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.

4 Tips For Skiing Over 50

This Post Was Originally Published on the Liftopia Blog on March 14, 2016 by Mark Crone; updated March 5, 2020

I started skiing at the age of 6 and I’m now well above 50. My first boots had laces; my skis had screw-in edges and ski straps; my poles had leather strap baskets. A lot has changed since then – and thankfully.

If you are well under 50, you may be thinking, “this has nothing to do with me,” but it will at some point. You will hit the magical age of 50.

If you are indeed over 50, the fork in the road may be “you do ski” or “you would like to ski”. Either way, read on. Here are my 4 tips for skiing over 50:

A skier starting a turn
Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

1. Get Modern

Above, I described my first set of ski gear. When I’m at the hill, I still see people in purple ski suits (from the 70s), rear-entry boots and 200 cm. skis. Now “Throwback Thursdays” are one thing, but… modern ski clothing provides warmth, durability and weather resistance.

Ski technology makes skiing easier (if you are old enough, think “before parabolic skis”). Get into your local ski equipment shop and talk to an experienced professional. They’ll fit you for boots (literally) and set you up with the best pair of skis for you based on your ability, normal terrain and your budget.

2. Get Fit

Skiing is tough work and you need to be in some kind of “ski fit” condition to really enjoy yourself. I’ve talked about it in another post for Liftopia – “How To Get Ready For The First Day Of The Ski Season”.

As a Ski Patroller, and someone who is over 50, I ski all day. It’s a given that I’ll be tired the next day (as I am today) but you need to have enough stamina during the ski day to enjoy your time on the slopes (be it a half day, full day or ski vacation).

Skiing is great exercise and requires at least some strength and flexibility. As you get older, it gets much tougher to get up if you fall. But it’s tougher still to get up if you aren’t in shape.

3. Get Lessons

It’s never too late to learn to ski. Lessons are an absolute necessity if you are learning to ski at any age. A professional ski instructor will make learning to ski fun and help you to master the basics and stay safe. You’ll enjoy yourself and look forward to a good time on the slopes.

Even if you have skied for a while, or are coming back to skiing, a “tune up” lesson, clinic or program is a great way to re-start and improve your skills.

4. Get Out There

The “over 50” market is a big one and a growing one for the ski industry. Websites, equipment, clothing, lessons and more are all geared to “north of 50”. There are “over 50” ski clubs and groups (regular clubs, clubs for singles, seniors clubs) to ski in a group and socialize afterwards. There are “over 50” ski holidays offered by some ski clubs and ski tour operators. Liftopia has you covered for great deals on lift tickets when you buy in advance and if you are over 65, they have senior prices too. There are no excuses!

Above all…

Ski at your own pace and on the terrain that you feel most comfortable on. If you skied when you were young, the exhilarating mogul runs and double black diamonds may now be a thing of the past. But you can still have a great day of fresh winter air, physical exercise and great skiing. When you get tired, simply call it a day. Go back to the ski lodge, get a hot drink and sit by the fireplace to warm up. There’s always tomorrow…

5 Reasons For A Ski Trip To Europe!

If you are a skier or snowboarder, there are at least 5 reasons for a ski trip to Europe. The Alps have a special mix of landscapes, style, glamour and après ski. And when you add the world-class ski terrain in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France, a ski trip to Europe can’t be beat!

Olympiaregion Seefeld
Olympiaregion Seefeld

A ski trip to Europe blends skiing or snowboarding with the culture, history and alpine views only available in Europe. It’s a unique alpine experience – thermal baths for après ski relaxation; Italian cappuccino in Italy (after skiing in from Switzerland); drinking beer in Munich after skiing all day on nearby mountains. A ski trip to Europe is the perfect blend of travel experience and incredible skiing!

Here’s 5 reasons for a ski trip to Europe:

Why Europe?

Why not? If you haven’t been to Europe, you have to go (ski season or any season). Almost everything is different – time zone, language, food, and money, electrical outlets too. And now add the ski specific differences in Europe – over 4,000 ski areas; huge terrain; great snow; efficient lift systems and super long top of the mountain to bottom of the valley runs.

