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.

Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

If you are an avid skier (like me), wouldn’t it be great to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations? Namely Whistler, Canada; Hintertux, Austria; Las Lenas, Argentina; Keystone, United States. What skier isn’t dreaming of that next ski vacation? Ski resorts have always focussed on safety, but this year are doing everything they can to keep you safe. Enhanced safety measures and procedures are in place to deal with COVID including mandatory face coverings, advanced reservations, lift restrictions and more. Physical distancing is a natural with ski and boards and lots of room on the hills. If you’ve pushed off your ski vacation, it’s time to start thinking ahead to ski and snowboard all year round at these destinations.

Winter Skiing in Whistler, Canada

Every skier or snowboarder in Canada dreams of going to Whistler or dreams of going back to Whistler. While there are other great ski destinations in Canada, (Lake Louise, Big White and Mont Tremblant come to mind), Whistler is consistently ranked as #1. You have got 2 distinct mountains with Whistler and Blackcomb side by side and connected by the memorable Peak to Peak Gondola. With over 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, you could spend days on either Blackcomb or Whistler Mountain without getting bored in the least. And with an average of 460 inches of snow each year, there’s plenty of the white stuff. The top of mountain temperature and bottom/valley temperature vary greatly as one would expect. At the peak, you can ski the glacier and stay up top for some bowl skiing. At the end of your day, make sure you still have energy to ski down the mountain. The Peak to Creek run is 7 miles long.

Spring Skiing in Austria

Hintertux Glacier Ski Resort is Austria’s only year-round ski resort (yes, 365 days per year). Hintertux is in Austria’s Tirol Region, a warm and welcoming area that is my favorite and the real heart of the Alps. In winter, one lift pass, the “Ski- und Gletscherwelt Zillertal 3000”, gets you access to interconnected resorts like Finkenberg and Mayrhofen with 60 km of terrain. 72% of Hintertux’s ski pistes are Intermediate which makes this glacier more manageable for groups and the average skier.  The mountains of Tirol have many more ski resorts available during ski season (including Kitzbhuel, St. Anton, Zugspitze and more) as well as other activities like hiking, swimming, and mountain biking. Innsbruck is nearby and offers great Austrian hospitality, food, and culture when you are finished with the ski portion of your trip to Austria.   

Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes of Austria
Pumuckel42, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Summer Skiing in Argentina

The highest mountain in the Andes is Las Lenas, Argentina. Las Lenas is very much about the skiing. Its projected opening date is around June 6th with closing in early October. With 30 runs (80% intermediate/advanced), it is not big by any means, but the skiable terrain and vistas draw rave reviews. It is not fancy and does not offer many alternatives for days a way from the slopes. But it’s a bucket list destination for skiers – skiing in South America and skiing in summer. After the skiing is done, it’s time to head to Buenos Aires or neighbouring Chile to experience more of South America.

A view of Las Lenas Ski Resort in Argentina

Fall Skiing in Colorado

Skiiing in the fall can be “hit and miss” due entirely to unpredictable snowfall. Keystone, Colorado is the top candidate (normally open in early November) followed by Lake Louise, Canada and Mammoth Mountain, California. Keystone Resort is a short drive from Denver and covers 7 miles across 3 mountains along the Snake River. There are 3 villages with restaurants, bars, and accommodation slope side and in the villages. Keystone is a top-rated family-friendly resort that is more about skiing than extras and wild après ski. With 130 trails, 20 lifts and night skiing, there is no shortage of terrain and time to ski. You’ll enjoy some the longest runs in the State of Colorado.

Summary – Ski and Snowboard All Year Round at These Destinations

There’s a quick list of ski areas to get too year-round. You are not restricted to skiing and boarding in traditional winter or Q1 of each year. For the average skier, these are bucket list destinations. Get ready and prepared for some big terrain, great views and a world class ski experience. And don’t forget your travel insurance and extra insurance coverage for COVID-19. I’m ready for a ski tour of these great destinations. It is time to dream and plan that next great ski trip!

Best places to experience the true spirit of Canada

a Canadian flag and mountain ranges

The Canadian natural and urban landscapes are undeservedly neglected in many travel plans. However, if you are looking for the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada, you have stumbled upon a guide that will list and explain why the home of maple syrup (among other things) should definitely be on your travel horizon.

