of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Dubai is one of the seven emirates forming the United Arab Emirates, and it’s a very unique destination . It’s one of the most sought-after destinations for travellers from around the world, with its endless choices for fine dining, shopping, and luxury accommodations. The 7-star Burj Al Arab is perhaps the top choice in Dubai (and possibly anywhere).
The Burj al Arab is the iconic “sail” hotel located directly on the Persian Gulf in Dubai. It features all-suite accommodation, which includes butler service and a private beach. You don’t need to leave the property (and might not want to with room rates). The Burj has 201 suites, 9 restaurants, 5 pools, a spa, fitness centre and much more. If you’d like to make a grand entrance, you can arrive by helicopter on their roof or by chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. It’s the lap of luxury and pure fantasy rolled into one: a once in a lifetime hotel experience.
It’s still one of my favourite hotels of all time! Rates start at $4,300 USD including breakfast for two.

These are my 5 favourite hotels, but my hotel list continues to grow! What’s your favourite?
Safe travels,
Mark

Plan an unforgettable cross-country skiing experience

Whether you already love cross-country skiing or are just dipping a toe
into the popular winter sport, you’re in for a real treat if you have
not yet embarked on a hut-to-hut excursion. We might think of
cross-country skiing as a form of exercise, but in Scandinavia and
China, it’s one of the oldest means of travel. And today, there are all
kinds of hut systems that allow skiers to go on multi-day ski adventures
with the promise of a warm, cozy shelter each night.

In the United States, you can find several hut systems, like the Sun
Valley Linkup in Idaho, the Wallowa Alpine Huts in Oregon, the San Juan
Hut System in Colorado, and the Maine Hut and Trails System. Distances
between the huts range from three to 10 miles, and different systems are
better for different experience and fitness levels. Make sure to do
your research. Find more tips for booking the perfect hut-to-hut cross-country skiing adventure in this helpful infographic!

Cross Country skiing infographic