Skiing in St. Moritz, Switzerland
Switzerland

When To Go?

Generally speaking, most ski areas in Europe open at the end of November and close later in April, with some exceptions.

January tends to hold the best deals for a ski trip to Europe and is less busy than peak holiday times. Most resorts have fewer visitors and are more peaceful. Fewer skiers on the slopes means shorter lift lines! Prices are much higher at peak times such as Christmas and New Year, and during school holidays around Christmas, Easter, and particularly with the now popular February Reading Week.

If you are going on a ski trip to Europe in late March-April (with longer and nicer days), you’ll greatly reduce the risk of poor skiing conditions. Ski at a higher altitude resort like Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France; Zermatt, Switzerland; or Cervinia, Italy. Zugspitze, near Munich, is a glacier and is skiable from early autumn until late spring. It has the highest elevation (2,100m) and is the most snow guaranteed mountain in Bavaria.

Skiing in Val D'Isere, France
France

Where To Stay?

There’s a wide range of places to stay on a ski trip to Europe. From traditional Alpine chalets and guest rooms; to charming historic hotels; to fully equipped apartments. Deluxe and moderate accommodations are available at or near most ski resorts in Europe. Austria and Italy are known in particular for their great hospitality and value. If you’re after luxury, there’s no shortage of first-class trips with transportation, boutique hotels and inclusive experiences! A few top Europe luxury ski areas include Gstaad, Switzerland; Courchevel, France; and St. Anton, Austria.

Modern ski resorts, (purpose-built ski resorts) are of course built specifically for skiers and boarders. Purpose-built ski resorts are situated at higher elevations and have more consistent snow conditions. They offer ski in/ski out and true slope side lodging. The list of resorts includes the well known Val D’isère, and many other less known like Peyragudes, France (in the Pyrenees), St Johann, (Tyrol, Austria) and Geilo (Norway).

Historic Alpine villages provide both true alpine ambiance and the quintessential Europe experience along with skiing. Walk cobblestone streets; eat delicious local cuisine and stay in centuries old chalets. The nearby slopes are typically a short shuttle, train or cable-car ride away. Think Kitzbühel, Austria; Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; and St. Moritz, Switzerland.

What To Do? (When You Are Not Skiing)

Many European resorts offer a combination of spas, boutiques, bars, restaurants and other off-mountain activities. A ski trip to Europe should include the other activities of Europe. Cities near resorts offer city shopping, dining and sightseeing—perfect for a day away from the slopes. As an example, skiers in Seefeld, Austria can take a quick 20 minute train ride down the mountain to Innsbruck. Or do it in reverse – stay in the city and travel up to the slopes. Munich is the perfect springboard to the nearby mountains of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Nearby Wallberg or Alpspitze are great options too. You can ride all day, and then enjoy Munich beer and it’s beer halls by night!

Stay in Munich for A Ski Trip To Europe
Munich

Ski Terrain, Passes and Guides

Europe is home to literally thousands of miles of groomed and off-piste terrain, and several resorts are interconnected by lifts and trails. A multi-resort ski pass like the Dolomiti Superski Pass offers 700 miles of Italian Alpine terrain spread over a dozen resorts. The world’s largest ski area, Les Trois Vallees in France, includes Meribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens and 5 more resorts. The Milky Way Ski Area straddles both France and Italy and let’s you ski and snowboard across actual country borders (and have a French pastry or Italian cappuccino).

A local ski guide is a very worthwhile extra. An experienced local can take you through little known ski terrain, keep you safe and will have local knowledge on lunch spots and après ski parties. A ski guide in Europe packs a ton of value and can go for as little as 200 euros per day.

And at the end of your European ski holiday, you can still have more Europe! Add on a trip extension to an iconic city like Vienna, Frankfurt or Amsterdam, rich in history and culture. A ski trip to Europe anyone?