Essentially, this is a big country that boasts one of the most mesmerizing and impressive landscapes in the world. On the one hand, you can encounter lakes, mountains, and other natural sceneries of indescribable beauty. On the other, Canadian cities are a perfect starting and finishing point on your trip. They offer you a chance to experience incredible architectural gems in a progressive and liberal society. Read on to find out more about the most breathtaking and exciting places in Canada you should visit on your next trip to the Great White North.

Toronto

If you are looking for the perfect city to start your Canadian journey, Toronto is the place for you (and my hometown). It is one of the largest and culturally most important cities in this country. Toronto’s distinguishing landmark is the CN Tower which you must have seen if you have ever received a postcard from Toronto.

When it comes to its tourist potential, Toronto’s transportation system makes movement through the city impeccable, with a network of subways, street cars, and roads. However, if you get bored with Toronto’s bustling urban energy, you can always take the ferry across the harbour to the nearby Toronto Islands.  

a Toronto skyline with skyscrapers and CN Tower
The famous CN Tower dominates the Toronto skyline

Banff

If you are looking to visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff is a great resort town to start your hiking, biking, or skiing journey from. It is located in the Banff National Park, the first national park established on Canadian soil. As for what it can offer to its visitors, Banff is a town that is brimful of small, local cafes, restaurants, art galleries, shops, and other tourist amenities. You can find the beautiful Mount Norquay towering over this little town and the famous Lake Louise just an hour away from Banff.

Icefields Parkway

Icefield Parkway is a world-famous 144-mile double-lane highway drive between Jasper and Lake Louise. What makes it so epic is that this road offers an incredible overview of the Canadian Rocky Mountains while taking you through orchards, waterfalls, lakes, and other intact natural scenery. This route is fantastic for those who enjoy hiking and camping in breathtakingly beautiful Canadian nature.

a big lake at the foot of mountains in Canada, symbolizing the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada
Canada is home to supreme vistas and natural sceneries.

Vancouver

Vancouver is another big Canadian city that should be on your priority list, especially if you are visiting western Canada. This city is famous for its multiculturalism and green living. Around 50% of its citizens speak languages other than English, making it a truly inspiring and eclectic city. As for what you can do besides the essential sightseeing around the city, Vancouver is a well-known stop for any serious skier given its nearby world-renowned ski resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb. The local city council continuously strive to achieve the best living standard by pioneering and incorporating green design ideas into the city’s infrastructure.

In fact, a rising number of US citizens are moving to Vancouver and other Canadian cities to pursue a cleaner, more humane way of living. If you are considering moving to Canada from NYC, be mindful that you might need to hire an international relocation company to help you get here from NYC, with the necessary vehicles and equipment.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton is a unique part of the province of Nova Scotia located on the east coast of the country. It is one of Canada’s most beloved road trip destinations because of its amazing landscapes that line the famous Cabot Trail – a 186-mile route through the Cape Breton National Park. You will be able to see fantastic nature from Cape Breton’s lookout points, picturesque fishing villages, and one of the most breathtaking scenic routes in the world. A drive through Cape Breton is one to not be missed.

Prince Edward Island

This lovely eastern province and island is famous for its green hills, red cliffs, and amazing seafood everywhere you go. Also, given that most locations in Canada are oriented towards active vacations such as walking or hiking, this island is the perfect getaway where you can relax and enjoy the island scenery. This island is also huge in the golfing world due to its many golf courses available for play. Beside these luxurious, upper-class amenities, the island is also famous for its seal population – as many as four different species of seal inhabit its shores throughout the year.

Niagara Falls

colorful waterfalls and a tree
Niagara Falls are an incredible sight any time of the year and the best place to experience the true spirit of Canada

And, last but certainly not the least, the amazing Niagara Falls. There is hardly a person who has not heard of this collection of waterfalls on the United States and Canada border. The Niagara Falls are indeed a natural wonder that merits at least a day of your attention, especially if you are staying or moving to Toronto in the future. 

The waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls – make up an astounding six million cubic feet of water that splash downward every minute. This makes the word wonder in the phrase “natural wonder” a literal description of what experiencing the Niagara Falls is like.

All in all, we hope this short guide has helped you visualize the best places to experience the true spirit of Canada. Of course, there are many more amazing spots which you can visit, especially if you enjoy spending your holiday in the great outdoors. Don’t forget Quebec, Newfoundland and the other provinces and territories (coming in a future post). Whatever your favorite places are, we are confident you will love every minute spent in this beautiful country. Just make sure you stay safe and healthy during your travel.